When conditions are sufficient, a cloud transforms into rain, snow, or hail. The cloud has never been born and it will never die. This insight of signlessness and interbeing helps us recognize that all lives continue in different forms. Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is in transformation.
– Calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh
It is interesting to note that it’s not just Roman Catholics and Muslims struggling these days with embracing the Divine Feminine.
Growing women’s influence within theology, philosophy, religion, the arts and particularly STEM careers is transforming our human capacity for compassion and cooperation. I honor this evolutionary shift as more women respond to the Sacred call to lead, to guide and to heal.
Good reading. Blessings from your Compassionate Gardener!
This article from Tricycle can be found here: http://www.tricycle.com/blog/putting-end-buddhist-patriarchy
January 30, 2015
Putting an End to Buddhist Patriarchy
In order to become a force for social change, Buddhism needs to rid itself of enduring ills—the barring of female ordination first among them. Ajahn Brahm
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, an African-American woman refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white passenger. This simple act of defiance became one of the most important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
Before she passed away in 2005, Rosa Parks became a Buddhist—at age 92. One can speculate that this female icon—and fierce opponent of discrimination—chose Buddhism because it lends itself to the advancement of social justice causes.
She was right.
Buddhism should advance the particular social justice issues described in United Nations Millenium Development Goal Number Three (MDG 3): Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. For Buddhism to grow in our modern world, we need to do more than teach meditation, preach inspiring sermons, and make the sutras available online. We are good at studying, publishing, and spreading the word of Buddhism. Where we have not been very successful is showcasing the compassion and selflessness of the dharma by our actions. We have written many more words in our books than what few kind words we have spoken to the poor, lonely, and desperate. We have built so many more temples than orphanages.
Theravada Buddhism’s current male leadership, in particular, needs to clearly demonstrate its commitment to MDG 3 through the acceptance of bhikkhuni [nun] ordination. Only then can the Theravada sangha use its considerable influence to make a fairer world—one where people are judged by their character, not by their gender.
Theravada Buddhist monks, generally speaking, are very conservative. Claiming to be the guardians of “original Buddhism,” they consider one of their most important duties the preservation of these precious early teachings. However, monks of all traditions in all countries—and Buddhist lay scholars as well—accept that there were fully ordained women, called bhikkhuni, in the lifetime of the Buddha. Moreover, in these early teachings, the Buddha clearly states that he seeks to give full ordination to women:
Ananda, once I was staying at Uruvela on the bank of the river Neranjara [present day Bodh Gaya] under the Goatherd’s Banyan tree, when I had just attained supreme enlightenment. And Mara the Evil One came to me, stood to one side, and said, ‘May the Blessed One now attain final Nibbana; may the Sugata [Buddha] now attain final Nibbana. Now is the time for the Blessed Lord’s final Nibbana.’
At this, I said to Mara: ‘Evil One, I will not take final Nibbana until I have bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, lay men, and lay women followers who are accomplished, trained, skilled, learned, knowers of the dhamma, trained in conformity with the dhamma, correctly trained and walking in the path of the dhamma, who will pass on what they have gained from their teacher, teach it, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear, until they shall be able, by means of the dhamma, to refute false teachings that have arisen and teach the dhamma of wondrous effect.
Theravada Buddhists should have an advantage over other major world religions because their tradition explicitly gives equity to women. Christianity has no tradition of gender equality in its priesthood—nor does Islam, Judaism, or the various schools of Hinduism. Buddhism stood ahead of its time in granting such status to women from “when [the Buddha] had just attained supreme enlightenment” at Bodh Gaya.
Nevertheless, there remain two significant obstacles to the acceptance of bhikkhuni ordination in Theravada Buddhism: (1) Ignorance about who makes the decisions that govern the sangha, and (2) Ignorance of the Vinaya, the rules established by the Buddha that restrict what decisions may be made.
