The Status of Women In Buddhism
The Buddha has been quoted as saying that by allowing women into the Sangha by ordination as nuns, would reduce the lifespan of his teachings by half. Now in viewing this statement, let us remember that the ordination of women by the Buddha was the first of its kind in India and perhaps in the world. The Buddha was a pioneer in the rights of women.
The Buddha’s aunt and foster mother Prajapati sought to be admitted into the Sangha. She was at first rejected. However she was reluctantly allowed into the Sangha, as the first Buddhist nun, after Ananda, the cousin of the Buddha says, “Give women a chance; we cannot say for sure that they will fail unless they have a chance to study and follow the Dharma. This opened the door for the ordination of women some five years after Buddha’s enlightenment.
To understand this we must view the state of women in India in that period nearly 2500 years ago. India was a highly patriarchal tribal society and a woman without the protection of father, brothers, uncles and husband was at risk in Indian society. Siddhartha did not believe that women were inferior or could not achieve enlightenment. After all, according to traditional Buddhism, each of us has reincarnated as both female and male in our many births and rebirths. No, he feared that Indian society of his time would reject the ordination of Bhikkhuni in the then still new tradition of Buddhism. Indeed there was a backlash as husbands, fathers and village elders sought out women who had escaped their village and made their way to the Buddha’s grove.
Detail: The Rebel Angels. Salvatore Albano. Brooklyn museum of Art. NYC.
Detail of “Oriental Peacock” Quilt by Dorothy Ewing. Photographed by Divine Ms. Moon.
"The proud ones always suffer from the demons. Keep your mind in hell and do not despair"
St. Silouan the Athonite
Love is the cure,
for your pain will keep giving birth to more pain
until your eyes constantly exhale love
as effortlessly as your body yields it’s scent.
"Where you find no love, put love, and you will find love."
John of the Cross