Thursday, January 17, 2013

Women and Religions - Buddhism



Indian society since the Pali Canon (4-2 cc. BC. E.) Was highly patriarchal, all prone to emphasize the superiority of men. Inferior status of women in society is fixed in the Brahmanical literature. Suffice it to recall the well-known saying of Manu: “Day and night, women should be dependent on their men … Father guards her in childhood, her husband guards in his youth, the children are protected in old age, a woman is never fit for independence” (Manu, 9. 02.03 ). Religious needs of the women in orthodox Brahmanism also not taken into account. They were forbidden to listen to and study the Vedas themselves perform any rituals, fasts and vows. Chief religious duty women – is serving her husband: “My husband, even strange virtue, lewd or devoid of good qualities, virtuous wife should be worshiped as a god” (Manu, 5. 154).


Early Buddhism has shown a completely different approach to women. Buddha explicitly recognize that to achieve enlightenment – the ultimate goal of teaching – there is no difference between men and women, provided that they both become monks. According to the Buddha, after some hesitation, founded a women’s monastic community at the head of which was Mahaprajapati, the aunt of the Buddha, as a child replaces his mother. However, the entry of women in the sangha was furnished with some additional conditions. They are known as the “Eight Rules» (garu-dhamma):


1. A nun, even if held in the monastic hundred years, should have a sign of respect to the monk, even if he just accepted the dedication.


2. The nuns do not have to spend the “summer distraction” of the rainy season in a place where there is no monks.


3. Every two weeks, the nuns have to attend a community of monks to conduct the ceremony Uposatha (general meeting of the monks) and the instructions and teachings of the monks.


4. After the end of the “summer of detachment” rainy season nuns have to participate in a special meeting of both communities to discuss the behavior of the monks and nuns.


5. The nun has committed a violation of the discharge sanghadisesa (a grave) should be punished for two weeks in both communities – male and female.


6. Prior to initiation the candidate must pass a nun two-year trial period, and then it should be held in both Sanghas – male and female. For monks such probationary period was not provided and the dedication was held only in the male sangha.


7. A nun must not offend or blame monk in any way, even indirectly.


8. A monk may teach a nun, but a nun should never teach a monk or give him any advice.


Although the ratio of early Buddhism to women, may not have been perfect with a modern point of view, it does provide a weaker sex far more opportunities for spiritual growth than any other modern teaching. Those women who were able to completely leave the worldly life, to become a nun and dedicate themselves to seek liberation in this life. There is no doubt that the support of women was one of the main reasons for the rapid spread of Buddhism in India in the first centuries BC. e.

Women and Religions - Buddhism

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