Buddhism, Women, & Gender (A Bibliography)

Just some books:

The Journey of One Buddhist Nun: Even Against the Wind
Sid Brown

Buddha’s Daughters: Teachings from Women who are Shaping Buddhism in the West
Andrea Miller

Being a Buddhist Nun: The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas
Kim Gutschow

Blossoms of the Dharma: Living as a Buddhist Nun
Thubten Chodron

And of course, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.

The thread should maybe be called “Buddhism, Women, and Gender”.


Some more books and articles:

Naomi Appleton - Women and the Bodhisatta Path in Theravada, 2011

Kathryn Blackstone - Women in the Footsteps of the Buddha, Struggle for Liberation in the Therigatha

Alice Collett - Historio-Critical Hermeneutics in the Study of Women in Early Indian Buddhism, 2009

Bh. Dhammadinna - Women’s Aspirations and Soteriological Agency in Sarvāstivāda and Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya Narratives

Pascale Engelmajer - Women in Pali Buddhism

Sue Hamilton - Buddhism, The Doctrinal Case for Feminism

Oskar von Hinuber - The Advent of the First Nuns in Early Buddhism

Douglas Osto - Soteriology, Asceticism and the Female Body in Two Indian Buddhist Narratives, 2006

Peter Skilling - Nuns, Laywoman, Donors, Goddesses. Female Roles in Early Indian Buddhism, 2001

Ingo Strauch - Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī and the Order of Nuns in a Gandhāran version of the Dakṣiṇāvibhaṅgasūtra

Bh. Sujato - White Bones Red Rot Black Snakes


The Sati Journal, sporadically issued by the Sati Institute here in the Bay Area, released a issue on Women’s contributions to Theravada Buddhism:


Dr Caroline Starkey has the forthcoming title, “Women in British Buddhism: Ordination, Connection and Community”.

She also co-wrote the chapter Cyber Sisters: Buddhist Women’s Online Activism and Practice. (2015)

This woman actually has quite a mixed response and will probably only feel a bit more comfortable with it when she notices a parallel thread: “Buddhism, Man, & Gender (A Bibliography)”.


This will include every book ever except the ones in this thread, so that’s basically already in place. But the worry seems off-target: the point here (I thought?) is not to emphasize gender or women, it is to rectify imbalances by improving access to a category of research & literature which has been (and as yet virtually always is) underrepresented.

I grok modern issues about gender and identity; women in general still experience minor & major subjugation in many ways, though, and it’s this broader issue to which this thread applies, those other complexities notwithstanding.


It depends what lens you use, I guess. I rather imagine extremely few books* have looked at manhood in Buddhism… as is the implication of your comment, it is so ‘taken as a given’ it has completely (as far as can tell, although I must admit to not having looked) avoided examination.

Not a worry, just a short reply to a previous comment so as to note the fact that there are boarder, more nuanced views in the mix.

Likewise. All the same that needn’t negate the point that there are invariably multiple approaches to how to balance imbalances. My view is that exploring the specifics of manhood may be one tool that could redress the scales a little.

The purpose of the thread wasn’t actually set out, however, naturally I don’t want to sidetrack from the main task as given. So will promptly wrap up with a quick thanks for your reply.


* I did just now remember there had at least one thread considering men has been posted to the forum. I guess it fits here, too, as the thread includes gender in its focus:


Thanks to everyone for your contributions. Yes! That’s exactly what I realised, there is a lot of material concerning this subject that I believe many of us didn’t know exists. And the discussions on this forum would fill at least a couple of books I believe; good, informative, and useful discussions.

Friend @Gabriel you have quite a big collection there! Thanks a lot for sharing.

Friend @Aminah thanks so much for fixing the reviews drop-down feature. It turned out to be much simpler than I thought! :slight_smile: (is there actually some kind of “manual” here listing the syntax used for the various features? For example, I still haven’t an idea about how to embed a link in a text!)

