Book: Explorations in Women, Rights, and Religions
Chapter: Caring Detachment in Buddhism and Implications for Women’s Rights
Despite its seemingly limiting force for women’s liberation, caring is a core value that defines various key relationships in human co-existence. On the other hand, detachment is an illustration of spiritual liberation in Buddhism. These two aspects of human experience seem to cancel each other out.
This paper is an attempt to illustrate and investigate ‘caring detachment’ in Buddhism by exploring and analyzing the ways in which the Buddha deals with two cases of women who are in deep and extreme sorrow, namely the cases of Paṭācārā, the mad and naked woman who lost all her family members in one day of storm and torrential rain, and Kisā Gotamī the mother who cannot come to terms with the fact that her dear son had died. It will be argued that, for the Buddha, detachment does not cancel out caring. In these two cases, the Buddha shows great compassion in his positive engagement in the emotional turmoil of Paṭācārā and Kisā Gotamī, while simultaneously instructing them out of the entrapment of deep and extreme sorrow. Implications for the respect of human rights for women in Buddhism will be discussed.