Hi, need to submit a 4500 words paper on the topic Images of Women in Early Buddhism and Christian Gnosticism. As a way of escaping the bondage of the human condition, the scriptures of both traditions prescribed ascetic practices. This paper is concerned primarily with the shared attitudes of these ascetic authors towards women. They perceived women as less rational than men and more susceptible to the weaknesses of the flesh. their writings vilified women bodies as “impure “and “defective” by nature. These texts associate women with the body and all of its unpleasant functions. In contrast to men, women were symbols of sensual mentality. Liberation for women involved a transformation of the female body and a repudiation of their female nature. Why should these negative attitudes towards women persist when we know that women actively supported and participated in the religious life of both Buddhist and Gnostic communities? To answer this question, we must first examine the context in which these apparent misogynist statements occur. The texts selected for analysis include material from the third century B.C.E. compilation of Buddhist monks and nuns verses, the Theragath and the Therigatha, from some of the earliest Mahayana sutras and the treatises of the philosophers Nagarjuna and Aryadeva, composed between the first and third centuries C.E., and material from the Nag Hammadi collection of Gnostic texts, written about the same time as the early Mahayana literature. Two major images of women emerge from these Buddhist and Gnostic texts:(1) women as sensual, seductive, and capable of entrapping others in the cycle of birth and death. and (2) women as compassionate, wise, and capable of enlightening others and leading them towards the divine realm.
The material I have chosen to examine falls into four categories: (1) Buddhist and Gnostic myths about the fall of humanity, (2) Buddhist and Gnostic attitudes towards women’s bodies, (3) transformation of women’s bodies, and(4) the transformative power of feminine insight/wisdom.