Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is defined as prejudice or discrimination based on sex; or conditions or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex.
While all people consciously and unconsciously defend themselves against internal tension, traditionally held polarities of thinking have long-held women as inferior, a falsehood which permeates all facets of our daily lives and for which all people suffer. All the evidence I have encountered makes it hard to believe that there is any major essential psychological difference between the sexes. As Rebecca Chalker says, “biology is not destiny so much as the social construction of biology is destiny.” We are all in secret cahoots we didn’t even know we were in to denigrate the so-called “feminine.” The idea that people can separate good from evil and “reason” from “intuition” is the same line of thinking that leads to the belief that some people are intelligent and worthy and other people are expendable. This dualistic belief in poles and absolutes has been reproduced throughout the world and has devastating and dehumanizing consequences for all the blind dictators in charge who are divorced from themselves and, much worse, for the scapegoated masses below who bear the brunt of the dictators’ insecurities. essay will now tackle the sexism in major religions namely: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. (Source)
This essay will now tackle the sexism in major religions namely: Islam, Christianity,
The major male dominated monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam have had a profound effect on women’s lives up to and including the present day.
The religions themselves practice overt discrimination against women within their own institutions. They are run by men for men. Christianity has its female icon, Mary, in the lower ranks where their services are needed women are tolerated within a supposedly celibate environment, to help the male hierarchy and in the past Convents provided ‘accommodation’ for upper class women away from the hubbub of secular life. It also needs them to perform primary indoctrination for young children and run services that bind people to the church at local level. (Source)
Still people are submitting themselves to the religion. religion, is nothing but the fruit of man’s innocence about equality of women. surely, this world has changed & women today have equal rights but this is not because of religion. Religion, is nothing but something that humans use to control others. as one quote says ” Religion is regarded as true by the common people, false by the wise, & useful by the powerful”. Tell me exactly how come that God allows inequality among his creations? if he loves everything that he created, how come that he himself discriminates women? This God is nothing but the main cause of separation among humans. religion also make false thinking on how men are above any creations here on earth. i do believe that nothing in this world are higher than the other. Religion is nothing but an ideology that promotes sexism. surely, I advocate Buddhistic approach in life but he Buddha himself is a sexist man, no wonder why early Buddhist women were treated as a thing, as a baby-making machine, so does other religions.
Sexism in the Bible
1 Corinthians 11:3 *
3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman [is] the man; and the head of Christ [is] God.
(Head of every woman is the man)
1 Corinthians 11:7 – 9*
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover [his] head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
1 Corinthians 14:34 – 35*
34. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
(Woman to be silent in church. A woman is not to speak in church)
Ephesians 5:22 – 25*
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
(Wives must submit themselves to their husband, after all he is the head of the wife)
Colossians 3:18 *
18. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
(Wives submit to their husband — the Lord expects it)
1 Timothy 2:9 – 15*
9. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shame faceless and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
10 But (which become women professing godliness) with good works.
11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
(Women not to wear braided hair, gold, pearls, or costly array.
Women must learn in silence. Women are not to teach and not have
authority over men. Women must be silent. Adam was created first,
then Eve. A woman was deceived, but Adam was not deceived)
2 For the woman who hath a husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband.
(woman bound to her husband for life)
Titus 2:3 – 5*
3 The aged women likewise, that [they be] in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
5 [To be] discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
(Women to obey their own husbands)
1 Peter 3:1 -3
1. Likewise, ye wives, [be] in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your chaste conversation [coupled] with fear.
3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
1 Peter 3:5 -7*
5 For after this manner in the old-time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [them] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
16. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
(Women will be ruled by men)
Leviticus 12:2 *
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man-child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.
5 But if she-bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.
(Woman unclean for 7 days if she gives birth to a man-child.
She is unclean for 14 days to 66 days if she gives birth to woman child)
22 For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that [it] should be published according to the language of every people.
Job 25:4 *
4 How then can man be justified with God? or , how can he be clean [that is] born of a woman?
(Any man born of a woman is unclean)
26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart [is] snares and nets, [and] her hands [as] bands: whoso please God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
( Women can be source of evil for men. Men source of evil for
women? — doesn’t say)
Deuteronomy 22:5 *
5. The woman shall not wear that which pertain unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so [are] abomination unto the LORD thy God.