As regards the “purpose” of making this thread, it actually is stated at post no. 4. And thank you, friend @daverupa for being able to discern and express, quite eloquently, my intentions behind starting this wiki. Although my interest in this subject would be only very limited in comparison to others, nevertheless it was for the sake of “those others”, including some who are long-time friends of mine, that I have put effort in starting this wiki. I am confident that they would be very interested and impressed by it, even by the very fact that that much has been written on the subject in connection with Buddhism. Perhaps we sometimes begin to take things for granted, simply because they are always available, forgetting that there are others out there who don’t even know about or have access to the same opportunities of discussion and the acquisition of knowledge. A simple list like this can possibly be the one thing which could bring forth “hope” in some people, or get them to change their minds about how all religions are -not necessarily- “the same”!

But Let’s keep in mind that this is a thread dedicated to a listing and linking of resources on the specified subject but not really about discussing that subject. Friend @Aminah that interesting post by Ven. Sujato was actually already added, I put it there, having judged that it is of relevance to the subject of nuns’ ordination. And as for …

I would only be happy and curious about something like that, and appreciative to the effort done by its initiator, and quite independently of whether it was concomitant with a similar list on women or not.

Okay please remember that this is a Wiki, so butcher it as you please (gently I hope!). And also note that you can add your contributions by directly editing the initial lists instead of making new posts.

Thanks all.


Here’s one such book:

A Bull of a Man: Images of Masculinity, Sex, and the Body in Indian Buddhism. by John Powers. Harvard University Press. 2009.


The androgynous, asexual Buddha of contemporary popular imagination stands in stark contrast to the muscular, virile, and sensual figure presented in Indian Buddhist texts. In early Buddhist literature and art, the Buddha’s perfect physique and sexual prowess are important components of his legend as the world’s “ultimate man.” He is both the scholarly, religiously inclined brahman and the warrior ruler who excels in martial arts, athletic pursuits, and sexual exploits. The Buddha effortlessly performs these dual roles, combining his society’s norms for ideal manhood and creating a powerful image taken up by later followers in promoting their tradition in a hotly contested religious marketplace.

In this groundbreaking study of previously unexplored aspects of the early Buddhist tradition, John Powers skillfully adapts methodological approaches from European and North American historiography to the study of early Buddhist literature, art, and iconography, highlighting aspects of the tradition that have been surprisingly invisible in earlier scholarship. The book focuses on the figure of the Buddha and his monastic followers to show how they were constructed as paragons of masculinity, whose powerful bodies and compelling sexuality attracted women, elicited admiration from men, and convinced skeptics of their spiritual attainments.

Author: John Powers is Professor in Asian Studies at the College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

There’s no reason we can’t include a section in this wiki on “man”; it’s only a question of actually finding people interested in the subject enough to search and find resources.


Apologies for my mistake, I just referred to the OP and very quickly skimmed through the rest. Likewise, apologies for missing the earlier addition of the thread I mentioned.

Thank you, Bhante, it is incredibly gracious of you to find and post this title here. :anjal:

Just going by the review, in the way that I look at things, the book seems very pertinent to your original endeavour (rather than as a separate issue requiring a different focus of interest), but of course I understand there are different approaches to things.

I’m extremely hesitant to say anything further, wishing to respect the fact that this isn’t a thread for discussion, but will just add that, most certainly, it is a beautiful thing that you wish to find ways of offering some people hope - I’m very confident what you have initiated will do exactly that for many and I’ve naught but happiness for that.

I’ll set aside attempting to explain why my response was mixed (both sympathetic and difficulty strewn), and just let you know (now that you’ve taken up good works in this area) that the thing that I personally find offers me the most hope isn’t necessarily lots of talk about women, but lots of women talking about the Dhamma. As such, knowing that you do translation work, I’ll keep my hopes high for the appearance of a new translation of the Therigatha at some point or other. :smiling_imp:


By all means do add it where ever you think it fits; it’s an open Wiki now and I am no longer in possession of it. :upside_down_face:

Well since i am not a woman, there is nothing that I can do, myself, which would satisfy that preferred criterion of yours (“Let more women talk about Dhamma”). The best I can do is to help, whether directly or indirectly, to promote “women talk about the Dhamma or their own issues” and at least not hamper them. In fact, by developing a bibliography on Buddhism and women issues I have only acted in a way which complies to precisely your own preferred criterion; since the majority of books and posts listed here actually represent precisely the very voice of women (at least in connection with Dhamma), and help make that voice available and accessible.

