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The Women’s Role in the Buddhist Practice in Nepal

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Wenxi Zhao, 103, Meghan Howard, 20 April 2015

The women’s role in the Buddhist practice in Nepal is rooted in the history and reflected by the Buddhist canon. The separation of male and female resonates the ambivalence of Buddha to permit the women’s participation in the Sangha.

The distinctions between the male and female are obvious and could find the most salient evidence in the Samyak Mahadana. The lack of the origin of Misa Samyak, the Samyak of women, reflects the women’s inferior position in Sangha. (199 Hoek)What’s more, Harati Ajima, a powerful goddess, is brought to join the women’s Samyak and she resembles the king. They are served with the same food as the men did and served by the same Uray castes that serve the king, the divinities and the men on the previous day. (200 Hoek). The male and female Buddhists have different roles in this practice. The same groups of people who serve the Samyak Mahadana serve the female counterpart the day after. However, the women cooking and serving food indoor, take no part in serving the food of the mahadana outside the house. (205 Hoek)

In the reading, the author argues that, “The divide between men and women in the Samyak Mahadana extends to the divine and the royal realms.”(208 Hoek) The only six statues out of 89 divinities attend the Misa Samyak. They also differ in other ways: The Misa Samyak shows a greater solemnity than the preceding Samyak Mahadana.

“At the divine level femininity is not inferior to masculinity.”(209 Hoek) The difference between the Samyak Mahadana and the Misa Samyak is not a straight hierarchical one but a distinction between the exoteric and the esoteric spheres of religious experience. (209 Hoek)

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