Buddhism and Gender

According to what scripture did the Buddha not allow the ordination of women?
The Pali Vinaya
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What did he say women would do to a sangha?
He said having women in a sangha would make his teachings last half as long (500 years/1000)
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Were women equal to men in this society?
No - women were not equal to men. They were regarded as less important.
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What did women have to experience their whole lives?
The presence of men. They had to abide by their fathers, their brothers, theirs husbands and their sons.
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What did the Buddha say about sons vs daughters?
''A good daughter is as good as a good son''.
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What did the Buddha's cousin Ananda ask the Buddha?
Can females be enlightened? And if not, why not?
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How did the Buddha respond?
He admitted that there was no reason why women could not be enlightened.
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What did he eventually recognise men and women as?
Equal - in terms of society and enlightenment.
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Which story teaches us that gender is not important in enlightenment?
Story of Sona - a bhikkuni who encountered Mara because she associated herself with a ''her'' which Buddhism teaches that there is no self. We must acknowledge this to achieve enlightenment.
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What did the Buddha eventually establish?
A Four Fold Sangha (upasakas and upasikas - lay Buddhists, bhikkus and bhikkunis - monks and nuns).
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Can women achieve enlightenment?
The simple answer is we don't know - there is no set text saying whether they can or can't.
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Are there examples of women being enlightened at the time of the Buddha?
Yes - there are several accounts of women being enlightenment and joining the monastic sangha.
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What do Theravada Buddhists say about female bodhisattvas?
They can't be bodhisattvas.
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Where is the story of the Dragon King's daughter found?
Chapter 12 of the Lotus Sutra
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What does the story revolve around?
Sagara's (Dragon King) 8 year old daughter.
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How does his daughter get a taste for enlightenment?
She listens to Manjushri (celestial bodhisattva of wisdom) preach the Lotus Sutra.
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What does Manjushri say about Buddha-hood and enlightenment?
He says that everyone has the capacity for enlightenment but it will not be easy as Siddhartha strove for countless lives.
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What does Shariputra say about female enlightenment?
He says that women are incapable of enlightenment and achieving Buddhahood.
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What did the Dragon King's daughter do?
She gave a precious jewel to the Buddha (representing her life) and transformed herself into a male where she was instantly enlightened and attained Buddhahood.
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What didn't she change?
Her dragon (mortal) form. She then went to the South in a land called the ''spotless world''.
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How has the story been interpreted?
It has many interpretations: All can attain Buddhahood even mortals, shows we don't have to go through austere practices. Another interpretation: she changed her gender as a skilful means to enlightenment.
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What is the story an example of?
A mortal sentient being becoming enlightened, other than the Buddha.
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What does her change from male to female represent?
Her prerequisite (qualification) for her path on the entrance to Buddhahood.
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What do dragons represent in Eastern mythology?
Power, wisdom, divinity, beauty etc. Very different to the interpretation of dragons in the West.
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What was Sri Lanka like pre-medieval times?
There was little evidence of gender discrimination pre-medieval times.
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What was the moral code like in Sri Lanka compared to Sharia Law and Manu's Code of Law?
There were few rules for women in this society. Widows did not have to shave their heads as they did in India and they even had rights to remarry.
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Who is a popular feminist figure in Chinese history?
Empress Wu
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What did she do?
She seized the throne despite knowing that it went against Confucian tradition.
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Which scriptures did she use in order to justify her rule?
Buddhist scriptures.
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What is typical in Confucian tradition?
Rules favouring men rather than women especially in family relationships. Men are allowed to divorce a woman for many reasons but a woman is given none.
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Where were women believed to be sexual objects in Buddhist history?
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Which Buddhist tradition was this under?
True Pure Land.
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What have women been barred from in Japan?
Buddhist temples.
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What did Shinran struggle with in his famous dream?
His sexual desires.
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What did Avalokiteshvara (Kannon) promise to do?
Change into a female form, reincarnate herself as a female in order to satisfy Shinran's sexual desires.
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What did this then encouraged women to do?
Become like Kannon - obedient of their husbands and sexual objects.
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How do Western Buddhist women view sexism?
