Cultures and Religions of the Himalayan Region

Summer 2004

Denise M. Simone
Susan E. Wagner High School English Department
A Literary View of Himalayan Women Through Religious and Cultural Texts


For Teachers

The Himalayas

Women's Lives

Life of a Himalayan Nun

Buddhist Texts

Jataka Tale

Himalayan Herders

Modern Tibet

Modern Nepalese Women's Poetry

Buddhist Writings


Buddhism states that demeaning and degrading a woman because she is a woman is forbidden and a male is not superior to a female. In Dharma practice, Acarya Padmasambhava has said:

"In the attainment of Buddhahood,

See no difference in male and femal forms.

Like a real trantric yogin,

If endown with a pure bodhicitta,

Women can by far surpass."



There are other Buddhist texts which offer a different view:

The Seven Faults of a Woman

1-Unable to bear a son/unable to bear a male child to continue the family lineage
2-Woman's indulgence in sexual misconduct
3-Incompatibility with her father and mother-in-laws
5-stealing from her in-laws' household
6-Feelings of hatred and jealousy towards her husband's sexual misconduct
7-Sickness: a woman's poor state of health

The Three Compliances

1-Compliance to her father's wishes before marriage
2-Compliance to her husband's wishes after marriage
3-Compliance with her son after her husband's death

The Four Behaviors

Feminine Actions

Feminine Speeches

Feminine Outlook

Feminine Rigor


The Eight Strict Codes for the Fully Ordained Nun

1-To receive ordination of a novice nun or a fully ordained nun from specific numbers of fully ordained monks.
2-To receive teachings from fully ordained monk/s every fortnight.
3-To avoid residing during summer in a place void of fully ordained monks.
4-To practice the "Saving and Distributing Observances" with specific numbers of fully ordained monks.
5-To abstain from the act of reminding the fully ordained monks of their faults and downfalls.
6-To refrain from using abusive and harsh words to the fully ordained monks.
7-To please a set of fully ordained persons (five fully ordained monks and four fully ordained nuns) for a fortnight duration on one's breach or violation of these Eight Strict Codes.
8-To feel obliged for a hundred-year-old fully ordained nun to prostrate and revere a newly ordained monk.

  • How do these tennents dispute the notion of equality?
  • How can these codes be abused?
  • How might these codes help the societies of The Himalayas?

Read more about Tibetan Buddhism






This site was created by .... at the NEH Summer Institute "Cultures and Religions of the Himalayan Region," held at the College of the Holy Cross, Summer 2004