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Buddhism and Gender

The unifying theme of this seminar is gender and Buddhism. We take as our point of departure Carolyn Bynum's statement: "No scholar studying religion, no participant in ritual, is ever neuter. Religious experience is the experience of men and women, and in no known society is this experience the same." Bearing this in mind, we will explore historical, textual and social questions relevant to gender in the Buddhist worlds of India, Tibet, and the Himalayas from the time of Buddhism's origins to the present day. Course readings will include primary sources such as Buddhist canonical sources, narrative literature, biography, and autobiography. Topics covered in this course will include the roles of women, men, femininity, and masculinity in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism and the family, gender and the body in Mahayana Buddhism, the roles of female goddess figures such as ākinīs in Vajrayāna Buddhism, Buddhism and sexuality, and the status of Buddhist nuns.