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A Garland of Feminist ReflectionsForty Years of Religious Exploration$
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Rita Gross

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780520255852

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520255852.001.0001

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Buddhist Women and Teaching Authority

Buddhist Women and Teaching Authority

(p.281) Chapter 18 Buddhist Women and Teaching Authority
A Garland of Feminist Reflections

Rita M. Gross

University of California Press

The primary feminist criticism of Buddhism is that, most often, dharma teachers are men. Feminists have responded with two solutions to this problem. One obvious solution would be to make structural changes to ensure that women are trained as teachers, and then to make sure that women are promoted as teachers. The authority of dharma teachers pertains to dharma, to the teachings and practices of Buddhism, not to a sangha's institutional life, which can be decided by the community. Because dharma teaching is so important in Buddhism, the acid test for whether Buddhism has overcome its male-dominant heritage is the frequency with which women become dharma teachers. This chapter explores that in most Buddhist cultures, the path to teaching authority lies in monastic institutions; thus, if women's path to monastic life is blocked, as was the case in many forms of Asian Buddhism, women usually will not become teachers.

Keywords:   feminist criticism, dharma teachers, Buddhism, sangha, Buddhist cultures, monastic institutions

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