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Title: Non-normative sex/gender categories in the Theravada Buddhist Scriptures
Author(s): Jackson, Peter A
Keywords: Pali
Therava da Buddhism
Date created: 1996
The Pali canon contains numerous references to homoerotic behaviour and to individuals who today would be variously identified as hermaphrodites, transvestites, transsexuals and homosexuals. However, none of the sex/gender categories named in the canon precisely matches any of these contemporary notions, but combines instead elements of these diverse physiological, gender and sexual conditions in distinctive formulations. Most canonical accounts of non-normative gender and sexuality are found in the Vinaya, the clerical code of conduct, and are listed amongst the many explicitly described forms of sexual activity proscribed for monks. In analyzing Theravada Buddhist accounts of sex and gender it is important to keep in mind that the religion be gan as an order of celibate male renunciates, the sangha, and that the Vinaya is overwhelmingly a clerical, not a lay code of conduct. Scriptural accounts of non-normative sex and gender also need to be understood in the context of the religion's general disdain of sexuality and its distrust of sensual enjoyment. Never the less, what makes accounts of sex and gender in these ancient Indian texts especially fascinating is their contemporary relevance in Thailand, which together with Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos and Cambodia forms part of the Asian cultural sphere in which Therava da Buddhism remains a vital cultural institution.
Type: Working/Technical Paper
Appears in Collections:Open Access Research

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