Temptress on the Path: Women as Objects and Subjects in Buddhist Jataka Stories

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

It is undisputed in early Buddhist texts that women as well as men are capable of
becoming arahats (awakened beings). Both men and women can act morally,
attain all the advanced meditative states, and follow the teachings that lead to
nibbåna. Despite this ‘soteriological inclusiveness’ (Sponberg 1992), the
presentation of women in Buddhist texts is often less than egalitarian, perhaps
most especially in popular narrative literature. In Påli jåtaka stories, which are
popular subjects for sermons, children’s books and temple illustrations
throughout Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, the influence of both androcentric and
misogynistic tendencies is evident. Women are portrayed as obstacles to men’s
progress on the spiritual path, and few female characters are given any voice of
their own. In addition, the stories are presented as relating the previous births of
Gotama Buddha, who in every case is identified with a male character, leaving
few role models for Buddhist women, and altering the soteriological backdrop
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Topics in Feminist Philosophy of Religion
Subtitle of host publicationContestations and Transcendence Incarnate
EditorsPamela Anderson
Place of PublicationDordrecht
PublisherSpringer Press
Pages103-115
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781402068324
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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