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Thread: Putting an End to Buddhist Patriarchy

  1. #1

    Putting an End to Buddhist Patriarchy

    Hello all

    This piece is mostly about Theravada but it is good to remember that traditional Buddhism is not without its problems when it comes to recognising women. I am very grateful that American Zen has a great tradition of female priests and teachers and for the gender balance here at Treeleaf.

    http://www.tricycle.com/blog/putting...ist-patriarchy


    Gassho
    Kokuu
    #sattoday

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
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    Apr 2013
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    Virginia, USA
    Thank you for sharing this update from Ajahn Brahm. It is sad that he had to be cut from his lineage for working for bhikkhuni ordination.

    I know he represents a very different "container" for teaching than Soto Zen, but Ajahn Brahm really is a jewel. I still listen to his talks often.

    Gassho,
    Sekishi
    #sattoday
    sekishi
    石志

    He/him. As a novice priest-in-training, this is simply an expression of my opinion. Please take it with a grain of salt.

  3. #3
    Just to make clear that it is not only Theravada Buddhism, Chan/Zen in China and Japan was about as sexist, and pretty much a man's world until recently (really even now in Asia, with some big big exceptions). That is why we chant the Zen "Patriarchs", only recently changed in the West to "Ancestors". Then, Zen Priests had to hunt around to put together a list of female Ancestors ...

    http://emptynestzendo.org/wp-content..._Schireson.pdf

    It is not about the theoretical lack of difference between male and female in the Dharma, where all differences of any kind are said to be swept away. Rather, it is a cultural fact of traditional, agricultural, conservative Asian societies and the traditional, conservative, Asian men who became Buddhist priests.

    Dogen, by the way, has a pretty amazing chapter of Shobogenzo which is completely devoted to heralding Buddhist women and female Teachers ... Raihaitokuzui. But on other days he talked like a traditional, conservative Asian man of the 13th century, which is what he was. So he was also apparently of two minds on this.

    A wonderful book ... wonderful ... of essays by modern women Zen Priests on Raiheitokuzui and other Dogen writings, reviewed here ...

    http://www.sfzc.org/misc/BD%20Sp%201...ew%20Heine.pdf

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Thanks for posting this, Kokuu

    I realize I really don't know what the role of women is in Soto Zen and specifically here at Treeleaf. I'm not afraid to ask stupid questions: What is the difference between a Priest, a Nun, and a Bhikkhuni? If a woman ordains at Treeleaf, would she be a Priest in training or a Nun in training? I read once, long ago, that Buddhist Nuns in monastic settings are generally subservient to the Priests, is that true? (I hope not.) Is there any difference at all in our Lineage between ordained women and ordained men? Are there still extra vows for women? Anything else we girls should know??

    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

  5. #5
    In our Sangha, we fully transcend and each fully embody "priest and lay and male and female". In other words, no difference whatsoever and we are each who we are. I ometimes say that, in our Sangha, we are both priest and lay ... and the best terms might thus be "Play" or "Leist".

    If you would like to read a good report on what it is to be a female priest/nun (just Western words for niso ... 尼僧) in Japanese Soto Zen ...

    https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/1854

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-01-2015 at 07:36 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    In our Sangha, we fully transcend and each fully embody "priest and lay and male and female". In other words, no difference whatsoever and we are each who we are. I ometimes say that, in our Sangha, we are both priest and lay ... and the best terms might thus be "Play" or "Leist".
    Hi Jundo,

    Glad to hear it!

    That article shows great strides for Nuns in Japan but... hmm... hopefully we will take equality the rest of the way here at Treeleaf. We are the future, after all!

    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

  7. #7
    Oh, this triggered an outburst of dictionarianism!

    My Japanese friend is the only friend refusing me to call me by my childhood (still used) nickname, because of its German pronunciation
    dani (dunny)
    だに which means - "oh no, not a good name, I can't call you that!" - a mite.
    The first part seems to be a bad packhorse, too.

    So I seem to be a mite-lay packhorse
    No mite allergy, but the whip might have struck a bone or two

    Gassho,
    Danny
    #sattoday

  8. #8
    Thanks for the link, Kokuu. I really admire Ajahn Brahm for ordaining Bhikkhunis, doing the right thing in the face of so much conservative opposition.

