In recent years, scholars have begun to pay more attention to the role of women in Southeast Asian Buddhism. While scholarship has illuminated the controversy surrounding bhikkhunī ordination, for instance, little attention has been paid to studying non-Theravādin Buddhist women in both mainland and maritime Southeast Asia. This panel proposes the need to study Southeast Asian Buddhist women beyond the Theravāda tradition, to include non-Theravādin female practitioners of the Mahāyāna and other Buddhist traditions. It shows how critical thinking about gender helps to address existing problems in the study of Southeast Asian Buddhism. In this way, this panel demonstrates that gender is one key to understanding the complex political, social, and ritual roles of Buddhism in modern Southeast Asia, and to understanding modern Southeast Asian society as a whole. Jack Meng-Tat Chia uses the case of Parwati Soepangat, founder of the Indonesian Buddhist Women organization, to analyze the position and contributions of a double minority—a Buddhist and a woman—in the world’s largest Muslim country. Wei-Yi Cheng examines why and how Vietnamese nuns migrated and established Buddhist organizations in contemporary Taiwan. Melody Chiu explores the issues surrounding the status of Chinese Mahāyāna nuns in Theravāda-majority Myanmar. Ai Boay Tan discusses the experiences and activities of vegetarian women, who are neither lay householders nor fully ordained nuns, in present-day Malaysia. The discussant, Brooke Schedneck, will discuss these papers in the light of her research on Southeast Asian Buddhism.
Paper Presenter: Jack Meng-Tat Chia – National University of Singapore
Paper Presenter: Wei-yi Cheng – Fo Guang University
Paper Presenter: Melody Tzu-Lung Chiu – Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Paper Presenter: Ai Boay Tan – Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman