Many people all around this planet have knowingly or unknowingly met people of the Buddhist community or even seen a Buddhist Temple. In whatever circumstances, hearing of, meeting with the real Buddhists or visiting their temple is not an issue. The fundamental question is, ‘what is Buddhism? ’ An article, The Buddhist Way appearing in the Buddha Net (2008) defines Buddhism as, “…a religion, a series of practices and a way of life based on the teachings of Buddha who, after achieving enlightenment, taught that the nature of the world is constant change.
” According to the teaching of Buddha, all things in this world are temporary and the inability to understand life’s nature is the source of people’s unhappiness, trouble and their suffering. Buddhism is therefore a means to correct people’s views, expectations along with their conduct and bring happiness, peace, wisdom, Nirvana and end suffering. Buddha’s teachings are a source of inspiration to people whose religion is Buddhism. Their lives have perhaps been influenced by these teachings (Buddha Net 2008). This essay seeks to explore through the day to day life of Buddhist men, women and children
The males were the dominant figures in the Buddhist community. Their responsibility was to take care of the females in their community. They were the voice in their families and no woman could dare go against their wishes. The woman could only manage the affairs of the house in the way that the husband dictated. The males could marry as many wives as their strength allowed (Buddha Net 2008). They could become monks to serve in the Buddhism religion where they were supposed to live a celibate life (Andrew, nd).
To understand the situation currently facing the Buddhist woman, it is important to look at the early life of the Buddhist woman. The Buddhist woman seems to have gone through so much than any other living creature. Her life was that of submissiveness and servitude; as a child and youth, a wife and an elderly woman, she had to obey and serve her parents, husband and grown children respectively. They had no right to chose whom to marry and would marry anyone chosen to them by parents. On very rare occasions, they were given an opportunity to choose from a few suitors. Some of the women therefore were forced to elope.
Once they were in marriage they were to obey their husbands together with his parents without question. Like objects, they could seldom make decisions; they were ordered on what was to be done by men (Andrew, nd). Women’s role in the Buddhist society was to manage household affairs such as cooking, cleaning the house, bearing and looking after the children. They only ate leftovers after the men had had their fill. Women were treated more or less like objects. Their husbands could beat them up if they were displeased to, an extent of being thrown out from the family house.
A woman could not file for a divorce but a man could (Andrew, nd). Their role as said earlier was to bring forth children for their dear husbands and if the woman was barren, another wife was the better option for the husband. As opposed to men, women who committed adultery were put to death. Men could also give away their wives to their men friends. The woman was the most degraded creature in the early Buddhist community whose activates and decisions were under the remote control of men. Many women served as slaves and had to follow whatever their masters said even if it meant the sexual act.
They were also beaten up by their master and even murdered without anyone’s alarm. Due to these merciless and regular beatings they occasionally committed suicide. The life of a traditional Buddhist woman was made of a dark cloud of suffering. Andrews in her article Women in Theravada Buddhism joins Janice Willis in saying that women “…were helpmates at best and burdens at worst, but always they were viewed as being inferior, second class citizens” (Andrew, nd). The birth of Buddha also marked the birth of the women’s freedom.
At one time Buddha was asked about women by one of his disciples, Ananda and he replied that just like men, they could also become enlightened. Buddha in an effort of lifting the woman figure founded orders for both Bhikkhus (monks) and Bhikkhunis (nuns). The practices and rules that governed the two orders were similar. Buddha also taught anyone; male and females alike (Andrew, nd). However it had not been easy for Buddha to establish the order of nuns. Had it not been for his disciple Ananda’s pleading, the women could not have been ordained.
Despite their ordination, Buddha dictated eight rules that placed the nuns as monks’ subordinates. To Buddha still, a woman was a lesser being. It was because of nuns’ ordination that his teachings would last for only 500 years instead of the expected 1000 years. Ordination of women was like a crime that he had committed (Andrew, nd). After the death of Buddha, the one time patriarch society wore back its earlier face. They could not deal with women nuns who were their equal and rules to lower the standards of women in the society were made.
No one was against Buddha’s teachings that women could in the same way as men attain enlightment but there were certain limitations made for Bhikkhunis to perhaps increase acceptance of monastic rules in the society. Despite these limitations, many women joined the Bhikkhunis as there was more freedom, no servitude; no doing of household chores and above all they had independence. Once liberated, they taught the same to other women. Bhikkhunism therefore was a way of escaping from the harsh realities of life. All women could not be Bhikkhunis; some established other movements such as the Lay Women (Andrew, nd).
The life expectations of a Buddhist child can be drawn from the teaching of Buddha to his own son Rahula. Parents and teachers were supposed to pass these teachings on to their children. A Buddhist child is expected to be truthful. If the Buddhist child wanted to find truth the child must be truthful in the first place. Children are also supposed grow up with their actions as mirrors. They were advised not to perform any action that seemed harmful. Children were supposed to learn from their mistakes and be responsible for their actions. They were also supposed to be compassionate.
Buddhist children are also trained to become monks from an early age (Talbot, 2010) Conclusion Just like in any other institution, the Buddhist community has had their own way of life. Each and every group had a place it held in the society. However, it had been a patriarch society that infringed on the rights of women. Men were superior figures but women were expected to be in total submission of their husbands.
With the coming of Buddha the status of women was lifted but was not equal to that of men. Women are still below men in communities that practice Buddhism such as in India and Thailand. References Andrew, K. (nd). Women in Theravada Buddhism. Retrieved form http://www. enabling. org/ia/vipassana/Archive/A/Andrews/womenTheraBudAndrews. html Buddha Net. (2008). The Buddhist way. Retrieved from http://www. buddhanet. net/e-learning/buddhism/bs-s01. htm Talbot, M. (2010). Introduction: teaching your children Buddhist values. Retrieved from http://www. tricycle. com/special-section/introduction-teaching-your-children-buddhist-values
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