As for the Therigatha, you must be careful before presuming that this is so purely “women talking of Dhamma”! For it might involve a lot of “talk about women” also, and such that is even done by “men”!! These verses may well have been “men” reporting on the experience of women, and moreover, mostly “men” memorising and reciting those remarkable experiences of women, and later, again “men” translating it from Pali to a language that you understand, now at the 21st century CE. Unfortunately there is never any “pure” thing! For in everything that is real, there is only dukkha!

So what’s the bottom line here? The bottom line, for me, is that it has never been and will never be about “who” is doing the talkin’, but rather “what” is being said, and with what spirit it is being said. That which arises from fear, aversion, delusion, and obsession, is not worth listening to, even if uttered by the “legitimate” ones. But so long the speech is founded in compassion and wisdom, I am willing to listen and listen, and listen, even if the speaker was … you guessed it:

The Venerable Frog!

Please open new thread for further discussions on these or other off topics. Appreciate your engagement, that’s why … :upside_down_face:


Thanks so much for this thread, Bhante! How about literally everything by Amy Langenberg? She just released a new book, (Birth in Buddhism: The Suffering Fetus and Female Freedom. New York: Routledge, 2017) which I’m just itching to read.

And then there’s:

Buddhist Blood Taboo: Mary Douglas, Female Impurity, and Classical Indian Buddhism.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 84, 1 (2016): 157–191.

Pregnant Words: South Asian Buddhist Tales of Fertility and Child Protection.History of Religions 52, 4 (2013): 340-369.

And also the pivotal:

Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Edited by José I Cabezón. Albany: SUNY Press, 1992.

Cabezón, José I. Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism. Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2017.

I have so many more…


The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi: British Feminist, Indian Nationalist, Buddhist Nun. Vicki Mackenzie. Shambhala.


British journalist Mackenzie (Cave in the Snow) crafts a concise, well-rounded portrait of Freda Bedi (1911–1977), the first Western woman to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun. Freda Houlston was drawn early in life to the lives of the saints and to Eastern thought. Her father’s death in the trenches of World War I was her first taste of universal suffering. At Oxford University she met her husband, Indian Sikh and fellow socialist Baba Phyare Lal Bedi, and wore Indian dress from their wedding onward. The couple settled in India, where Bedi taught English and campaigned for independence from British rule. She first encountered Buddhism on a Unesco mission to Burma and recognized it as her destiny. Taking a vow of chastity and abandoning her three children, she founded a democratic nunnery and school for Tibetan refugees and in 1966 was ordained Sister Palmo. “Is it possible for a woman to be Che Guevara, Mother Teresa, and a physical mother at the same time?” Mackenzie asks. Drawing on interviews with Bedi’s family and acquaintances, and passages from her letters and journals, the fascinating book sensitively explores her contradictory roles while celebrating her part in bringing Buddhism to the West and helping to spark its feminist revolution. (Apr.)

Phabongkha and the Yoginī: The Life, Patronage and Devotion of the Lhasa Aristocrat, Lady Lhalu Lhacham Yangdzom Tsering. by Joona Repo. vol. 9. 2015. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies


Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo (pha bong kha bde chen snying po, 1878-1941) was one of the most popular and influential Gelug religious figures in the Lhasa Valley during the first half of the twentieth-century. His students included not only lay people and monks from all of the most important religious institutions in the region, but also an impressive array of some of the highest-ranking aristocrats and government officials of the day. This article is focused on the life of one of Phabongkha’s most important aristocratic students, Lhalu Lhacham Yangdzom Tsering (g.yang ‘dzom tshe ring, 1880-1963) and her relationship to her teacher and his lineage teachings. The development of her devotion to Phabongkha, and her and her family’s sponsorship of the sustenance and popularization of his lineage in general will be considered with an aim of giving us a wider understanding of Phabongkha and his “movement”. The Lhacham’s devotion to the controversial protector deity Dorje Shugden (rdo rje shugs ldan), whose practice she received from Phabongkha, will also be discussed in detail, especially with regard to a number of tragedies which befell her, and which were portrayed by the later lineage as being the results of the wrathful activity of this deity.