    I wouldn't recommend reading the some of the comments though...............

    _/\_
    Ade
    Sat today

  9. #9
    Thank you for posting this, Kokuu. I read it last night, and was so glad to see Ajahn Brahm writing about the need to ordain women. I don't normally read comments, but I did last night, and it was so disappointing to see how much resistance there is even among Tricycle readers, which I *assume* to be demographically majority westerners. (By which I guess I *assume* they would be more equality minded, which is a lame assumption on my part, I realize.)

    Reading the comments that were in opposition to the ordination of women because it wasn't "by the book" enough.... It reminded me of a bunch of lawyers trying to subvert the principle of a law by arguing over where the comma was placed. Of course I guess the other side feels the same way about Ajahn Brahm, too. In any case, that argument was predictable.

    What really kind of got me is how the idea of doing something that would help women, not just spiritually, but overall (issues of equality and how that ties into poverty, etc) was just point blank dismissed. Just kicked in passing. Like it was some kind of joke for Ajahn Brahm to have even brought it up. I thought it was the most important part of the whole argument, really.

  10. #10
    Hello,

    Thank you for the moment.

    If women want to lower themselves to the level of men - that's up to women.


    Gassho,
    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  11. #11
    I hope this is not a repeat - I don't see it mentioned above:

    Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters

    I have read a few extracts and have heard good things about this book.

    Sat 2-day

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by michaeljc View Post
    I hope this is not a repeat - I don't see it mentioned above:

    Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters

    I have read a few extracts and have heard good things about this book.

    Sat 2-day
    Thank you very much Michael. Yes, that is a good one, on our recommended list.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...REELEAF-SANGHA

    Another book ...

    The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/086...2HSF2321AYD5HX


    Another, although not just about Zenny women, is ...

    Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom
    http://www.amazon.com/Women-Way-Disc...men+of+the+way

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  13. #13
    Hi all

    Yes, sad to read the comments although most seemed to come from a Theravadin man and I have noticed that Theravadins from Buddhist countries can tend to be quite conservative in their outlook. None of the arguments (such as changing one part of the vinaya causes the whole deck of cards to come tumbling down) was very convincing. In any case, now Buddhism has had contact with the west, many teachers are changing their attitude on this. It may well have happened anyway.

    Tibetan Buddhism can also be very resistant to change so it is great to see HH Karmapa XVIIth proposing something very similar:

    http://kagyuoffice.org/gyalwang-karm...ns-ordination/

    With respect to the books, I really like The Hidden Lamp and am very grateful that Zenshin Florence and all the contributors have made such an effort to reveal the amount we owe to female ancestors in the Zen tradition. Receiving the Marrow is next up on my reading list.

    The meeting of Buddhism with feminism seems to be one of the great things about dharma coming west. Hopefully it will continue to shape the root traditions as well as our own flowering sanghas.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    #sattoday

  14. #14
    Kokuu, you highlighted American Zen in your first post. I'm interested that you said American and not "Western" -- is patriarchy still a problem on the other side of the pond?

    #sattoday
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  15. #15
    Kaishin

    We don't have much of a Zen tradition in the UK (more Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada in line with our colonial past) and I am not too familiar with what happens in continental Europe (although do know that Catherine Genno Pages has a centre in Paris). So American Zen still remains the major case study for Zen in the west.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    #sattoday

  16. #16
    Hi All,

    there's a pretty good study guide on Women in Buddhism over at Everyday Zen:

    http://everydayzen.org/study-guide/women-buddhism/

    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

  17. #17
    patriarchy still a problem on the other side of the pond?
    I believe not. The only permanent teacher in New Zealand is female. I believe that the situation in most developed Western countries is such that no one even notices if a pupil or teacher is female. - beyond what we may notice in any other setting.

    m

    sat 2-day

  18. #18
    I have read the Women of the Way volume that Jundo mentions. The preface, if I remember correctly, details the author's pilgrimage to Eihei-ji and the discrimination she faced there. The book itself is made up of accounts of women in Zen who have been overlooked. A great book.

    Gassho,
    Matt
    #SatToday

  19. #19
    I do want to say one thing about "discrimination" against women in Buddhism, and I need to be very very careful to explain myself.

