On Reading Buddhist Vinaya: Feminist History, Hermeneutics, and Translating Women’s Bodies

Buddhist monastic law codes (vinaya) are rich sources for writing the history of the early nuns’ community. If we hope to encounter these ascetic women of long ago as full real people, however, we must apply an intentional, transparent, critically informed, and sometimes interstitial reading strateg...

Full description

Saved in:
Bibliographic Details
Published in:Journal of the American Academy of Religion
Main Author: Langenberg, Amy Paris
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Check availability: HBZ Gateway
Journals Online & Print:
Drawer...
Published: [2020]
In:Journal of the American Academy of Religion
Year: 2020, Volume: 88, Issue: 4, Pages: 1121-1153
Online Access: Verlag
doi
Description
Summary:Buddhist monastic law codes (vinaya) are rich sources for writing the history of the early nuns’ community. If we hope to encounter these ascetic women of long ago as full real people, however, we must apply an intentional, transparent, critically informed, and sometimes interstitial reading strategy, not a theoretically naïve historiography cloaked in philological rigor. Confronting head on the issue of what the vinaya actually can tell us about the early nuns’ community, this essay offers a survey of hermeneutical approaches in vinaya studies. It articulates a revised approach based on accepted strategies within vinaya studies enhanced by innovations in the fields of religious studies, gender studies, historical linguistics, comparative law, and dharmaśāstra studies. It also analyzes several vinaya passages based on this revised approach, including a text legislating the nuns’ use of what appears to be an ancient tampon when they are menstruating. Finally, it offers observations about the possible relationship between nuns’ vinayas as texts and the realia of the early nuns’ community. These observations include the possibility that the ancient Buddhist nunnery was a place where monastic women exercised certain types of agency as practitioners, interpreters, and even authors of monastic discipline, despite their oft-mentioned subordination to the male community.
ISSN:1477-4585
Contains:Enthalten in: American Academy of Religion, Journal of the American Academy of Religion
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.1093/jaarel/lfaa049