The Role of Women in Buddhism

According to early traditional religious sects’ beliefs, the role of women was not well defined.  This was clearly evident since the women were not accorded leadership positions since they were seen as an inferior group within a male dominated society - The Role of Women in Buddhism introduction. In contrast, in line with the Buddhism religious practices, women were given equal spiritual leadership roles like the men according to the teaching from Bhagavad 9:32. The social place of women in the early Indian society was however inferior. This arrangement denied women the leadership roles of the religious group. Women were seen as incomplete beings and were thus not permitted to make their own decisions. They were therefore not given any form of freedom. The central belief was that women were believed to always remain under men.

According to early traditional religious groups, the role of women was not well defined for she was neglected and not seen as major factor in the religious teachings. She was assigned the role of being a servant to the man. The woman was believed to be workers within the household and not to take part in the leadership of the religion. According to the Muslim religion women were seen as an inferior group of human beings who were dirty and are thus denied the opportunity to lead any religious action in the places of worship. The women who took part in the leadership of their religion, such as in the Roman Catholic Church, were not allowed to hold any leadership position. They were thus supposed to work under men. Consequently, they were only to act as helpers of men in the running of the religious processes. According to Buddha, the woman was accorded a leadership role but was not allowed to lead in the male dominated areas. The Buddhists banned the monastic religious practices done by women. This action was later reversed since other religious groups do not allow women preachers such as the Roman Catholic religions. Conversely, other religions, such as the Judaism and Islam, do not allow women leaders although there has been many influential women in the Islamic religion.

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According to many religions, the woman was segregated from other members of the society since she could not claim any religious rights before men. According to Buddhists, the woman was only allowed to practice her religious rights in a separate quarter although the scriptures teach on the equality of both sexes. This trend is evident in the scripture, the Visuddhi Magga, which says that, “was it a woman, or a man that passed? I cannot tell, but I know this, a set of bones is traveling upon this road.”

Although many of the religious groups teach on the equality of both sexes, the major roles in the religious fellowships are performed by men. This is evident among the Hindu who give women so many management and teaching roles but the highest roles are taken by the men. The American monks and nuns gave the women enjoyable freedom although it was frowned upon in Asia. For example, Reverend (Roshi) Jiyu-Kenne incorporated the women into the male-dominated monarchy and both gender worked together in an equal environment of respect and equality. There were other women leaders in Buddhism like Roshi Myoon Maurine Stuart who taught the equality of women and demonstrated it through her daily life with her husband and children and still continued to teach as an effective spiritual leader. All these women received recognition from traditional Japan leaders which shows that the Japanese felt that the women were equal to men. This concept was affirmed by the Hindus who asserted the equality of women in relation to the divine.

The historical role of women in religious traditions was that some religious groups gave women the mandate to take leadership roles in the religion. This trend was evident when Buddha incorporated the clauses in his teachings that taught that women could take some leadership roles. For example, he taught that, “If anyone thinks am a man or a woman or am anything at all then that is whom Mara is fit to teach.” This statement shows that the historical role of the woman was seen as to be equal to man’s according to the teachings of Buddha. The historical role of the woman was that she was a religious leader although the top position was strictly for men. This was evident in the Judaism religion wherein women could take the role of the scribes to teach the scriptures. Such an arrangement was however not evident in the early Catholic religion which did not allow women to teach in the churches. Nowadays, women can however be allowed to take positions in the church. In the historical teaching in Asia, the women were seen as an inferior group of people who were believed to be born of an inferior birth so they could not be allowed to teach in their religious camps. This was changed by a group of reformed Buddhists’ from China who endorsed women teachers against the wishes of their male dominated region.

 The early Buddhas used to regard women as objects. For example, Nanda married his wife and left her on the second day of their marriage. He publicly renounced her. This act is seen as a model of acceptable life for people who renounce their wives so that they became nuns in the Sangha. Conversely, according to the Islamic religion, the women teachers were only allowed to teach in their quarters and were not allowed to teach in the same area with the men. Women were thus seen as unclean outfits in the society. The historical background of the Asian societies teaches that the women were stupid, untrustworthy, and easily corrupted. They were thus not allowed to lead the men. The historical stand of the Hindus on the role of the women was that they were seen as being unable to reason on their own. It was thus believed that women could not think on their. Women could thus not live well without a man in charge. This conviction was made possible by making sure that even if a woman’s husband had died, she could be remarried or she could stay under her son who was left by the deceased husband.

The contemporary role of women was to bear children and to act as nuns. This is evident from the scripts that women used so as to provide pleasure to the men. Further, the main job for women was to bear children. The women were only allowed to marry the men so as to derive a major source of their pleasure. The women were not allowed to have any rights to the husband. The man was thus the only person who determined the rights of the women.

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