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Women in Buddhist Burma
The attitude of
the Buddha to women was one of distrust and
suspicion typical of monastic sentiment all
the world over. This is brought out in some
of his conversations with Ananda who
frequently advocated the cause of women.
Ananda, 'how shall we behave before women ?'
`You should shun
their gaze, Ananda'.
But if we see
them, Master, what are we to do ?' `Not
speak to them, Ananda.'
But if we do
speak to them, what then?’
`Then you must
watch over yourselves, Ananda !'
Buddha regarded women as the most attractive
and dangerous of all those snares which
arouse the physical senses. Yet it can be
claimed that he called on men and women
alike to abandon the sexual nature and set
out on the long road to spiritual maturity.
He did not
refuse the hospitality and alms of devout
laywomen and there are a number of
well-known women who were allowed to
minister to the need& of himself and the
Sangha and so gain merit towards their own
In response to
repeated pleas from Ananda the Buddha at
last gave permission for women to enter the
Sangha and an order of Bhikkhuni or Sisters
was founded. But his permission was given
reluctantly and safeguarded by regulations
which made it clear that the eldest ordained
sister must behave extreme humility even to
the most junior monk. But this
gave them their chance to show their worth.
The claim was made good in the Psalms of the
Sisters in which the songs of those who
attained to Arahantship are preserved. This
fact, generally ignored, shows that the
attainment of Nirvana is possible in this
life even to women.
In Burma the
Order of the Sisters has not been
maintained, although there are meithila,
'nuns' so called, who live a semi-monastic
life, a half-way house between the old Order
of Sisters and the domestic life common to
most women. They wear a special robe of
their own, possess a certain amount of
property, do their own marketing and
domestic work. They are not held in anything
like as inch esteem as the monks. A Burmese
saying runs : 'Only you have lost your
child, or your husband has left you, or you
have failed in trade, or got badly into
debt, will yam become a nun.'
As to the women of Myanmar generally,
their only hope is to be reborn as men so
that they may become monks and so attain
Nirvana. But in practice the women of Burma
are the freest of all the women in the East,
and although tacitly paying lip service to
the superiority of men (the Burmese woman
always addresses her husband or any other
man as shin, lord), yet they are very much
the equal companions of men.
In Buddhist Law
if husband and wife separate each takes the
dowry brought by him or her to the marriage,
together with half the increase that has
been added during the years they have lived
together. The Burmese women are intelligent
and capable; many friendly observers regard
them as having more backbone and character
than the men. They take an active share in
the home, much of the petty trade of the
country is in their capable hands, while in
the villages they share with their men-folk
the work of planting and harvesting.
As in the West,
the women are the chief supporters of
religion. They are much more regular in
their visits to the pagoda, more often in
prayer before the images of the Buddha, more
generous in the daily support of the monks
Myanmar women are somehow very different
from Myanmar guys, not only physically.
They are in the
very best tradition of other women in Asia
such as Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia
Since the boys are brought up as the little
“pashas” and the girls have to do the work,
the evolution clearly prefers the girls and
after naturally the women. You can take
almost any very successful company in
Myanmar, Thailand or Cambodia and they
mostly have the same parameter, either they
are run by foreigners of the Caucasian type,
Chinese, Indian or local women. I know the
guys don’t want to hear this but it’s a
simple fact which cant be negotiated because
it’s the true. In both countries the guys
are mostly active in politics and military
and that’s one of the major reasons why
there are all the problems.
Myanmar usually also have a better
education than the guys, this is
also very similar to other countries
which are patriarchic driven by the
guys because of religion and sheer
fear of the guys because they can’t
stand the competition of the women.
countries where the guys cultivate their
strange pasha behaviors out of the religion,
a relict of about 400 years ago, the
evolution didn’t touch them, unfortunately.
It is not on such a extreme level in Myanmar
and Thailand but it is, actually it’s a
little bit similar to most countries in the
world but not to such an high level and
that’s makes the difference.