Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Professor Ellison Banks Findly
Professor Leslie G Desmangles
In Buddhism, monks and nuns or bhikkhu and bhikkhuni in Pali refer to those who leave their homes to practices Buddhism and live ascetic lives with other monks or nuns. Monks and nuns play important roles in Buddhism, because they are considered to be the successors of the Buddha dharma after the death of the Sakyamuni Buddha and therefore are responsible for teaching and passing on the Buddha dharma.
Precepts are the rules that the Buddha made to prohibit the behavior that may obstruct the experiencing of enlightenment. By upholding the precepts strictly, people can experience nirvana. In order to help monks and nuns, who devote their whole lives to practice Buddhism, to experience nirvana sooner, the Buddha made stricter precepts for them than for lay people who practice Buddhism at home while doing secular business. The precepts for monks and the precepts for nuns are called the Bhikkhu Patimokkha and the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha, which were made based on the misbehavior of monks and nuns.
However, there are many differences between the Bhikkhu Patimokkha and the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha, showing the differences between women and men, such as physical differences, different habits and psychologies, and different social roles, and the view of the Buddha that a greater percentage of women has deeper vasanas (subconscious bad habits from previous lives) than men have. For this reason, some people charge Buddhism because they think the Buddha discriminated against women. Nonetheless, the Buddha’s view towards women is based on the facts rather than the stereotype of women, which can be seen in the analysis in the following chapters. Moreover, in Buddhism, it is thought that this situation of women is not caused by women’s bodily characteristics but by their psychologies and certain social customs. In other words, these bad habits are not inherent and unchangeable, and can be changed with the change of the time and the social context. Furthermore, the degree of having bad habits does not influence the fact that every sentient being is able to experience enlightenment, so women indeed have the same possibility of experiencing nirvana as men have by practicing Buddhism to surpass themselves, which can be found throughout many Buddhist sutras.
Chen, Shuaiyu, "The View of Women in Buddhism - From the Comparison between the Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Precepts". Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2016.
Trinity College Digital Repository, https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/540