Buddhism, gender & feminism

Eduqas/WJEC
Buddhism

The changing roles of men and women including feminist approaches within Buddhism

Different views about whether women can be nuns

The Buddha on female ordination

The Buddha at first refused but eventually agreed to allow the ordination of women after persuasion by his aunt (Maha-Pajapati Gotami) and his cousin Ananda, though he claimed that it would limit the survival of his teachings by a duration of half – the Buddha did not say why.

The Buddha said women could be ordained but only if they followed additional rules: A bhikkuni has more rules than a bhikku, the most important of which are called the eight garudhammas (heavy rules). These include:

A bhikkuni, even if ordained for 100 years must respect a bhikku, even if they’d been ordained for only one day.
A bhikkuni must live 6 hours journey from a monastery where bhikkus who can give them advice are.
On observance days a bhikkuni should consult the bhikkus.
A bhikkuni must spend rainy season retreats under the orders of both bhikku and bhikkunis.
A bhikkuni must live her life by both the orders.
A bhikkuni must on two years obtain the higher ordination (Upasampatha) by both orders (of bhukkus and bhukkunis?)
A bhikkuni cannot scold a bhikku.
A bhikkuni cannot advise a bhikku.

In total the Pali Vinaya-pitaka lists around 250 rules for bhikkus but 348 rules for bhikkunis.

There might be practical (non-sexist) reasons for the Buddha thinking female priests would be half as effective at perpetuating his teachings, such as most cultures being sexist and therefore not listening to women. So, he might not have been criticising the priestly capabilities of women.

Ordination of women was done by other religions such as Jainism however, so it’s not obviously a practically inhibiting practice.

However, Dr. H. Nakamura claims that the ordination of women in Buddhism ‘was an astonishing development in world religious history. No such female order existed in Europe, North Africa, West Asia or East Asia at the time. Buddhism was the first tradition to produce one.’

 

            

The Buddha might merely have been protective of women who faced dangers when not protected by a father or husband. If living in a monastery without family, they wouldn’t have that protection.

The Buddha’s stated concern was for the duration of his teachings,  however.

The Buddha eventually said he will not achieve final Nirvana until he has bhukkunis and female desciples who are ‘accomplished’ and will teach the Dhamma. So arguably he became even more pro-equality over time.

Some Historians have argued that the story involving Ananda was written in later since Ananda was still a child when the first nuns were ordained so it’s not clear how he could have been in a position to advise the Buddha.

Different views about whether women can attain awakening

The Venerable Dhammananda claims that what made the Buddha ‘the first feminist’ was that he stated clearly that women could achieve enlightenment as ‘no other religion said something like that’.

The Lotus Sutra

presents a range of teachings: all equally possess the potential to attain Buddhahood; the Dragon King’s daughter (Lotus Sutra – Chapter 12) transforms into a man before attaining awakening. 

Buddha nature is the Mahayana belief that all sentient beings have Buddha nature inside them and therefore all sentient beings have the potential to attain awakening. This is illustrated in the Lotus Sutra with the examples of Devadatta and the dragon king’s daughter.

Devadatta is the Buddha’s cousin and an evil person who tried to kill the Buddha and disrupt the Sangha. He was cast into the hell realm as a result. Nonetheless, in the Lotus Sutra the Buddha says that Devadatta will become a Buddha and help people attain awakening.

The dragon king’s daughter. Manjushri claims that sentient beings which follow the Lotus Sutra will become Buddhas. Even an 8 year old girl, the dragon king’s daughter, instantly attained enlightenment. Other Bodhisattvas expressed scepticism because the Buddha required years of practice. They argue that women’s body is inferior. The dragon King’s daughter then transformed into a male and instantly perfects the bodhisattva practice and atains Buddhahood.

             O

 

Contradiction with flower garden and silver-colored woman sutra? How might it be resolved?

            

This is sometimes called the teaching of non-discrimination as it teaches that women and even evil people as illustrated by Devadatta, can attain Buddhahood. This is often thought to be due to Buddhahood being a state intrinsic to all things, also called the Buddha nature.

The Buddha on female attainment of enlightenment

Ananda debated with the Buddha and asked if there was any reason women could not achieve enlightenment and Nirvana as well as men. The Buddha said there was not. ‘Women, Ananda, having gone forth are able to realise the fruit of stream-attainment or the fruit of once-returning or the fruit of non-returning or arhantship.’

