(No, that title is not the beginning of a joke.)
But apparently “not very much,” or at least not singling them out as such. Today I was adding some terms and phrases to my translation program, and I added one for, “The Bhagavān said to to the bhikṣus” (世尊告諸比丘).
Then I thought that I should be careful, because bhikṣuṇī 比丘尼 is just one more character than bhikṣu 比丘 in Chinese, which introduces the possibility of it translating the equivalent phrase for bhikṣuṇīs incorrectly! This all is just a theoretical concern, though, unless that phrase actually exists for bhikṣuṇīs. I checked how many times it appears in CBETA… Zero!
So I searched for a few other phrases, and calculated how many lines contain them in the CBETA canon. Keep in mind there are possibly other forms, but these are some of the ones that would be the most common, I think.
The Buddha said to the bhikṣus…
佛告諸比丘 = 1658
佛告諸苾芻 = 385
The Bhagavān said to the bhikṣus…
世尊告諸比丘 = 1432
世尊告諸苾芻 = 81
The Buddha said to the bhikṣuṇīs…
佛告諸比丘尼 = 8
佛告諸苾芻尼 = 11
The Bhagavān said to the bhikṣuṇīs…
世尊告諸比丘尼 = 0
世尊告諸苾芻尼 = 0
Mind you, this is searching the CBETA standard canon that includes all the āgamas, sūtras, vinayas, abhidharmas, treatises, commentaries, etc. Now specifically for the āgamas:
- SA (T 99): Only three sūtras address the bhikṣuṇīs with this phrase “said to the bhikṣuṇīs” (告諸比丘尼). In SA 276, Nanda (難陀) addresses them several times. In SA 615, Ānanda (阿難) addresses them once. In SA 556, the Buddha (佛) addresses them once. Altogether, only three of the 1300+ discourses have anything “said to the bhikṣuṇīs.”
- SA (T 100): nothing “said to the bhikṣuṇīs” (告諸比丘尼).
- MA (T 26): nothing “said to the bhikṣuṇīs” (告諸比丘尼).
- DA (T 1): nothing “said to the bhikṣuṇīs” (告諸比丘尼).
- EA (T 125): one thing “said to the bhikṣuṇīs” (告諸比丘尼), and only by Mahāprajāpatī (大愛道), another bhikṣuṇī. Notably, though, she circumambulates the Buddha and Ānanda, first paying her respects before she addresses the bhikṣuṇī assembly. This occurs in EA 52.1, in the Mahāprajāpatī Parinirvāṇa (大愛道般涅槃) section of the EA.
Pretty strange results here. A few possibilities I will throw out:
- Maybe the stock phrases are used in different ways for the genders. That is to say, maybe “bhikṣu” was a somewhat gender-neutral term. I think there has already been some discussion about this.
- Maybe the bhikṣuṇīs were in some way not viewed as being originally part of the Buddhist community during the time of the Buddha, and were only marginally accepted within the canon as a result.
- Maybe there was simply a traditional prejudice against them, and so in the texts only a few bhikṣus address them, or they are addressed by other bhikṣuṇīs. Indian Buddhist texts sometimes show prejudice towards women, which probably just reflects their status in an ancient patriarchal society.
Others more familiar with the EBT’s will no doubt be able to provide more insight.