Special Issue "Buddhist Women's Religiosity: Contemporary Feminist Perspectives"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2021) | Viewed by 5457

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Pascale F. Engelmajer
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of History, Politics and Religious Studies, Carroll University, Waukesha, WI 53186, USA
Interests: Buddhism, women and Buddhism; mothers and mothering; Pali texts; health and religion; meditation; laity; merit-making

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Much of the scholarship on women in Buddhist studies has justifiably and necessarily focused on monastic women, whether textually and historically (e.g., Anālayo, Collett, Heirman, Kawanami, Muldoon-Hules), or in the contemporary movement to re-establish women’s higher ordination in the Theravāda and Mūlasārvastivāda lineages (e.g., Anālayo, Morh and Roloff). A significant number of scholars in the field have also examined and helped further and nuance our collective critical understanding of the androcentric and misogynistic components of Buddhist texts (e.g., Gross, Ohnuma, Paul), and of women’s religious experience and practices (e.g., Banks Findly, Eberhardt, Falk Lindberg, Salgado).

However, if we aspire to provide a more balanced and complete picture of Buddhist women’s religious lives as social beings (as daughters, wives, mothers, nuns, workers, activists, and politicians), we need to examine with greater attention and depth the positive and affirming dimensions of women’s lived religious experiences outside of the monastic context. This Special Issue invites articles that use a feminist approach, broadly construed, to expand and provide an emphasis on women outside of the traditional monastic context and examine how women, in any Buddhist community, have lived, and continue to live, their Buddhist faith through a wide range of activities, practices and places throughout time and in the contemporary world.

References:

Anālayo. 2013. The Legality of Bhikkhunī Ordination. Journal of Buddhist Ethics 20: 310-32.
Anālayo. 2016. The Foundation History of the Nuns’ Order. Hamburg Buddhist Studies Series 6. Project Verlag.
Banks Findly, Ellison. 2003. Dana: Giving and Getting in Pali Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. 
Collett, Alice. 2016. Lives of Early Buddhist Nuns: Biography as History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Eberhardt , Nancy. 2006. Imagining the Course of Life: Self-Transformation in a Shan Buddhist Community. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Falk, Monica Lindberg. 2007. Making Fields of Merit: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand. Copenhagen: NIAS Press.
Gross, Rita. 1993. Buddhism after Patriarch: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism. Albany: SUNY Press.
Heirman, Ann. 2011. Buddhist Nuns Past and Present. Numen 58: 603-31.
Heirman, Ann. 2015. Rules for Nuns According to the Dharmaguptakavinaya. Motilal.
Kawanami, Hiroko. 2013. Renunciation and Empowerment of Buddhist Nuns in Myanmar-Burma: Building A Community of Female Faithful. Leiden: Brill.
Mohr, Thea, and Carola Roloff. 2014. Dignity and Discipline: Reviving Full Ordination for Buddhist Nuns. Somerville: Wisdom Publications.
Muldoon-Hules, Karen. 2017. Brides of the Buddha: Nuns' Stories from the Avadanasataka. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Ohnuma, Reiko. 2013. Ties that Bind: Maternal Imagery and Discourse in Indian Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Salgado, Nirmala. 2013. Buddhist Nuns and Gendered Practice: In Search of the Female Renunciant. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dr. Pascale F. Engelmajer
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Buddhism
  • women
  • laity
  • mothers
  • meditation