( Women not to wear pants, nor men to wear dresses)
1 Corinthians 11:14 *
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
(Men not to wear long hair)
Sexism in Islam
Qur’an (4:11) – (Inheritance) “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females” (see also verse 4:176).
Qur’an (2:282) – (Court testimony) “And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not found then a man and two women.” Muslim apologists have sometimes creatively tried to explain why a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s under Islamic law (based on this verse) while still attempting to maintain the semblance of equality. Unfortunately for them, studies consistently show that women are less likely to tell lies than men, meaning that they would make more reliable witnesses in any court – were it not for Islam’s obvious sexism.
Qur’an (2:228) – “and the men are a degree above them [women]“
Qur’an (5:6) – “And if ye are unclean, purify yourselves. And if ye are sick or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have had contact with women, and ye find not water, then go to clean, high ground and rub your faces and your hands with some of it” Men are to rub dirt on their hands if there is no water to purify them following casual contact with a woman (such as shaking hands).
Qur’an (24:31) – Women are to lower their gaze around men, so they do not look them in the eye. (To be fair, men are told to do the same thing in the prior verse).
Qur’an (2:223) – “Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will…” A man has dominion over his wives’ bodies as he does his land. This verse is overtly sexual. There is some dispute as to whether it is referring to the practice of anal intercourse, which it has been used historically to justify. If this is what Muhammad meant, however, then it would appear to contradict what he said in Muslim (8:3365).
Qur’an (4:3) – (Wife-to-husband ratio) “Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four”
Qur’an (53:27) – “Those who believe not in the Hereafter, name the angels with female names.” Angels are sublime beings, and would therefore be male.
Qur’an (4:24) and Qur’an (33:50) – A man is permitted to take women as sex slaves outside of marriage. Note that the verse distinguishes wives from captives (those whom they right hand possesses).
From the Hadith:
Bukhari (6:301) – “[Muhammad] said, ‘Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?’ They replied in the affirmative. He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence.’”
Bukhari (6:301) – continued – “[Muhammad said] ‘Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?’ The women replied in the affirmative. He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her religion.’” Allah has made women deficient in the practice of their religion as well, by giving them menstrual cycles.
Bukhari (2:28) – Women comprise the majority of Hell’s occupants. This is important because the only women in heaven ever mentioned by Muhammad are the virgins who serve the sexual desires of men. (A weak Hadith,Kanz al-`ummal, 22:10, even suggests that 99% of women go to Hell).
Bukhari (62:81) – “The Prophet said: “‘The stipulations most entitled to be abided by are those with which you are given the right to enjoy the (women’s) private parts (i.e. the stipulations of the marriage contract).’” In other words, the most important thing that a woman brings to a marriage is between her legs.
Bukhari (62:58) – A woman presents herself in marriage to Muhammad, but he does not find her attractive, so he “donates” her on the spot to another man.
Muslim (4:1039) – “A’isha said [to Muhammad]: ‘You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses’”
Abu Dawud (2:704) – “…the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone’s throw.”
Abu Dawud (2155) – Women are compared to slaves and camels with regard to the “evil” in them.
Ishaq 593 – “As for Ali, he said, ‘Women are plentiful, and you can easily change one for another.’” Ali was raised as a son by Muhammad. He was also the 4th caliph. This comment was made in Muhammad’s presence without a word of rebuke from him.
Ishaq 593 – “From the captives of Hunayn, Allah’s Messenger gave [his son-in-law] Ali a slave girl called Baytab and he gave [future Caliph] Uthman a slave girl called Zaynab and [future Caliph] Umar another.” – Even in this world, Muhammad treated women like party favors, handing out slave girls to his cronies for sex.
Tabari VIII:117 – The fate of more captured farm wives, whom the Muslims distributed amongst themselves as sex slaves: “Dihyah had asked the Messenger for Safiyah when the Prophet chose her for himself… the Apostle traded for Safiyah by giving Dihyah her two cousins. The women of Khaybar were distributed among the Muslims.”
