Saturday, September 1, 2012

Are (Jaina) women more able to control sexual instincts?

For Jainas, renunciation of sexual intercourses is of extreme importance. Not only is celibacy one of the 5 vows for a monk, even for lay people sexual intercourses are seen as a negative distraction from one's religious duties. Paul Dundas explains the gender-implication of this view:

Quite clearly this perspective on sexuality is thoroughly androcentric. Al-though concern is continually shown in the cheda sūtras for the chastity of nuns, the safeguarding and confirmation of this virtue is invariably the task of monks, and it can be concluded that celibacy has largely been presented within the Jain learned tradition in male terms (Paul Dundas, Sthūlabhadra's Lodgings, in Celibacy and Religious Tradition, p. 192).

So, what remains for nuns to be actively done?

In fact, their situation seems somehow similar to that of women in Western fairy tales and myths: although their male counterpart are the ones who are praised for their celibacy, and although some women are described as desperately craving for sex and most others as weak, nonetheless it is easy to find examples of average women who are less disturbed by sex in their regular activities:

women […], despite their supposed innate susceptibility to erotic passion,
are regarded as being capable to a far greater extent than males of controlling its influence through the regular performance of fasting.
[…] In these terms it is surely not accidental that there are many more Jain nuns than monks (pp. 192--193).

I am not sure I understand the last point. Does the author mean that it is easier for women to become nuns, given that it is easier for them to renounce their sexual life? And is anyone by chance aware of other reasons for the higher number of nuns (which is, by the way, also true in the Catholic Church and perhaps also in other religions)? (I would think of external reasons, such as the fact that becoming a nun has been, at least in some Christian countries, a way to escape from an undesired marriage).

On ascetism and celibacy in Jainism, see this post.
(photo from

1 comment:

Unknown said...

As you hinted, my hunch is that, a sociological analysis might provide a better answer for the higher number nuns than monks other than the claims based on biology.

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