Buddhist Women and Teaching Authority

Rita M. Gross

in A Garland of Feminist Reflections

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780520255852
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520943667 | DOI:
Buddhist Women and Teaching Authority

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The primary feminist criticism of Buddhism is that, most often, dharma teachers are men. Feminists have responded with two solutions to this problem. One obvious solution would be to make structural changes to ensure that women are trained as teachers, and then to make sure that women are promoted as teachers. The authority of dharma teachers pertains to dharma, to the teachings and practices of Buddhism, not to a sangha's institutional life, which can be decided by the community. Because dharma teaching is so important in Buddhism, the acid test for whether Buddhism has overcome its male-dominant heritage is the frequency with which women become dharma teachers. This chapter explores that in most Buddhist cultures, the path to teaching authority lies in monastic institutions; thus, if women's path to monastic life is blocked, as was the case in many forms of Asian Buddhism, women usually will not become teachers.

Keywords: feminist criticism; dharma teachers; Buddhism; sangha; Buddhist cultures; monastic institutions

Chapter.  4124 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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