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Geika
08-23-2020, 04:17 AM
Hello everyone,

This week we will be starting chapter four, Founders and Supporters, and we will read through to page 55. This section will cover female-identifying founders that cultivated Buddhist practice prior to Zen. Here, Schireson writes about female-identifying practitioners who had organized successful sanghas, how they remained open and supportive, and how they responded to the needs of their groups.

Let us remain gentle to each other as we discuss:

What are your thoughts on Mahapajapati, the Buddha's step mother, as she persisted in asking the Buddha to allow herself and other female-identifying people to practice alongside the monks and leave family life, despite her comfortable status? It must have been extremely difficult in such a segregated society.

Why do you think that even the Buddha was reluctant to allow female-identifying people to practice?

We then move on to the first Chinese female-identifying founders who found ways to be legitimized despite current rules that only monks could regulate their status.

Do you think that Zen practice has a long standing history of breaking its own rules to change for the better?

Please feel free to bring up any other questions or thoughts you discover as you read.

Gassho
Sat today, lah

Onka
08-23-2020, 05:07 AM
Thank you Geika and the other female identifying Unsui for guiding us not only through this book but guiding ME through my Practice. Your Practice example I aspire to.
Gassho
Onka
Sat

KristaB
08-24-2020, 12:55 AM
Mahapajapati must have been an exceptionally strong and determined person to persist in such an oppressive culture. As is the case today, her status and wealth (and relationship to the Buddha) likely gave her some protection and clout, amplifying her voice and allowing her to “get away” with being an iconoclast.

It’s difficult to know if the account of Buddha’s life we have is ‘true.’ Did the Enlightened One gather all seekers around him without discrimination? Or was he enlightened but still very much of his times and culture? Did he deny equality to female-identifying followers or was that written into the record later by more conservative voices? It’s difficult to imagine people of that time accepting women stepping out of the only roles they had ever filled. But Ananda could, apparently.

If the Buddha did object to ordaining female-identifying practitioners, it’s likely there was concern they would distract his monks away from practice. In many cultures and religions, even today, female bodies carry the burden and blame for men’s response to them. And so they were/are bound by all those extra rules.

Nine bows and many thanks to rule-breakers.
Gassho,
Krista
st

SlappyPenguin
08-25-2020, 04:14 PM
Even with her status and wealth, Mahapajapati still had to petition Ananda for support, who in turn was criticized for supporting her. I found it odd how gender even transcended classes with the male "untouchables" having more support than the women. I can't even begin to imagine the loss of knowledge and potential for those who didn't have a male to essentially give credibility to a woman. I do wonder if the Buddha's reluctance to allowing women to practice was due to the time period and the culture. Perhaps that much progress all at once would lose the support of people at the time and Buddhism would have never gotten off the ground? If I had a time machine I'd be interested to find out exactly why, but it really doesn't seem like the essence of Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist teaching would condone any form of discrimination, but that could also be the lens that we view it through today.

As the teachings have grown and infiltrated the various cultures around the world, I think the progress being made is wonderful. I'm glad that the philosophy we share is allowed to change with the times, but we also must remain educated and aware of the origins to be able to appreciate how far it's come, and what we can do to help it flourish further. It's like that saying "If you look back and you're not embarrassed of who you were, then you haven't really grown". Times change, cultures change, people change, and I'm glad that overall it's been for the better. I'm excited to see the future of Buddhism, and Zen in particular, and I'm proud to be a small part of it. I'm all for breaking rules in the interest of betterment, especially to be more inclusive and diverse. Diversity makes all of us a little stronger, and together we can shape a world that will do more good for more people.

I too bow to the rule-breakers.

Gassho,

Joshua
SatToday/LaH

Geika
08-25-2020, 11:09 PM
Lovely posts, guys!

Gassho,
Sat today, lah

nknibbs
08-26-2020, 02:00 PM
Mahapajapati was exceptional and remains an exceptional role model for all Buddhists. To stand up for what she thought was right against Shakyamuni—she must have felt the dharma in her bones.

I agree with Schireson when she proposes the four ways to look at the Buddha in these scriptures. He was enlightened but he was still a man in his time. It was the Buddha himself that said we should regard the teaching more than the teacher if I recall correctly (though I’m paraphrasing).

I started this book yesterday and am thoroughly intrigued. Thank you for allowing me to enjoy this along with you all and deep bows to the female identifying Zen masters through the ages.

Gassho,
Nick
SatLah

Shōnin Risa Bear
08-26-2020, 03:00 PM
Reading along.

Am here, listening.

Many bows.

