This article explores the earliest decades of Buddhism in India, examining the Buddha's opinion of his female followers and their place in society and intentional communities.
An interesting dynamic evolved as women fought for space to worship and live according to the Buddha's teachings: Cultural attitudes about women's sexual power and the inherent attachment between mother and son were seen as dangerous threats to a monk's ability to truly end all attachments to the earthly world. In canonical texts, monks often used the image of motherhood to conflate nuns and laywomen in ways that resulted in harsher restrictions imposed upon nuns by the male hierarchy and a more severe depiction of these women in Buddhist canonical texts.
To what degree is it possible to separate the woman from the legend?
Melania the Elder was a Roman socialite of the mid-300s. Her husband was a regional governor for the emperor and her family was powerful and well regarded. After an illness took the lives of her beloved husband and two of their three children, Melania gave up her luxurious life and renounced the world. She used her fortune to support Christian thinkers and eventually founded the first female monastery.
When she became entangled--on the wrong side--of Jerome and Rufinus's doctrinal dispute, her name was literally erased from the history books. This is an exploration of what it means to be a fearless, influential innovator, and still have no control over what others do with the story and the meaning of your life.