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The meaning of paṇḍaka in light of the Vedic and Jain scriptures


#10

@Vimala, I have done a little bit more research. There is only one definition of the itthipaṇḍaka in the commentaries. At Sp.1.285 (reference is to the paragraph numbers of the VRI version) we have:

Itthipaṇḍakāti animittāva vuccati
“It is just a woman without genitals who is called an itthipaṇḍakā.”

This would mean that the animittā woman and the itthipaṇḍakā are the same. This seems strange because in the bhikkhunī ordination ceremony a woman is asked for both of these “conditions”. If they are the same, then one of the questions is redundant.

On the other hand, this is the only information we have to go on. Perhaps the two words refer to slightly different but closely related conditions. If so, perhaps it would be acceptable to translate itthipaṇḍakā as “a woman who lacks sexual organs”. (For animittā I have “a woman who lacks genitals”.)

Do you have any comment on this?


#11

Dear Ajahn @Brahmali,
This is very interesting. Of course this is from the commentaries and therefore a late reference. It would at least show what they felt that the term meant at that time. And it is indeed possible. I can however not find any evidence of anything similar in the history of the Jain.

I based my argument entirely on the references in Zwilling & Sweet, who mention in regards to the late Śvētāmbara scripture knows as the Bhāgavati:

Thus far, napuṃsaka has referred only to the class of feminized males who were indentified by their cross dressing, feminine behavior, and sexual object choice.

Here (in the Bhāgavati) we find what is apparently a fourth sex added to the customary triad, that is, the puruṣanapuṃsaka (male-napuṃsaka) …

… The masculine napuṃsaka differs from his effeminate counterpart in more than mere appearance and behavior, but in sexual practice as well. … the sexual role of the effeminate napuṃsaka is portrayed in the canonical literature as the receptor of sexual intercourse. On the other hand, the masculine napuṃsaka is both active and passive.

So the picture I get from this is that the term paṇḍaka was used in the lists of persons not to be ordained for both Jain monks and nuns until ca. 200 BC. Then the lists were extended with more classes of persons and the term paṇḍaka was replaced by napuṃsaka for both the monks and the nuns.

At that time the napuṃsaka was seen as a “class of feminized males who were indentified by their cross dressing, feminine behavior, and sexual object choice”, but many of them will no doubt also have been eunuchs and this was possibly seen as synomymous. In any case, they were not allowed to ordain either as Jain monks nor as nuns. I can well imagine that feeling more female, some would have tried to ordain as nuns, just like the video that was posted here: Bhikkhuni short film. (This video btw is based on a true story of a transwoman who tried to ordain as a Bhikkhunī).

However, there were many disputes and conundrums regarding this which at least in part let to the schism in the Jain order around 500 CE.

It was not until much later that biological females were also recognized as possible napuṃsaka, at least not until the early centuries of our era.

I think one reason why women were not mentioned in this context is that for many centuries there were disagreements between the two fractions of Jains regarding the ordination of women and their capacity to attain spiritual liberation. This led to a whole discussion in which also other groups, like the “third gender” came into question. The argument centered around the idea that women cannot go naked and can therefore not attain full liberation. Whether or not a woman had no or mutilated genitals did not matter in that.


#12

Thanks, Ayya, for taking the time to do all this research. I think I am content with my choice of translation, at least for now. Even if you don’t agree with my final choice, hopefully you will agree that it is much better than what I had before.


#13

Of course the term will always be rather vague as we do not know under which circumstances it was inserted. Moreover, there seem to have been various groups with different ideas at that time too, so it is difficult to pin down the original intention of the term.

I do agree that the translation you use now is better than it was before. I’m glad I have been able to contribute a little to your translations!

When I have some time and we have the Gretil database in a better markup format, I want to do a complete search of the Vedic and Jain texts to see if the term itthipaṇḍakā is mentioned anywhere at all and see if that throws any light on the matter.


#14

Hi Ven, thank you for this essay, it’s wonderful! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: (Also I miss you and hope you’re doing well.)

Something that always occurs to me when reading about Paṇḍakas is the tremendous amount of anxiety located not only in the translation of the term, but also in the characterizing of gender-nonconforming individuals. It seems clear that there was shift in the evaluation and inclusivity of such people, as the third-gender gradually became more at odds with Buddhist culture and practice. I would guess that the discomfort arose at a similar time as the discomfort surrounding women and the vileness/impurity of their bodies; i.e. there is some change in which the physical difference of individuals starts to outway their karmic and spiritual potential.

