To tell you the truth, women had more regulations than men. This was reflected in number of Pratimokshi rules for nuns (331 rules for women against 227 -for men). Majority of supplementary rules were regarding some slight violations like woman ornamentation and her clothes, the rules of a woman consecration into sangha, a selection of the women guru, the rules of the woman behavior in public places etc. But the real restrictions were imposed on sexual behaviour of nuns. For example, if a man touched a woman – then this violation can be atoned, for a woman touching a man was treated as a heavy breach and was followed by an unconditional exclusion. It is wrong to think that Buddha considered a woman more inclined to sexual enjoyment than a man. Analysts paid attention on fact that Buddha described man’s sexual attraction to a woman as well as a woman to a man in one and the same terminology. To tell you the truth these strict rules pursued some internal objects. First of all, in the patriarchal Indian society Buddhist nuns that left their family duties and chose the road of liberation were reproached as for men it was allowed to go for their own way. That is why nuns should take care of themselves and behave properly because there are might be some ill-wishers around them. Secondly, a nun might become pregnant and this can provoke some substantial moral issues in the commune as well as the organizational ones. Evidently, proceeding from this point of view women must go through a trial period before becoming a nun. But there are some mentions in the canon that a woman became a nun being already pregnant.

What made a woman joining the Buddhist sangha? Ideally, the main and the only reason was searching for liberation, for nirvana. But practically, it was far from that. An interesting and striking illustration of this entering is left in “Therigatha” (“Verses of elder nuns”). This poetry draws our attention by its ingenuous feelings.

Rather a bright demonstration is verses written by a nun Mutta (free translation):

I am free!

I became so independent!

I am free from three things:

From mortar and pestle as well as bent old husband!

Torn up by the roots the craving,

That will lead to becoming,

I am free from old age and death.

Mortar, pestle and shameless husband are mentioned in other verses in “Therigatha”. Note that these feelings contradict the rules of honouring a man as God.


P.S. Do you know that seventeen women in October, 2003 got the highest ecclesiastical rank as Buddhist nuns at the Shakyamuni Buddhist Centre in Canberra, Australia?

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