As to that first point, for instance, many monks in Thailand argue that a 1928 ruling from the Sangharaja [head Buddhist monk] of Thailand, Phra Bancha Somdet Phra Sangharacha Jiao Gromluang Jinawarn Siriwad, banned the ordination of female monks:
It is unallowable for any bhikkhu to give the going-forth [ordination] to women. Any woman who wishes to ordain as a samaneri [novice nun] in accordance with the Buddha’s allowances, has to be ordained by a fully ordained bhikkhuni. The Buddha laid down the rule that only a bhikkhuni over 12 vassas [an annual three-month retreat] is eligible to be a preceptor [ceremonial guide who delivers vows]. Since there are no more fully fledged bhikkhunis to pass on the lineage, there are thus no samaneris who have obtained a proper ordination from a fully fledged bhikkhuni.
Besides the antiquity of the ruling, one could also point out that the Sangharaja of Thailand, together with the Thai Council of Elders [senior monks], is only permitted to rule on matters directly concerning the monks and novices of the two main Thai Buddhist sects, Mahanikaya and Dhammayuttanikaya. They are not legally empowered to rule over the affairs of other monastic groups, such as Mahayana monks or nuns. The wait will never end for those well-meaning monks holding out hope that the Thai Council of Elders will sanction the legitimacy of Theravada bhikkhunis. The Thai Council of Elders, after all, is not legally entitled to rule on matters beyond its remit.
As for the Vinaya, the second obstacle that I listed, each monastic community is bound to act within its rules.
Renowned Theravada scholar monk Bhikkhu Analayo argues that the Thai Sangharaja’s 1928 ruling—and thus, the Vinaya in its current form—has no bearing because it directly contradicts the Buddha’s original teachings. In a recent publication, “The Revival of the Bhikkuni Order and the Decline of the Sasana,” Analayo argues persuasively that the Buddha gave authority for bhikkhunis to receive ordination in a dual ceremony—both in a sangha of bhikkhunis and then in a sangha of bhikkhus.
By restoring equity to women in the Theravada sangha through reinstating bhikkhuni ordination, we will address the inferior status of women in many Theravada countries, promote gender equity in education, and thereby make a strong statement in support of the third UN Millennium Development Goal: gender equality and the empowerment of women.
In a recent paper, scholars Emma Tomalin and Caroline Starkey explore the role that Buddhism in Thailand and Cambodia plays in maintaining gender disparity in education. Ultimately they ask, “What is the relationship between the reassertion of women’s traditional ordination rights and female empowerment through education?” Since, as they note, “several scholars, both Thai and Western, have implicated Buddhism as one explanatory factor for the historical inequality between genders, particularly in the poorest areas,” many advocates of bhikkhuni ordination see “a direct relationship between the low status of women in many Buddhist traditions and the inferior status of women within Buddhist societies.”
By fixing our own house first, we have the considerable opportunity and moral authority—through our books and sermons—to inspire our Buddhist followers to work toward gender equality in spheres other than religion. Such action would lead to a world with less violence, better health, and more prosperity.
Ajahn Brahm is a British Theravada monk and abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Serpentine, Australia.
“Have you noticed how we view every situation from a relativity perspective?
We immediately contemplate ways to make things different than they are, be it better, faster, bigger, warmer, bolder; it’s exhausting! Now imagine letting go of labels and evaluations, and allowing everything to be just as it is, without wishing for it to be any other way. Accept yourself, and then others, without needing to change anything. Feelings and emotions will inevitably continue to rise (both pleasant and unpleasant).
…simply be reminded to relax, to acknowledge that everything is temporary, including youth, health and life itself. All experiences are as transient as clouds in the sky: anger comes and goes, excitement rises and falls, and tears dry on their own. So practice tenderly watching your feelings and emotions as they move in and out of your mind, just like traffic on a busy street.
Remain aware of what goes on around you, but try to do it without the mind’s commentary. Observe without judgment, and experience life without resistance.