I also think this is one reason why the translation of such terms remains problematic, in that the terms come to be used in a way that purposefully highlight sexual and physical difference - they are purposefully repellent (and dare I say, ostracizing). Anyhoo, these are just some midday rambles.

P.S. The picture of the Hijra in India is so beautiful it makes me want to cry. :sob:
P.P.S. Bhante @sujato, when you come to Europe at the end of the year can you please come to the UK? Thanks. :grin:


#15

This is Bhante’s travel plan; unfortunately the UK is not on the map. :cry:


#16

According to Vedic scriptures, there is pums-prakriti (men), striy-prakriti (women), and tritiya-prakriti (third sex/gendered) which included the napumsaka (homosexual men) and nastriya or svairini (homosexual women).

Kama Sutra states in one of its chapters, that there are two types of males who are napumsaka: those that were effeminate, and those who were more masculine. And it says as well that sometimes two would get together and form a bond (parigraha).

“A male child is produced by a greater quantity of male seed, a female child by the prevalence of the female; if both are equal, a third-sex child ( napumsa ) or boy and girl twins are produced; if either are weak or deficient in quantity, a failure of conception results.”
( Manusmriti 3.49)

“Those who like men but dissimulate the fact maintain a manly appearance and earn their living as barbers or masseurs.”
( Kama Sutra 2.9.6)

Other associated words :

Mukhabhaga(who suffers her mouth to be used as vulva)
Namard & napunsaka could mean sexually dysfunctional , impotent and homosexual .
Kinnara (bad or deformed man)
Napumsaka linga ie gender less
Tritiya prakriti i.e. third gender or including homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals and intersexuals.

Other definition .
Kleba (Cross-Dresser)
Pandaka (Feminine Men)
Napunsaka (Men who don’t engage in sex with women/can’t procreate)
Shandha (Non-Males)
Ardhanarishwara (Partly Male and Female)


#17

Absolutely and I think we have to keep being aware that this often just reflects how things were in history and that we should not blindly adopt such attitudes in our Buddhist community today. Like with everything, to apply wisdom and understanding and above all, compassion.

It would be interesting to do a full study on this topic at some point. I think the attitude to women within the Jain order also had a large influence on Buddhism after the passing away of the Buddha. Maybe we can do it together sometime :slight_smile:

Thank you for your references to the Kama Sutra. As it is a later text I did not include it in this essay but I’m well aware of the references there. Like I said above, it would be interesting to do a full study at some point and also include this.


#18

Dear Ayya @vimala , thank you for the extensive research and the article, this is very interesting and helpful information!

However I would like to disagree on some of the conclusions and on Bhante @brahmali’s current choice of translation.

The major inconsistency I see is that, as far as I understand, you take the premise that the word paṇḍaka, and thus the rules concerning it, were not from the Buddha’s time but were added later – but then choose to translate it with the meaning it supposedly had at the Buddha’s time, and not at the time when the rules concerning paṇḍaka were actually laid down.

I see that as problematic because it translates a word used in a specific context outside of it’s actual context, which renders it again incompatible with the precise context in the vinaya.

So for example, Ayya @vimala, you showed with regard to the Jain references, that they suggest the word paṇḍaka or napuṃsaka to describe people who are sexually non-conform – psychologically and/or biologically – and who display/act out excessive libido, or at least are perceived/prejudiced in such a way by popular culture. - Without the need to define a time for when the vinaya piṭaka was laid down, this is exactly the context in which we see the word paṇḍaka used in the vinaya (and suttas). For example, the origin story to why paṇḍakas are excluded from ordination (Kd 1.61.1) tells about a paṇḍaka who went around in the monastery and asked monks to “commit an offence with [him]”. To see this paṇḍaka simply as a eunuch doesn’t seem very reasonable, it is obviously his specific outward sexual desires and how they create trouble for other monks (and for himself as a celibate monk) that are the problem, not whether he has or hasn’t got testicles. In the story he goes to different groups after being turned down repeatedly in a rather unfriendly way and only a group of low caste monks finally consented to his request, suggesting that paṇḍakas were seen as impure and higher caste people didn’t want to have to do with them. When the matter becomes public, people criticize it in the following way:

“These recluses, sons of the Sakyans, are [paṇḍakas], and those of them who are not [paṇḍakas], they too commit offences with [paṇḍakas]. Thus they are one and all unchaste.” (transl. by I.B. Horner)

-> again, the main problem with the paṇḍaka is that he is sexually unrestrained and abnormal and that there is a social stigma seeing paṇḍakas as having such characteristics and as being impure for those reasons.

