Does Buddhism differentiate between men and women?

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

In fact, it is necessary to distinguish between what happens in the community of monks and nuns, the Sangha, and what happens in social life in general.

In the community of monks and nuns, there is clear discrimination between the sexes, an inequality between men and women, which has hardly changed for twenty-five centuries. The first community of nuns was created five years after that of the monks, with the Buddha's own adoptive mother as the first ordained woman, after some reluctance on the part of the latter, it seems.

But today, in many countries, there is no ordination of nuns: in the Theravada countries, in Japan, and in Tibet, where they remain in the rank of novices and cannot receive instruction. religious. Nuns must observe 350 monastic rules, 100 more than monks. They must also obey the Rule of Eight Respects, which puts them in a situation of inferiority compared to the monks, for example a nun owes respect to a monk, whatever their respective age!

The Dalai Lama has already pleaded for the ordination of nuns. But the institutions are hard to move, and will probably take a long time to achieve gender equality in the Sangha.

Nowadays, this rule has become useless and obsolete, and voices – notably from nuns in Taiwan – have already been raised to have it abolished. The Dalai Lama has already pleaded for an ordination full of nuns. But the institutions are hard to move, and will probably take a long time to achieve gender equality in the Sangha.

For the laity and in the teaching of the Buddha, on the other hand, there is no difference between men and women, in terms of capacity and possibility of deliverance, as evidenced by numerous examples of female disciples who have reached at various levels of realization, up to the state of Arahat, that is to say of total deliverance.

In the Great Extinction Sutra (Mahaparinibbana in Pali), recounting the last months of the Buddha's life, it is said that he declined the invitation of the Licchavi princes, ruling the country of Vajji, because he had already accepted another invitation, that of a courtesan Ambapali, who will become a disciple of the Buddha, as well as her son. This demonstrates the Buddha's open and fair mind, which made no distinction between gender and social class.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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