Opinions change, perspectives widen, and the opposite of what you know is also true. Take a step back and you’ll see that all of our anguish is self-inflicted. We assign meaning to everything, and simply refuse to accept it all as impermanent.
Instead of spending so much time thinking about what’s missing from your life, remind yourself (if only for twenty minutes a day), of everything you already have: from a comfortable bed to sleep on, to a roof over your head, to clean air, drinking water, food, clothes, friends, functioning lungs, and a beating heart.
When you approach each moment with gratitude, not only will you stop experiencing life from a place of lack, you will experience abundance. And THAT is luxury! THAT is being rich!
Some people are so poor, all they have is money.
This chapter from Buddhist Boot Camp is called “True Luxury”. All the chapters in the book are about that short, and they can be read in any order. Each was originally a journal entry or a letter to friends over the course of a few years, later compiled into the book you have in your hands today. My hope is that the book never sits on a shelf, but that you keep passing it on to others, okay? It’s not a SHELF HELP book! LOL… keep the chain of love going! THAT is luxury… THAT is being rich!
With much love and gratitude, your brother, Timber Hawkeye.”*
*from Buddhist Boot Camp by Timber Hawkeye
Buddhism embraces a variety of rituals and practices intended to help believers along the path to enlightenment. As an organized religion, Buddhism does not have a lot of rules or requirements. A friend says the rule in Buddhism is that there is no rule.
Buddhist express themselves and their spiritual beliefs in a variety of ways.
For instance, some Buddhists worship, pray, meditate and request blessings in temples… others do not. Some Buddhists attend temple ceremonies regularly. Other Buddhists have never stepped foot into a temple. Some value pilgrimages to Buddhist holy sites in India. Others don’t. Some set aside a special place in their home where an altar might focus their attention and intention of meditation. Other Buddhists prefer to meditate on quiet beaches or in silent prayer chapels. Some meditate alone… others meditate in groups. There are lots of ways to practice Buddhism.
We know that the Dalai Llama has told us: “Don’t try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.”
It’s important to note that Buddha never suggested that he was above other people and did not want to become a deity to be worshiped. Buddha is NOT a god and never suggested he should be considered as such. History tells us that early art depicted Buddha only by representation, often by his footprints, or the symbolic dharma wheel to represent his teaching. In fact, it wasn’t until several hundred years after his death that statues of him even began to appear. The Mahayanist sect began to elevate Buddha to a higher level than ordinary man because he was enlightened.
The practice of meditation is fundamental to every sect of Buddhism. It comes to us directly from the Buddha’s life experiences and teachings. Meditation is a pathway to liberation, enlightenment, bliss and Nirvana. It’s a process of relaxation and mental concentration and mindfulness that is practiced to be mastered. Meditation trains the mind to become empty of all thoughts. It opens the self to enlightenment. Its effects are peaceful,calming and restful. Many report that their perspectives change as a direct result of meditation.
Meditation is not staring off into space, daydreaming or rehearsing/reviewing the day’s agenda. It’s an attempt to expand consciousness… to transform. On the one hand, meditation is stopping, calming, resting. On the other, its allowing for the possibility of new levels of awareness. Meditation does not have to be done sitting down. In fact, some meditate lying down or walking. A friend meditates while running. Not all people close their eyes while meditating.
It really doesn’t matter how long meditation is. Actually, at first meditation can be as short as five or ten minutes. The ideal length of the meditation is determined by you and the pace of life that you choose. Meditation should be a regular experience – daily is a great start.
Meditation rests the mind and body in a peaceful state. This allows us for a safe internal place to heal old wounds, forgive past hurts and release negative feelings around current challenges. Meditation helps release. It slows us down toward a receptive and reflective state while inviting to look deeper and deeper within ourselves. With consistent practice, many report that meditation can begin to occur naturally as people integrate the process and its benefits into everyday life.
Mantras are sacred sounds or words that help focus one’s attention. Many use mantras to help focus their meditations. Some pick their own mantras that work best for them… others are given a mantra by a spiritual teacher or monk.
