University of Tasmania
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Gender and the soteriology debate in Buddhism: Is a female Buddha possible in non-esoteric Buddhism?

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posted on 2023-05-27, 01:00 authored by Palmo, KS
Is a Female Buddha Possible in Non-Esoteric Buddhism? Buddhism today can broadly be divided into two forms: Tantric (esoteric) and non-Tantric (non-esoteric) Buddhism. Tantric Buddhism's answer to the above question is unequivocally positive: it never questioned the possibility of a female Buddha. In non-Tantric Buddhism, this question has long been a subject of debate, and thus far, it is assumed that a female Buddha is impossible. In my view, this latter conclusion is problematic and is not well supported in the traditional canonical literature. Therefore, the focus of this thesis is to further investigate the relationship between non-Tantric Buddhism's perspective on gender and soteriology. I will argue that the premises employed to rule out the possibility of a female Buddha in non-Tantric Buddhism are flawed, and that such a view cannot be attributed to the Buddha himself. I will advance my argument based on two pieces of evidence: (1) that the premises used to rule out a female Buddha are not supported by the Buddha's own teachings as recorded in canonical texts, and (2) such premises are employed only in the commentaries, and therefore in the hermeneutic works of later scholars. Of an enormous corpus of literature representing the views of many different ‚âàv¿r¿ívÖvakay¿ívÖna and Mah¿ívÖy¿ívÖna schools in several languages, my research will focus on Therav¿ívÖda and Sarv¿ívÖstiv¿ívÖda sources to present the ‚âàv¿r¿ívÖvakay¿ívÖna perspective in the first half of the thesis, and non-Tantric Mah¿ívÖy¿ívÖna sources in order to present the Mah¿ívÖy¿ívÖna perspectives in the second half.


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