Tabari IX:137 – “Allah granted Rayhana of the Qurayza to Muhammad as booty.”
Ishaq 969 – “Men were to lay injunctions on women lightly, for they were prisoners of men and had no control over their persons.” – This same text also justifies beating women for flirting.
Tabari Vol 9, Number 1754 – “Treat women well, for they are [like] domestic animals with you and do not possess anything for themselves.” From Muhammad’s ‘Farewell Sermon’.
Qur’an (2:282) – Establishes that a woman’s testimony is worth only half that of a man’s in court (there is no “he said/she said” gridlock in Islam).
Qur’an (24:4) – “And those who accuse free women then do not bring four witnesses (to adultery), flog them…”
Qur’an (24:13) – “Why did they not bring four witnesses of it? But as they have not brought witnesses they are liars before Allah.”
From the Hadith:
Bukhari (5:59:462) – The background for the Qur’anic requirement of four witnesses to adultery. Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was accused of cheating [on her polygamous husband]. Three witnesses corroborated the event, but Muhammad did not want to believe it, and so established the arbitrary rule that four witnesses are required.
Qur’an (4:34) – “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.”
From the Hadith:
Bukhari (72:715) – A woman came to Muhammad and begged her to stop her husband from beating her. Her skin was bruised so badly that she it is described as being “greener” than the green veil she was wearing. Muhammad did not admonish her husband, but instead ordered her to return to him and submit to his sexual desires.
Muslim (4:2127) – Muhammad struck his favorite wife, Aisha, in the chest one evening when she left the house without his permission. Aisha narrates, “He struck me on the chest which caused me pain.”
Abu Dawud (2141) – “Iyas bin ‘Abd Allah bin Abi Dhubab reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not beat Allah’s handmaidens, but when ‘Umar came to the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them. Then many women came round the family of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) complaining against their husbands. So the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) said : Many women have gone round Muhammad’s family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you.” At first, Muhammad forbade men from beating their wives, but he rescinded this once it was reported that women were becoming emboldened toward their husbands. Beatings are sometimes necessary to keep women in their place.
Abu Dawud (2142) – “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.”
Ishaq 969 – Commands that a married woman be “put in a separate room and beaten lightly” if she “act in a sexual manner toward others.” According to the Hadith, this can be for an offense as petty as merely being alone with a man to whom she is not related.
Qur’an (4:34) – “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them.”
Qur’an (2:228) – “and the men are a degree above them”
Qur’an (33:59) – “Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them…” Men determine how women dress.
Qur’an (33:33) – “And abide quietly in your homes…” Women are confined to their homes except when they have permission to go out.
Qur’an (2:223) – “Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will.” Wives are to be sexually available to their husbands in all ways at all times. They serve their husbands at his command. This verse is believed to refer to anal sex (see Bukhari 60:51), and was “revealed” when women complained to Muhammad about the practice. The phrase “when and how you will” means that they lost their case.
Qur’an (66:5) – “Maybe, his Lord, if he divorce you, will give him in your place wives better than you, submissive, faithful, obedient, penitent, adorers, fasters, widows and virgins” A disobedient wife can be replaced.
From the Hadith:
Bukhari (88:219) – “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler.”
Bukhari (2:28) – Ingratitude toward her husband (ie. disobedience) can land a woman in Hell. Muhammad explains why women comprise the bulk of Hell’s occupants.
Bukhari (72:715) – A charming little tale in which a woman seeks Muhammad’s help in leaving an abusive marriage, but is ordered by the prophet to return to her husband and submit to his commands.
Bukhari (4:149) – Muhammad’s wives are even trained to defecate on his command.
Bukhari (48:826) – Women have a deficiency of intelligence, meaning that their decisions will not be comparable to a man’s.
Bukhari (58:125) – Women are tradable commodities. A Muslim with two wives offers a fellow Muslim his pick between the two. Muhammad then arranges a wedding banquet.
Bukhari (62:81) – According to Muhammad, the most important part of a marriage contract is the unrestricted access that a man has to his wife’s vagina.
Abu Dawud (567) – “…even though their houses are better for them.”
