The Position of Women in Buddhism

The Position of Women in Buddhism

Today, the role of Women in Society is an issue of worldwide interest. It’s important that we pause and take a look at it from a Buddhist perspective.

The Buddha raised the status of women and brought them to a realization of their importance to society. He did not humiliate women, but only regard them as physically weak by nature. He saw the natural good of both men and women and assigned to them their due place in his teaching.

Sometimes the Pali term used to symbolize women is ‘Matugama’, which means ‘mother folk’, or ‘society of mothers’. As a mother, woman holds an honorable place in Buddhism. The wife is considered as ’the best friend’ of the husband.

At first the Buddha refused to admit women into the order, however later he was persuaded by Ananda and founded the Order of Bhikkhunis.

Just like the Arahants Sariputta and Mogallana were made the two chief disciples in the Order of Monks, the Arahants Khema and Uppalavanna were made the two chief female disciples in the Order of the Nuns. The Buddha himself named many other female disciples as his most distinguished and devout followers. Women were placed under unforgivable circumstances before the arrival of Buddha, and this new Order was certainly a great blessing.

In this Order queens, princesses daughters of noble families, widows, bereaved others, helpless women all despite their position or rank, met on a common level, enjoyed perfect peace and comfort, and breathed that free atmosphere which is not available to those confined in cottages and partial mansions. Women gained their liberty by seeking refuge in the Order.

The equality of status and desegregation of the sexes has distinguished the women in Buddhist societies from those of the Middle East, the Far East and the India. This is why today the position of women in Buddhist societies is for better than that in non-Buddhist societies of Asia.