As far as public opinion goes, AN 5.102 states:

“Mendicants, even if a monk is of impeccable character, he might be suspected and distrusted as a ‘bad monk’ for five reasons.
What five? It’s when a monk frequently collects alms from prostitutes, widows, voluptuous girls, [paṇḍakas], or nuns.” (transl. by Ven. Sujato, he chose ‘eunuchs’)

→ if we assume paṇḍaka should fit into this list, then all five of these are popularly seen as possibly more willing or more likely to get intimate with a monk than, say, a married woman. And so it is again not reasonable to translate paṇḍaka as eunuch here, because why would a eunuch be seen as having a high libido? I think rather to the contrary!

I believe with the above, the problems concerning admission of paṇḍaka into the order have been shown, and I think that it is fairly obvious in the face of all the evidence from the theravāda vinaya as well as from the Jain and Vedic references provided by Ayya @Vimala, that the term paṇḍaka in the vinaya refers to males who are sexually non-conform and unrestrained in that. That is more precisely: excessively effeminate non-cis biological males of the unrestrained type. (of course, the commentaries go into more types of paṇḍaka that are not precisely covered by this, but as far as I understood you didn’t want to go into the commentarial exegesis of paṇḍaka, right?).

The itthipaṇḍaka would then be fairly easy to define, and would also actually make sense and be reasonable in the face of the rules: an excessively masculine non-cis biological female, in her sexual behaviour/signals unrestrained.

I don’t see how one could reasonably advocate for the inclusion of so-defined people into the saṅgha, since a rule to the extent of not granting them admission fulfils all the possible reasons the Buddha mentioned for the laying down of a rule.

Public opinion and the protection of monks, or their celibacy (and as a result of course the long-lasting of the sāsana) might be the main points.

Since social attitudes towards LGBQT people are still far from being neutral or positive, whether in the West or the East, whether in the cities or (especially) in the counrtyside of both West and East, I believe that this rule is still contemporary, in regard to the problematic aspect of social stigma and popular prejudices or suspicions.

(But let me make one thing clear at this point, in case it hasn’t been: As far as I understand and tried to define paṇḍaka, it would not include homo- or bi- or queer who are not outwardly obviously gay, etc… it is a question of acting out vs. controlling lust in general, not of who lust is directed towards)

As for the problem within the saṅgha, it is also just as contemporary. Ayya Vimala suggested that if paṇḍaka were characterized by excessive libidinousness, it would also have to be linked to cis-gendered people, but I don’t quite agree: the situation for cis-gender people is significantly different in the saṅgha: horny males will just be around males, whereas a horny paṇḍaka will be living closely (as close as arms-reach, at least fortnightly) with his object of desire → a more fuelling and more dangerous situation!

For a conclusion of this comment let me come back to the beginning of my response: If we assume that paṇḍaka were inserted into the vinaya at a later time, we should translate it in accordance with the meaning it had at that time. And the vinaya itself does quite clearly state the context in which it uses the term paṇḍaka. If we don’t like a rule, that is fine. But we should for that reason not change the content of the Theravāda vinaya!

Let’s take for example hermaphrodites: they aren’t included under paṇḍaka, because they have their own separate rule that excludes them from ordination and expells them if they are already ordained. One might think that it is unfair and sad to exclude them from the possibility of ordaining in the saṅgha - and I would totally agree – but we won’t for that reason rewrite that rule in the vinaya piṭaka according to our feelings or in accordance with what seems fair in a particular culture at a particular time, would we?!

After all the Theravāda vinaya is what it is: it’s the vinaya of the Theravāda school and as far as I understand we all agree that it does not precisely correspond with the vinaya that was practiced during the Buddha’s lifetime and that was laid down by him.