Orality, Memory, and Spiritual Practice: Outstanding Female Thai Buddhists in the Early 20th Century. Martin Seeger. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.

In Search of the Khmer Bhikkhunī: Reading Between the Lines in Late Classical and Early Middle Cambodia (13th–18th Centuries). Trude Jacobsen. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.

Semen, Viagra and Pandaka: Ancient Endocrinology and Modern Day Discrimination*. by Paisarn Likhitpreechakul. vol 3. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.


In a Vinaya passage, the Buddha laid down a rule to bar pandakas from ordination. Although there have been several attempts to shed light on whom the word pandaka referred to, all of these were based on the circumstantial evidence in the Vinaya. This article argues that this approach is a red herring and conclusions drawn from it are at odds with other parts of the Canon.

Based on an overlooked Abhidhamma passage which characterises pandakas as those unable to emit semen, the author reconstructs an Indian proto-endocrinology – with support from ancient medical treatises – to identify pandakas as impotent men, and to reveal the connection between different pandaka types and related terms. He then examines various considerations which the Buddha may have had in banning them from the Order.

The article finally discusses the implications of all this for modern Buddhist societies where gay men and transgenders are often confusedly categorised as pandakas and discriminated against for that reason.

Chinese Nuns and their Ordination in Fifth Century China. Ann Heirman. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. (24/2, 2001)

Changing the Female Body: Wise Women and the Bodhisattva Career in Some Mahāratnakūṭasūtras. Nancy Schuster. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. (1981).

Buddhism, miraculous powers, and gender - Rethinking the stories of Theravāda nuns. Rachelle M. Scott. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. Volume 33 Number 1–2 2010 (2011)


Their stories and the stories of contemporary nuns, such as Mae chi Thosaphon and Khun Yay Ubasika Chan, do not negate the undeniable presence and impact of misogynistic ideas about women in Buddhist texts and societies; they do off er, however, another interpretive lens for examining the lives of Theravāda nuns and their followers. In so doing, their examples change the discourse on Buddhist nuns from a discourse focused solely on the diffi culties faced by contemporary Theravāda nuns to a discourse about how some Theravāda nuns attained religious authority despite the substantial prejudice against female renunciation in South and Southeast Asia.

ANN HEIRMAN What Happened to the Nun Maitreyl? Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Volume 23 • Number 1 • 2000.

REIKO OHNUMA. The Story of RupavatI: A Female Past Birth of the Buddha. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Volume 23 • Number 1 • 2000.

Walters, Jonathon. “A Voice from the Silence: The Buddha’s Mother’s Story.” History of Religions 33/4 (May 1994), 358–379.
_____. “Gotamī’s Story,” in Buddhism in Practice, ed. by Donald Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1995, 113–138.

Sanitsuda Ekachai, “Crusading for Nun’s Rights,” Bangkok Post, September 4, 1996.

Second to None: The Biography of Khun Yay Maharatana Upasika Chandra Khon-nok-yoong. Pathumthani: Dhammakaya Foundation 2005.

Seeger, Martin, “The Bhikkhunī-Ordination Controversy in Thailand,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 29/1 (2008) 155–184.

Horner, I.B. Women Under Primitive Buddhism: Lay women and Alms women. New York: E.P. Dutton 1930.

Karen C. Lang, “Lord Death’s Snare: Gender Related Imagery in the ‘Theragatha’ and the ‘Therigathaʼ,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 2 (1986) 63–79.

Lindberg Falk, Monica. Making Fields of Merit: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand. Seattle: University of Washington Press 2007.

Paul, Diana. Women in Buddhism: Images of the Feminine in the Mahayana Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press 1985.

Collett, Alice. “Buddhism and Gender: Reframing and Refocusing the Debate,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 22/2 (2006) 55–84.

Gender and Salvation: Jaina Debates on the Spiritual Liberation of Women (Padmanabh S. Jaini). Serinity Young. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 16/1 (1993).

The Female Renunciates of Sri Lanka: the Dasasilamattawa. Lowell W. Boss.
JIABS 10/1 (1987)

The Bhikkhunī-ordination controversy in Thailand . Martin Seeger. JIABS.

