What Brings Women to Buddhism? Essay (Critical Writing)

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What Brings Women to Buddhism? Essay (Critical Writing)
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Introduction: Buddhism as a Path of Life

One of the most crucial issues in Buddhism, the process of conversion and cognizing the Buddhist religion offers a plethora of peculiar issues to discuss. Among the most enticing topics that presuppose thorough discussion and involve multiple issues, the one concerning the way women are converted into Buddhist nuns is the one that is worth the maximum attention. Since the stages that women have to pass through to come to the idea of becoming a nun are quite multiple and involve a number of various factors, it can be suggested that the process of becoming a nun in Buddhism can be enhanced both by the inner and the outer factors.

Therefore, it is necessary to figure out which of the aforementioned elements women converted into Buddhist nuns are inspired most by. Once establishing the source that has the greatest influence on the women and the ways which are most typical of women to be converted into Buddhism, whether it is the doctrinal one, or the one involving the social issues, one will be able to define the role of women in Buddhism:

Until the early eighties, women were motivated to be come nuns for three principal reasons: in the case of young girls, to avoid marriage and, at time when very few girls went to school, to get a chance to learn to read and write- if only in order to study the Buddhist scriptures: and in the case of older women, to escape the marginality of marital breakdown or widowhood (Levine).

Therefore, the necessity to consider the given issue is doubtless. Analyzing the article by Arvind Sharma, one is likely to obtain a plethora of peculiar information concerning Buddhist nuns and considerable room for debates. Making it clear that both the inner and the outer factors play crucial role in women’s conversion to Buddhist nuns, the author specifies that the doctrine and the authority of the teacher play the most important role. Though the role of the teacher and the postulates cannot be denied, Sharma does not pay the due attention to the role of the outer factors, which drives to certain misunderstanding.

From the Bird’s-Eye View: the Author’s Point

Considering the article in question, one must admit that the author, Arvind Sharma, drives rather well though-out arguments and considers the issue from a number of aspects, which, no doubts, shapes the paper, making it objective, and introduces versatile factors that have the impact on the Buddhist women as they become nuns.

Embracing the cultural background, the influence of the religious authorities and the influence that the doctrines of Buddha have on Indian women and their religious ideas, the author conveys the idea that the there sources of inspiration for the nuns to be are actually of the same power, yet emphasizes that it was the change within the women that made them become a part of the Buddhist religion.

It is quite peculiar that the author specifies that each of women had her own motivations to become a nun, yet the scriptures of the Buddhist postulates were the turning point that convinced the women completely, persuading them to convert to nuns. As Sharma says, there are two basic reasons for women to join the ranks of the Buddhist nuns, namely, the enchantment of the Buddhist doctrine, the desire to cognize the ultimate truth, and the repulsion that the women could have experienced in their former secular life and are now willing to shake off the lowness of the world. However, it must be admitted that the author insists on the priority of the former reason.

The Strengths and the Good Points

It is important to mark that Sharma has a number of credible and impressive ideas in his work, quoting the relevant and trustworthy secondary sources, as well as relating to specific Buddhist texts, which adds certain tint of ingenuity to the paper (Sharma). Offering the quotes from such authoritative sources as Davids’ works, Sharma impresses with the thoroughness of his research.

It is of utter importance that the author offers a plenty of examples to illustrate his ideas. With the help of the specific instances that Sharma drives to prove his point, the argument becomes more objective and the treasons that Sharma offers turn much more credible. Therefore, the use of multiple examples in Sharma’s work can be considered one of the major points that speak in favor of the given essay, since, as Warder claims, the process of exemplifying contributes to a better understanding of the given subject: “without the understanding there may be ‘excess’” (438).

Telling the reads the names of the women and the people who had their impact on the women’s decision to become nuns, Sharma also contributes to the credibility of the paper.

It is quite peculiar that Findly also refers to Order, which supports Sharma’s argument, yet claims that there are certain issues concerning the Order of the nuns: “The main objection to the revival of the nuns’ order is that the Theravada bhikkhuni lineage has been broken and, once broken, it cannot be restored” (46). Offering the snatches of women’s lives and experiences to the public, the author rebuilds the conflict situations, making them completely real and, thus, credible.

When Questions Arise

However, it is still desirable that the sources could be more updated. Even though it is unquestionable that the sources used by the author of the article have been the three pillars that the research of Buddhism has been based on, it is still desirable that some of the materials could be more up to date. Thus, the objectivity of Sharma’s research becomes questionable.

