ISBN-10:
0674012879
ISBN-13:
9780674012875
Pub. Date:
07/15/2004
Publisher:
Harvard
Being a Buddhist Nun: The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas / Edition 1

Being a Buddhist Nun: The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas / Edition 1

by Kim GutschowKim Gutschow
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Overview

They may shave their heads, don simple robes, and renounce materialism and worldly desires. But the women seeking enlightenment in a Buddhist nunnery high in the folds of Himalayan Kashmir invariably find themselves subject to the tyrannies of subsistence, subordination, and sexuality. Ultimately, Buddhist monasticism reflects the very world it is supposed to renounce. Butter and barley prove to be as critical to monastic life as merit and meditation. Kim Gutschow lived for more than three years among these women, collecting their stories, observing their ways, studying their lives. Her book offers the first ethnography of Tibetan Buddhist society from the perspective of its nuns.

Gutschow depicts a gender hierarchy where nuns serve and monks direct, where monks bless the fields and kitchens while nuns toil in them. Monasteries may retain historical endowments and significant political and social power, yet global flows of capitalism, tourism, and feminism have begun to erode the balance of power between monks and nuns. Despite the obstacles of being considered impure and inferior, nuns engage in everyday forms of resistance to pursue their ascetic and personal goals.

A richly textured picture of the little known culture of a Buddhist nunnery, the book offers moving narratives of nuns struggling with the Buddhist discipline of detachment. Its analysis of the way in which gender and sexuality construct ritual and social power provides valuable insight into the relationship between women and religion in South Asia today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674012875
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 07/15/2004
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Kim Gutschow is a Lecturer in Anthropology and Religion at Williams College and Professor of Anthropology and Public Health at the University of Göttingen.

Table of Contents

Preface

1. Gendering Monasticism

2. Locating Buddhism in Zangskar

3. The Buddhist Economy of Merit

4. The Buddhist Traffic in Women

5. Becoming a Nun

6. Why Nuns Cannot Be Monks

7. Can Nuns Gain Enlightenment?

8. Monasticism and Modernity

Notes

References

Index

What People are Saying About This

Being a Buddhist Nun is a persuasive and moving combination of vivid writing and sophisticated scholarship. The lived experience is wonderfully captured in both verbal and visual thick descriptions of foods, tasks, conversations, all the evocative phenomena of the everyday, while the book raises questions that are significant far beyond the Himalayas, ranging from the usual questions of gender--Why Cannot Nuns Be Monks?--for which Kim Gutschow offers new answers, to the not-so-usual questions of celibacy, in which she sees newly relevant values.

Unni Wikan

A brilliant analysis, beautifully written, of Buddhism as never before portrayed. Privileging popular practices and local informants over textual expertise, Gutschow takes us right into the heart of the contradictions between Buddhist doctrine and practice, showing the mechanisms that reinstate the very social hierarchies and injustices that the Buddha disdained. The book is a tour de force, a bold and courageous analysis that will change the field of Buddhist studies forever. A truly enlightening and extraordinary book.
Unni Wikan, University of Oslo

Frank J. Korom

Solidly based on over a decade of fieldwork, Gutschow successfully dispels a number of stereotypical misconceptions about Buddhist monasticism in general and Buddhist nuns more specifically. She places monasticism in its necessary political and economic spheres, while not ignoring the pragmatic aspects of lived Buddhism. Being a Buddhist Nun transports women and nuns from their marginal peripheral position in Buddhist history to its ideological center.
Frank J. Korom, Boston University

Wendy Doniger

Being a Buddhist Nun is a persuasive and moving combination of vivid writing and sophisticated scholarship. The lived experience is wonderfully captured in both verbal and visual thick descriptions of foods, tasks, conversations, all the evocative phenomena of the everyday, while the book raises questions that are significant far beyond the Himalayas, ranging from the usual questions of gender--Why Cannot Nuns Be Monks?--for which Kim Gutschow offers new answers, to the not-so-usual questions of celibacy, in which she sees newly relevant values.
Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago

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