 Although the Buddha said that women could attain enlightenment, arguably it might still be that realistically there would be difficulties or impediments to female awakening. The fact that the Buddha thought female ordination would reduce the duration of his teaching raises the question of whether that was due to an intrinsic inferiority which might make enlightenment realistically more difficult for women, though we know The Buddha at least thought it possible.

The Buddha recommended against thinking yourself superior to others, which could suggest men are not superior to females

However, pride and arrogance being a form of clinging and thus inhibitory of awakening doesn’t mean that men aren’t superior to women in some respect, only that they shouldn’t fixate on or identify with that superiority.

Whether female birth is inferior

In various prayers and the hundred thousand songs of Milarepa, it claims that bad karma can result in being reborn in an ‘inferior female body’.

 A Tibetan term for woman ‘kye men’ means ‘low rebirth’. This might make attainment of enlightenment more difficult in practice.

   There are various debates about whether women or female bodies are inferior, which is often thought, implicitly or explicitly, to have consequences for how realistic or even possible female attainment of awakening is, as well as female aptitude for ordination. The purported reasons for the inferiority of female bodies/birth are: that they are the result of bad karma, the practical social effect of being a woman, biological traits and psychological reasons.

Karmic inferiority. This is the view that female bodies are the result of bad karma without any

 Dhammapada (Theravada) contains a story where observing the beautiful skin hue of the bhikku Mahakaccayana, Soreyya had the wish to have him as his wife or that his wife might have a similar skin color. This impure thought suddenly turned him into a woman. He then had to experience life as a woman, even having two sons, until he asked forgiveness of Mahakaccayana, upon which he is turned into a male again. He was then asked whether his sons he had while a male or those he had from his own womb while a female were more loved by him, and he said those that came from his own womb. Later in life after he attained Arahatship and the analytical insight, he changed to favour none of them in particular. The Buddha claims this is because his Arahatship allowed him to attain a well-being which cannot be gained from mere fatherhood or motherhood.

While some interpret this passage as suggestive that being made a female is the result of bad karma, arguably the purpose the Buddha makes of it in the end is to show that Arahatship is beyond such distinctions as motherhood or fatherhood.

 

The practical social consequences of female birth. This refers to the difficulty women face in society due to prejudice and marginalization. This is not it itself an intrinsic inferiority since many women are able, through great ability or being born into privilege, to overcome it. Enlightenment for them may be just as easy as a man. However, many women who lack privilege and/or special ability are more likely to be susceptible to internalising social prejudice in what is called internalised misogyny, ending up believing themselves to be inferior even though they are not. Yet, it is like a self-fulfilling prophecy as the presence of that ignorance and clinging to their gender might make enlightenment realistically more difficult.

 

The commentary on the sutta-nipata, the Paramatthajotika, mentions the desire of a woman to be reborn as a man as she finds being a woman powerless such that even the daughter of a wheel turning monarch would be under the control of men and thus desire to be reborn as one. The woman then overcomes the evil actions of her past life to become reborn a man.

The dynamic of persuading women their inferior social status is the result of bad karma and that the method to overcome it is to accept their status and try to be good regardless so as to be born a man is arguably merely an expression of patriarchal control either masquerading as religious doctrine or merely being religious doctrine.

 

Psychological inferiority.

 

The Flower Garden Sutra states ‘Women are messengers of hell who can destroy the seeds of Buddahood. They may look like bodhisattvas, but at heart they are like yaksha demons.’

Arguably this merely illustrates the way that women are potential objects of lust for men which might interfere with male awakening. It might merely be skilful means to think of women as demons inside rather than a factual claim about their being psychologically evil. This fits with an exercise Bhukkus sometimes do when viewing an attractive female, where they imagine her skin were transparent so they could see their internal organs, to counter the feelings of lust. The female skin is not really transparent but it’s skilful means to imagine it as such.

            

Women are said in Theravada and Mahayana texts to have more desires, wild thoughts and be more prone to doubt than men. The Buddha said doubts and desires are unhelpful.

 

Celebate monks are described as embodiments of the dhamma while women are described as lustful embodiments of samsara.

The doctrine of anatman arguably suggests there is no male nor female essence.

             Or arguably it merely shows it’s not enduring.

 

 

There are a few Mahayana texts, such as the Longer Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra, which contain a passage usually interpreted as meaning that women must be reborn as men to enter nirvana.

 

The Silver-colored woman sutra, written by a 6th century monk from India, says ‘Even if the eyes of the Buddhas of the three existences were to fall to the ground, no woman in any of the realms of existence could ever attain Buddhahood.’

