SirPalomides

Women and Buddhahood

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As much as I admire Buddhism, one thing that's been a snag for me is the assumption that all Buddhas are male. Among the 32 characteristics of a Buddha is the "well-retracted male organ". This is illustrated, for instance, in the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra, where the Dragon princess instantly becomes a Buddha but in doing so necessarily assumes a male form. Likewise, Amitabha's 35th vow promises that women who aspire to be reborn in the Pure Land will do so as men. Sometimes these passages are cited as evidence of equality in Buddhism but IMO they really argue the opposite, that is, while women may become Buddhas, and attain Buddhahood in this life, they must do so as men.

 

I am aware of some countervailing tendencies, e.g. the existence of female Buddhas in the Vajrayana tradition, and the feminization of Guan Yin in the Sinosphere, but I feel like these don't really rub away what seems to me a misogynistic substrate.

 

I want to be wrong about this, I really do, and if someone can convince me, I would be grateful. Since I am particularly attracted to the Pure Land tradition, if someone can argue from within the view of that school that would be a bonus.  

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I would like to add a note of optimistic caution - I have seen many posts here regarding male and female differences and in the past it often has lead to shutting down the post and members getting banned either temporarily or permanently. 

 

But with that said - it is a discussion worth having. 

 

I would toss out any concern for the 32 Characteristics of a Buddha - Buddhas appear in all manner of human form and may come and go un-noticed. 

 

I have had the great pleasure of being with a number of Awakened females and it is striking to see the depth and magnitude of compassion that they in many ways appear to have in many respects because of their gender.  This is not a slightly deeper general aspect - it is significant and spectacular. 

 

Prior to Awakening and in general life,  women live in a far far greater spectrum of frequencies within their embodiment. (men are generally between 8-15,000 cycles whereas women are typically from 25-50,000 cycles - I cannot explain that easily so just take it as it is for now)  In this they feel and associate within a much greater field and are far more adapted to interact on many subtle levels.

 

Women are far less isolated within their embodiment - inherently capable of interactions that males are for the most part incapable of with regard to the embodiment of such interactions. And their bodies are capable of sharing their bodies with another body - and growing and nurturing both internal and external. 

 

The entire cosmos beats through a women with a clarity that is incomprehensible to a male embodiment. It is both a blessing and a considerable input on a scale that is no easy task to sort out.

 

The general richness of the female embodied experience would be overwhelming to the male embodiment.  Humanity is turning toward the female and teachings from Awakened and Ever Enlightening women are growing as never before on such a scale. It is still pathetic how females are treated and how ingrown our license as males to assumptive superiority or advantage is taken in stride.

 

I cannot express what a truly deep note a female can own with utter selflessness and ease - it is like a deep earth quake - in no effort.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Spotless
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I don't think buddhism is mysoginistic at all. Denigrating women is a root downfall in vajrayana.

 

Concerning the pure land I believe there is the simple fact that everybody is supposed to be equal there, completely so all assume the same form. However can we really talk of male and female at that level?

 

As for buddhas appearing as male, well males always had it kind easier and it might just simply be most conductive for spreading of the teachings.

 

But there is a number of enlightened women, female deities, etc. Also buddhists dont seem to force women into submission so there is that.

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On 11/26/2019 at 1:29 PM, SirPalomides said:

As much as I admire Buddhism, one thing that's been a snag for me is the assumption that all Buddhas are male. Among the 32 characteristics of a Buddha is the "well-retracted male organ". This is illustrated, for instance, in the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra, where the Dragon princess instantly becomes a Buddha but in doing so necessarily assumes a male form. Likewise, Amitabha's 35th vow promises that women who aspire to be reborn in the Pure Land will do so as men. Sometimes these passages are cited as evidence of equality in Buddhism but IMO they really argue the opposite, that is, while women may become Buddhas, and attain Buddhahood in this life, they must do so as men.

Jan Nattier, a well respected Western scholar of early Mahayana, who is also a woman, opines that the primary reason that it was considered Buddhas must be male in early Buddhism is that a Buddha is not just someone who is awakened, but someone who "turns the wheel", part of which is founding and leading an order of monks, and in ancient Indian society it would have been quite inconceivable to think of a woman founding and leading a group that includes men.  In a context where it is conceivable that a woman could found and lead a group that includes men, it would then become conceivable to have a female Buddha.  And you see just this in Tantric Buddhism.

