Buddhist Studies | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
For Buddhists, the epitome of enlightened leadership is the Buddha himself. The Buddha, the “awakened one,” led by teaching a path to awakening that is open to all. The path to awakening – a process of purifying the mind of afflictions, such as greed, hatred, and ignorance – can be followed by women and men alike. Traditionally, however, the fact that the Buddha, the model of human perfection, was male seemed to imply to future generations that men were more somehow more capable of awakening than women. This impression was bolstered by the eight special rules attributed to the Buddha that assigned nuns a subordinate status within the Sangha (monastic order). As a consequence, it became customary in Buddhist societies to give greater opportunities to monks than to nuns, men than to women, and boys than to girls. Historically, monasteries for monks were the democratically organized training centers for Buddhist leadership and over the centuries most Buddhist leaders have been male. Nuns lived in separate monastic centers that were similarly organized, but because they depended on the monks for certain rituals, a gender hierarchy developed. However, the subordinate status of nuns is at odds with the Buddhist theory that mind has no intrinsic gender, hence there is no inherent impediment to women’s enlightenment. Women have equal potential for liberation and therefore should have equal access to Buddhist knowledge and training. Any impediments to women’s full participation in the tradition are impermanent and can be removed. Based on this logic, today Buddhist women are initiating widespread changes for women around the world.
Digital USD Citation
Tsomo, Karma Lekshe PhD, "Women as Leaders in Buddhism" (2010). Theology and Religious Studies: Faculty Scholarship. 16.