Women in Buddhism: Questions & Answers


How can a mae ji share in social and religious development?



The condition which mae jis have in reality is different from that which society expect from them. Society considers mae jis as human resource available for social and religious development. Therefore society expects to see mae jis commit themselves in social welfare works, e.g. taking care of orphans, aged citizen etc.

In reality in the whole country the number of mae jis do not exceed 10,000. Out of this 80% have completed only grade 4-6 of formal education. The same percentage came from a farmers’ background, having no financial support, no social recognition. They have to fend for themselves in a “hand to mouth” manner, some with minimal support from their families. The idea to help others or be involved in social welfare is too far-fetched for them.

As a result some of them have to beg on the street to meet their monthly expenses.

Again there are a number of mae jis who choose to become mae jis after having been turned off from worldly life. As they fled from society, to expect them to return to get involved in social development contradicts their original intention.

It is true that mae jis can be an effective human resource to benefit society but a step is needed before that is to improve mae jis themselves by providing them education and training so that they can first help themselves and not pose as a social burden. Then they can guide others both in words and action.

To help improve mae jis in a more concrete manner is to start a college to provide for them Buddhist and general education so that mae jis can move with the flow of society, to understand social problems and at the same time be equipped with dharma knowledge to guide society towards a better Buddhist community.

The Department of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Education, is a government unit responsible directly for the well being of the mae jis. It is proposed that they should urgently find a measure to register the mae jis to lessen the opportunity for outsiders to exploit the position of mae jis. At the same time they should consider promoting mae jis in a process to fortify mae jis as another effective religious unit to help establish and propagate Buddhism.