Gassho

shonin sat/lah today

Jakuden
08-26-2020, 08:45 PM
Mahapajapati is a special figure to me. She symbolizes the confluence of both privilege and disadvantage that Western female-identifying folks like myself face. Her privilege of class and relationship allowed her to finally enter practice, but her gender produced obstacles that wouldn't otherwise have been an issue.

My privilege, as a white middle-class female raised in a middle-class New York suburb, allowed me to "break the barrier" of my gender and nationality. My guidance counselor in high school discouraged my ambitions, and to my father I was an outright black sheep for defying the expectation to get married and rely on a husband for my livelihood. But I had opportunities for work experience, loans, and high school advanced placement education that made it much easier for me to end up in an Ivy League school and beyond than it would have been for those who were racially or economically disadvantaged.

Yet, the disadvantages compared to white males in similar circumstances have also been my obstacles to overcome. My husband, who enthusiastically agreed to become a homemaker while I earned the paycheck, found that it was difficult and boring to fulfill that role and had no example among his friends or family to follow. So if I wanted to have a clean house and children not running wild, I pretty much had to make it happen by myself. I made very few friends because other women like myself were similarly stretched to the breaking point by working plus maintaining much of the responsibility for keeping a family running, and no one had time to maintain friendships!

So I too bow to these rule-breakers and feel a great solidarity with them. It was expressed in a previous chapter thread that the traumas caused by gender obstacles persist and are difficult to overcome, and although I certainly understand this, I prefer to look at how far we have come thanks to women like the early Zen practitioners described here. Is it unfair that women and gender preference/racial minorities have to work extra hard and perform extra-brilliantly to reap the same rewards? Perhaps, but perhaps it also will allow us to adapt better to a world which is becoming inevitably more diverse, where having a privileged, blind, fixed viewpoint will no longer be a viable strategy.

Gassho,
Jakuden
SatToday/LAH

Kokuu
08-26-2020, 09:27 PM
Hello all

I really love the points raised here and respect given to Mahapajapati who, like many of you say, sounds like a very strong woman and her status, as well as her relationship with the Buddha, may well have allowed her an entry point unlikely to be granted to many others of her gender.

That this chapter looks at the perspective of Yasodhara I like a lot. I remember going on a retreat before I was really Buddhist and someone asking about the Buddha abandoning his family and the question was pretty much batted away. I thought that was not good enough and reducing Yasodhara to a bit part in Siddhartha's story of going-forth is a disservice to her and the other women in his life. These women were not just there to play second-fiddle to the awakening of a male Śramaṇa but people in their own right with dreams and desires.

Some of the stories about how Yasodhara and Rahula (the Buddha's son with her) later came to join the sangha often sound a lot to me like a manufactured happy ending to negate some of the fact that he abandoned them to go on his spiritual quest. Would people have looked so favourably on Yasodhara if she had done that?

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-

Onka
08-26-2020, 10:27 PM
My interest passions regularly manifest in the use of strong language and aggressive acts. I'm committed to learning how to communicate less aggressively which is no doubt a product of being raised in a tough working class area and growing up literally fighting for everything. Just over 12 months of Buddhism practice is not long enough to undo 48 years of conditioning. I will follow this important thread closely but will limit my input because I want ALL voices to be heard.
Thank you Jakuden for your post above, personal stories highlight how far we've come but also how far we have to go.
Gassho
Onka
Sat today

nknibbs
08-26-2020, 10:44 PM
Hello all

I really love the points raised here and respect given to Mahapajapati who, like many of you say, sounds like a very strong woman and her status, as well as her relationship with the Buddha, may well have allowed her an entry point unlikely to be granted to many others of her gender.

That this chapter looks at the perspective of Yasodhara I like a lot. I remember going on a retreat before I was really Buddhist and someone asking about the Buddha abandoning his family and the question was pretty much batted away. I thought that was not good enough and reducing Yasodhara to a bit part in Siddhartha's story of going-forth is a disservice to her and the other women in his life. These women were not just there to play second-fiddle to the awakening of a male Śramaṇa but people in their own right with dreams and desires.

Some of the stories about how Yasodhara and Rahula (the Buddha's son with her) later came to join the sangha often sound a lot to me like a manufactured happy ending to negate some of the fact that he abandoned them to go on his spiritual quest. Would people have looked so favourably on Yasodhara if she had done that?

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-

Excellent points!

I recall when I first learned about the Buddha I had a tough time with him leaving his family.