 

As for the "well retracted male organ", this is an indication of complete victory over sexual desire - not only is the desire gone, but the very equipment itself is not even capable of the act.  This kind of thing is still spoken of in some Chinese practices, dealing with completely transmuting the energy that becomes sexual energy (jing) into spiritual energy.  And in circles where such things are practiced, it is understood that women can do the same thing, even though they don't have something that will retract when they are successful (though they will stop menstruating).

 

Hope that helps. 

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On 11/26/2019 at 2:29 PM, SirPalomides said:

As much as I admire Buddhism, one thing that's been a snag for me is the assumption that all Buddhas are male. Among the 32 characteristics of a Buddha is the "well-retracted male organ". This is illustrated, for instance, in the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra, where the Dragon princess instantly becomes a Buddha but in doing so necessarily assumes a male form. Likewise, Amitabha's 35th vow promises that women who aspire to be reborn in the Pure Land will do so as men. Sometimes these passages are cited as evidence of equality in Buddhism but IMO they really argue the opposite, that is, while women may become Buddhas, and attain Buddhahood in this life, they must do so as men.

 

I am aware of some countervailing tendencies, e.g. the existence of female Buddhas in the Vajrayana tradition, and the feminization of Guan Yin in the Sinosphere, but I feel like these don't really rub away what seems to me a misogynistic substrate.

 

I want to be wrong about this, I really do, and if someone can convince me, I would be grateful. Since I am particularly attracted to the Pure Land tradition, if someone can argue from within the view of that school that would be a bonus.  

 

Buddhism, like every other spiritual tradition on earth, has been stained by a long history of patriarchal misogyny.

As in some other traditions, this is evolving. 

I know little about the Pure Land traditions and have little interest in argument.

I follow the Yungdrung Bön tradition so my words are influenced by the Tibetan tradition and my primary practice is Dzogchen.

In this paradigm, Buddha transcends gender. 

Buddhamind exists within all sentient beings. 

The Yungdrung Bön tradition embraces many female figures - deities, dakinis, and realized masters.

They have also created a training program for women to become geshes (equivalent to a PhD in Western education), and fully accredited to teach.

Overall things are improving for women in Buddhism and Bön, but there is still a long way to go, IMO.

Here is a wonderful book about realized female masters in the Bön tradition - 
https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Essence-Khandro-Experiential-Lineage-Holders/dp/8170262828/ref=sr_1_2?qid=1575132307&refinements=p_27%3AYongdzin+Lopon+Tenzin+Namdak+Rinpoche&s=books&sr=1-2&text=Yongdzin+Lopon+Tenzin+Namdak+Rinpoche

 

Edited by steve
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On 11/26/2019 at 1:29 PM, SirPalomides said:

As much as I admire Buddhism, one thing that's been a snag for me is the assumption that all Buddhas are male. Among the 32 characteristics of a Buddha is the "well-retracted male organ". This is illustrated, for instance, in the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra, where the Dragon princess instantly becomes a Buddha but in doing so necessarily assumes a male form. Likewise, Amitabha's 35th vow promises that women who aspire to be reborn in the Pure Land will do so as men. Sometimes these passages are cited as evidence of equality in Buddhism but IMO they really argue the opposite, that is, while women may become Buddhas, and attain Buddhahood in this life, they must do so as men.

 

I am aware of some countervailing tendencies, e.g. the existence of female Buddhas in the Vajrayana tradition, and the feminization of Guan Yin in the Sinosphere, but I feel like these don't really rub away what seems to me a misogynistic substrate.

 

I want to be wrong about this, I really do, and if someone can convince me, I would be grateful. Since I am particularly attracted to the Pure Land tradition, if someone can argue from within the view of that school that would be a bonus.  

 

There has been a turning since the writing of the Lotus Sutra.  I would suggest that you read the Vairo Drahag, as it will describe at a higher level of refinement the buddha realization and why the body (male or female) does not really matter. It even gives the description of a female prostitute (and how sex or not also does not matter) who realizes buddha nature.

 

The Lotus sutra is more like an ‚Äúastral view‚ÄĚ from someone. Similar to the chapter of Revelations in the Bible.