Buddhism’s commitment to the end of suffering may be seen as inherently feminist (as indicated by Rita Gross). 

Sexism causes suffering. Buddhism is against suffering. Therefore, Buddhism should be against sexism – it should be feminist.

Rita Gross, a modern feminist professor of Buddhism, argued that Buddhism as a religion often fails to live up to the Buddha’s teaching on equality of the sexes. She thought Buddhism as it is often practiced therefore required a feminist critique. Gross believed in propagating ‘androgynous Buddhism’ where adherents would actively pursue freedom from gender roles.

Gross states that obstacles can aid a practitioner in their awakening as learning to work with them skilfully can lead to wisdom and compassion. However, Gross claims that throughout Buddhism’s history, female birth has been viewed as an obstacle that makes awakening difficult rather than a potential aid. Buddhist women have been taught not to seek awakening but to acquire enough good karma to be reborn as a man. Gross acknowledges there have been exceptions to this but nonetheless claims the tendency in Buddhist practice overall is towards the view that female birth makes awakening difficult, perhaps to the point where realistically it should not be aimed at.

Gross believes that clinging to gender makes enlightenment more difficult. Since gender is conditioned into people’s identity and falsely thought to be linked to natural biological sex, it becomes a way for us to cling to our ego. Gross references the Zen master Dogen that ‘to study the buddha way is to study the self, and that to study the self is to forget the self’.

Gross does not mean that we should just forget about gender. Globally there is an imbalance of harm based on gender. Even though gender is illusory, the harm based on the illusion is real. Gross thinks we have to gain a deep understanding of gender in order to stop clinging to it. The more difficult someone’s life circumstances make it to understand their gender, the most difficult it might be for them to stop clinging to it.

Gross argues that male scholars interpret certain texts in ways which diminish the role of female disciples. She claims the male commentary on the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya minimised the arhatship and parinirvana of Yashodhara (Siddartha’s wife) for political reasons to discourage bhikkuni ordination.

 

Gross does not accept the term ‘women’s enlightenment’ since it implies clinging to gender identity is compatible with attaining enlightenment.

Some Buddhist maters have vowed to gain enlightenment specifically as a woman however, e.g. Tara & Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.

Such vows might be bodhisattva actions rather than clinging to gender, however. It could also be skillful means meant to inspire women to seek awakening.

 

Gross argues that men have issues clinging to gender as well, however their clinging is more difficult to detect because one of the hallmarks of privilege is not seeing yourself as having it. Men rarely give much thought to their privileged status, they just accept it as the way the world is on a conditioned instinctual level of their mind. Since Gross thinks we must understand our gender in order to let go of it, men might find it difficult since their gender is not brought to their attention as there are not injustices caused by it which might bring it into consciousness. In fact, it is a feature of privilege that it is disguised from the attention of those who have it.

Cultural stereotypes of the roles of men and

women have no universal application within Buddhism.

Buddhism and gender

 

 

 

Sunyata. The doctrine of emptiness could fit with the feminist view of anti-essentialism, that there is no male or female essence. Nagarjuna claims that emptiness is what enables change. Transformation of gender norms should therefore be possible. Even if it’s true that females are unable to attain enlightenment, that should be transformable due to emptiness.

 

The Vimalakirti Sutra (Mahayana, Tibetan & Zen), however, teaches that the Buddha said ‘In all things, there is neither male or female’.

 

Tara’s vow is a story about a princess called Tara who was devoted to the dharma and meditation practice. When she was close to enlightenment, a Bhikku said to her it was a shame she was in the body of a woman since she would be unable to reach enlightenment until she was reborn as a man. The princess responded: ‘here there is no man; there is no woman, no self, no person, and no consciousness. Labelling ‘male’ or ‘female’ is hollow. Oh, how worldly fools delude themselves’. Tara then made the vow to help beings in a woman’s body due to the disproportionate help those in the body of a man receive.

 

A Tibetan view is that ordinary women can never be enlightened but some women are dakinis, meaning a female embodiment of wisdom.

 

 

Some feminists Buddhists argue that the doctrine of interconnectedness serves to undermine the male-female distinction.

 

 

The impact both of societal changes over time and the differing cultural contexts Buddhism encountered during its spread across the world 

Western Buddhism has the most equality in terms of the representation of women in the priesthood. This may be because of greater education and financial independence, which women in Asia have less of.

In the 2009 UN report on gender equality, only one Buddhist majority country made it into the top 50; Singapore.