Gassho,
Nick
SatLah

KristaB
08-26-2020, 11:33 PM
Oh, Jakuden and Kokuu-your posts are just beautiful. Thank you! And Onka, I very much value your posts and how deeply your sense of justice is felt. I learn so much from all the voices here.
Gassho,
Krista
st/lah

Geika
08-27-2020, 11:24 PM
While road tripping the past weekend, I happened to pass a temple in Mahapajapati's name. It brightened my day to see that she did not pass into obscurity even out here in California.

Gassho
Sat today, lah

Jundo
08-27-2020, 11:37 PM
While road tripping the past weekend, I happened to pass a temple in Mahapajapati's name. It brightened my day to see that she did not pass into obscurity even out here in California.

Gassho
Sat today, lah

Pardon my dropping in. It is this place ...



Mahapajapati Monastery is a meditation monastery for women dedicated to living the Buddha's teachings. We are a monastic and contemplative community in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, and as such, we value both solitude and social harmony. We invite you to share in our simple, quiet life of practice and study.

The monastery is in Pioneertown, California, on eighty acres of high desert in the southern part of the state. Founded in 2007 by Therese Duchesne, Mahapajapati Monastery has been under the guidance of Ayya Gunasari as abbess and spiritual director since that time.

The monastery's primary purpose is to give women the opportunity to ordain as bhikkhunis—fully ordained Buddhist nuns—and to practice in accordance with the Dhamma and the rules of monastic discipline taught by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago. We believe that by living and practicing in this way, we can be of the greatest benefit to ourselves and to society as a whole by improving our own hearts and minds and helping others to do the same. Currently there is one bhikkhuni and a silashin in residence.
http://www.mahapajapati.com/the-monastery.html

... considered actually rather "radical" as women are still denied full Ordination in much of the Theravada tradition:


[The founder of the temple] Ayya Gunasari was born in Burma (now Myanmar) in 1932. She went to medical school there and then immigrated to the United States with her husband in 1961 to pursue a post-graduate degree. She became an anaesthesiologist and raised five children. Ayya Gunasari began meditating in the late 1970s with Mahasi Sayadaw, Taung Pulu Sayadaw, Sayadaw U Silananda, and Sayadaw U Pandita. She was a serious meditator and would invite these teachers to come and teach at her home, where she would run retreats free of charge. ... She began to do research and discovered that there were a few bhikkhunis who had been recently ordained in the Theravada tradition. She spoke to her teacher Sayadaw U Silananda about what she had discovered, and he said that the lineage of bhikkhunis had been lost in ancient times and that Burmese monks believed that it could not be reestablished. As Ayya Gunasari continued to do research, she continued to show her findings to Sayadaw U Silananda. He told her that he was aware of Buddhist monks in the earlier part of the 1900s who had helped bhikkhunis and who were criticized—and one was forced to disrobe—because of the disapproval of their fellow monks. He told her that he could not help her or he would suffer the same fate that those monks had. However, he did not say that she shouldn't ordain. Instead, he asked, “What would you do if you didn't have someone to give you these precepts?” Ayya Gunasari, ever determined, told him that she would go in front of a Buddha image and take them herself. Sayadaw U Silananda picked up the phone and called Venerable Walpola Piyananda, the Chief Sangha Nayaka Thero of the Sri Lankan Sangha in North America and asked him to help Ayya Gunasari to ordain.


In 2002, then aged 70 and a grandmother, Ayya Gunasari entered into monastic life as a samaneri (novice), ordained by Venerable Piyananda and Venerable Pannaloka Mahathera at Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara in Los Angeles. It was Sayadaw U Silananda who gave her the name “Gunasari,” which means one who has the essence of virtue.

After her samaneri ordination, Ayya Gunasari went to her homeland of Burma in order to do an intensive retreat under the guidance of her teacher Sayadaw U Pandita. When he saw her in her samaneri robes, he asked her to change into the robes of a ten-precept thilashin, because he said that the monks would be shocked that she had ordained as a samaneri. Ayya Gunasari was heartbroken, but acceded to her teacher's request. After finishing the retreat, she left Burma for Sri Lanka with a renewed sense of the plight of Buddhist women and the issue of inequality. She never returned to Burma again.

In 2003, Ayya Gunasari was ordained as a bhikkhuni in Sri Lanka. Following her full ordination, she returned to the United States to live. She stayed in various dhamma centers and in a supporter's garage. It took years for her teacher, Sayadaw U Pandita, to recognize her as a bhikkhuni, but eventually he did.
http://www.mahapajapati.com/sangha.html

Gassho, J

STLah

Geika
08-27-2020, 11:51 PM
I believe that is the place! I was in the high desert. What a nice coincidence, I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't been staring at Google Maps!

Gassho
Sat today, lah

Onka
08-28-2020, 01:35 AM
Pardon my dropping in. It is this place ...



