Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly

Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine

AS A YOUNG NUN, one day I was distractedly flipping through a series of small cards that depicted, in the artistic style of a Thai temple, the trajectory of the Buddha’s life. In the middle of the pack there was a picture of the emaciated Siddhartha, then him receiving milk rice from Sujata, then enlightened under the bodhi tree, peaceful, with a radiant halo. What leapt out to me was this: the Buddha only reached enlightenment by going through the portal of the feminine, or more broadly speaking, the sacred feminine.

Generally, the term “sacred feminine” is not part of Buddhist lexicon. The place of the feminine, and of women, in Buddhism is indelibly marked by historic ambivalence. And while there are realized women, dedicated scholars, nuns,

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STEPHEN BATCHELOR began his Buddhist studies in 1972 in India, received full ordination as a bhikkhu in 1979, and disrobed in 1985, following three years of training in Korean Seon. The author of Buddhism Without Beliefs and cofounder of Bodhi Colleg