Sexism in the Torah (The “Bible” of the Jews)
Genesis 3:16 Says that all women must suffer great pains during child-birth due to Eve eating the fruit of knowledge. (As if it is somehow just that humans should pay for their ancestor’s sins nor is a woman dying in labor some how befitting of a crime she did not commit.) The verse finishes of by saying a husband shall “rule” over his woman, stripping us off all power in between the sexes.
Genesis 19:8 Tells of a man named Lot who offers his daughters to a crowd of would be angel rapers. Later, Lot impregnated his own daughters after God kills his wife for simply looking back at the remains of her city.
Genesis 38:16-24 Tells a very interesting story of a man named Judah whom lived with his widowed daughter in law. His daughter in law was grieving and wearing the veils of mourning which Judah (a rather stupid man) mistook for the clothing of a prostitute. He ended up impregnating his daughter in law and she left the city. On a later date Judah sees the young woman again and demanded she be burned for being a prostitute (I like how only the woman is punished when THEY BOTH engaged in the sexual act). It wasn’t until Judah recognized the woman as his daughter in law and she was with his child, that he decided not to kill her. Basically, Judah can commit incest, use a prostitute (in his mistaken perception), and impregnate a MUCH younger woman, yet he thinks she is the one deserving of death.
Exodus 21:3-4 Says that if a male slave is given a wife by his master (regardless of how long they are wed, how much they love each other or if they have kids) he can not leave servanthood with his wife or children. The woman and children are merely property of the master and their personal happiness or sanctity of family doesn’t matter.
Exodus 21:7 God not only sanctions selling ones daughter into slavery, but he also gives out laws on how it should be done.
Exodus 21:10 God ordains men taking several wives and even sets up laws as to how multiple wives should be handled.
Leviticus 12:1-8 Explains that a woman has to be purified after giving birth because she is “unclean”. It goes on to say that birthing a male is cleaner than birthing a female, hence a mother must purify TWICE as long when having a daughter. This is BLATANT sexism from the point of birth. A woman is dirty simply for being a woman; this is obviously very biased and chauvinistic.
Leviticus 15:19-30 Explains that a woman having her menstruation must be avoided to the point of not even touching what she has touched. It is quite curious that women are punished for simply having a biological function that “God” claims to have created. What is so just about vilifying what you created?
Leviticus 18:19 Goes onto say that even LOOKING at a menstruating woman is wrong.
Leviticus 19:20 Says that if a man has sex with a slave or betrothed woman he must then “scourge” her. Scourging is a term for a severe flogging or whipping. I find it quite curious that the woman shall be punished to the point of a beating for such an occurrence, yet the man gets to go free for the deed.
Leviticus 21:9 Explains that unchaste daughters of priests must be burnt to death. What about his unchaste sons? Of course this isn’t even answered in the Torah, we are to assume yet again that men have the power to do as they wish and a woman must suffer the punishment for BOTH of them.
Leviticus 27:3-7 God places a dollar value on human life; with women worth less than men.
Numbers 1:2 Is the basis for the sexism that remains rampant today. In this verse Moses takes a poll of all the men who are able to fight in war, women aren’t even counted in the census. Apparently back then, just like today, us women are considered the weaker species and unable to battle. (Let’s not forget that during the time the Pentateuch was written women in Pagan cultures were FEARED and revered as the more powerful species. It is because of this patriarchal religion and it’s offshoots that we have been reduced to cowering sub-humans.)
Numbers 30:3-16 A woman can’t make a vow unless her husband allows it.
Numbers 31: 14-18 Moses tells his men to kill all the males, non-virginal women, elderly and children of the Midianite tribe. Of course, the virgin women are kept for raping. If you read later down in the scripture God states that the Jews can not even marry a Midianite woman (with exception to Moses). Hence these women who were captured were repeatedly raped and impregnated and they weren’t even allowed a marital status in which to protect them.
Deuteronomy 20:13-15 Kill all the men and boys in the cities that God “delivers into your hands,” but keep the women for raping.
Deuteronomy 21:11-14 If you see a pretty woman among the captives then just take her home and “go in unto her.”
