Buddhism and Misogyny
From Dhamma Wiki
because of the extra rules that were imposed on the female monastics, including the eight ‘heavy rules,’ and the passage that states that only a man can be a samma-sam-buddha who teaches the masses after the teachings have died out. Each of these claims are examined below.
1 Seemingly misogynistic suttas
2 The Buddha's initial reluctance
3 Bhikkhuni reinstatement
4 Buddhism lasting 500 years
5 Extra rules
7 Modern Theravada
8 Suttas supporting non-dogmatism
9 See also
But this only at a very superficial first glance. For example, there are passages where the Buddha advises the monks not to pay attention to women, not to look at them, and to avoid their company unless accompanied by other people.
Most discourses involve the Buddha giving a talk to the monks and begin with the very familiar, “O Bhikkhus . . ” or just “Bhikkhus, . .” The Buddha was simply warning the monks of the danger in attachment to the senses and we must remember that the monks and nuns in Theravada Buddhism are monastic, celibate.
The Buddha and his monks did in fact meet with women, when accepting meals, giving instruction, and on some occasions the Buddha even listened to nuns giving a Dhamma talk, afterward saying how he could not have taught the teaching any better (Majjhima Nikaya 44).
The Buddha was very reluctant to do this but Ananda interceded on Gotami’s behalf. He asked if women had the same spiritual potential as men and the Buddha replied, “Having gone forth from home into homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline women are able to realize all the states leading to enlightenment and enlightenment itself." The Buddha did decide to allow women to become nuns.
The condition and status of women at the time, would mean that fewer people would become interested in Buddhism if women were ordained. As people progressed, at a later date the ordination would be better.
Because these women (many who were mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, cousins of many of the bhikkhus) might be subjected to rape, assault, sexual harassment and being termed "prostitutes and thieves", which in fact, did later occur as recorded in the Vinaya.
Bhikkhu Dr. Analayo, a scholar monk has been a strong advocate for bhikkhuni ordination and in his research feels that the Buddha was misrepresented in the texts about being reluctant to ordain women. Ven. Dr. Analayo pointed out an obvious timeline discrepancy that amazingly has gone undetected until now.
In a paper presented at the University of Marburg, Germany, Ven. Dr. Analayo writes, "There are many problems chronologically, however, in the traditional account of Mahaprajapati (from the Commentaries).
She first requested ordination five years after Buddha's enlightenment; but Ananda, who requested Buddha on her behalf, first ordained only twenty years after Buddha's enlightenment. Considering that Mahaprajapati, as Buddha's maternal aunt, raised him after his mother's death, she would have been about eighty years old when Ananda was senior enough to make the request."
The Buddhist scriptures, the Tipitaka were oral teachings memorized for hundreds of years before being committed to writing in the first century BCE. All of the major and important teachings are repeated throughout many of the books of the Pali Canon.
There are very few teachings that are only mentioned once. The fact that this reported 500 years statement is only mentioned once, already raises some questions.
If we are not satisfied that this may have been added later and not a saying of the Buddha, there is still another non-misogynistic possibility, by considering the context and degree of sexism in India during the time of Buddha still through today.
If we look at history, the Buddha was correct (if he did say that).
Back then there were no airplanes, fax machines, internet, etc. People defined their world in terms of their 500 mile radius. Buddhism did die out from its home country of India and it started to die out right at about 500 years after the death, paranibbana of Buddha.
Since the Buddha always considered the context of his audience and what they were ready for it is highly likely that he wanted to gradually phase out the sexist policies, as the people were ready for it. Extra rules
The more controversial rules are the so-called eight heavy rules, which clearly appear to place the nuns lower than the male monastics, including rules that a women ordained for 100 years is still lower in rank to a monk ordained one day and another rule that nuns cannot teach or ordain monks.
She opened many monasteries and temples in Asia and Europe. Ven. Dr. Dhammananda (C. Kabilsingh) and Ven. Dr. Kusuma are fully ordained bhikkhunis, both with a Ph.D. and are continuing in Sri Lanka and Thailand where Ayya Khema left off and have written on the subject of women’s status.
The Buddha regularly adapted and changed his code of conduct for monks and nuns as the situation required it (Vinaya). In the Buddhist Vinaya there is a rule that monks and nuns cannot receive full ordination until the age of 20, prior to that time they are novice monks and nuns.
This is because he was quite advanced and attained enlightenment, but more importantly shows that many of the Vinaya rules were developed later, as the time and context called for the changes to the rules.
