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Buddhism

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In examining the Buddhism religion, particurally the role of women in Buddhism, it was

quite clear that the religion of Buddhism is practiced very different from country to

country.

Buddhism is a philosophy of life expounded by Gautama Buddha ("Buddha" means "enlightened

one"), who lived and taught in northern Inda in the 6th Century B.C. The Buddha was not a god

and the philosophy of Buddhism does not entail any theistic world-view. The teachings of the

Buddha are aimed solely to liberate sentient beings from suffering.

Women have been a part of Buddhism since the Buddha first made his enlightenment

known in Northeast India in the 6th century BC. Looking back to the earliest roots,

several nuns and laywomen were among the Buddha's ablest and wisest Diceples.

The everyday role of women in many countries is quite different from that defined in

Buddhist scriptures. Pure Buddhist ideology

The Buddha

originally banned women from monastic practice (nuns) but later reversed

his decision, allowing them to practice in separate

quarters. The Buddist scriptures say

very little about women, treating them as equals.

In one scripture, the Visuddhi Magga, a monk asked, "Reverend Sir, have you seen a

woman pass this way?" And the elder said: Was it a woman or a man that passed this

way? I cannot tell. But this I know, a set of bones is travelling upon this road.

Although this verse attempts to show the equality of women on the spiratual path, there

was, and still is... sexual stereotypes present in the culture of Buddhist communities.

By contrast to such bigoted practices that hinder spiritual development, Buddhism can be claimed

to be the least discriminatory in attitudes towards women. There is no doubt at all that the

Buddha was the first religious teacher who gave women equal and unfettered opportunities in the

field of spiritual development. Although He had on several occasions pointed out the natural

tendencies and weaknesses of women in general, He also gave due credit to their abilities and

capabilities. He truly paved the way for women to lead a full religious life. This implied that they

were equally able to develop and purify their minds and realize the bliss of Nibbana as well as

men. This fact is amply proven by the testimonies of the Theris (Nuns) during the Buddha's time.

The teachings of the Buddha did a great deal to wipe off numerous superstitious beliefs and

meaningless rites and rituals - which also included sacrifices - from the minds of many people.

When the Buddha revealed the true nature of life and death, and explained the natural phenomena

which govern the universe to these people, they began to understand. This subsequently arrested

and corrected the prevailing social injustices and prejudices. Thus it enabled women to lead their

own way of life.

Although the Buddha had elevated the status off women socially, He also pointed out the social

and psychological differences that exist between men and women. This was shown in the manner

in which He was realistic in His observations. His advice, given from time ~ to time, seen in the

light of His observations was j practical. These many instances were clearly depicted in the

Anguttara Nikaya and Samyatta Nikaya. It was mentioned that a man's duty is his unending quest

for knowledge. He should improve and stabilize his skills and craftsmanship, and be dedicated to

his work. He must also be able to find the means to maintain and sustain | his family. On the other

hand, it was also stated that it was the woman's duty to look after her home and her husband.

The Anguttara Nikaya contains valuable advice which the Buddha had given to young girls prior

to their marriage. Foreseeing the difficulties that will arise with the new in-laws, the Buddha

advised the girls to give every respect to their parents-in-law, serving them as lovingly as they

were their own parents. They were also requested to honor and respect their husband's | relatives

and friends so that a congenial and happy atmosphere will be created in their new homes. They

were advised to study and understand their husband's nature, ascertain their husband's activities,

character and temperament, and to be useful and co-operative at all times in their new homes.

They should be polite, kind and watchful in their relationship with the servants. They should also

safeguard their husband's earnings and ascertain that all household expenditure was economically

maintained. Such is the timeless quality of the Buddha's advice.

The Buddha appreciated that peace and harmony in a home is to a great extent ensured by a

woman. Thus, His advice to women on their role in their married life was realistic and practical.

He listed a good number of day-to- day qualities

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