Deuteronomy 22:5 Women that wear men’s clothing are an “abomination unto the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 22:13-22 Women, be sure to keep the tokens of your virginity. Otherwise the men of your city may stone you to death. This does not apply to men though, of course. What is interesting to note here is the actual wording, it says : “that if a man hateth his wife he may say she did not have the tokens of her virginity”. Since there is no way a woman can truly prove she had a hymen upon marriage the word rests on the husband and she can be disposed of simply when he tires of her.
Deuteronomy 22:23-24 is one of the most cruel and sexist passages of the Torah. It says that women who are raped and fail to “cry out loud” in a populated area are most likely enjoying the attack should be killed.
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 A rapist must buy his victim from her father for 50 shekels. Is this supposed to be some type of retribution? What about the victim here, what if she doesn’t want to marry a pig who raped her? All that matters is her father receives payment for his “property”.
Deuteronomy 25:11-12 Says that we must cut off a woman’s hand if she touches the “secrets” of a man who is fighting with her husband…“And thine eye shall not pity her.” Once again, there is no punishment for the man she touched, only the woman.
Sexism in Hinduism
Surely, a woman who has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period is the most auspicious of women. When she has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period, therefore, one should approach that splendid woman and invite her to have sex. Should she refuse to consent, he should bribe her. If she still refuses, he should beat her with a stick or with his fists and overpower her, saying: “I take away the splendor from you with my virility and splendor (6.4.9,21).
Good looks do not matter to them, nor do they care about youth; ‘A man!’ they say, and enjoy sex with him, whether he is good-looking or ugly. By running after men like whores, by their fickle minds, and by their natural lack of affection these women are unfaithful to their husbands even when they are zealously guarded here. Knowing that their very own nature is like this, as it was born at the creation by the Lord of Creatures (Prajapati), a man should make the utmost effort to guard them. The bed and the seat, jewelery, lust, anger, crookedness, a malicious nature, and bad conduct are what Manu assigned to women. There is no ritual with Vedic verses for women; this is a firmly established point of law. For women, who have no virile strength, and no Vedic verses, are falsehood; this is well established. Manusmrti 9:14-18.
Men must make their women dependent day and night, and keep under their own control those who are attached to sensory objects. Her father guards her in childhood, her husband guards her in youth, and her sons guard her in old age. A woman is not fit for independence. — Manusmrti 9:2-4.
The mind of woman cannot be disciplined; she has very little intelligence.’ — Rig Veda 8:33:17.
A woman who has been unchaste should worship Siva in his calm aspect, Siva who is Kama. Then she should summon a Brahmin and give herself to him, thinking, ‘This is Kama who has come for the sake of sexual pleasure.’ And whatever the Brahmin wishes, the sensuous woman should do. For thirteen months she should honour in this way any Brahmin who comes to the house for the sake of sexual pleasures, and there is no immorality in this for noble ladies or prostitutes.” — Matsya Purana 70:40-60; cf. Mahabharata III:2:23.
Sexism in Buddhism
The historical Buddha’s most famous statements on women came about when his stepmother and aunt, Maha Pajapati Gotami, asked to join the Sangha and become a nun. The Buddha initially refused her request. Eventually he relented, but in doing so he made conditions and a prediction that remain controversial to this day.
Pajapati was the sister of the Buddha’s mother, Maya, who had died a few days after his birth. Maya and Pajapati were both married to his father, King Suddhodana, and after Maya’s death Pajapati nursed and raised her sister’s son.
Pajapati approached her stepson and asked to be received into the Sangha. The Buddha said no. Still determined, Pajapati and 500 women followers cut off their hair, dressed themselves in patched monk’s robes, and set out on foot to follow the traveling Buddha.
When Pajapati and her followers caught up to the Buddha, they were exhausted. Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and most devoted attendant, found Pajapati in tears, dirty, her feet swollen. “Lady, why are you crying like this?” he asked.
She replied to Ananda that she wished to enter the Sangha and receive ordination, but the Buddha had refused her. Ananda promised to speak to the Buddha on her behalf.
