Buddhism And Gender Inequality: The History Behind Tzu Chi

2191 words - 9 pages

One of the great world religions that can be found all around the globe is Buddhism. It has flourished in the Eastern World and has made its way into the Western World, joining the ranks of all the other great religions. Like all the other major religions that exist we find that with Buddhism there is a distinct problem in the equality between men and women especially as it looks on the duties of both in taking up positions in monasteries and conducting religious duties.
With following stories with women in early Buddhism, evidence from texts have shown indications of what their place was in the communities and who they were. The kind of women that came forward wanting to be nuns came from all levels of the social pyramid. Examples of some of these such women were those that were mothers, those who widows, and some who left their old life behind in search of wandering the world. This group of women included those that were wealthy, intelligent and dignified but were in search of reaching new heights in their spirituality. The extents to which women went to become nuns were unbelievable. Defying the social norms and going against what the majority had thought, some women went above and beyond even disfiguring themselves to make a point of their devotion.
In the world today, an issue that is considered to be one of the greatest in Buddhism is gender equality in monasteries and the suppression of women who want to be devotees. Going back to the story of when Buddha was still alive, we look at how he had initially refused to admit women into the monastery but later on reluctantly allowed women into the sangha. Even though Buddha had allowed women into the sangha, many rules were instilled on them and they were left under the rule of the monks. This led to there being no sort of equality between the bhikku (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns). The basis around which Buddhism was formed was for all believers to reach a certain point in their faith and dharma to reach Nirvana through Enlightenment.
The doctrines of Buddhism when looked upon and further researched in detail are found to be contradictory as it pertains to the enlightenment of women. The existence of so many forms of Buddhism in the world allows for no one institutional authority that can speak on behalf of Buddhism as a whole on this topic. Using the myriad schools and sects, we can use them as examples where they are both branches of Buddhism, but they do not use the same scriptures. A lot of the times, texts or scriptures that are central to one school are completely disregarded by another and that is why we have disagreements on the topic of enlightenment with women.
A more in-depth look of how the rules that were set down by Buddha have changed, we look at a subsection of Buddhism, the “Vinaya-pitaka” whom records the original rules of discipline for monks and nuns. From this we find that a bhikkuni (nun) has rules that she is given in addition to those that are given to a bhikku...

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