In theMaha-paranibbana sutta, of the Digha Nikaya (sutta 16), the Buddha states that the monks and nuns may abolish the minor rules as they see fit: “After I am gone, the Sangha, if it wants, may abolish the lesser and minor training rules.”
In addition, any other rules that might suggest inequality should be let go and those women who have fully ordained should be fully accepted by all Buddhists as there have been ordinations with monks and nuns present and they need not all be from one tradition at the start of the reinstatement.
Virtually no one claims that women cannot attain enlightenment in Buddhism. The Buddha was very clear that women are able to attain to the final state, the goal of Buddhism; enlightenment and Nibbana.
The Buddha was asked in so many words, "is there even one woman nun who is fully enlightened?" The Buddha responded, "There are not only one hundred . . . or five hundred, but far more bhikkhunis, my disciples,
who by realizing for themselves with direct knowledge here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom . . ." Sutta 73 Majjhima Nikaya and also in other suttas too.
There are three types of buddhas or enlightened ones. One is an Arahant who teaches others; another is a silent buddha who attains enlightenment but does not teach, but presumably can still send his or her “rays” of metta - loving kindness to the world.
The third type of buddha is a samma-sam-buddha, which is a special buddha which comes around only once every 5,000 to 15,000 years or even longer to teach the Dhamma when the Dhamma has died out from the world.
In all three types of buddha, there is full liberation and Nibbana. One does not need to be a samma-sam-buddha to attain enlightenment or Nibbana. Thus, full liberation is open to women. However, there are fundamentalist Buddhists who contend that only a man can become a samma-sam-buddha.
The issue is mostly meaningless, since we already have a Buddha for our time and well over 99% of us will not attain to any of the three types of buddha, let alone the samma-sam-buddha title. But it still makes a point that only men can have this title and this is still a subtle form of sexism which can be used to discriminate in other ways.
The famous Theravada teacher Dipa Ma, was sitting quietly in her room one day while her teacher and another teacher were talking. Her teacher remarked that only a man can become a buddha (samma-sam-buddha).
Dipa Ma immediately rose from her silence and exclaimed, “I can do anything a man can do!” The guests erupted with laughter and agreement. Dipa Ma was an amazing woman who mastered all the Jhanas and taught Vipassana from her humble small home in India.
What is the origin of this idea that only a man can become a samma-sam-buddha? There is a list of who can be a teaching samma-sam-buddha in the Khuddaka Nikaya, Buddhavamsa 2.59 and one of the items includes being a male.
There are a few suttas which mention the 32 marks of a great man and how the Buddha possesses these marks. If you see the list of these so-called great marks, you will see that they are truly mythological and completely legendary; certainly nothing to be taken seriously or to justify sexism.
Some of the items on this list of 32 marks of a great man include a lion’s chest, a jaw like a lion, a tongue that is so long that it can reach the forehead and both ear holes, 40 teeth, and a penis encased in a sheath.
Because the list is that of a great “man” and includes the penis encased in a sheath, it obviously excludes women.
The origin of the 32 marks of a great man has nothing to do with Buddhism. This is a pre-Buddhistic concept. This is proven by the fact that Asita, the seer who came to see the baby Buddha just after birth predicted that the Buddha will either become a great king and ruler or a great religious man.
This seer named Asita, checked the baby Buddha and found the 32 marks of a great man present on Buddha. This was before the Buddha’s enlightenment, before Buddhism, and before the Buddha’s first teachings. (Sutta Nipata 3.11)
This situation is not limited to the Theravada and in fact Zen and Vajrayana have an even more patriarchal line with all of the Zen leaders of the past being male and the re-births of all Dalai Lamas have been male as the search committee only looks for recently born boys after the passing of a previous Dalai Lama.
Another possibility is that only a male can be a samma-sam-buddha because in a male-dominated society, a female will not be accepted as a savior type of teacher and then the teachings will not be renewed and followed.
The Modern Theravada is a term for some Theravadins who focus on the early teachings of Buddhism and the Pali Canon, but especially the earliest compiled and written texts, such as those listed in the first five of the Chronology of Pali Canon.
Do not believe in something because a scripture says it is so. Do not believe in something believing a god has inspired it. Do not believe in something a teacher tells you to. Do not believe in something because the authorities say it is so.
Do not believe in hearsay, rumor, speculative opinion, public opinion, or mere acceptance to logic and inference alone. Help yourself, accept as completely true only that which you test for yourself and know to be good for yourself and others.” Anguttara Nikaya 3.65 Kalama Sutta
and He who explains a discourse whose meaning has already been fully drawn out as one whose meaning needs to be inferred.” (Shows that the Buddha did not support literalism, at least not in all cases.) Anguttara Nikaya 2.25