Home BREAKING NEWS International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Women of Buddhism

International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Women of Buddhism

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Nuns in Kham, Tibet. Photo © James Gritz

By Shyamal Sinha

Nuns in Kham, Tibet. Photo © James Gritz

A female child may prove even to be a better offspring than a male.

Women’s position in Buddhism is unique. The Buddha gave women full freedom to participate in a religious life. The Buddha was the first religious Teacher who gave this religious freedom to women. Before the Buddha, women’s duties had been restricted to the kitchen; women were not even allowed to enter any temple or to recite any religious scripture. During the Buddha’s time, women’s position in society was very low. The Buddha was criticized by the prevailing establishment when He gave this freedom to women. His move to allow women to enter the Holy Order was extremely radical for the times. Yet the Buddha allowed women to prove themselves and to show that they too had the capacity like men to attain the highest position in the religious way of life by attaining Arahantahood. Every woman in the world must be grateful to the Buddha for showing them the real religious way of living and for giving such freedom to them for the first time in world history.

International Women’s Day is a celebration, the day when women of all backgrounds are recognized and celebrated for their achievements. It is also a day for renewing the global fight for women’s rights and participation in society, for equality, and for inclusion.

Today, almost a 110 years since the first International Women’s Day, the campaign theme is “Press for Progress.” We have much to celebrate, but also much more still to achieve. And after a year that included the 15th Sakyaditha conference in Hong Kong, and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which continue to gain ground across the globe, women all over the world—from Asia and the Americas, to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa—are asking for attention, sometimes even taking to the streets to #PressforProgress, reminding everyone that they are here and ready to stand up for what is right.

we thoroughly believe that when women are given equality, opportunity, and inclusion, it is not just women that are uplifted, men are also elevated, and by extension society as a whole. In order to grow toward “progress” as a community and as a sangha, we need women, both monastic and lay, as teachers and students, just as much as we need men. We need to work together and to listen to each other.

other Buddhist media organizations, are working hard to ensure a truly authentic, authoritative, and honest representation of Buddhist women on our platform. And this year, we are seeking to up the ante: our 2018 Special Issue, to be launched later this month, will focus on the Voices of Buddhist Women, aiming to represent the story of the Women of Buddhism—of all traditions, of all ethnicities, and all ages, lay and monastic. It is about their journey, their struggle, and their insights, told in their own voices.

We have come a long way, but the road to inclusion and equality in the Buddhist world (and beyond) is still a long one. But with the continuous efforts of men and women all over the world, we are taking small steps every day. Sticking to the celebratory (and somewhat defiant) character of the day, we have decided to spotlight some of our articles written by or featuring Buddhist women setting examples, challenging the status quo, and giving a face to the gender gap in the Buddhist world; celebrating their achievements.

Buddha said:

‘A female child, O Lord of men, may prove
Even a better offspring than a male.
For she may grow up wise and virtuous,
Her husband’s mother reverencing, true wife,
The boy that she may bear may do great deeds,
And rule great realms, yes, such a son
Of noble wife becomes his country’s guide,’ – (Samyutta Nikaya)

The Buddha has confirmed that man is not always the only wise one; woman is also wise.

According to Buddhism, it is not justifiable to regard women as inferior. The Buddha Himself was born as a woman on several occasions during His previous births in Samsara and even as a women He developed the noble qualities and wisdom until He gained Enlightenment or Buddhahood.