Some Remarks on the Rise of the bhiksunīsangha and on the Ordination Ceremony for bhikṣunīs according to the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya. Ann Heirman.
JIABS 20/2 (1997)

Nuns, Laywoman, Donors, Goddesses. Female Roles in Early Indian Buddhism. Peter Skilling. JIABS (24/2, 2001)

Dogen’s Raihaitokuzui and Women Teaching in Sung Ch’an. JIABS 21/1 (1998)

"This inferior female body:” Reflections on life as a Tibetan visionary through the autobiographical eyes of Se ra mkha’ ’gro (bde ba’i rdo rje, 1892–1940). Sarah H. Jacoby. JIABS 32/1-2 (2009[2010])

Eṣā agrā; Images of Nuns in (Mūla-)Sarvāstivādin Literature. Peter Skilling. JIABS (24/2, 2001).

The Life of dGe slong ma dPal mo: The Experience of a Leper, Founder of a Fasting Ritual, a Transmitter of Buddhist Teachings on Suffering and Renunciation in Tibetan Religious History. Ivette M. Vargas-O’Brian. JIABS (24/2, 2001).

What Makes a Nun? Apprenticeship and Ritual Passage in Zanskar, North India. Kim Gutschow. JIABS (24/2, 2001).

The Fincances of a Twentieth Century Buddhist Mission: Building Support for the Theravāda Nuns’ Order of Nepal. Sarah Le Vine. JIABS (24/2, 2001).

Chinese Nuns and their Ordination in Fifth Century China. Ann Heirman. JIABS (24/2, 2001).

The Story of Rūpāvatī: A Female Past Birth of the Buddha. Reiko Ohnuma. JIABS 23/1 (2000)

The Religious Standing of Burmese Buddhist Nuns (thilá-shin): The Ten Precepts and Religious Respect Words. Hiroko Kawanami. JIABS 13/1 (1990)

Tessa J. Bartholomeusz, Women Under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).


Thank you for a truly awesome list. Now all I need is TIME to read. Namaste


Upon further reflection…I was initially attracted to Buddha and Buddhism by the phrase 'middle path" yet as one of the ‘most middle persons’ ever born I am a tad sad regarding the absence of literature regarding the authenticity or validity of my personhood and place in the Buddhist philosophy. On the other hand I also understand that to obsess about the body-and its attendant personality is counterproductive. But for the sake of discussion, would anyone like to add some clarity to my confusion? Sorry if we have discussed this before but my confusion remains without clarification. I am the third…the one who resolves the current cultural polarized paradigm of institutional sexism and genderism. Last year 28 trans people were murdered by hate largely because they were ‘different’. Nowhere in philosophy or religion is an explanation or description of the goodness and rightness of this positioning in relationship to humanity as a whole. Buddha- perhaps because of the temporal nature of his culture-did not relieve suffering by ignoring this cultural sexism but rather maintained it. And it’s remains a little chilly out here in the netherlands of Two Spirits consciousness. As always I await your wisdom. Thanks


No one would find satisfaction in trying to place their unique selves in a philosophy that explicitly and emphatically regards any conceivable personhood as a fleeting and agonising delusion.



Of course. I understand that. Yet this is part of an ongoing discussion of sex and gender in Buddhism regarding the status and stratification of all people on this path. I did not create the topic. My comment was aimed at clearing up some other members evaluation of my worldly karma. I regard all personality as superfluous. But it seems s though some people regard this condition of Trans-ness as more superfluous than others. Thank you, Namaste.


First step of ending any suffering- start looking for an internal thing you can change - don’t depend on the world for your happiness, as then there will be no end to the suffering.

With metta


Many more resources & discussions surely have arisen since life was last breathed into this list of resources.

This new one, Women’s Role in Buddhist Scholarship & Oral Transmission of Texts happened to catch my eye.

Let’s add more from the many resources created on D&D and elsewhere over the past year & ½.


2 posts were split to a new topic: A two-truth model and the EBTs

Please let’s respect the OP’s intention to create a simple list of resources. We have many threads discussing these important topics related to identity and gender and more. Here in this Wiki your comments will just be lost, not becoming part of the discussion archives.