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Hindu and Buddhist Gender Roles and Ideals: the Household and Abstract Concepts

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Introduction

Gender roles and ideals in Hinduism and Buddhism are diverse. A number of texts regarding household gender roles exist in Hindu traditions, and little to none are appear to exist in Buddhist traditions. The gendering of abstract concepts in both Hinduism and Buddhism may also occur. The cases sited indicate that male dominance is significantly more common than female dominance in ancient and Classical Hindu texts while regional variations may continue to exist. Buddhists appear to internalize the gender norms of diverse regions. Mention of other gender roles are rear.

In the Household

Gender roles within the Hindu household are diverse. Hindus now live around the globe (Narayanan 262), and differ as to the correct Hindu moral and legal behaviour. According to the Classical epic, the Mahabharata, followers may escape the cycle of death and rebirth in three ways (yogas): correct action, (karma yoga), correct knowledge (jnana yoga) or correct devotion (bhakti yoga) (Ansari; Turner; Narayana 274). According to the Manu smrti, the correct action of the wife is to worship and obey their husband as if he were one of the gods, and that only then may she enter heaven (Ansari; Turner; Fisher and Bailey 71). The contents of the Manu smrti may not strictly reflect the social norms of all Hindu communities of the Classical Age (roughly 500BCE to 500CE) (Ansari; Turner; Narayanan 279), however it was and remains authoritative in some Hindu households and it is to an extent reflected in the popular and influential marital loyalty of Sita in the Ramayana. According to other Hindu moral teachings in the dharmasastra texts, men are also obligated to have intercourse with their wives during particular times of the month (304). It ...

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