Eihei Dogen brought Soso Zen from China to Japan and is a highly revered master in the history of Zen. Dogen claimed that ‘in acquiring the dharma, all acquire the dharma equally. All should pay homage to and hold in esteem one who has acquired the dharma. Do not make an issue of whether it is a man or a woman. This is the most wonderous law of the buddha-dharma’. 

In the Himalayas, practitioners of the fasting practice of the Bodhisattva of compassion (Nyungne) are mostly women, who crowdsource to build their own temples, hold retreats and choose mentors from amongst themselves.

In Japan, a pioneer of the feminist movement there, Raicho Hiratsuka, saw her practice of Zen Buddhism, especially its concept of deconstruction, as enabling her feminism. 

In Confucian societies of east Asia, Buddhism has enabled literacy and spiritual agency for women.

In the West, feminists were attracted to Buddhism over Judaism and Christianity. Sam Harris, in comparing the treatment of women under Buddhism with that of Christianity, said ‘The Buddha was no great purveyor of women’s rights, but he wasn’t that bad’ [as Christianity]’.

Modern views on the capacity of women to achieve enlightenment.

Bernard Faure, a modern scholar, believes that Buddhism as it is practiced results in gender inequality. He claims the traditional teachings on equality often merely amount to ‘rhetoric’ rather than equality in practice. He points how how Japanese Zen master Dogen claimed that ‘both men and women can realize the Way’. However, in his old age as Dogen’s focus shifted from theology to monastic life, he stopped emphasising his theory of equality. 

Faure recommends that women who want to be Bhukkunis should ‘simply bypass’ the traditional male-controlled orders and create their own religious experiences to ‘assert the right of women to appropriate the Buddhist teaching outside of a monastic framework.’

Faure thinks that overcoming gender inequality in Buddhism will require a change in the notion of awakening itself; ‘moving away from … the sudden overturning of heaven and earth or the abstract negation of all duality, toward a more humble, down-to-earth, gradual realization of the beauty and mystery of life, a world in which some differences remain to be enjoyed, while discrimination is forever abolished.’

This could be seen as patronizing to women, suggesting their awakening is more humble. It also seems to conflict with the stories of women like Tara attaining awakening.

Faure claims that Buddhism’s bias against women ‘cannot be understood without reference to large societal developments, like political ideology, the history of the family, of children, of the aged.’

  

Lama Tsultrim Allione, the first American woman to be ordained as a Tibetan Bhukkuni, claims Tara’s vow shows ‘the absolute truth of the emptiness of gender’ as well as ‘the relative truth of a real historical misogynist attitude in Buddhism’. Allione claims that meditation cuts through the concept of gender.

Allione makes the feminist argument that the rights of women, their freedom, safety and protection are essential to the survival of the human species. ‘How can any of us thrive if the voices of half the population are not heard and valued?’ She claims it is female voices which have historically spoken ‘overwhelmingly on the side of nonviolence, peace, and protection of the earth. 

Modern Buddhist women in the west often view sexism in the dharma to be an infiltration from Asian culture which can and should be removed.

However, that its doctrines could be subject to such immoral cultural influence points to a deeper criticism of Buddhism. It casts doubt on the rest of the dharma, which might also be influenced by culture. It’s merely morally neutral doctrines, or even positive ones, might also be the result of some cultural influence rather than ‘truth’. So, removing sexist doctrines from Buddhism due to cultural influence but keeping the rest seems inconsistent as it thereby arguably designates the rest as potentially culturally influenced too, since we’ve admitted the sexist doctrines were.

Arguably there are clear reasons why misogyny might infiltrate religious doctrine, however. Since those reasons do not obtain for other doctrines, there is no justification for tarring them with the same brush.

female monasticism 

The Buddha’s aunt, sister of Maya, Maha Prajapati Gotami, asked him if she could join the Sangha as a Bhukkuni. The Pali Vinaya states that the Buddha refused at first so Prajapati and 500 women followers cut off their hair, dressed in monk robes and started walking after the Buddha. When they caught up they were exhausted and told Ananda they wished to join the Sangha, who said he would speak to the Buddha about it.

 The Rev. Patti Nakai of the Buddhist temple of Chicago argues that Shakamuni’s refusal of Pajapati was a ‘declaration of the mental inferiority of women, saying they lacked the capacity to understand and practice the teachings of non-attachment to self’.

Nakai argues that the historical Buddha was a man of his time, conditioned to see women as inferior, but Pajapati broke down his ignorance. Nakai claims that if the Buddha’s prejudices had not been countered at that time, he would have been unable to relate to Kisa Gotami in the tale of the mustard seed or Queen Vaidehi in the Meditation Sutra.