... considered actually rather "radical" as women are still denied full Ordination in much of the Theravada tradition:



Gassho, J

STLah

I had an extraordinarily strong physical and emotional reaction to reading this. It's no secret that I wish to ordain at some point as it's something that I've wanted to do since I was very young but life became life and continues to be life, but what a story.
Thank you Geika, Google Maps, and Jundo.
Gassho
Onka
STLAH

Hoseki
08-28-2020, 12:11 PM
Hi folks,


I'm a little behind in the reading (about a week) but I just wanted to ask a question of everyone. Do you think that when Siddhartha Gautama left home it might not have been that big a loss to his family? I don't mean they wouldn't miss him but he was a prince so I would think (perhaps mistakenly) their material conditions would be meet and if the gender roles were very strict he might not have had much to do with the youngster. I don't know anything about parenting during that time in that location so maybe he was a great dad until he left. Any what just a thought.

Apologizes about the length.

Gassho
Hoseki
Sattoday/lah

KristaB
08-28-2020, 01:10 PM
Hi folks,


I'm a little behind in the reading (about a week) but I just wanted to ask a question of everyone. Do you think that when Siddhartha Gautama left home it might not have been that big a loss to his family? I don't mean they wouldn't miss him but he was a prince so I would think (perhaps mistakenly) their material conditions would be meet and if the gender roles were very strict he might not have had much to do with the youngster. I don't know anything about parenting during that time in that location so maybe he was a great dad until he left. Any what just a thought.

Apologizes about the length.

Gassho
Hoseki
Sattoday/lah

I have wondered about this too. The accounts of Buddha’s life do say his father wanted him to be secular leader instead of a spiritual one. I don’t know enough about this history to know if leave taking for spiritual reasons was celebrated in families or despised. Or what the gender roles were at the time except that women had no real say in their choices in life. I have read in Barbara O’Brien’s Circle of the Way, that we read too much into the designation of “prince.” That these were warrior/herdsman familial clans. What was wealthy then might seem very different to us now. In “A Bigger Sky,” Pamela Weiss suggests that the Shakya clan would have spurned his wife after he left. Maddeningly, she cites no sources in her book. So many questions..
Gassho,
Krista
st

Kokuu
08-28-2020, 01:41 PM
... considered actually rather "radical" as women are still denied full Ordination in much of the Theravada tradition:

As are disabled people.

In western Zen there are more obstacles to disabled people ordaining than a woman.

Fortunately that is not the case at Treeleaf gassho2

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-

Hoseki
08-28-2020, 01:58 PM
I have wondered about this too. The accounts of Buddha’s life do say his father wanted him to be secular leader instead of a spiritual one. I don’t know enough about this history to know if leave taking for spiritual reasons was celebrated in families or despised. Or what the gender roles were at the time except that women had no real say in their choices in life. I have read in Barbara O’Brien’s Circle of the Way, that we read too much into the designation of “prince.” That these were warrior/herdsman familial clans. What was wealthy then might seem very different to us now. In “A Bigger Sky,” Pamela Weiss suggests that the Shakya clan would have spurned his wife after he left. Maddeningly, she cites no sources in her book. So many questions..
Gassho,
Krista
st

I have to say if his wife and child were shunned that would make leaving his family a pretty bad.

I would have hoped leaving ones family like that would have been at worst seen with indifference.

Gassho
Hoseki
Sattoday


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Geika
08-29-2020, 12:52 AM
Do you think that when Siddhartha Gautama left home it might not have been that big a loss to his family? I don't mean they wouldn't miss him but he was a prince so I would think (perhaps mistakenly) their material conditions would be meet and if the gender roles were very strict he might not have had much to do with the youngster. I don't know anything about parenting during that time in that location so maybe he was a great dad until he left. Any what just a thought.

I have seen the idea of his family being well off and thus taken care of proposed here and there when it comes up, but I think that in the case of the Buddha's true life situation, we will probably never really know. The entire story may not even be true.

But my opinion is that if the story is true, the act of him leaving home was considered more noble or holy an endeavor in that time than caring for his family, and that the Buddha may not have had any real role in that part of his life regardless of leaving or staying.


As are disabled people.

In western Zen there are more obstacles to disabled people ordaining than a woman.

Fortunately that is not the case at Treeleaf gassho2

It has been quite sad seeing how disabled people are treated by the "gatekeepers", but I am so grateful for us and all the other sanghas making a real attempt at rectification of this matter. I only wish it wasn't so hard to ask for in the first place, and that it hadn't taken so shamefully long.

Gassho
Sat today, lah