ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Locating Gender in Religion and Culture

The Buddhist Women of North-East India and South-West China by Jayanti Alam (New Delhi: Akansha Publishing House), 2013; pp 282, Rs 1,050.

A renowned Buddhist scholar, in an informal discussion, had once remarked that, as far as women are concerned, Buddha was a disaster. Her statement may not be accurate, but does reflect a complex and ambivalent understanding of gender in the Buddhist tradition. On the one hand, the Buddhist doctrine posits an ultimate state of bliss beyond all gender distinctions, while on the other, many early Buddhist texts evidence anti-feminine attitudes. The manifestation of the Buddhist position in the experiences of practitioners and their communities is certainly more significant than the textual positions.

The Buddhist Women of North-East India and South-West China by Jayanti Alam is an extensive survey of gender relations and their implications in specific Buddhist tribes. Having spent a long time in the proximity of Himalayan tribes, coupled with a background of extensive research on Tibetan society, the author was motivated to examine the gender-equal aspects of Tibetan society more closely, and to extend her research to the culturally congruent tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. The author has limited her study to the tribes that practise Buddhism for practical purposes of a sharp focus and comparative analysis.

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