This Article First Appeared In The Print On Feb 2, 2023
It is not something one expects to come across in a dry collection of Buddhist monastic rules, but here it is:
“He said: ‘I have been seized by a debt collector.’
‘Who is the debt collector?’
He said: ‘A nun.’ ”
The history of Buddhism is very often thought about as a history of intrepid men—from the Buddha to the hundreds of monks, preachers and translators who carried their doctrines to the corners of the world. Partially due to a lack of sources, partially because the compilers of texts tended to be men, and partially because we haven’t looked for them, the voices of Buddhist women have been lost to us. But new research reveals that they had brilliant commercial and religious minds, shaping the financial fortunes of the Buddhist sangha. History, as always, is more complex than we might think.