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On 11/26/2019 at 7:29 PM, SirPalomides said:

As much as I admire Buddhism, one thing that's been a snag for me is the assumption that all Buddhas are male. Among the 32 characteristics of a Buddha is the "well-retracted male organ". This is illustrated, for instance, in the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra, where the Dragon princess instantly becomes a Buddha but in doing so necessarily assumes a male form. Likewise, Amitabha's 35th vow promises that women who aspire to be reborn in the Pure Land will do so as men. Sometimes these passages are cited as evidence of equality in Buddhism but IMO they really argue the opposite, that is, while women may become Buddhas, and attain Buddhahood in this life, they must do so as men.

 

I am aware of some countervailing tendencies, e.g. the existence of female Buddhas in the Vajrayana tradition, and the feminization of Guan Yin in the Sinosphere, but I feel like these don't really rub away what seems to me a misogynistic substrate.

 

I want to be wrong about this, I really do, and if someone can convince me, I would be grateful. Since I am particularly attracted to the Pure Land tradition, if someone can argue from within the view of that school that would be a bonus.  

 

Hi,

 

This is quite difficult to address and I have my own thoughts on this - which I can't say are very orthodox.  Of course in principle the Dharma is for everyone not just men - so from a general perspective there doesn't seem to much justification for suggesting anything misogynistic in Buddhism.

 

However if you look at how Buddhism developed in the first centuries after the Buddha you can see it became increasingly scholastic and monastic, developing quite large communities in monasteries and 'universities' who lived quite separate lives from the lay community and depending on royal subsidy.  In these communities which were almost all male an attitude to women and sex developed which can be characterised as negative because the monks were trying not to break their vows of celibacy.  This leached out and linked to general cultural mores which saw women as chattels or at least second class citizens.

 

This is probably why the tantric samaya vows (avoidance of root downfalls) specifically disallows the denigration of women - it was an adjustment to the general trend.  Obviously the tantricists had a quite different attitude to women and sex to other Buddhists.

 

It is said that the Buddha who created the role of monks (bikhsus) in order to free people up from daily life and the arduous social responsibilities imposed by Vedic religion on householders, resisted at first the idea of nuns but later allowed it being persuaded by his family.  But is said to have said that this meant that the dharma would not last as long because of it.

 

My own opinion is that the Buddhas original message was quite quickly captured by scholastics who did not understand non-dualism and fell into various attitudes such as misogyny.  This does not mean that all teachers and gurus were like this but that it was a general cultural mileu.

 

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I am afraid that no one can really 'wipe away' the distinct discrimination and abuse against women in Eastern culture in general. This is not a judgment on Eastern culture, but simply a fact of life as it was then. Democracy is a relatively unique phenomena that has only spread to the East in recent times, as far as I know. Even in the Western world, only some cultures ever had any concept of democracy, and even that was not what we have today. At the time of the Buddha, women had no rights as they do now, and even now there are many places around the world where women are not treated as equal to men. If women had to transform into men upon attaining enlightenment, it was only because they realized that men would have better opportunities for spiritual practice and teaching, (since women were kept barefoot and pregnant most of the time, and were only there to serve men). If those same female Buddhas were in today's world, I am sure they would have probably chosen to stay in female form.

 

Now, some women Buddhas refused to turn into men and they stayed women anyway, despite the difficulties. Tara would be a good example of a 'feminist' Buddha. I know she's a tantric deity and not specifically Pure Land, but she is there for everyone no matter who or where they are. As one Tara legend goes, when she was a princess in human form, she attained enlightenment, and when some man told her to pray to be reborn as a man,  she vowed to always come back as a woman! She wasn't having any b.s. talk thrown at her! So sir, LOL!  So, when you have doubts about women being thought of as enlightened in Buddhism, think of Tara and her no nonsense attitude! She represents all female women and the divine feminine potential for enlightenment.

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I have never had any exposure to an enlightened woman. If I had never had any exposure to evidence that there have been enlightened men I would not believe enlightened men exist so along the same lines of thinking I do not believe there have been enlightened women.

 

TBH, from what I do believe about women it would take some convincing to get me to believe in the prospect. In fact it would take some hard peer reviewed research proving that they are even capable of thinking freely and for themselves before I'd believe it.