    It is very awkward to judge the values of centuries past, and the social structures of pre-industrial, agricultural societies by modern, 21st century values. These were class based societies, everyone had their "place" and their was little fluid movement. It is wonderful that we now value equality of the sexes, but other societies and times did not. (What we see now among the Taliban, folks, in their treatment of women was the norm in West Europe and America until only about a century ago). It may offend us now, but that is because we are imposing our vision of social equality and fluidity. It is a breath of fresh air now, but just was not so for thousands of years.

    According to the story, the Buddha was very hesitant to admit women into the Sangha and only did so because he was begged. Even then, he imposed many restrictions including that a male priest, even if ordained for 1 day, was senior to any woman no matter her length of experience. Why? Most say that he simply did not want to challenge the accepted social norms of the time. Perhaps he himself was part of, and actually believed, those norms. Hard to say.

    http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddhis...dhistwomen.htm

    When one visits Eiheiji and such places, by the way, there is a tug of war because those places have one foot in the 21st century, one foot in the 13th. In any event, all of Japan (in my experience) is still back in the 1950's as far as women's equality ... with a women's place still being seen as primarily in the home as mother and homemaker. There is limited social fluidity for women in business, politics and such aside from a few exceptions. And (if I may observe from living here many years) I would say that the women of Japan are as responsible as the men for that fact, given that the vast majority of women here generally want and choose to be in the home and not in business etc.

    http://marklsl.tripod.com/Writings/japan.htm

    Unfortunately, that also means there are limited options for many Japanese women who do not want that. (Also, if I may say, there tend to be many articles like the following written with a certain bias that "the Japanese women should want that, and something is wrong that they do not" ... something the vast majority of Japanese women themselves might disagree with.

    http://www.economist.com/news/briefi...es-and-country

    Most Japanese women seem to voluntarily choose and celebrate traditional women's roles for themselves as wives and mothers, although supporting the right of women not to so if they wish. A recent poll which may surprise some ... and I would say that the poll reflects merely what women believe for "women in general". In fact, I believe that the numbers supporting "stay at home raising the kids" would be higher if the women were talking about themselves, and what they will actually do in their own life.

    About 40 percent of respondents in their 20s to 40s believe husbands should work full time while their wives stay at home, a recent survey has found.

    Those who favored the idea accounted for 39.3 percent of the male respondents and 43.0 percent of the female respondents, according to the survey by the Meiji Yasuda Institute of Life and Wellness.

    The results are in stark contrast with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aim to increase the ratio of women in the workforce as part of his government’s growth strategy.

    Among the unmarried male respondents, 34.2 percent preferred the idea of working husbands with stay-at-home wives, compared with 37.9 percent in favor among the unmarried female respondents. The proportion came to 42.5 percent among the married male respondents and 46.1 percent among their female counterparts.

    The results were “unexpected,” an analyst at the institute said. “This, however, may be because many believe that the current situation is not good for women to continue working after childbirth.”

    Of all male respondents, 64.4 percent said women should concentrate on parenting while their children are very young. Female respondents who supported that view reached 70.9 percent. The survey was conducted over the Internet in late March. Valid responses totaled 3,616.
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/201.../#.VNRCJZ2Ud8E

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-07-2015 at 01:51 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  20. #20
    And - we should not forget that within my parents generation the situation in most Western countries was similar to what Jundo has described in Japan. I witnessed it.

    m

    Sat 2-day

  21. #21
    When I was in my early 20s I did four tours of Japan with a punk band. The lead singer is Japanese and now lives in Tokyo with his wife and child. When I first went there I figured out pretty quickly that the society was much kinder to men than women, even to someone like me who was a foreigner with barely a grasp on the culture and language. This was especially ironic because the only reason we were able to afford to travel through the country was because the singers wife worked for an English school and had to travel throughout the country in a van owned by the school. We routed our tours around her work schedule. She'd do her thing. We'd do ours and everyone back in the van. If it wasn't for Shino, there was no possible way those tours would've worked.

    Me and the drummer were the only white guys and frequently we would get confused by some aspect of the culture. The singer would always say, "Why do you do what you do?"

    Gassho

    Sat Today

  22. #22
    Hello,

    So neat,

    (Paraphrase) "You're either in the van, or you're off the van."


    Gassho,
    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

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