Women are always seen as temptress and are warned to distance from almost all religions. They have extremely limited freedom. Under some certain religious concepts, men are named as the son of god but women never have similar treatment that to be seen as the daughter of God. In certain extreme religious cults, there are more serious discriminations against women; they are prohibited from reading any religious scriptures, and the punishment is to have their tongues cut off. Women are also prohibited from entering the places of worship. Even though women may allow participating in religious practices, they only can participate in their own house or attending to household religious ceremonies in private. Although nowadays, lots of barriers against women have being removed, women are still facing lots of hindrances and obstructions in performing the matter of moral and spiritual existing in different parts of the world.
In pre-Buddhist days, the social attitude to women was extremely unfair; women were inferior to men in both physically and mentally. Women places were at home, men had to bear the responsibility of taking care of women; so that women were considered as being of little use and burdens. Women were also regarded as sinful, to atone their sins, the only way was to keep them working endlessly with the task of motherhood and household duties, keep them away from making any troubles. That was why a birth of a female offspring was considered as a sign of misfortune in a family. If a married woman failed to produce any male child, she might be replaced by a second wife or even kicked out of the house; because a male offspring must be a continuance of the family. A traditional belief that only son could carry on the father and grandfather”s businesses after their deaths, also only male offspring could able to bring ritual and security to the family but women could not. A marriage was seen as a holy sacrament, so that unmarried young women were badly criticized and disdained by society. Women were believed that they could never reach the heaven, unless they were fully obeying to their husbands and had no complains. Women had no educated freedom, education was the least important to women, so did religious belief, it was restricted. Due to limited freedom, women would not have chance in performing in any religious practices. Despite extreme social discriminations are against women, Buddhism can be claimed that it has the least discrimination towards women.
Buddhism is the first religion that giving equal opportunities to women in practicing religious matters. Buddha does agrees with that women have certain natural weaknesses and tendencies in comparing to men, however, he still believes that women has certain abilities and capabilities to develop and purify their minds like men do. There is no doubt that Buddha is the first religious opens the gate for women to have full participations on the field of religion, lead women into the way of full religion life.
Buddha”s teaching about the nature of life ‘V cause and effect, life and death, karma and samsaric. He gives public a chance to consider on changing the social attitudes towards women during his time. According to Buddha”s teaching ‘V The Law of Karma, means each person is responsible for one”s own actions and it consequences. The well being of father or grandfather does not affect the next generation, the son and grandson. He believes that our lives were all depends on one”s previous action. These enlightenment teachings helpe to correct the public views towards women and reduce the anxieties and worries of women.
In early Buddhism, women started to be equal as men, general views on women were being changed. Unmarried women were no longer being criticized or despised anymore, they could go along, unabused or they could take care of the younger sisters or brothers. The teachings of Buddha had successfully wiped off many irrational beliefs and meaningless rituals. When Buddha spread out the true nature of life and death, wisdom and understanding on humans were arisen. This corrects the existing social injustices and prejudices that were uncontrolled against women, it also helps women to find their own way of life. In fact, Buddha is practical in his observation on the social and physiological differences between men and women, but he didn”t consider women as being inferior to men; instead he accepts the differences between two sexes, and considers women and men could be equally useful to the society. Buddha emphasizes women and men are at the same status in the family; both are sharing the same and equal responsibilities. In Buddhist thought, women could play in different roles, being good mothers, good wives in order to make the family life success. Sometimes in the family, wives are seen as the substitution for husbands while the husbands are indisposed. Wives are also expected to acquaint themselves with the business in which husbands engaged; so that women will be in the position on managing the affairs which men used to do. This example showed that in Buddhism, women and men are occupying an equal position.
Buddhism doesn”t restrict either educational opportunity or religious freedom. Buddha believes that women are talented enough to realize the truth, just like the men are. So Buddha permitted women entering the Bhikkhuni Order. During the time of Buddha, the Bhikkhuni Sangha was established and it still exists now. Since it established, the ordained women have been practicing the Buddha”s teachings. It is a new path of culture and social services which providing abundant opportunities for public; it also brings women in recognizing their importance to society and enhances the status of women.
When women were able to prove their capability in managing their duties in the Order, the Buddha did recognize women”s abilities and talents and gave them positionsone in Bhikkhuni Sangha. Buddha had said, in order the women could attain as well as a man and then consented to the establishment of the order for Nuns, but only in eight conditions: ”1. A Bhikkhuni even if she was in the Order for 100 years must respect a Bhikkhu even of a day”s standing. 2. A Bhikkhuni should reside within 6 hours of travelling distance to and from the monastery where Bhikkhus reside for advice. 3. Observance days a Bhikkuni should consult the Bhikkhus. 4. A Bhikkhuni should spend the Vassa (rains retreat) under the orders of both Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis. 5. A Bhikkhuni should ply her life by both and orders. 6. A Bhikkhuni should on two years obtain the higher ordination (Upasampatha) by both Orders. 7. A Bhikkuni cannot scold a Bhikkhu. 8. A Bhikkhuni cannot advise a Bhikkhu rather is should be the other way about.” ( WEB, http://buddhanet.net/e-learning/history/pajapati.htm). Throughout these eights we can see how Buddha helps women to be equal as men.