They consider institutional sexism in the Buddhist tradition to be a result of primitive Asian culture
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What are some monastic orders like in the West?
They are co-ed between men and women and they share the same rules.
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What is the feminist movement like in Asia?
Women are campaigning for better conditions and education, but in many countries they have a long way to go.
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What will not be undone overnight?
Centuries of discrimination.
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How and why has the movement for equality gained momentum?
Our post-modern industrial age has shown a new need for gender equality. There is no reason why this momentum should slow down.
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What was set up in 1987?
International Association of Buddhist Women (Sakyadita - ''daughters of the Buddha'').
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Who is Dhammananda Bhikkuni?
The first Thai nun to receive full ordination in Sri Lanka.
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Who is Ani Choying?
A Buddhist nun who campaigns for the rights of poor and uneducated Nepalese women in a male dominated society.
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What does the word ''nun'' mean in Buddhism?
Monastic or teacher.
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What was the Buddha originally reluctant to do?
Allow women into the monastic sangha.
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What did he say that women had to abide by if they were to join the monastic sangha?
8 essential rules - gurudharma, that men do not have to follow.
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Give 3 rules of the gurudharma:
A bhikkuni must always respect a bhikku - she must always walk behind him. A bhikkuni cannot scold a bhikku, and she cannot advise him (tell him what to do).
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How many rules do nuns take on in comparison to monks?
Around 300 rules whereas men only take on around 250. (Vinaya-pitaka)
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Can women be ordained in the Theravada tradition?
No - few Theravada communities allow the ordination of women.
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What do Buddhist rules say about female ordination?
If there are no living nuns then no more nuns can be ordained.
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Can women be ordained in the Forest Sangha?
No - they can't.
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In which Theravada countries has female ordination died out?
Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia.
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Who don't think that female ordination should be revived?
Traditionalists and conservatives.
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How do they justify this belief?
They say that to ordain any more bhikkunis - a quorum would be needed. Since the lineage died out a long time ago, there can be no quorum.
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Which countries don't allow for female ordination?
Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.
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What a nuns limited to being?
A novice.
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How many precepts are they restricted to studying?
8, as opposed to 10 which a fully ordained person can study.
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What are women restricted to doing in the forest tradition?
Handling money and goods - something that monks/nuns cannot do.
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What colour does a Thai novice nun wear?
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What colour does a Burmese novice nun wear?
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When did the Dalai Lama speak out about female ordination?
2007 - at a conference for the International Association for Buddhist Women.
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What did he say about female ordination?
That the Buddha in today's society would allow for the ordination of women into the monastic sangha. He argued that there should be an effort to allow nuns in the Theravada tradition.
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What happened as a result of this?
There was a lot of backlash. Many monks went further to prevent bhikkunis being ordained.
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Where do most women go to be ordained in order to escape Thai rules?
Sri Lanka.
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Where is the Mahayana lineage still strong?
China, Korea and Taiwan.
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Do the bhikkunis still differ to monks?
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Where has it died out?
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What have Mahayanans helped to do?
Ordain Theravada bhikkunis.
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Is the Mahayana tradition more liberal?
Much more liberal in comparison to the Theravada tradition. More liberal/imaginative way of passing on the Buddhist message.
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Give an example of an egalitarian Mahayana group:
The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives.
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When was it founded?
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What does it encourage?
Complete equality between men and women.
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What do many Buddhist scholars now recognise?
The legitimacy of bhikkuni ordination which has been revived through the Mahayana tradition.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


What did he say women would do to a sangha?


He said having women in a sangha would make his teachings last half as long (500 years/1000)

Card 3


Were women equal to men in this society?


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


What did women have to experience their whole lives?


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


What did the Buddha say about sons vs daughters?


Preview of the front of card 5
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