In this paper, Peter Skilling examines several aspects of the role of the female in “early Buddhism”, defined here as from the time of the Buddha up to the early centuries of the Christian Era. Since a study of female roles should not neglect the broader context of gender relations within the Buddhist community, he examines the structural features of Buddhist social organization and literature (the one reflecting the other), which are described as “gender pairing” beginning in the middle of the 3rd century BCE, with the reign of King Asoka, whose edicts are both the earliest lithic records of India and the earliest extant information on Buddhism.
I. Gender pairing 241 II. Nuns and the transmission of the scriptures 250 Nuns and laywomen in Mahayana sutras 254 III. Nuns and laywomen as donors 257 IV. Goddesses in text and stone 261 V. Conclusions 266 References 268 Bibliography 269