As we expected, monks should treat nuns in the same way that men in general in India society at that time, however, nuns were treated unequally; they were told to clean the monastery and to wash dishes, robes and rugs, it made them had too little time to study and practice the teachings; so that Buddha established rules for monks in regarding how to treat nuns. At that time of Buddha, Nuns had equal rights and equal share in everything. A story of eights robes shows how Buddha balanced well between monks and nuns. Eights robes were offered to both Sanghas where there was only one nuns and four monks; Buddha divided the robes into half, giving four to the nun, fours to the monks, because Buddha knew the robes were for both Sanghas and had to divide equally no matter how many people in each group. What Buddha did was to protect the nuns and was fair to both parties.
Buddha believes that women are equal as men but different from men; so that women have their own responsibilities in comparing to men. They are requested to be honor and respect to husband”s relatives and friends, it helps creating a congenial and happy atmosphere; women are also advised to observe and understand their husband”s nature, find out their characters and personalities. Women should be kind, polite and to be watchful in their relationship and husband”s earnings and manage in the household expenditures. Buddha”s attitude on women can be seen in his reaction while his friend, King Kosala had a new birth daughter but he was expected a son; Buddha then replied with a statement that adorned women by emphasizing certain women characteristics:
”Some women are indeed better (than man) Bring her up, O Lord of man. There are Women who are wise, virtuous, who have high regard for mother-in-law, and who are Chaste. To such a noble wife may be born a valiant Son, A lord of Realms, who rule a Kingdom.”
Buddha believes that women can definitely do as much as men can, or may be even greater than men; there is something that men might not able to do but women are able to, not men can only enlighten, women can also too. Subha is the example of enlightened nun. She had a perfect beauty and could have married a prince, but she all gave up and chose to listen to Buddha;s teachings. Subha listened intently, at the end of the discourses, she attained that stage of Stream Entrant and her family allowed her to be a nun. Her family no longer tempted her back to the family because they know Subha did find out the truth of live.
Buddha has different advices to different kinds of women. Buddha appreciated that the married women balance the peace and harmony at home. His advice is realistic and practical, it tells what women should and should not emulate. Buddha recommended that a wife should not have evil thought against her husband, and also should not be cruel, harsh or officious. Married women should guard and save husbands” property and always be righteous and innocent in mind and action. They should be faithful and no thought of any adulterous acts; they also should be kind, industrious, hard-working, modest and respectful. Married women should equate a mother loving and protecting her only son. Lastly, married women should be cool, calm and understanding, not only being a role as a of wife and also re a role of a friend and adviser to husbands. Other than giving advices to wives, Buddha has no bias to husbands, he also clearly mentions the duties of them towards the wives.
Buddha had taught a lesson of impermanence for the vain and beauty conscious. Buddha uses his psychic powers and creates an illustration of a young lady in front of Khema, the beautiful wife of king Bimbisara. Khema admires the beauty until Buddha transformed this fake girl from youth to middle age and then old age, until it finally she falls, and have broken teeth, gray hair and wrinkled skin. This teaches Khema and people the vanity of external beauty, and people should appreciate the nature of life. To women who were emotional and heartbroken on the loss of their beloved ones. ”From affection spring grief, from affection spring fear, for one who is wholly free from affection, there is no grief, much less fear.” (Buddha Sakyamuni, Poem/www.buddhistvihara.com/newsletters/2003-winter/status_of_women.htm ). Buddha comforted the upset women by saying this sentence. Buddha teaches us to realize the fact – the unavoidability of death, instead of being upset, women should appreciating the nature of life.
I believe Buddha”s attitude towards women is that Buddha does help the women fighting for right in certain period; without him spreading his teachings, women in India or any other parts of the world might not able to have either education or religious freedom, and still being discriminated. As I know now the equality ratio between female and male is 0.8:1, what Buddha did does affect our nowadays society, not only the equality between male and female. By establishing the Bhikkhuni Sangha, women have chance to be nuns in order to find out the truth of life.
Nuns do not only benefit themselves but also the societies in which they live. Nuns are obviously the good examples of women; they are real, natural and live in the spirit of non-harmfulness. Besides from their spiritual studies and practices, they help women in certain difficulties and concern problems about women in regarding of abortion, menopause, prostitution and other issues that women prefer to talk with other women. Nuns can also help unmarried mothers, most of them do not want to have an abortion and they have no idea how to handles the situation. Nuns can also help women who suffer after having an abortion. As Buddhists, abortion is discouraged, but some women undergo them. These women have regret and confused emotion so the nuns need to help them what they do is purify its karmic and encourage them to step forward in their lives without guilty and never look back. ”The nuns” order has great potential, whatever nuns do will have a ripple effect for Buddhist women all over the world; nuns will use their collective energy to help each other, to contribute to society, and to preserve and spread the precious teachings of Buddha.” by Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh
Buddha pointed out not only women weakness but also their potentialities and abilities. However, some of the Buddha”s statements may seem unpleasant, observe carefully, what Buddha had said about women are still right in nowadays. Although in almost all countries have accepted women and opened different opportunities to women, women still have to tolerant the unpleasant experiences and discriminations no matter how great the women”s power can go over the obstacles, because there are always exceptional.