Nobody is forced to identify with Thervāda, and so we can still live with faith in the Buddha and in what we understand as vinaya , regardless of what is written in the theravāda vinaya piṭaka.

And if we don’t like Theravāda opinions, we can always propagate our own opinions, without needing to change theravāda for that matter, but that’s just my opinion… :blush:

Thank you for bearing with my long comment and I would appreciate your replies :slight_smile: :pray:

oh and I almost forgot: Venerable @Brahmali my concrete suggestion for your translation would be to use something like the combination of the two options you had before:

"licentious sexual non-conformist" ?!?


#20

The time period we are talking about is not very precise. I agree with Ayya @Vimala that the word paṇḍaka may only have appeared after the Buddha’s death. But even if this is correct - and it is by no means certain - it would have entered the EBTs at an early stage, and almost certainly in the pre-Asokan period. This is so because the term is quite firmly embedded in the Vinaya - albeit not in its earliest layers, such as the bhikkhu-pātimokkha - and as far as I know it is attested in all schools. So if the term was introduced into the EBTs after the Buddha, it is likely to have happened within a century at the latest.

This needs to be compared to the dates of the Brahmanical and Jaina scriptures. These dates are even more difficult to pinpoint. The dates suggested by Ayya Vimala are rough estimates at best and we are probably dealing with margins of error of plus/minus 2 centuries, perhaps more. Given the uncertainty, I think it is quite reasonable to argue that the earliest usage of the term paṇḍaka among the Jains is likely to be the same as the earliest usage in Pali and other Buddhist text.

I see this is the best evidence we have. And I don’t believe the rest of the evidence from the EBTs is incompatible with this. Let’s have a look at some of the examples you bring up.

An important point with this passage is that the paṇḍaka asks the monks, etc, to defile him (maṃ … dūsetha). The implication of this is that he was the passive partner in the sexual act. This fits well with identifying them as eunuchs, who may have had difficulties taking the “active” role. They may have had sexual desires, but only limited ways in how to express them physically.

It is true that the paṇḍakas are depicted as somewhat promiscuous, but this too can be understood as a consequence of being eunuchs. A eunuch is unlikely to have been a suitable partner for marriage and so they would have sought outlet for their desires mostly among others who were not living in committed relationships. Ascetics, samaṇas - some of who were not celibate - would have been an obvious such group. I don’t think eunuchs propositioning monastics is as strange as it may at first seem.

Absolutely. We should translate what is there, to the best of our ability.

As you have probably gathered from my argument above, I am still happy with my choice of eunuch.


#21

The surely unfair characterisation of paṇḍakas as purely lustful, libidinous and sexually promiscuous seems to stem from a historical bias, and in Buddhism, principly from the origin rule. I say ‘unfair’, because it is a correlation that doesn’t seem to apply to the way we think about the many lustful, libidinous, sexually permissive cis-het monks (and women monastics too) that we meet in plenty of other rule origin stories. There are monks consorting with monkeys, having sexual relations with corpses (or bits thereof), nuns and monks engaging in mutual masturbation and so many more things that would make even Caligula blush. However, this excessive lust is never used to reduce cis-het people to a lustful stereotype, which is what has happened to the paṇḍakas. Nor is this inherent straight lustiness perceived as a barrier to ordination. Why was there this double standard when it came to paṇḍakas and why does this type of one sided focus continue to occur today to effeminate men, gays, bis or trans people?

So, as has been pointed out above, it probably has more to do with something bodily, rather than behaviour. Sure, eunuchs may have also been sexually active, perceived of as a low caste, or acted as sex workers, but none of these things were regarded as barriers for men or women to become monastics.
The way paṇḍakas’ sexuality has become a singular focus as somehow abberent, mirrors the way that queer sexuality was historically regarded as unnatural, wanton, promiscuous - becoming an obsessive focus on a single aspect of a person’s life, rather than the whole person. This focus occurs and continues to occur, despite many straight people throughout history engaging in the same sort or practices and with just as much frequency. However, for some reason straight sexuality did not suffer the same prejudice as queer, and was even celebrated for its excesses.

