But yeah, speaking of Buddhist nuns. I forgot to ask how they ought to compare to female Byzantine saints, because, come to think of it, it must needs asking, aren't we. Kristina mentioned the intimate connection between gay, death and enlightenment -- not necessarily in that order -- in Buddhist monasteries and, you know, while the Byzantines before the 10th century AD weren't Buddhist and had pretty vague ideas about manly love compared to Tokugawa aesthetes, they did have an exhaustive documentation as regards the presence of eunuchs in Byzantium and their ecclesiastical position both in the Church and in monastic communities, and their importance in imperial politics. There were particular ranks of the court hierarchy reserved to eunuchs, and many prominent clerics and patriarchs were eunuchs. Within religious communities eunuchs were considered fortunate, in that their condition was believed to spare them some of the sexual temptations visited upon 'whole' men. Of course this *is* a piece of rank misinformation, one of many that circulated about eunuchs (which should bear writing a treatise on if you're in the field of Byzantine scholarship. I try, sort of, to keep track of publications and I don't think I've seen one yet), but in contrast to the prejudice against eunuchs in the West, there was no objection to their promotion to ecclesiastical careers in Byzantium.
So anyway what I'm trying to point out is that eunuchs were accepted in the Church, and those who didn't aspire to a clerical office lived their lives in monasteries. And this is where the connection with women saints comes in, because up until the eighth century or so the pattern of creating female saints was contextualized -- and codified in their Lives -- within a woman's pursuit of a solitary or communal religious life disguised as a eunuch. By cutting their hair and adopting male dress, women were able to pursue their dedication to religion without being inhibited by what should have been their destiny as per their status in society. There were numerous stories about women fleeing from arranged marriages, escaping dictatorial fathers and husbands, repenting of their previously unchristian lives as prostitutes, all of which ended with them seeking refuge in a monastery where angry relatives were least likely to come looking. These stories always concluded with a good Christian moral and were very popular -- the misadventures of eunuch women like St. Eugenia, is it, and St. Euphrosyne made for great reading, not to mention the lives of reformed prostitutes like St. Pelagia, who also disguised herself as a eunuch -- though bizarre twists were implicit in a hagiographical text of this sort. For example: the 'isolated' hermit, a holy man respected widely, dies and turns out to be a man after all; the woman disguised as a man is accused of making a nun pregnant and suffers otracism, until the truth is revealed by the deceitful nun. (You can read a pretty good selection of these stories in an anthology of the more interesting Lives edited by... er, let me check the book in the apartment). There's also another variation of this genre, this time dealing with the abortive attempts of women to approach otherwise misogynistic holy relics. There's a story about a woman who wanted to be cured by the relics of the Patriarch Tarasios, but because she wasn't allowed to enter the monastery where his tomb was situated since she was a woman and all, she had to disguise herself as a eunuch and thus was admitted. She was miraculously cured and escaped the monastery to tell the tale. But other male saints weren't so benevolent, I believe, and were a lot more suspicious of and hostile to the device.
I don't know stories about Buddhist nuns in medieval Japan -- save that cited below, and I only read about in a source I don't know how many times removed from the original text -- so, yeah, I was wondering.