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

A Jataka Tale

The Jataka Tales are Buddhist stories which guide Buddhists on thepath toNirvana, or enlightenment. They offer insights into how one should lead one's life on this spiritual path. The Lord Buddha says both men and women are both able to attain Nirvana, but many tales caution the influences of a woman. Examine these quotes and log your insights and reactions in your double-entry journal:

Quote #1:
Cursed be the dart that works men pain!
Cursed be the land where women rules supreme!
And cursed the fool that bows to a woman's ways.
--The Kandina Jataka

Quote #2:
"So you can see, Brother monk," said the Master, "how lustful, vile, and woe bringing are women." And after declaring the wickedness of women, he preached the four truths.
--The Asatamanta Jataka

Quote #3:
Seers should keep them at a distance, for they are a stumbling block to those who would live chastely. Have nothing to do with them. They are like snakes, like poisonous leaves, like charcoal pits.
--The Mahavastu

Quote #4:
The Bodhisattva in the presence of his wife must realize three thoughts….She is my companion for passion and dalliance, but not for the next world; my companion at meat and drink, but not for the fruition of the maturing of my acts. She is the companion of my pleasure, not of my pain….Three other thoughts are these: that a wife must be regarded as an obstacle to virtue, meditation, and to wisdom. And yet three more; she is like a thief, a murderer, or a guardian of hell.
--The Shiksasamuccaya

A Jataka Tale from Kathmandu, Nepal: "The Buffalo Horn-blowing Tale," is translated by Todd T. Lewis. This tale offers the possibility that a good wife is essential for a man's quest for salvation. While reading the tale, complete the double-entry journal as you read.

Click here for "The Buffalo Horn-Blowing Tale"

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