Why and how do women engage with Buddhism and philosophy? The present volume aims to answer these questions by examining the life and philosophy of a Korean Zen Buddhist nun, Kim Iryŏp (1896–1971). The daughter of a pastor, Iryŏp began questioning Christian doctrine as a teenager. In a few years, she became increasingly involved in women’s movements in Korea, speaking against society’s control of female sexuality and demanding sexual freedom and free divorce for women. While in her late twenties, an existential turn in her thinking led Iryŏp to Buddhism; she eventually joined a monastery and went on to become a leading figure in the female monastic community until her death. After taking the tonsure, Iryŏp followed the advice of her teacher and stopped publishing for more than two decades. She returned to the world of letters in her sixties, using her strong, distinctive voice to address fundamental questions on the scope of identity, the meaning of being human, and the value of existence. In her writing, she frequently adopted an autobiographical style that combined her experiences with Buddhist teachings. Through a close analysis of Iryŏp’s story, Buddhist philosophy and practice in connection with East Asian new women’s movements, and continental philosophy, this volume offers a creative interpretation of Buddhism as both a philosophy and a religion actively engaged with lives as they are lived. It presents a fascinating narrative on how women connect with the world—whether through social issues such as gender inequality, a Buddhist worldview, or existential debates on human existence and provides readers with a new way of philosophizing that is transformative and deeply connected with everyday life. Women and Buddhist Philosophy: Engaging Zen Master Kim Iryŏp will be of primary interest to scholars and students of Buddhism, Buddhist and comparative philosophy, and gender and Korean studies.
"In seeking to explore the interrelationships between, and mutual influence of, varieties of sexual stereotypes and religious views of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, Women in Buddhism succeeds in drawing our attention to matters of philosophical importance. Paul examines the 'image' of women which arise in a number of Buddhist texts associated with Mahayana and finds that, while ideally the tradition purports to be egalitarian, in actual practice it often betrayed a strong misogynist prejudice. Sanskrit and Chinese texts are organized by theme and type, progressing from those which treat the traditionally orthodox and negative to those which set forth a positive consideration of soteriological paths for women. . . . In Women in Buddhism, Diana Paul may be forcing our consideration of the problem of female enlightenment. Thus the main purport and accomplishment of her scholarship is revolutionary."—Philosophy East and West
The Buddhist philosophical tradition is vast, internally diverse, and comprises texts written in a variety of canonical languages. It is hence often difficult for those with training in Western philosophy who wish to approach this tradition for the first time to know where to start, and difficult for those who wish to introduce and teach courses in Buddhist philosophy to find suitable textbooks that adequately represent the diversity of the tradition, expose students to important primary texts in reliable translations, that contextualize those texts, and that foreground specifically philosophical issues. Buddhist Philosophy fills that lacuna. It collects important philosophical texts from each major Buddhist tradition. Each text is translated and introduced by a recognized authority in Buddhist studies. Each introduction sets the text in context and introduces the philosophical issues it addresses and arguments it presents, providing a useful and authoritative guide to reading and to teaching the text. The volume is organized into topical sections that reflect the way that Western philosophers think about the structure of the discipline, and each section is introduced by an essay explaining Buddhist approaches to that subject matter, and the place of the texts collected in that section in the enterprise. This volume is an ideal single text for an intermediate or advanced course in Buddhist philosophy, and makes this tradition immediately accessible to the philosopher or student versed in Western philosophy coming to Buddhism for the first time. It is also ideal for the scholar or student of Buddhist studies who is interested specifically in the philosophical dimensions of the Buddhist tradition.
A bold and provocative work from the late preeminent feminist scholar, which challenges men and women alike to free themselves from attachment to gender. At the heart of Buddhism is the notion of egolessness—“forgetting the self”—as the path to awakening. In fact, attachment to views of any kind only leads to more suffering for ourselves and others. And what has a greater hold on people’s imaginations or limits them more, asks Rita Gross, than ideas about biological sex and what she calls “the prison of gender roles”? Yet if clinging to gender identity does, indeed, create obstacles for us, why does the prison of gender roles remain so inescapable? Gross uses the lenses of Buddhist philosophy to deconstruct the powerful concept of gender and its impact on our lives. In revealing the inadequacies involved in clinging to gender identity, she illuminates the suffering that results from clinging to any kind of identity at all.
