Le Bouddhisme et le Féminisme

As in other religions, Buddhism considers women to be inferior beings whether from a social or religious point of view. However, in this practice, women would have a better chance of winning the fight for equality than in other precepts. Therefore, the food for thought then consists of determining whether it is possible for a woman to achieve Awakening without first being reborn in the body of a man. Buddhism and feminism is an issue which has, however, raised many controversies.

The Buddha's view on women

In the era of the institution of Buddhism, Indian culture had an increased tendency to discriminate and denigrate women. Indeed, women were in no way considered as beings in their own right. As a result, their rights and their activities remain quite limited. Women were seen as hindering the monks' practice or religious nature, or ability.

Also, they were sidelined and subjected to very strict rules. Therefore, according to Buddhist tradition, if monks had to respect only 217 rules, nuns on the other hand were governed by 311 doctrines including the Eight Great Conditions. This situation further arouses feminism in the Buddhism religion. Regardless, we firmly believe that Buddha always recognized equality between the two sexes in the religious domain.

Consideration of women according to Buddhist practice

From a philosophical point of view, Buddhist practice maintains that all beings, including women, could achieve enlightenment. However, the possibilities for Buddhist women to achieve enlightenment remain limited compared to those of men. Furthermore, in patriarchal societies, women are not considered on the same pedestal as men.

In addition, the Buddhism religion largely supports the inferiority of women. It should be noted that discrimination against women is considered to be contrary not only to the norms of current societies but especially to the elementary principles of the Buddhist religion.

Achieving enlightenment in a female body: is it possible?

Can a woman directly achieve Enlightenment without having to undergo rebirth in a man's body? This is the question that has been raised repeatedly in the study of feminism in Buddhist meditation. From a theoretical point of view, the question should not even arise. Indeed, according to Buddhist philosophy, all beings, women included, would probably have the capacity to access spiritual liberation, namely enlightenment.

In any case, Buddha was still reluctant about the creation of a community of nuns. Indeed, he only changed his mind after a long pleading for the cause of women carried out by his faithful friend Ananda.

Constraints during the creation of the women's order

From the beginning, women could not find their place in Buddhist orders. The monastic community of women only came into existence officially when Buddha returned to Kapilavastu following his enlightenment. Her aunt asked for her approval in order to receive her and the five other women as bhikkhuni. At first, Buddha was reluctant, but with the perseverance of the women and the support of Ananda, he finally gave in, but under certain conditions.

In fact, he imposed that women be governed by eight rules which classified them under the authority of monks. Over time, the order of nuns gradually faded away. Even the status of fully ordained nun was no longer relevant, as women lived in precarious economic conditions. Their main activities were oriented towards domestic tasks, in particular to serve the monks. In short, the rebirth of an authentic order of women is very difficult at the moment.

Feminism in the Buddhist world

Feminism brings together a set of actions and ideas political, philosophical and social, which reconcile a identical goal: to determine, encourage and achieve political, economic, cultural, personal, social and legal equality between women and men. The history of feminism begins around 19th century, through the utopian thought of Fourier, which was taken up by the pen of Alexandre Dumas fils. Feminism is a very vague and ambiguous concept that should not be taken lightly.

Since then, feminist movements have followed one another and the demands concern many areas, namely: working conditions, the right to vote, the right to education. Among other things, the basis concerned the identical treatment of men and women, whether in society or in religion.

Buddhist feminists in the West

In Buddhist meditation, feminism is a long-term battle that involves a lot of courage. The situation of Buddhist women around the world differs from one country to another. Indeed, considerable progress has been seen in Western countries. In the West, at the level of Buddhist centers, the number of women is significantly higher than that of men.

From the moment Western countries took a keen interest in Buddhism, the subject of feminism was taken seriously in other countries. In America, women played a leading role in the expansion of Buddhist philosophy, both in monastic and secular life.

The feminist movement in Asia

Arriving in Thailand around the 11th century, Teravada Buddhism became the main religion in the country. The majority of the population adheres to this practice. Christianity and Islam are also present in the territory but in small groups. A strong connection exists between feminism and Buddhist meditation, following claims that women could only achieve enlightenment through a man's body.

The laws of Ayutthaya further emphasize the inferiority of women by considering them as half the value of the rank of the man to whom she is united. The feminist movement in Thailand campaigns, among other things, to safeguard the image of women, both in society and in religious settings.

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