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I don't mean to sound like I have a poor opinion of women, I really don't but I've come to realize that evolution has made women different then men for certain reasons and I base this claim on actual data, not on a jaded opinion of the opposite sex.

 Women go with the flow, and with what the collective is doing 10 times out of 10 and have hidden instincts that cause a leaning towards cognitive biases in their perceptions and judgment making.

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33 minutes ago, ion said:

I don't mean to sound like I have a poor opinion of women...  <snip>

*says this, then project your own cognitive bias and judgement which says exaclty that...?

 

36 minutes ago, ion said:

I base this claim on actual data, not on a jaded opinion of the opposite sex.

fact?  data?  could you share some of it?

 

36 minutes ago, ion said:

Women go with the flow, and with what the collective is doing 10 times out of 10 and have hidden instincts that cause a leaning towards cognitive biases in their perceptions and judgment making.

Perhaps something was lost in translation with this entire post.

Otherwise gender troll for the loss.

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Posted (edited)

First of all there are several documented differences between men and women. Neurological, physiological , and cognitively that are all documented. Men and womens brains are decidedly different and those differences can be seen when examining a brain. There are definitely differences in intellegence. This has been proven and there is no doubt about it in the scientific community, nor anything else I'm saying.

 

All the research and cross cultural anthropological data, which is also supported by data compiled from online dating apps says that women are hegymonous. This means they are always trying to climb the social hierarchy, infact they are basicly hardwired to be that way.

 

Buddha on the other hand was born a prince destined to be King during a time when your position on the caste, or social hierarchy was believe to be determined by practicing virtue and spiritually in past lives.

 

He did something which his Buddhahood was dependent on that a woman would be incapable of due to the inherent tendencies dependent on her design; he cast off all of his status, wealth, and power to become a low status male.

 

Casting off status is something that decidedly goes against everything a woman is designed to do as our species mating strategy. It is absolutely part of womanhood to seek opportunities to achieve more and more status to gain access to resources 

 

This might go against your political ideology, but it is ways like this that biology works. Animal behavior and mating strategies can be observed in any species.

 

These differences would hold a woman back from being a fully awakened Buddha like Gotama, but would not stop them from benefiting from the practice or being able to become very well versed in the religious doctrine.

 

Once there is a religion there is a status structure that a woman can climb and thrive in.

 

But in the sense of what Buddha did, a woman would not be capable, any more than Gotama would be capable of gestating and birthing another human.

 

 

Edited by ion
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Do you understand? To be one a Buddha you first have to choose to become the lowest status human there is. This goes against the natural tendencies of a woman to achieve status.

 

With status there is greater access to resources so it is not so perplexing that the female of our species that bare the children would naturally desire higher status because in our species status =resources and resources equal security for offspring.

 

Buddha's time the people who where pious and virtuous in a past life were rewarded by reincarnating as wealthy powerful men. Buddha chose to be a beggar which meant he was a bad man in past life.

 

People in Buddha's time who sought to better themselves through sincere devotion to a spiritual path would grow their hair long as an indicator of that status.

 

Buddha shaved his head. As a beggar with a shaved head he was the lowest status male in all of existence and it showed he wasn't going to try to even change that status by devoting himself to spirituality (longhair).

 

That is something only a man is capable of doing on purpose.

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In Tibet, the iconic feminine symbols revered as yidams, khandros, bodhisattvas and even buddhas - all of whom clearly personifications of wisdom and meditative consciousness,  the other half of a wholistic spiritual path has always been highly touted. 

 

There's no shortage of female buddhas in Tibet. They are both expressed as symbols, and personified as embodying the highest wisdom and meditative consciousness. In union with their male counterparts expressed as method or means, it symbolises completion/fruition. 

 

This pantheon of female buddhas pervade the whole of Tibetan Buddhism as well as Bön. 

 

Some of the more well-known female buddhas and bodhisattvas include Avalokiteshvara, Tara, Machig Labdron, Niguma, Sakyadevi, Yeshe Tsogyal, Mandarava and a list of others, with some manifesting as yidams and others as khandros (dakinis), though none restricted to any particular manifestation. 

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Women have a different path from men.

