Journal of Buddhist Ethics
IntroductionIntroductionIntroductionIntroductionAccording to early Buddhist thought, the ability to attain any of the fourstages of awakening is independent of gender. An explicit endorsementof women’s abilities to reach awakening can be found in a discourse inthe
and its counterparts in two
collec-tions translated into Chinese, which allegorically refer to a set of whole-some qualities as a vehicle for approaching liberation. The three versionsagree that by means of this vehicle the goal of liberation can be reachedindependent of whether the one who mounts the vehicle is a woman or aman.
Such a clear assertion of gender equality in the spiritual realm isremarkable in view of what appears to have been the prevalent attitudetowards women and their religious potential in ancient India.
In anoth-er discourse in the
and its parallels in the two
s already mentioned, Māra appears as an advocate of ancient In-dian machismo in this respect.
The three versions describe how Māraaccosts a meditating nun and tries to unsettle her by suggesting that awoman’s innate lack of wisdom renders her incapable of reaching reali-zation.
The nun is quick to give a fitting reply to this insinuation. Afterclarifying that gender is simply irrelevant, once the mind is concen-trated, she tells Māra that with such talk he should better go to thosewho are still caught up in identifications with being a woman or being aman.
In direct contrast to the prejudice voiced by Māra, according to arange of
the Buddha clearly affirmed women’s ability to reachany of the four stages of awakening.
Corroboration for this assertion canbe found, for example, in a verse in the
, which records a groupof thirty nuns declaring their successful attainment of final liberation.
and its parallels give even higher numbers,recording that over five-hundred nun disciples of the Buddha had