Understanding Buddhism through a feminist lens

Shakyamuni Buddha was the pioneer who initiated this way of life 2500 years ago. Buddhahood is about transforming suffering and overcoming it. All you need is to meditate, amend and train yourself in inner wisdom, kindness and healing.

Nichiren the 13th century radical Buddhist monk, an outspoken critic of Buddhahood, on whose preaching the Soka Gakkai International is founded, initiated the song of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and sensed the Lotus Sutra as the central teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Last name – Devote
Myo – Mystical
Whoa – Right
Renge – Lotus flower
Kyō – The Lotus Sutra

The principles of Buddhism and the processes of inner transformation are achieved only after practice – it is a prayer, a meditation.

Like other religious practices, Buddhism has also been divided into four categories, namely: Theravada (The old form), Mahayana, Vajrayana and Zen Buddhism. Although all four claim to have diverse viewpoints, but the basics are similar – attaining wisdom, the infinite power to overcome obstacles, reaching out with compassion and healing. It is the fundamental law that underlies the functioning of all life and the universe, and covers the four noble truths: pain and its end; the cycle of rebirth, Karma and Nirvana.

When it comes to Buddhism and feminism, to begin with, there is a glaring contradiction. Since he was the own founder of Buddhism siddhartha gautama, who, unable to bear the pain and miseries of daily life, left his wife and newborn son in search of enlightenment and emerged as “Buddha Shakyamuni”.

Feminist media needs feminist allies!

Get premium content, exclusive perks, and help us stay independent, free, and accessible.


Choose your package!

The Buddha was the first religious teacher who paved the way for women to be considered equal.

But it was also he who believed, 25 centuries ago, in the equality of the sexes. 6,000 miles to the east, The Buddha shook society advocating that women, like men, have potential for enlightenment. He fought off the initial challenge and eventually insisted on having Buddhist nuns as well as monks. In his words, “I will not reach final Nirvana until I have accomplished female nuns and disciples…until I have lay followers…who…will teach the Dhamma”.

Early scholarship focused on Anglo-American feminism and delved into the oppression of women and their involvement in public discussions. Buddhism took over women’s lives in the 70s and 80s when feminists in North America chose Buddhism over Judaism and Christianity. Buddhism promoted and focused on female empowerment and spoke about equitable rights through a socio-cultural lens and thus paved the way for women.

Buddhist texts turned attention to women and sought equal rights through philosophical, social, scientific and cultural ideologies. Feminism has also achieved greater modulation and educational sensitivity in the recent dawn of postmodern studies on Buddhism.

Women have been discriminated against, regardless of their geographical location, society remains biased and considers the woman as an object or a seducer or a mere commodity whose purpose should be to satisfy her man, to take care of household chores , to have children, etc. The truth is that the stigma against women has its roots in religion itself. Our mythology itself identifies men as “God’s Son“, but it is never an axiom where women are identified as “Daughter of God/Goddess”.

Despite these sectarian religious practices, The Buddha combated these discriminatory attitudes towards women. The Buddha was the first religious teacher who paved the way where women were considered equal and also indicated that it is women who should enjoy equal justice not only in terms of spiritual development but in all other spheres – politics, culture, education, idealism.

Read also : Sikh women and the politics of hair

The Buddha asserted that women should be duly recognized for their abilities and capacities. He said women should lead a religious life, not a life where it is just a commodity. Women are indeed also able to achieve bliss and purification of the mind in the process of Nibbana, same as men. The testimonies of There are (religious) are proof of this fact.

Followers of male Buddhism are known as Bhikshus. The Buddha made women eligible for Buddhahood by opening the doors to women by forming the Bhikkhuni Sangha – The Order of Nunswhich has certainly been a boost to society for women to actually have every right to enjoy equal social status.

The Buddha says that feminism is liberation from oppression and this can only be achieved through spiritual development and the purging of the mind of all kinds of adulteration – lust, greed, hatred and delusion. You have to be brutally hard on the fact that no matter how much you argue, true freedom can be achieved through rigorous meditation practice according to the teachings of Buddhism.

On Buddhism and feminisma devout follower of Buddhism Sonam Choden quotes “The ideas of feminism made me realize that there is a certain part of our society whose voices haven’t been given much prominence or exposure for that matter. That’s when it hit me. Patriarchy runs deep!

I spent a lot of time with the nuns in the western and eastern parts of a small Himalayan state called Sikkim to learn more about their experiences as a nun in a male-dominated club. Believe me, it was one of the most rewarding personal experiences I’ve ever had..

Buddhism is about being “awakened” and unpacking our potential to generate maximum compassion and wisdom. Being male or female is only a small fraction of what truly makes us whole or a complete human being. However, clinging to archaic beliefs about the inferiority of women is a great illusion created by age-old patriarchal norms that unfortunately still exist to this day.

The Buddha made women eligible for Buddhahood by opening the doors to women by forming the Bhikkhuni Sangha – The Order of Nuns.

To conclude this essay, Buddhism has contributed immensely to the development of women. Looking into ancient Indian culture, he condemned the strict rituals imposed on women, the domination of men and the priestly class over women. He encouraged a self-sufficient society based on social equality. He opened doors for women and non-dominant castesabolished distinctions in society and promoted the principle of equality that women are equal, no less than men, in terms of culture, religion, society, rights, education, politics and spirituality .

Feminism through the prism of Buddhism can only be conquered if you realize your thirst and your faith for the path. The sufferings of change and impermanence will be but a dream of yesterday and the awakening of enlightenment will become the reality of today.

Psalmody Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo while looking at a white wall, independent of any religious commitment, helps to tap into wisdom, to seek peace, to extend compassion, to rise above suffering. It’s not about proving that we women are strong, we already are, it’s about changing the way the world sees us.

Read also : Where is the identity of female ascetics in Hinduism?

Featured image credit: The diplomat