September 23, 2011
Barbara O'Brien recently wrote a blog post, "Bhikkhunis and the Buddha," that looks at the status of women in early Buddhism. She writes:
Monks get free public transportation, including reserved bus seats, and government funds to support their temples. Nuns get nothing from the government, and their temples are not considered "real" temples. This isn't just a matter of injustice. In the Thai monastic sangha a monk may not be alone with a woman or touch her at all, and lay women have a lot of issues they don't want to talk to a man about. There is a huge need for ordained women who can minister to other women.
One of the nuns involved in this effort says they are trying to remain low-key and respectful. Their request must be about the Buddha's teaching, not women's empowerment. So let's talk about that.
My research - based largely on the Pali canon and its commentaries and subcommentaries in Pali – taught me that the expectation to find a uniform view on any of the issues you mention (women, caste, structure and organization of the Sangha) is misled. I can clearly say that the canon is NOT a collection of the words of the Buddha, or of any single person, but a sometimes carefully, sometimes not so carefully edited collection of diverse texts by different authors with differing opinions and intentions. If you are looking for passages that seem to imply that the Buddha was in favor of ordaining women, you can find them, and if you are looking for passages that indicate that the Buddha wanted to keep women out, you will find them, too.
Read the rest of "Professor Ute Hüsken on Bhikkhuni Ordination."