I Hear Her Words: An Introduction to Women in Buddhism (Paperback)

Alice Collett

(1 customer review)

Is there gender equality in Buddhist traditions? What do Buddhist texts say about women? This book offers a new introduction to women in Buddhism, and gives unique access to the more rarely told histories of the many inspiring Buddhist women who fought against constraint. In this book we hear about and from many Buddhist women, disciples and teachers, their wisdom and their practice.

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I Hear Her Words: An Introduction to Women in Buddhism (Paperback)



I Hear Her Words: An Introduction to Women in Buddhism
Alice Collett

Is there gender equality in Buddhist traditions? What do Buddhist texts say about women? Do Buddhist ethics support prejudice against women? Are there Buddhist doctrines that imply that women are inferior to men?

Scholarship on the topic of women and Buddhism has exploded in the last few decades and this book is an accessible survey of recent research. It offers an introduction and overview on women in Buddhism aimed at the interested reader and student.

Collett shows that core Buddhist doctrines and ethical formulations provide no justification for the notion that women are inferior to men. But Buddhism was born and took root in ancient and medieval societies that held traditional views of women. In this way social and cultural norms that position women as inferior to men found their way into Buddhist tradition and some Buddhist texts. Certain of these views became mainstays of the tradition, such that members of Buddhist communities have, throughout history, attempted to subjugate women.

This book offers unique access to the more rarely told histories of the many inspiring Buddhist women who fought against attempted constraint, often in the calmest and most compassionate ways imaginable; that is, simply by being themselves. From examples of women who were direct disciples of the historical Buddha, through Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Tibet, to Buddhist women today, we hear about the many female exemplars of Buddhist tradition who became devoted disciples, innovative leaders and esteemed teachers. Not only do we hear about them in this book, but we also hear from them in their own words.

To ignore the contributions of such women to Buddhist tradition hides from view the history, struggles and liberation of the many women who have shaped and continue to shape Buddhist tradition.


1 review for I Hear Her Words: An Introduction to Women in Buddhism (Paperback)

  1. HelenAtWindhorse

    Follow this link to read a review of I Hear Her Words in the Fall 2021 edition of Buddhadharma magazine. https://www.lionsroar.com/buddhadharma-book-briefs-for-fall-2021/

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'I Hear Her Words: An Introduction to Women in Buddhism by Alice Collett is a thorough, comprehensive and well researched guide to the history and agency of women in Buddhism. We travel widely through time and space, discovering awakened and well-practised women of old to the present day. Collett brings to our attention inspiring quotes demonstrating the depth of insight that could have been missed were it not for their presence in this volume.' – Martine Batchelor is the author of Women on the Buddhist Path and Women in Korean Zen.

'In this wide-ranging and innovative introduction to women in Buddhism Alice Collett draws on sources from across the Buddhist world to interrogate the idea that Buddhism views women as inferior to men. Her argument is informed by her own considerable scholarship and introduces the general reader to the lives, works and teachings of an impressive range of, often lesser known, Buddhist women from East Asia, India and Tibet, and the West.

In the first part of the book Alice Collett challenges received ideas about the way women are portrayed in Buddhist texts, and by relating ideas about women to essential Buddhist doctrine develops a convincing argument that it is not Buddhism that sees women as inferior but individual (male) Buddhists.

In the second part the reader is introduced to the lives and achievements of a number of inspiring women who have, throughout history, played a crucial role in keeping Buddhism alive and relevant. Even readers familiar with the subject will encounter new evidence of the radical nature of women’s spirituality within Buddhism and will welcome being introduced to so many diverse voices.

The author’s blending of scholarly analysis and stories of women’s lives makes this book a valuable addition to the growing body of work about women in Buddhism.' – Danasamudra, co-founder of the Triratna Women Project and Librarian of the Sangharakshita Library.

'Alice Collett’s book is a fascinating and engaging survey of recent research into women and Buddhism. Focusing on positive narratives of nuns and laywomen, this compelling work will be an inspiration to all. Citing a wealth of primary sources, including biographies, poems and inscriptions, the author highlights the pivotal roles that women have played both throughout Buddhist history and today, not least as highly respected teachers. This book gives these key figures a long-overdue voice and finally tells the ‘her-story’ that they all deserve!' – Ann Heirman is a researcher on Chinese Buddhist monasticism.

'Written in a clear and accessible style, this book offers an excellent introduction into how women have shaped Buddhism from its beginning in India and over the course of its historical development throughout the Buddhist world. Drawing on her impressive long-term research on ancient Buddhist texts and a wide range of recent scholarship, Alice Collett’s book inspires its readers to engage more deeply with this fascinating and important topic. By carefully listening to the often unheard voices of women who have enriched Buddhism through their spiritual practice and teachings, Collett provides new and refreshing perspectives on how Buddhists have implemented the Buddha’s teachings to de-essentialise gender.' – Martin Seeger, Professor of Thai Studies at the University of Leeds, author of Gender and the Path to Awakening.

'A sweeping survey of Buddhist women in Asia from historical times to the present, showing their personal and societal struggles, their many contributions, and their unique wisdom. Impressive in its scope, this book serves our next generations with corrective insights and ushers in an era of greater gender equality in keeping with the Buddha’s original vision.' – Judith Simmer-Brown, Distinguished Professor of Naropa University and author of Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism