121 The Changing Roles of Thailand's Lay Nuns (Mae Chii) David L. Gosling University of Cambridge, UK While the community development activities of Thai monks have received a good deal of attention, little consideration has been given to women, who are traditionally excluded from full membership of the sangha. These are, however, women lay practitioners of Buddhism known as mae chii, who are increasingly undertaking social roles which are similar and, in some cases, complementary to those of the monks. Such roles on the part of both monks and mae chii need to be set within the context of Tambiah's work on the worldly aspects of Thai Buddhism and his emphasis on the need to explore the continuities and the transformations between the anthropology and the history of religion. In Thailand, as elsewhere, women are unable to participate fully in many aspects of social life. Opinions differ as to the extent to which Buddhism contributes to the low esteem accorded to them. There is, however, a class of women practitioners of religion known as mae chii, whose changing roles are increasingly recognised as indicative of a more positive attitude towards women among Thai Buddhists. In this article we
Asian Journal of Social Science – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1998
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