Moreover, one of the obvious weak points of the given paper concerns its being focused on the examples that prove the author’s idea, disregarding the exceptions from the rule set by Sharma. According to Findly, there are a number of such cases: “Others have become temporary nuns to accumulate spiritual merit or to learn the Buddhist prayers, or simply because ‘my friends have done it too’” (164).

Obviously, not all Buddhist nuns have become the ones in the course of misunderstandings within the family or the inspirations from the sacred texts; nevertheless, the author does to take into account the existing exclusions, which makes the paper somewhat weaker.

In addition, the sources that Sharma uses when researching the earliest epochs of Buddhism are basically the myths, legends and scriptures that cannot be considered as reliable sources, since they can be considerably exaggerated. Therefore, the part of the research that concerns the earliest period of accepting women as nuns in Buddha temples can be questioned. Though the above-mentioned does not seek to diminish the contribution of the author into the research concerning Buddhist nuns, the points mentioned earlier allow to suggest that further researches should be undertaken.

The Imprints Left: Sharing the Impressions

Speaking of the impressions that the given paper leaves, one must admit that Sharma does sound rather persuasive mostly due to the authoritative sources that he uses in his persuasive arguments, but also because of his manner of argument. Offering the readers concrete and, in most cases, doubtless argumentations, Sharma provides an impression of an author relying on the opinions of the wise Buddhist teachers, as well as Warder does, which contributes to the vision of complete clarity. Therefore, the overall mood of the research inspires the audience to believe the ideas that Sharma offers. It can be concluded that the structure of Sharma’s argumentation is rather adequate, and the examples that the author drives are rather striking.

Despite the tiny inconsistencies and drawbacks mentioned above, the argument that Sharma is trying to convey to the public seems clear and reasonable. However, it is still worth mentioning that Sharma’s idea concerning women’s conversion to Buddhism being inspired solely by the Buddhist ideas seems not adequate enough, since the personal motifs are also to be taken into account, as Findly emphasized. It is also desirable ton include the evidence of the nuns themselves, not merely the stories told as local legends. Obtaining the information from the residents of the temples themselves, Sharma would have created a more credible and fruitful research.

Getting Inspired: The Ideas to Offer

Even though Sharma does seem rather biased in his judgment concerning the factors than enhance women in India and Europe become “theri” – the author obviously marks that these are the inspirations within the person that mainly make women take the decisive step and become one of the theri, it must be admitted that the author conveys his ideas rather clearly. However, Sharma still leaves a number of issues open, leaving them to be solved for the rest of the researchers. One of such, the question concerning the motivations of the nuns remains open.

Nevertheless, Sharma offers a plenty of peculiar ideas to consider. One of them, the stage of passing from a nun to a theri, is a crucial part of the research. According to the author, under the impact of Dhammadinna preach, a nun can become so spiritually excited and elevated that she passes to the stage of a theri. However, the statement mentioned above is still debatable, since the speech is the factor that triggered the conversion, yet not necessarily the one that caused it.

Conclusion: The Roads We Choose

Summarizing the above-mentioned, one must admit that the reasoning of Sharma is rater impressive, despite the fact that it lacks certain elements like more credible pieces of evidence and more particular examples. In addition, it would be more reasonable if Sharma elaborated on the outer factors that drive Buddhist women to becoming nuns and theris, living quite an ascetic life, such as the family issues, the influence of authoritative people, etc., thus, embracing a wider range of possibilities.

It would be more appropriate if Sharma considered such reasons for women to renounce the secular world as being broken-hearted and the feeling of despair, like Findly does: “Experience or anticipation of suffering is sometimes involved” (43). It would also be essential to mark that women play a significant part in Buddhism religion, for instance, as the friends of Sudhana, as Warder explains: “It is noteworthy that 20 out of the 52 friends are women (or goddesses)” (404).

Thus, the significance of Sharma’s work is undeniable, yet there are tangible gaps. Since the author focuses on the spiritual, he leaves out the secular, which is also essential. Providing a detailed description of the spiritual transformations, Sharma still leaves certain social factors that make women become theri without the due explanation.

Works Cited

Findly, Ellison B. Women’s Buddhism, Buddhism’s Women: Tradition, Revision, Renewal. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publishers, 2000. Print.

Levine, Sarah Dr. “.” Buddhist Himalaya, 9.1&2, 1998

Sharma, Arvind. “How and Why Did the Women in Ancient India Become Buddhist Nuns?” Sociological Analysis, 28.3 (1977): 239-251.

Warder, Anthony Kennedy. “Indian Buddhism.” Delhi, IN: Motial Banarsidass, 2004. Google Books.

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