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“Bhiksunī Chao-Hwei’s Buddhist Social Activism: From Solidarity with the Disadvantaged to Marriage Equality”
13. June 2017, 18:00 - 19:30
Hsiao-Lan Hu, Ph.D.
(Associate Professor of Religious Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies University of Detroit Mercy)
On 24 May 2017, the Supreme Court in Taiwan ruled in favor of marriage equality, nearly five years after the much celebrated first Buddhist lesbian wedding officiated by Bhiksunī Chao-Hwei. She has officiated a few other same-sex weddings since that time. While the cultural significance of such same-sex weddings officiated by a Buddhist monastic is debatable since lay Buddhists typically do not turn to monks and nuns for weddings and since historically Buddhism has not been vehemently anti-homosexual as many other religions have, such ceremonies are nonetheless groundbreaking in opening up public discourses.
In the Chinese academic and Buddhist circles, Bhiksunī Chao-Hwei is the lone monastic-scholar-activist who develops systematic discourses on Buddhist ethical principles and actively applies them to social issues. She often condenses Buddhist ethics into three phrases: co-arising, protection of beings, and the middle way. Based on these principles, she engages in social activism defending various groups of sentient beings who are discriminated against and/or deprived of rights by the dominant groups, including LGBT persons. This lecture aims to examine her reasons for supporting marriage equality in the light of her overall understanding of Buddhist ethics, and to analyze the significance of her public discourse and social activism.