I was recently invited to a recent Buddhist-ethics conference featuring a workshop discussion on gender. I decided to attend the workshop en femme – as Sandhya – because I thought it might be relevant, though I wasn’t sure how. It turned out it was.
The workshop, hosted by Amy Langenberg and Antoinette DeNapoli, showcased the pair’s work on the welcome South Asian phenomenon of female renouncers. DeNapoli studied Mataji, a guru in Uttar Pradesh who declared herself a Shankaracharya (a monastic leader in Śaṅkara’s lineage). Langenberg studied the Peace Grove Institute, a community of female Theravāda Buddhist renouncers in Nepal. Having introduced Mataji and the Peace Grove, the two asked some discussion questions relating to the two, and broke us into small groups to discuss them. I forget the exact wording of the question that proved most fruitful, but it was something along the lines of “What do these female renouncers teach us about gender ethics?” And one of my group’s participants asked a most insightful question: “What do we mean by gender ethics?”Continue reading