The Buddha’s Prediction
Ananda sat at the Buddha’s side and argued on behalf of the ordination of women. The Buddha continued to refuse the request. Finally, Ananda asked if there was any reason women could not realize enlightenment and enter Nirvana as well as men.
The Buddha admitted there was no reason a woman could not be enlightened. “Women, Ananda, having gone forth are able to realize the fruit of stream-attainment or the fruit of once-returning or the fruit of non-returning or arahantship,” he said.
Ananda had made his point, and the Buddha relented. Pajapati and her 500 followers would be the first Buddhist nuns. But he predicted that allowing women into the Sangha would cause his teachings to survive only half as long – 500 years instead of a 1,000.
Further, according to the canonical texts, before the Buddha allowed Pajapati into the Sangha, she had to agree to eight Garudhammas, or grave rules, not required of men. These are:
* A Bhikkuni (nun) even if she was in the Order for 100 years must respect a Bhikkhu (monk) even of a day’s standing.
* A Bhikkuni must reside within 6 hours of traveling distance from the monastery where Bhikkhus reside for advice.
* On Observance days a Bhikkhuni should consult the Bhikkhus.
* A Bhikkhuni must spend rainy season retreats under the orders of both Bhikhus and Bhikkhunis.
* A Bhikkhuni must live her life by both the orders.
* A Bhikkhuni must on two years obtain the higher ordination (Upasampatha) by both Orders.
* A Bhikkhuni cannot scold a Bhikkhu.
* A Bhikkhuni cannot advise a Bhikkhu.
Nuns also have more rules to follow than monks. The Vinaya-pitaka lists about 250 rules for monks and 348 rules for nuns.
Historical Buddha, Misogynist?
The Rev. Patti Nakai of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago tells the story of the Buddha’s stepmother and aunt, Prajapati. According to the Rev. Nakai, when Pajapati asked to join the Sangha and become a disciple, “Shakamuni’s response was a declaration of the mental inferiority of women, saying they lacked the capacity to understand and practice the teachings of non-attachment to self.” This is a version of the story I haven’t found elsewhere.
The Rev. Nakai goes on to argue that the historical Buddha was, after all, a man of his time, and would have been conditioned to see women as inferior. However, Pajapati and the other nuns succeeded in breaking down the Buddha’s misunderstanding.
“Shakamuni’s sexist view had to have been completely eliminated by the time of the famous sutra stories of his encounters with women such as Kisa Gotami (in the tale of the mustard seed) and Queen Vaidehi (Meditation Sutra),” the Rev. Nakai writes. “In those stories, he would have failed to relate to them if he had held any prejudices against them as women.”
Concern for the Sangha?
Many scholars argue that the Buddha was concerned that the rest of society, which supported the Sangha, would not approve of the ordination of nuns. Ordaining female disciples was a revolutionary step; there was nothing like it in the other religions of India at the time.
Or, the Buddha might have simply been protective of women, who faced great personal risk in a paternalistic culture when they were not under the protection of a father or husband.
Other scholars have suggested the Garudhammas were added to the canon later, after the Buddha’s death, and were not in the original text. They point to discrepancies between the Pali Bhikkuni Vinaya (the section of the Pali Canon dealing with the rules for nuns) and other versions of the texts.
Whatever their intention, the rules for nuns have been used to keep nuns in a subservient position. When the orders of nuns died out in India and Sri Lanka centuries ago, conservatives used the rules calling for nuns to be present at nuns’ ordination to prevent the institution of new orders. Attempts to begin nuns orders in Tibet and Thailand, where there had been no nuns before, met with enormous resistance.
In recent years, the ordination problem has been solved by allowing properly authorized nuns from other parts of Asia to travel to ordination ceremonies. In America, several co-ed monastic orders have sprung up in which men and women take the same vows and live under the same rules.
And whatever his intentions, the Buddha was certainly wrong about one thing – his prediction about the survival of the teachings. It’s been 25 centuries, and the teachings are still with us.
I acknowledge the existence of objective reality that the world is a set of definite facts, which exist independently of human perceptions and these facts are the final arbiter of truth. As a realist, my justifications of scientific rationality is anchored in the claim that scientific knowledge aspires to discover the truth about how things really are.