If the Buddha achieved enlightenment and entered Nirvana, however, how can it be right to call him ignorant?

             Secular Buddhism might be able to do that.

Nichiren, 13th century Buddhist monk whose teaching inspired the Soka Gakkai International, believed that chanting ‘Nam myoho renge kyo’ will awaken our buddha nature. The short version of its meaning is: devotional respect, mystical enlightenment-dharma ignorance, lotus-flower teaching. Nichiren claimed that ‘There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women’. In 13th century Japan, women were dependent on men, so claiming there should be no discrimination was revolutionary. Nichiren also points to the dragon king’s daughter as showing that women can attain Buddhahood which he claims is the ‘foremost’ teaching of the Lotus Sutra.

‘When I, Nichiren, read the sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, I have not the slightest wish to become a woman. One sutra condemns women as emissaries of hell. Another describes them as large snakes … Only in the Lotus Sutra do we read that a woman who embraces this sutra not only excels all other women but surpasses all men.’ Nichiren wanted to spread this hopeful message to Japanese women.

The role, origins and controversies surrounding the gurudharma (specific monastic rules for women)

The Buddha in the end only agreed to let Pajapati into the Sangha if she agreed to eight gurudharmmas (heavy rules).

The Vinaya-pitaka states the rules for being a monk (bhikku) or nun (bhikkuni). A bhikkuni has more rules than a bhikku, the most important of which are called the eight garudhammas (heavy rules). These include:

A bhikkuni, even if ordained for 100 years must respect a bhikku, even if they’d been ordained for only one day.

A bhikkuni must live 6 hours journey from a monastery where bhikkus who can give them advice are.

On observance days a bhikkuni should consult the bhikkus.

A bhikkuni must spend rainy season retreats under the orders of both bhikku and bhikkunis.

A bhikkuni must live her life by both the orders.

A bhikkuni must on two years obtain the higher ordination (Upasampatha) by both orders (of bhukkus and bhukkunis?)

A bhikkuni cannot scold a bhikku. 

A bhikkuni cannot advise a bhikku.

In total the Pali Vinaya-pitaka lists around 250 rules for bhikkus but 348 rules for bhikkunis.

 

Some scholars argue there is inconsistency between the Pali Bhikkuni Vinaya and other versions of the texts and claim that some of the rules were added after the Buddha’s death. The Tipitaka was written 500 years after the Buddha’s death and adulterations would have been easy to introduce.

This raises the question of the appropriate method of interpretation of Buddhist texts. Literalism seems to be discouraged by this observation, as does overly focusing on one particular part of it. Perhaps instead we should argue for an interpretation that captures the spirit of the Buddha’s teachings, rather than one which strictly conforms to the letter of the law. The strict adherence to the ordination rules might be thus criticised from this interpretative method. However arguably the story of the dragon king’s daughter might thereby also be undermined since it is just one passage and arguably quite unique.

Nonetheless, the gurudharmas arguably discouraged women from seeking ordination.

 

The difficulty of ordaining women in the Theravadin tradition and the role of ‘eight precept women’

 

The ordination rules. The Buddha made the rule that both ordained bhikkus and bhikkunis be present at the ordination of a bhikkuni. After most orders of bhikkunis died out there were none available to ordain new bhikkunis. This further catalysed the already declining numbers of ordination of women in Theravada orders of southeast Asia, where women were stuck at the novice level. Buddhist leaders in Tibetan and Theravada traditions have been unwilling to change this rule as they claim they lack the authority to alter the Buddha’s rules on ordination of women.

Arguably the Buddha’s rules were historically contingent. He clearly intended for women to be ordained so

Additionally, what is the purpose of a bhikkuni being present at the ordination of a bhikkuni? What job is the female doing there that a man cannot? Unless we admit that women add something to the ordination that men cannot, an admission not likely to be made by any opposer of female ordination, then the Buddha’s rule seems purposeless. We might then abandon it as obsolete, or even speculate that sexism motivated his creation of it in the first place.

Dhammananda claims that the traditional interpretation of the ordination rules as requiring ordination by both monks and nuns was based on a poor understanding of the Pali language. She claims that in the event of there being no Bhikkunis to ordain a new one, ordination by Bhikkus is enough.

In 2003 Dhammananda became the first Thai Bhikkuni to be ordained in the Theravada tradition by traveling to Sri Lanka. Upon returning to Thailand much of the Theravada Sangha rejected her. 

