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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 - they 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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:

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.  

 

I don't believe you are wrong, and at the same time, if the Pure Land tradition is what "speaks to you" then I would suggest following where this inner call leads. 

 

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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 “astral view” 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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