Ute HüskenFeb 2, 2023
Laughter, Creativity, and Perseverance
Female Agency in Buddhism and Hinduism
Oxford University Press 2022
In most mainstream traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, women have for centuries largely been excluded from positions of religious and ritual leadership. However, as this volume shows, in an increasing number of late-20th-century and early-21st-century contexts, women can and do undergo monastic and priestly education; they can receive ordination/initiation as Buddhist nuns or Hindu priestesses; and they are accepted as religious and political leaders. Even though these processes still take place largely outside or at the margins of traditional religious institutions, it is clear that women are actually establishing new religious trends and currents. They are attracting followers, and they are occupying religious positions on par with men.
At times women are filling a void left behind by male religious specialists who left the profession, and at times they are perceived as their rivals. In some cases, this process takes place in collaboration with male religious specialists, in others against the will of the women's male counterparts. However, in most cases we see both acceptance and resistance. Whether silently or with great fanfare, women are grasping new opportunities to occupy positions of leadership.
Ute Hüsken's Laughter, Creativity, and Perseverance: Female Agency in Buddhism and Hinduism (Oxford UP, 2022) offers ten in-depth case studies analysing culturally, historically, and geographically unique situations in order to explore the historical background, contemporary trajectories, and impact of the emergence of new and powerful forms of female agency in mostly conservative Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions.
Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and at his own virtual School of Indian Wisdom. For information see rajbalkaran.com.