A quote:

" in whatever religion women are ordained, that religion will not last long. As families that have more women than men are easily destroyed by robbers, as a plentiful rice-field once infested by rice worms will not long remain, as a sugarcane field invaded by red rust will not long remain, even so the True Dharma will not last long."

In which context did the Buddha say this?


2 Answers 2


The context of this quote was the proposed ordination of women: Gotamīsutta (AN 8.51).

Since men established Buddhism around the world the quote is obviously true.

For example, even today, women who want to ordain also want to take advantage of the community & facilities established by men.

When Buddhism declined in India, it was men who took Buddhism to other places, such as to Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, etc. When this happened, the order of nuns was broken because women could not flee to & survive in foreign & often hostile lands.

It is a plain reality that it is difficult for women to establish & spread a religion, particularly in hostile places.

Many monks were killed in their efforts to spread Buddhism. Walking around the world with only robes & a begging bowl is not easy.

The women asked to be ordain after the Buddha was famous; after the Buddha had benefactors who provided land for monasteries, etc.

It is very difficult for women to do what Jason The Walking Monk did.


Some people e.g. here (which is a footnote to this) suggest that passage might be a later addition:

  1. In the Vinaya (monk's discipline) the Buddha is represented as saying this, but such a prophecy involving time is found only here. There is not other mention anywhere in the whole of the Vinaya (discipline) and the Suttas (discourses). This makes it suspect as an intrusion. The Commentaries, as well as many other later Buddhist writings; have much to say about the decline of the Buddha's Dispensation in five-hundred-year periods, but none of this is the word of the Buddha and only represents the view of later teachers.

See also this answer for another example of that (this example references a detailed cross-textual analysis, which gives some insight into ways in which versions of the texts are or aren't consistent).

Or there's this answer which alleges another inconsistency (this one between a sutta and the Vinaya commentary).

It's hard to know what (if anything) to make of it. I think that suttas (including AN 8.51 which you quoted) are defined as buddhavacana or "canonical" by definition, so I'm reluctant to say it's untrue; but since you ask, perhaps you should be aware that that (and other topics tagged ) is part of the "context".

As for whether it's a "true" statement, maybe that's difficult to say too. It claims that ...

The true teaching will remain only five hundred years.
Pañceva dāni, ānanda, vassasatāni saddhammo ṭhassati.

... and different people have (had) different opinions about whether the "true teaching" still exists.

I suppose that arguments, for and against, tend to be based on:

  • The infallibility of the canon
  • A textual analysis of the canon (testing it for self-consistency, see also "four great references")
  • Whether it matches people's preconceived ideas about gender and society (which in modern society might be described as "sexism" as opposed to "feminism")

I think there's been a lot written about it in this century. I gather that the Theravada Bhikkhuni lineage became extinct (a long time ago, I don't know when) which made it impossible to ordain, since a Bhikkhuni is ordained by other (pre-existing) Bhikkhuni: for further details see for example Re-establishing Bhikkhuni Ordination or for example Ajahn Brahm -- Bhikkhuni ordination.

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