This unfair, demonizing characterisation is demonstrated by the choice of words people persist in using to describe paṇḍakas, whilst admitting we don’t really know what they are. Fear of the unknown perhaps? You say that a paṇḍakas in a monastery is “dangerous”, while cis-het males are just plain old “horny”. And this assertion that

seems somewhat poorly thought out - horny cis-males include straight men, plus gay men, and bi men, and those who aren’t sure. There are these types of men (horny or not) in almost every monastery. They are around each other all the time, but because they are ordained, they are restrained by the rules (which include oral and anal sex, i.e, gaysex.) or like their straight counterparts who break the rules, are disrobed . Yet, same-sex attracted people were allowed to ordain. No matter what sex-life they may have had before, it ceased to matter.

Given this, it really is unfair that people have come to view the paṇḍakas in such a one-dimensional way. They are people who can have an interest in the path just like anyone. Although the paṇḍakas may have been distinguished due to caste or castration, I cannot see any reason for paṇḍakas being singled out for their sexual behaviour as somehow more abhorrent than anyone elses, except perhaps for a historical bias that we might do better to not repeat.

Ps
Speaking of mistakes better left unrepeated, the blog referenced by @Dhammosadha here is quite disturbing for its anti-Semitic, white-supremacist, and "political correctness gone mad"bandwagon vibe. Plus, it contains avowed deeply misogynistic viewpoints (women’s suffrage was a mistake, for example)…and if people want to read about paṇḍakas there are many other, much better, less harrowing sources… I really wish I hadn’t clicked on that. yuk :tired_face:


#22

Yeah, thanks for sharing that link to the Monk with Nazi sympathies. it’s really nice to see the path Buddhism is heading down.


#23

Just to be fair, Dhammosadha did qualify his comment with the following

This is so true! And the nature of samsara!

Nibbida! Nibbida! Nibbida!

with much metta and karuna

:anjal:


#24

To be fair did you take a look at the rest of the blog? This monk was on youtube chatting up with known white supremacist.


#25

Just to note that the blog is clearly labelled incendiary and politically incorrect. Personally I choose not to engage in such stuff - especially if one is warned that it is going to contain material that is not wise, not skillful and not beneficial to the path.

I’ve only opened it to have a look because of the comments - and yes the briefest skim showed that it would only cause suffering if read - so I’m not going to read it. Why voluntarily immerse oneself in a lake of excrement? Why get upset at wrong view by those who are ignorant and deluded? Didn’t the Buddha advise to think of them as ill?

Pour that excrement on the mango tree… don’t eat it and expect it to be beneficial.

Is argument,or indignation with, or about, the individuals with such wrong view a wise course? This does come to the root of the question about socially engaged Buddhism. However, it would be best to have that discussion in another thread so as not to detract from the Topic of this thread.

For a long time I held the belief that we should root out and change such things to what I believed was better/more right. Finally the penny dropped - the nature of samsara is that it is like this! That is why we practice so earnestly for liberation! We cannot change the essential nature of samsara - maybe in a small location for a brief period of time. But to expect to turn samsara into a heavenly realm ? ?

What is unclear to me is the rationale for linking to the blog in the first place. @Dhammosadha, is it to demonstrate the bias against pindakas in the world today? Or was there some other purpose for choosing that link? Perhaps you could make a more explicit warning that the content of that blog is upsetting etc, to ensure that people are prepared for it and not surprised - or even consider removing it out of compassion for others on this site?

:anjal: :dharmawheel: :heart:


#26

Hi @Viveka, it’s a bit unclear from your above post if you’re acting as a moderator here, or if this is a personal contribution and point of view?

I know that moderation is a thankless job, but I really do thank you for always trying to be balanced and fair. So I’m sure you’re intentions are always good. :blush:

In regards to your reply to me above, on the one hand you (quite rightly) ask for fairness , but on the othe hand say that unfairness is the

I know you’re offering us a teaching here, which is fine, but then following that up by saying

it might sound a bit dismissive, as if we shouldn’t try to deal in practical ways with unfairness in life. By resorting to purely ultimate or transcendental teachings, like nibbida, it bypasses very real issues of discrimination against paṇḍakas raised in the thread. You go on to say in your most recent post:

We cannot change the essential nature of samsara - maybe in a small location for a brief period of time. But to expect to turn samsara into a heavenly realm ? ?