In Sri Lanka, an important home to Theravada Buddhism, there were invasions and purges of Buddhists and only a few Bhikkus survived. Siamese Bhukkus were requested to come and restore the sangha, but not Bhukkunis. After 1000 years an order of Bhukkunis was re-established, however neither the government nor Theravada bhikku sanga have formally recognized it.

Mahayana female monastic traditions and lineage

There is an order of Mahayana bhikkunis in China and Taiwan whose lineage traces back to the first ordinations of bhikkunis.

Some Theravada bhikkunis have been ordained in the presence of Mahayana bhikkunis which seems to satisfy the ordination rule, though this is controversial in Theravada Buddhism.

The differing status of female monastics (and ‘eight precept women’ in different societies, for example Thailand and Myanmar/Burma 

Thailand is 95% Theravada Buddhist and typically do not think woman can be ordained due to the ordination rules. Bhikkunis are tolerated but technically illegal and risk being charged with the crime of impersonating a monk, though that is rare. Bhikkunis are not allowed to participate in state or public rituals not receive any state subsidy.

Tonsakulrungruang claims that the loss of Bhukkunis was ‘natural and unfortunate’, not the result of intentional sabotage. 

In Thailand women can become lower-level nuns called mae chi. They shave their heads but wear a white robe, do not live inside a temple and are under the authority of a monk. Now there are a couple hundred Bhikkuni and around a hundred mae chi in Thailand. They are typically welcomed by villagers. However, they do not receive government subsidies for medical treatment or education. One Mae chi claimed that ‘In Thailand, feminism and demands for women’s human rights are typically regarded as egotistical and aggressive, and are consequently viewed with suspicion’.

Local cultural attitudes in Sri Lanka and Tibet arguably led to the denial of ordination to women.

The role and aims of the Sakyadhita (Daughters of the Buddha), the international association of Buddhist women

Sakyadhita international association of Buddhist women was formed in 1987 under the patronage of the 14th Dalai Lama at the first International conference on Buddhist women, held in India. Inspiration for the conference came from Bhukkunis and the then Thai professor, now Bhukkuni, Dhammananda.

They note that the Buddha affirmed the capability of women to become awakened and started what may have been the first order of female nuns in world history. Yet despite this, gender inequality in Buddhist societies remains. 

“The aim was to work together to benefit Buddhist women, to reduce gender injustice, and awaken women to their potential for awakening the world”

To establish an international alliance of Buddhist women

To advance the spiritual and secular walfare of the world’s women

To work for gender equity in Buddhist education, training, instutional structures, and ordination

To promote harmony and dialogue among the Buddhist traditions and other religions

To encourage research and publications on topics of interest to Buddhist women

To foster compassionate social action for the benefit of humanity

To promote world peace through the teachings of the Buddha

The reasons for the difference in the condition and treatment of women in Buddhism across the world.

In Taiwan the status of bhukkunis is the most progressive and equal, however only two leaders of orthodox sects publicly reject the Garudhamma stating that all nuns are more junior than the youngest monk.

In Taiwan, Bhukkunis interpret and practice a form of engaged Buddhism called ‘Buddhism for the human realm’. This was influenced by social conditions which required laywomen and bhukkunis to collaborate over medical treatment, resulting in nuns being more likely than monks to take the role of healers. 

No order of bhikkunis was ever established in Tibet, though there are some female Tibetan lamas.

The extent to which Buddhism is aligned with feminism

Not: because Buddhism cannot align itself with a conventional truth. Gender is imperminant and so Buddhism cannot align itself to something imperminant.

Not: priority is to remove dukkha from all people equally – without reference to their gender. So Buddhism cannot focus particularly on alieviating the suffering of one gender.

Nonetheless, if our goal is to reduce suffering then we need to combat the social causes of suffering which are often patriarchial. There is no way to address the suffering that comes from patriarchy without combating patriarchy.

Not: aligning with feminism implies craving – tanha – attachment to feminist ideology. Buddhism must be against attachment of all forms.

This is like suggesting that the dasa sila implies attachment. Feminism is just about expanding our moral views to include treating women equally. Moral guidance is an important part of Buddhism and it’s not craving to follow morality.

Not: Buddhism is rooted in a patriarchial society and contains sexist passages in the scriptures.

But: what about women being ordained, wasn’t that positive?

Counter: they still had to follow additional rules compared to monks, which is still sexist.

Dalai Lama supports the ordination of women. He proposed a gradual approach of training women to become monastics and that they should over time be accepted as such.