The critical reading assignment focused on Sharma a scholar who focuses on Ancient India and how women in region during the period coming after the 16th B.C chose to become Buddhist nuns. This paper presents three different journal articles by different authors at the same time analyzing how each one of these articles tackles the issue of women and the Buddhist religion
The first article “Women in Ancient India” by C.D Weerasinghe focuses on how Ancient Indian women became Buddhist nuns. The author of this article clearly gives an account of how particular women bikkhunis and Buddhists nuns chose to become lay-devotees of Buddhism eventually becoming nuns. For instance, the author gives a well written account of how Budha’s step-mother and aunt joined Buddhism.
Here, he clearly presents the main reasons and underlying circumstances necessitating the decision made by this early Buddhist nun. In this account, Weerasighe asserts that Gotami having no one to look up to after loosing her husband, she had no choice but to study Buddha’s doctrines. This explains how she became the first woman Buddhist and later Buddhist lay-devotee albeit without being influenced by anybody.
Weerasighe’s arguments tends to concur with those of Sharma in the sense that they both agree to the view that most women chose to abandon everything and devout their lives to self-deprivation in order to become Buddhists.
Additionally, his discussion tends to agree with Sharma’s examination of seventy one female nuns in the Therigatha where he asserts that most of them joined the order not because of their unsatisfactory marriage or family lives, but because of the positive influence of Buddha’s ways. In a similar way, Yasodhara chose to practice deprivation and join Buddhism despite her young and happy marriage to prince Siddhattha. This was due to the appreciation and influence of Buddha.
On the other hand, the second article, “Buddhist Nuns in the Kathmandu Valley: An Evolving consciousness” by Dr. Sarah Levine, the author outlines some reasons why women of Kathmandu valley opted to become nuns. The author in this case is only concerned with the period preceding and coming immediately after the eighties. According to Levine (24),most women in this region chose to become nuns mainly because three major reasons.
Women joined Buddhism either because they wanted to escape from the doctrine of marriage, or they were seeking for a chance to further their education or finally running away from marriage and family problems. This view is definitively in a sharp contradiction with Avandi Sharma’s argument that new philosophical influences and teachings of the new religion can be a major reason for someone to completely abandon her life for a life of complete deprivation as a nun (Findly 98).
The author of the book, “Women’s Buddhism, Buddhism’s women”, agrees with Sharma’s views and opinion regarding women’s choice of Buddhism as a religion. The author of this article holds the claim that people choose to join certain religions because of the doctrines, teachings, practices and ways of life in those particular religions. To support this claim, the author gives an example of Europe where women are turning to Buddhism not because of some socio-economic forces, but because of their attraction to Buddhist ways.
Some of these attractions include individuality and the way of life as well as a satisfying religion and humility in this religion. Thus, he argues is because many of them feel disillusioned by the “traditions” in Christianity. Though this article uses different sources from those of the CRA, the focus is merely the same though in this case the geographical region shifts to Europe and America. This kind of Buddhism though quite different from the ancient one in India, the course is merely the same and thus this article supports the views in the CRA.
According to Arvandi Sharma, ancient Indian women chose to become Buddhists nuns purely due to the influence of Buddha’s positive ways, teachings and the Buddhism doctrines. They did not become nuns purely because of their shortcomings in life such as familial misfortunes or lack of place or someone to run to.
Sharma tries to support his course of argument by analyzing the life stories of some of the earliest nuns from the “Therigatha”, a summary about the psalms of the nuns in India. In this case, the author relies solely on religious poetry verses from the Buddhist religion as his primary source of data in the writing of his article.
These verses are virtually including live stories of women who converted to Buddhism during the period beginning from the 6th century B.C. The author in this sense seeks to find out whether women during this period chose to become nuns because of the enlightenment of the Buddhism religion, or because they were escaping from miserable social and economic past lives.
The author in this case seeks to test the relative deprivation approach holding that women have cultural and social reasons to turn to the new religion rather than doing so on the basis of pure enlightenment provided by the same religion. The author asserts that women became Buddhists in slightly different ways, but two main factors were the main driving forces. Buddhism as a religion was attractive to the women and its doctrines appeared to be of great importance.
