With the establishment of theravāda Buddhism in India around the 6th and 5th centuries BC, Siddhārtha Gautama, the so-called Buddha, enabled crucial changes in the perception of a woman and her role in Indian society at the time. A woman could finally join the Buddhist community of saṅgha. In the concluding part, my focus was on the role of a woman as a nun (bhikkhunī), a mother and a wife and her gender role in early Indian Buddhism theravāda. Through the interpretation and analysis of primary and secondary sources, I was discovering how female subordination was present – if it was present at all – through her social roles. At the beginning of my thesis, I have presented the central doctrines of Indian Buddhism theravāda, and then compared the difference in rules and regulations for nuns and the rules for monks in Vinayapiṭaki – the first basket of Tipiṭaka Buddhist texts. Upon detailed research of the rules and regulations, gender discrimination was evident, as, among other things, female nuns (bhikkhunīs) had to follow more rules and regulations as opposed to male monks (bhikkhus), and in the occurrence of offence, they have been punished more severely than monks. Additionally, the research of the rules revealed that the women who joined the saṅgha community were in a subordinate position, as they had to rely on male monks in many instances.
In the central part of my thesis, I have researched a woman’s role during Buddhism’s formation in India. I have thoroughly examined society's expectations towards a woman at that time and her role as a nun, a mother and a wife. What is more, I have also analysed female sexuality and the treatment of the female body during the emergence of theravāda Buddhism, with the help of early Buddhist texts. In the conclusion of my thesis, I note that during the time of theravāda Buddhism, a woman's primary role was first as a good wife and secondly as a caring mother. As a woman, she had to meet her husband’s demands, and as a mother, she had to take proper care of her children, and on top of that, it was also expected of her to perform daily household chores. Even though women were allowed to enter the convent, many have chosen not to do so for fear of losing their favourable social status. Therefore, the role of a mother and wife was still the most valuable role that a woman played during the time of early theravāda Buddhism, and it was ultimately also expected of her to do so.