Innovative Buddhist Women: Swimming against the Stream

Innovative Buddhist Women: Swimming against the Stream

Innovative Buddhist Women: Swimming against the Stream

Innovative Buddhist Women: Swimming against the Stream


Combines the voices of scholars and practitioners in analysing Buddhist women's history. 26 articles document the lives of women who have set in motion changes within Buddhist societies, with analyses of issues such as gender, ethnicity, authority, and class that affect the lives of women in traditional Buddhist cultures and, increasingly, the west.


More than five centuries before Christ, Śākyamuni Buddha affirmed women's spiritual potential. He mapped out a path to enlightenment that is accessible to all, householders and renunciants, regardless of class, ethnicity, age, or gender. The Buddha's methods of mental cultivation were open to everyone and offered women alternatives to conventional domestic roles. Yet, facing a host of obstacles that keep them marginalized and subservient, women in Buddhist cultures cannot help but question the discrepancy between Buddhism's egalitarian ideal and the practical limitations of their everyday lives.

Now that gender equity has become part of a new global ethic, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is time to explore how this principle can be applied to the world's religions. Increasingly global women's issues put Buddhism under a sometimes uncomfortable spotlight. Many Buddhists invoke the rhetoric of human beings' equal potential for enlightenment and assume that traditional structures are adequate to support women's practice, but they are not. The rhetoric of equality often masks the truth of women's subordination and lack of opportunities for education, training, and ordination. Without adequate structures to support women's practice, the ideal of spiritual equality remains an empty claim. These incongruities are the background and the rationale for a continuing inquiry into Buddhist women's history.

Creative Encounters

In Innovative Buddhist Women, the critical need for equal opportunities for education, ordination, and leadership for women in Buddhist cultures emerges as a common theme. From a variety of perspectives and disciplines, the authors examine Buddhist women's history anew. They document the lives of women who have wrought changes in traditional Buddhist . . .

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