Women in Buddhism: Questions & Answers


Why do women go to the temple and make merit more than men?


This is correctly observed, even though there has not yet been any official statistic to prove the claim. On the street we observe that 85% of people who offer food to the monks are women. On Wan Pra (Buddhist day) 90% of people who come to attend the service, observe precepts and listen to the teaching are women. But this should not lead to a conclusion that women have more faith than men. There are many other variant factors to consider.

In Thai society most men go to work while women are housewives or take care of private business. This allows women to attend the temple service on ‘Wan Pra’ more easily than men.

Thai society has trained women to be good followers, to go to the temple, to observe precepts and to listen to a sermon given by monks. One may notice that most elderly people who listen to sermon do not primarily try to understand the message in the teaching but ‘listening to a sermon” is a merit making act. Whether one understands the message is secondary, and to apply the teaching to their practice is not the immediate concern.

Another social value prevalent among the Thais is the belief that to be born a male is better than a female, primarily because a man can receive ordination, the highest form of merit making. As women (in Thailand) do not have this spiritual access, women have to make more merit to make up for their shortcoming.

Generally, religious activities are completely the domain of men. Even those who serve the monks in the temple mostly had been monks at certain time in life. The Buddhist world is then men’s world. Woman can do their best by providing various forms of material support and service to gain merit. With this understanding more women are found visiting temples to ensure themselves of a better future both in this life and the next.