But this approach implies that there is nothing we can do to prevent discrimination, that it is insurmountable. However, this is not true. Issues of discrimination and unfairness, such as slavery, women’s suffrage and, indeed, the barbaric practice of castration, have been dealt with, historically, out of compassion and kindness for others. Trying to reduce suffering is a valid spiritual solution to a real world problem. To only advocate transcendental ultimate teachings, in comparison, seems indifferent at best, even callous. I know that some senior teachers advocate for a “let go, you can’t change the world” approach to life, but this comes from an incredibly privileged position of relative safety and ease. When any group who experiences discrimination, is told “that’s just life, life is suffering, deal with it and get over it”, as some sort of spiritual teaching, it diminishes the path of kindness, care and compassion the Buddha outlined. I don’t think we should just spirituality bypass the very real suffering people experience in this world because it seems too hard.

Whilst spiritual solutions are important and pertinent, remember that the main issue here in this thread is uncovering who exactly is paṇḍaka, because there is a prohibition against ordaining them. If we regard living the monastic life as being the very best opportunity for people to practice the dhamma, it is therefore also the best opportunity to develop nibbida.

This reasoning is similar to those advanced for the ordination of women, it gives the best opportunity for liberation. Yet, paṇḍakas cannot be ordained! One of the common arguments against women’s ordination has been (and still is) that they can still practice the path effectively, and they should simply develop nibbida for this cruel world… which may be true, but it seems an inferior way of practice to have to accept just because of their gender. It leads to women hating their female bodies and wishing to be reborn as a man in future lives. It’s good that those historical women and men worked to overcome that unfair rule. It’s good that the Buddha agreed to female ordination. It’s good that contemporary people have worked to correct this more recent unfairness and didn’t just dismiss it by telling people to develop dispassion for the world…

How very sad, then, to think of another group of people discriminated against because of their gender identity and their bodies; paṇḍakas. Although much of this thread has focussed unnecessarily on the perceived sexual behaviour of paṇḍakas, it is important to remember again and again that these are actually people, not abstract concepts.

Contemplate the suffering of eunuchs; they were forcibly castrated at a variety of ages, from babies to pre-pubescent boys, or even adults. It is an incredibly painful and brutal procedure that produces complications with urination, along with infection and often death. Let alone social stigma, discrimination etc. It is good that people worked hard to ban this type of unfair and cruel practice. But it still happens today, and should just not be accepted as ok, just because the world is ‘unfair’. These are real bodies, real people.

Trans and non binary people also have complicated relationships to bodies and fixed gender roles. I know of a case where a Thai trans woman wanted to ordain, but not fitting into a female Sangha, had to remove her breasts to be admitted to the Bhikkhu Sangha as a man. So, as has been noted a few times, the issue of paṇḍakas is an ongoing issue.

The purpose of this thread is to discover exactly what paṇḍakas are, so that we can limit the diverse group of people who are caught up in the non ordination clause. This is important, as can be seen from the thread, because previously, unfair ordination discrimination has been imposed on a very broad category of people, including: gays; effeminate men; non gender conforming people; trans people; butch women; intersex people and others whose sexual behaviour is regarded as abberent. This is unfair and should be called out as such. It is harmful, based on ignorance and hatred. So, as spiritual practitioners we should acknowledge unfair discrimination anywhere, especially on the monastic path, and work hard to overcome it.


#27

When the moderators post in an official capacity we are to use the staff background color so that it’s clear which role we’re in with our comment. As such, @viveka’s post should be seen as a personal perspective.


#28

Yup, correct. Tho that little shield does inevitably provide a little bit of ambiguity.

This seems to be the point. And there are rules in place to guide, even expel, those who fail to abandon sex altogether.


#29

Thank you for your post Bhante Akaliko.


#30

Greetings Ven Akaliko, (as has been stated by others’) my posts in this thread were purely a personal point of view - as are all of those which are not officially in moderator colours. It is the same for all moderators - generally moderators who have participated in a thread don’t take on a moderator role, should problems arise as this could lead to bias etc. We aim for fairness and transparency :slight_smile: Also virtually all moderation decisions are done in agreement by non-involved moderators, the more serious the issue the higher the required number of moderators who agree.

Thanks for raising this, and giving us an opportunity to clarify :pray: :slight_smile:

I’d like to take some time and consider the rest of your post before making any replies. It is a complicated issue, and can be approached from various directions, so I’ll do my best to try and better illustrate what was trying to express and pick up on your many valid points.

metta