Additionally, women chose to become nuns as a result of the disgusting nature of the surrounding society and its culture. They were thus seeking a way out from this seemingly bad surrounding society and culture. In relation to this, a majority number of forty two cases out of a total of sixty eight cases examined were found to have chosen to become nuns because of the spiritual attractiveness of Buddhism rather than for social and economic problems (Findly 98).
For example, the next article ” Life of Women in Ancient India” demythologizes the importance and high status of Indian women in the ancient society and gives several proofs to support its opinion analyzing different spheres of life (AbhiSays.com). However, the article “Four Famous Female Figures of Vedic India” describes lives of the most popular and influential women of the Vedic period showing their importance and role in that society (Das). Thus, it argues with the previous article.
In “Women in Ancient India”, the author analyses the lives of some of the early women who join Buddhism as a religion. It is interesting enough that the author starts with Budha’s step-mother and aunt who were among the first five hundred women to join Buddhism.
This was a very commendable approach by the author because with this kind of analysis and targeting such kind of target group of women, the author was able to get a first hand account of what early Buddhist women had to say about their decision to join Buddhists and eventually nuns. His choice of the analysis group is also worth appraising.
He chooses to analyze groups of women from wealthy backgrounds and who could not in any way be influenced by socio-economic factors in joining Buddhism as claimed by other dissenting authors.
In regard to this, the women analyzed by the author of this article concur with Sharma’s argument that most women chose to abandon everything and devout their lives to self-deprivation and become Buddhist lay-devotees or eventually nuns without necessarily being influenced by familial or social problems. Some of the women targeted by the author in this article such as Yasodhara claim to have been influenced by Buddha himself (Weerasinghe, 43).
The author further gives an account of a devout daughter of a Savattia millionaire, an intelligent girl who was able to grasp Buddha’s teachings on the various occasions Buddha visited their house for alms. According to the author of this article, a girl from a wealthy family being converted to a Buddhist lay-woman not only implies that people can devout their lives to complete deprivation by not only simply following new attractive philosophies, but they can also do so without any influence from socio-economic forces.
The sources used in this article are far more reliable than those used in the CRA since here, the lives of the analyzed women can be traced unlike in the psalms used by the CRA. The conclusions in this article are identical to those presented by Sharma in the CRA.
The author of the article “Buddhist Nuns in the Kathmandu Valley: An Evolving consciousness” presents her arguments from a different perspective, era and using quite different sources from those used in the CRA. Dr. Sarah Levine, the author of this article presents quite different points as the main factors behind women’s choice to become Buddhists.
The reasons presented in this article include avoiding getting married, seeking a chance to further their education, and finally evading problems of marriage breakages or being widowed. This contradicts Avandia Sharma’s argument that philosophical influences and teachings of the new religion were the main driving forces behind women’s choice of joining Buddhism.
In conclusion, the five articles have greatly broadened by knowledge concerning the Buddhist religion. They have also given me a new set of ideas concerning this religion as well as the dissenting opinions held by other scholars in comparison to those of the scholar in the CRA.With the knowledge acquired from these articles, I can now critique the CRA from different perspective.
Das, Subhamoy “Four Famous Female Figures of Vedic India: About Ghosha, Lopamudra, Maitreyi and Gargi.” About Guide. About. Hinduism. Web.
Findly, B. Women’s Buddhism, Budhism’s Women: Traditional, Revision, Renewal. Wisdom Publishes, 2000. Print.
Levine, Sarah. “Buddhist Nuns in the Kathmandu Valley: An Evolving consciousness.” Buddhist Himalaya: A Journal of Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods 9.1&2 (1998): 489-99. Ccbs. Web.
“Life of Women in Ancient India.” Abhi Says. India, 2009. Web.
Weerasinghe, C.D. “Women in Ancient India.” Bodhi Leaves 47 (2010). BPS Online. Web.