What is Buddhist Feminism? This book examines reasons why Buddhism and feminism may seem to be incompatible, and shows that Buddhist and feminist philosophies can work together to challenge patriarchal structures. Current scholarship usually compares Buddhism and feminism to judge their compatibility, rather than describing a Buddhist Feminist perspective or method. Sokthan Yeng instead looks for a pattern that connects Buddhist and feminist traditions. In particular, she explores possible exchanges between feminist and Buddhist philosophies which highlight how they each contribute to a more nuanced understanding of anger. Yeng explores how a Buddhist feminist approach would allow women’s anger to be transformed from that which is outside the bounds of philosophy into that which contributes to philosophical discourse in the East and West, and between the two.
A new history of Buddhism that highlights the insights and experiences of women from diverse communities and traditions around the world Buddhist traditions have developed over a period of twenty-five centuries in Asia, and recent decades have seen an unprecedented spread of Buddhism globally. From India to Japan, Sri Lanka to Russia, Buddhist traditions around the world have their own rich and diverse histories, cultures, religious lives, and roles for women. Wherever Buddhism has taken root, it has interacted with indigenous cultures and existing religious traditions. These traditions have inevitably influenced the ways in which Buddhist ideas and practices have been understood and adapted. Tracing the branches and fruits of these culturally specific transmissions and adaptations is as challenging as it is fascinating. Women in Buddhist Traditions chronicles pivotal moments in the story of Buddhist women, from the beginning of Buddhist history until today. The book highlights the unique contributions of Buddhist women from a variety of backgrounds and the strategies they have developed to challenge patriarchy in the process of creating an enlightened society. Women in Buddhist Traditions offers a groundbreaking and insightful introduction to the lives of Buddhist women worldwide.
First Buddhist Women is a readable, contemporary translation of and commentary on the enlightenment verses of the first female disciples of the Buddha. The book explores Buddhism’s relatively liberal attitude towards women since its founding nearly 2,600 years ago, through the study of the Therigatham, the earliest know collection of women’s religious poetry. Through commentary and storytelling, author Susan Murcott traces the journey of the wives, mothers, teachers, courtesan, prostitutes, and wanderers who became leaders in the Buddhist community, roles that even today are rarely filled by women in other patriarchal religions. Their poetry beautifully expresses their search for spiritual attainment and their struggles in society.
This book surveys both the part women have played in Buddhism historically and what Buddhism might become in its post-patriarchal future. The author completes the Buddhist historical record by discussing women, usually absent from histories of Buddhism, and she provides the first feminist analysis of the major concepts found in Buddhist religion. Gross demonstrates that the core teachings of Buddhism promote gender equity rather than male dominance, despite the often sexist practices found in Buddhist institutions throughout history.
The Pāli tradition presents a diverse and often contradictory picture of women. This book examines women’s roles as they are described in the Pāli canon and its commentaries. Taking into consideration the wider socio-religious context and drawing from early brahmanical literature and epigraphical findings, it contrasts these descriptions with the doctrinal account of women’s spiritual abilities. The book explores gender in the Pāli texts in order to delineate what it means to be a woman both in the context in which the texts were composed and in the context of their ultimate goal - that of achieving escape from the round of rebirths. The critical investigation focuses on the internal relationships and dynamics of one tradition and employs a novel methodology, which the author calls "critical sympathy". This assumes that the tradition’s teaching is valid for all, in particular that its main goal, nibbāṇa, is accessible to all human beings. By considering whether and how women’s roles fit within this path, the author examines whether women have spiritual agency not only as bhikkhunīs (Buddhist nuns), but also as wives and mothers. It offers a new understanding that focuses on how the tradition construes women’s traditional roles within an interdependent community. It aims to understand how what many scholars have seen as contradictory and inconsistent characterizations of women in Buddhism have been accepted and endorsed by the Pāli tradition. With an aim to show that the Pāli canon offers an account of women that is doctrinally coherent and consistent with its sociological facts, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of Buddhism and Asian Religion.