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Article
Creating Demand and Creating Knowledge Communities: Myanmar/Burmese Buddhist Women, Monk Teachers, and the Shaping of Transnational Teachings
Religions 2022, 13(2), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13020098 - 20 Jan 2022
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Abstract
The importance of Abhidhamma (higher doctrine) in Myanmar Buddhist society is well known. However, it is only within the last century that this doctrine has become more accessible to the laity, and specifically to women devotees. Today, women make up the majority of [...] Read more.
The importance of Abhidhamma (higher doctrine) in Myanmar Buddhist society is well known. However, it is only within the last century that this doctrine has become more accessible to the laity, and specifically to women devotees. Today, women make up the majority of monks’ devotees in the country. Indeed, as this article argues, a major role in increasing the Abhidhamma’s importance and visibility in Burmese society has been played by women. Although monks such as Ledi Sayadaw (1846–1923) reworked the teachings to make them more accessible to the laity, laywomen seem to have played an active role in creating a “demand” for learning the more difficult Buddhist teachings that were previously only available to monastic elites. It may be difficult to find individual female authors or references to women in texts written by monks during the earlier part of the colonial era, yet we can find examples of women displaying agency as part of larger groups. This fact complicates the notion of individual agency that is usually focused on in current research. During the colonial era, a considerable number of literate women were part of a “growing reading public,” and I argue that Burmese laywomen created a “demand” for learning Buddhist doctrine, with monks then creating a “supply”. My suspicions grew regarding women’s “demand” for learning, from multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Myanmar at a village monastery near Meiktila in 2014, and at a suburban house monastery in the San Francisco Bay Area during various visits beginning in 2010. I found that after observing the same teaching monk in both places that one woman student was responsible for creating these “knowledge communities” after creating a “demand” to learn the Abhidhamma. I was also able to learn how this monk’s doctrinal content and pedagogical methods of his teaching practice had been impacted not only by the different teaching environments, but also by the female students at the two sites. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Women's Religiosity: Contemporary Feminist Perspectives)
Article
Equality of Access? Chinese Women Practicing Chan and Transnational Meditation in Contemporary China
Religions 2022, 13(1), 61; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010061 - 10 Jan 2022
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Abstract
This paper examines how the Buddhist revival, the Chan revival, and recent popularity of transnational meditation practices have facilitated Chinese women practicing Buddhist meditation in contemporary China. With the influence of the opening of China and growing transnational networks, there has been an [...] Read more.
This paper examines how the Buddhist revival, the Chan revival, and recent popularity of transnational meditation practices have facilitated Chinese women practicing Buddhist meditation in contemporary China. With the influence of the opening of China and growing transnational networks, there has been an increasing number of Han Chinese monastics and lay people practicing transnational meditation, such as samādhi, vipassanā and mindfulness, in the past two decades. Despite the restriction of accessing Chan halls at monasteries, some Chinese nuns and laywomen have traveled to learn meditation in different parts of China, and international meditation centers in Southeast Asia to study with yogis from all over the world. Surprisingly some returned female travelers have taken significant roles in organizing meditation retreats, and establishing meditation centers and meditation halls. Through examining some ethnographic cases of Chinese nuns and laywomen, this paper argues that the transnational meditation movement has an impact not only on gender equality, especially concerning Chinese women practicing meditation, but also on the development of contemporary Chinese Buddhism. The significant role of Chinese female meditators in promoting Buddhist meditation can reflect a trend of re-positioning the Chan School in contemporary China. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Women's Religiosity: Contemporary Feminist Perspectives)
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Article
Embodied Objects: Chūjōhime’s Hair Embroideries and the Transformation of the Female Body in Premodern Japan
Religions 2021, 12(9), 773; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090773 - 15 Sep 2021
Viewed by 763
Abstract
The female body in medieval Japanese Buddhist texts was characterized as unenlightened and inherently polluted. While previous scholarship has shown that female devotees did not simply accept and internalize this exclusionary ideology, we do not fully understand the many creative ways in which [...] Read more.
The female body in medieval Japanese Buddhist texts was characterized as unenlightened and inherently polluted. While previous scholarship has shown that female devotees did not simply accept and internalize this exclusionary ideology, we do not fully understand the many creative ways in which women sidestepped the constraints of this discourse. One such method Japanese women used to expand their presence and exhibit their agency was through the creation of hair-embroidered Buddhist images. Women bundled together and stitched their hair into the most sacred parts of the image—the deity’s hair or robes and Sanskrit seed-syllables—as a means to accrue merit for themselves or for a loved one. This paper focuses on a set of embroidered Japanese Buddhist images said to incorporate the hair of Chūjōhime (753?CE–781?CE), a legendary aristocratic woman credited with attaining rebirth in Amida’s Pure Land. Chūjōhime’s hair embroideries served to show that women’s bodies could be transformed into miraculous materiality through corporeal devotional practices and served as evidence that women were capable of achieving enlightenment. This paper emphasizes materiality over iconography and practice over doctrine to explore new insights into Buddhist gendered ritual practices and draws together critical themes of materiality and agency in ways that resonate across cultures and time periods. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Women's Religiosity: Contemporary Feminist Perspectives)
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Article
Gender Equality in and on Tibetan Buddhist Nuns’ Terms
Religions 2020, 11(10), 543; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11100543 - 21 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2214
Abstract
Gender equality and feminism are often cast as concepts foreign to the Tibetan cultural region, even as scholarship exploring alliances between Buddhism and feminism has grown. Critics of this scholarship contend that it superimposes liberal discourses of freedom, egalitarianism, and human rights onto [...] Read more.
Gender equality and feminism are often cast as concepts foreign to the Tibetan cultural region, even as scholarship exploring alliances between Buddhism and feminism has grown. Critics of this scholarship contend that it superimposes liberal discourses of freedom, egalitarianism, and human rights onto Asian Buddhist women’s lives, without regard for whether/how these accord with women’s self-understandings. This article aims to serve as a corrective to this omission by engaging transnational feminist approaches to listen carefully to the rhetoric, aims, and interpretations of a group of Tibetan nuns who are redefining women’s activism in and on their own terms. We conclude that their terms are not derivative of foreign or secular liberal rights-based theories, but rather outgrowths of Buddhist principles taking on a new shape in modern Tibet. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Women's Religiosity: Contemporary Feminist Perspectives)
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