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Buddhist Texts

Although many of the Buddhist texts, both Disciples' Vehicle and Mahāyāna, or Great Vehicle, 4 contain virulent misogynistic sections, there were in fact no doctrinal reasons that denied enlightenment and, later, Buddhahood to women. 5

The women of China ardently embraced Mahāyāna Buddhism and its large number of texts, although only a small number of these scriptures became extremely popular—such as the Flower of the Law, Vimalakīrti, Perfection of Wisdom, and the Amita or Pure Land texts. The most significant obstacle to a woman's entering the Assembly of Nuns was men rather than doctrine. The Assembly of Nuns was dependent on the Assembly of Monks for several of their required rites and rituals. The reverse was not the case. 6

Of the three types of Buddhist writings—the Buddha's own word (sūtra), the commentaries (shāstra), and the monastic code (vinaya) that tied the Assembly of Nuns to the Assembly of Monks—the Buddha's word and the commentaries were eagerly translated; however a lack of adequate vinaya texts in the early history of Buddhism in China hindered the establishment and development of the monastic order for women.

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia