Happy International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

I’ve taken the opportunity to launch this blog on this auspicious day for two reasons.

  • It’s a day to celebrate women from all over the world, and the population of women who have dedicated their lives to the dharma is incredibly global.
  • It’s also a day that we have the opportunity learn something about the lives of women we may never had previously known.

Now that it makes sense, why this blog?

There are many academic circles discussing the topics that I want to address here in this blog. There are a few that even cover the same topics. The Sakyadhita blog (http://awakeningbuddhistwomen.blogspot.com/p/home.html) is a great place to go for more information) but few commentaries on this topic are written in a way that is accessible to everyone.

 

Backstory

Women have always been the corner stone of both Buddhism and in Hinduism. Form the beginning of Buddhism, women were lay practitioners, benefactors and supporters of the movement. Then when the Buddha finally allowed women to become ordained, and did so giving eight more rules for them to abide on top of the rules for monks they became teachers, and prominent among the laity.

We see similar stories among women who dedicated their lives under a Hinduist, spiritual philosophy or belief. (I use the phrase Hinduist because of the incredible diversity which fall under Hinduism, and prescribe to types of philosophies.) Of course there were women who shaped these thoughts and beliefs as saints, and mystics. The issues here are the lack of awareness about these women, and the sets of constraints they encountered from the beginning leading up until this day.

I hope to uncover these obscurities, bringing their voices forward from the ancient to the modern, from the sidelines into the front. As we scholars learn more about the roles that women did play, it informs the culture and these roles moving forward. That’s the story that I want to tell here.

Its amazing how little is known about the rich history of spiritual achievement and contribution that women throughout thousands of years (thousands yes!). When I teach classes on this topic, students are always blown away by this. My hope is that you will join me in this journey too.

Political and Social Ramifications

Another reason for this blog is to bring to light some of the complexities in the discussion around women and these two religious domains. In both contemporary women who have followed in the the footsteps of these amazing predocessors still don’t receive equal respect, or economic support, as their same male monastics. This inequality has been exposed and will continue to be exposed, but the basis is rooted from the ignorance that women never played a role. In order to change the embedded inequality we must first uproot these  antiquated notions. Women have always been there along side men, teaching, supporting, making spiritual strides as devoted practitioners, and adepts. 

Female Juna Acara at the Maha Kumbha Mela 2012 Photo by the author