Women have smaller brains and conceptual intelligence, but they have larger emotional minds ... it is a shame that motherhood and nurturing has been destroyed in this mental and stressful world, there is no place for women.

And has corporate materialism takes over, there is no place for men either; only brainless cowardly sex-less slaves are required.

Anybody who is a women in full or a man in full will be destroyed, it's too dangerous for the machine.

Buddha, Jesus, Laozi ... these people were rebels, they fought, they were individualistic, they fucked people off ... this is part of the extreme nature that is in some men, they are more extreme.

The path, begins with your biological psychological functions, you use them ... whatever you've got ... love or hate ... your path rides on these biological waves.

Another very important factor is the use of language : women "natter" because their role is maintaining the social group.  When women talk in that social role ... they are really conveying emotions with words riding on the top.

Whereas men use language to discuss tools and hunting, they are able to use much more technical language which is more objective, therefore their conceptual intelligence is far higher.

Of course there are stupid men, and evil women.

Women use emotions to control people, to commit murder through others, even starting wars through husbands.

Mankind's ignorance has damaged many things, we are very far away from a healthy world, both men and women are barely even human. 

They fight each other over nothing , and they console each other over nothing.

They are far from home.

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7 hours ago, C T said:

In Tibet, the iconic feminine symbols revered as yidams, khandros, bodhisattvas and even buddhas - all of whom clearly personifications of wisdom and meditative consciousness,  the other half of a wholistic spiritual path has always been highly touted. 

 

There's no shortage of female buddhas in Tibet. They are both expressed as symbols, and personified as embodying the highest wisdom and meditative consciousness. In union with their male counterparts expressed as method or means, it symbolises completion/fruition. 

 

This pantheon of female buddhas pervade the whole of Tibetan Buddhism as well as Bön. 

 

Some of the more well-known female buddhas and bodhisattvas include Avalokiteshvara, Tara, Machig Labdron, Niguma, Sakyadevi, Yeshe Tsogyal, Mandarava and a list of others, with some manifesting as yidams and others as khandros (dakinis), though none restricted to any particular manifestation. 

 

Like I said in the OP, I'm aware of this. I don't diminish this reality of a wide range of divine female images in Tibetan Buddhism. Two reasons why this doesn't disperse my concerns about misogyny: 1. Like the Mahayana does not represent an abrogation of Hinayana, even less does Vajrayana abrogate Mahayana, and the teaching that the proper form of a Buddha includes maleness, and that a female birth is unfortunate, is still in the DNA of Vajrayana- there is a subtle but important difference between saying "women can be Buddhas" and "even women can be Buddhas". 2. Tibetan Buddhism, institutionally, does not elevate women very well, as can be seen in the rarity of women lineage holders, the lack of full bhiksuni ordinations, and the frequently exploitative character of the karma mudra practice. Granted, similar accusations can be leveled at pretty much any religious institution, even ostensibly egalitarian ones, but I think there is a doctrinal underpinning that is not easily laid aside here.

 

A lot of this is examined in detail by June Campbell, who was famously abused by the Kagyu tulku Kalu Rinpoche.

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14 hours ago, ion said:

Do you understand? To be one a Buddha you first have to choose to become the lowest status human there is.

 

You mean, like a woman?

 

You can keep your buddha; the dakinis will dance all the same.

 

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This thread almost makes me want to be a moderator again...

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23 hours ago, ion said:

I have never had any exposure to an enlightened woman. If I had never had any exposure to evidence that there have been enlightened men I would not believe enlightened men exist so along the same lines of thinking I do not believe there have been enlightened women.

 

TBH, from what I do believe about women it would take some convincing to get me to believe in the prospect. In fact it would take some hard peer reviewed research proving that they are even capable of thinking freely and for themselves before I'd believe it.

 

How do you know that your enlightened men were "enlightened, and how do you know that you have never met an enlightened woman?

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23 hours ago, ion said:

I don't mean to sound like I have a poor opinion of women, I really don't but I've come to realize that evolution has made women different then men for certain reasons and I base this claim on actual data, not on a jaded opinion of the opposite sex.

 Women go with the flow, and with what the collective is doing 10 times out of 10 and have hidden instincts that cause a leaning towards cognitive biases in their perceptions and judgment making.

 

Is that enlightened data? :D

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