Sunday, March 31, 2013

Women's Buddhist History: Text Written by Woman

An important Theravadan Buddhist text that was thought to be written by a prominent monk was most likely written by a Thai woman, scholars say.

Thammanuthamma-patipatti is a set of dialogues, supposedly between two prominent Thai monks last century.
It had been attributed to one of them - Venerable Luang Pu Mun Bhuridatta.
But scholars believe it was really by a female devotee, making her one of the first Thai women to write such a text.
Printed in five parts between 1932-1934, initially without a named author, Thammanuthamma-patipatti (Practice in perfect conformity with the Dhamma) is viewed in Thailand as a valuable and profound Buddhist text which deals with Buddhism's different stages of awakening.
Dr Martin Seeger from the University of Leeds believes he has traced the authorship of the text to one Khunying Yai Damrongthammasan - a wealthy and extremely devout woman who developed an impressive knowledge of Buddhist scriptures during her lifetime. 
 None of Luang Pe Mun's biographies claimed he had written it, Seeger notes, while the woman's son, a monk, said in her biography that she had written it.

Justin McDaniel, a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said it could be so.
"At that time and in the present day, women were seen as having the same capability when it came to Buddhist scholarship as men, especially in the realms of meditation and scholarly study. ... I think it's actually a lot more common than people realise, that students of monks - and especially women who tend to focus more on scholarship - would be writing."
Seeger, however, says that her achievements -- being able to read and write and her knowledge of canonical scripture -- were "very rare for a woman at that time." Seeger says only one other woman  in 1928 wrote a similar text, Seeger says it does not achieve the same level of profundity as this work.


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