Sutras are teachings. Buddha’s teachings were initially passed on by reciting word for word what he had spoken in his teaching. These oral traditions were called sutras and always begin with “thus have I heard”. They are a large collection of sermons and poems and often include stories to provide a parable or message.
These sutras were meant by him to lead us to understanding but at the same time, not for us to depend on any doctrine, even the words spoken by him. The Buddha teaches us to understand more how to live, than why we are here. The sutras are practical and provide methods to enable us to reach that understanding. After hundreds of years of oral traditions, these sutras were written down and began to form the basis of today’s understanding of Buddhism. Obviously, like other old and revered texts, there is continuous debate about the meaning, and the input from the many different transcribers of these verbal teachings.
One of the most popular sutra is the “Lotus Sutra,” which was one of the Buddhas teachings close to his death. The lotus is a recurring symbol in Buddhism and represents the enlightened person, starting like a lotus flower, with roots in the mud, growing through the water to finally see the daylight at the top of the water. The Lotus Sutra is particularly influential in Japan where some followers embrace this teaching often by chanting whole sections. The Lotus Sutra promises salvation for all beings, and gives the message that everyone is able to reach the Buddha mind.
Mudras are symbolic hand gestures.
Prayer Wheels are an aid in reciting mantras with the turn of a wheel.
Diet – The Buddhist teaching where minimal harm is made on the environment and compassion for all life is significant and usually is reflected in diet. Buddha was not strictly a vegetarian, and was, overall, a very pragmatic man. We know that he would accept, and would allow his monks to accept any food, with or without meat, which was offered as long as it had not been specifically prepared for them. Any meal which the monks prepared, or which was made for them, had to be vegetarian. That is, no animal was to be killed specifically for them. Many Buddhists today are primarily vegetarian. Increasingly, many Buddhists are also vegan (includes no dairy or eggs) due to ethical concerns regarding animal cruelty. Some Buddhists also avoid root vegetables (potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic) because pulling the roots from the earth kills the plant.
Buddhism is often as a “different” religious path that frequently resonates with persons who are convinced that the “answer” is to be found within. I believe it’s one way… but not the only way.
BUDDHISM as an ETHICAL WAY to LIVE
We understand that India’s social caste system was unimportant to Buddha. He keenly focused on the the world within… the outside world mattered little. He created the first monastery known where men and women lived together. He openly ordained women as nuns in a society where women were second class citizens to men. Frankly, he didn’t honor societal status or divisions. His teachings were for the common good of everyone and he encouraged his followers to spread his message.
We also know Buddha didn’t much respect the elaborate Vedic religious rituals so popular in his day (sounds a bit like Jesus’s disdain for Jewish priestly classes and money changers in the Temple of Jerusalem). He created the sangha – a community of similar believers brought together for the common good. Buddhism is meant to live out in community. The Sangha brings Buddhism to life and keeps it alive.
Avoid The Three Poisons of greed, anger and ignorance by practicing generosity, compassion and wisdom.
Think for yourself, ask questions, discuss and debate. Don’t believe anything on blind faith.
Morality is simple: Be compassionate.
The Five Moral Precepts
Respect all life. Don’t kill.
Honor everything that’s not yours. Don’t steal. Return what you borrow.
Refrain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence.
Tell the truth. Don’t lie or gossip.
Avoid intoxication. Remain mindful. Remain focused. Keep a clear head.
Take control of yourself. Be in charge of your thinking, feeling and behaviors.
Buddha taught that everything is interconnected and interdependent. Enlightenment had shown him the oneness of all creation. Living is the unity of the physical and spiritual. We are spiritual beings experiencing physicality. The self and its environment are one and inseparable. Everything around us is the reflection of our inner lives. Mind and body are one. Equality of gender, race and creed are paramount. Respect for all living things is now… it is NOT the goal. We are all one.
“Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel.”