Women in Buddhism

My latest Examiner article.  Please read, comment there and pass around!

Women in Buddhism

In August 2010, the Dalai Lama made a somewhat astonishing statement that he could be replaced in his leadership role by a woman, even though he clarified that she “should be attractive.” Ignoring the howls of feminists about that last bit, in his remarks Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader did break with long-held traditions of sexism and gender discrimination within Buddhism.

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  1. Dalai Lama’s views on
    You have to understand that Dalai Lama may be the senile pope of Tibetan Buddhism, not Buddhism. Your title is misleading. Furthermore, Buddhism is not a religion like Christianity. It is a philosophy and as long as Buddha did not say that “she should be attractive”, I would not put too much into what Dalai Lama had to say, as it is he is known for making a number of mistakes in his lifetime and he admits them as such.

    1. “Your title is misleading. “

      Thank you. Actually, no, it is not, if you read the full article that this brief notification leads to. The article is not about the Dalai Lama at all. That is simply a lead-in paragraph.

      Regardless of [i]your [/i]impression of what Buddhism [i]should [/i]be, the facts will remain that Buddhist groups in many places have been very sexist, as described in the original article.

  2. Why are there female deities in Buddhism then?
    Perhaps you are suggesting what Buddhism should be more than I am. I’m not arguing how certain groups or societies (in Japan and China as you point out) deviated from the guidance of the Buddha. I am taking an unbiased view and not jumping on to conclusions on Lama goofs, or current practices of which there are many others that seem to have devolved from the lofty vision. Say a Buddhist scholar were to suggest that it is better to avoid women (hence lust) in order to achieve the higher goal of enlightenment, that is a valid viewpoint. What, unarguably, gives women the right to supersede personal choices of a monk? Sexism or sex? If women were of low status and didn’t deserve respect, why would female deities (Buddhas in female form) like Tara and Daikini be venerated?

    1. Don, you would need to ask Buddhist practitioners that question! The Hindu pantheon has plenty of goddesses, yet many women in India are considered lower forms of life and are treated very badly. In Catholicism, the Mother of God – the Virgin Mary – is a huge icon, yet women are clearly second-class citizens.

      Our ideals are often not the reality, unfortunately.

  3. The Upanishads (bedrock of Hinduism) uphold egalitarian values as much as the Dhammapada and the Sutras. Some are of the opinion that there aren’t any baseline opposing viewpoints between Buddhism and Hinduism per se. The reason why women were treated badly was because of a non-Vedic scripture called Manu Smriti introduced later on. My understanding is that it is non-Vedic and contains a number of interpolations introduced centuries later by corrupt Brahmins. In any case, like Tibetans, the Hindus deserve credit for worshiping female deities symbolic of Brahman.

    Followers of a sect called Krishnaism worship Radha (Krishna’s better half) along with Krishna. The term often used is [i]Radha-Krishna[/i] — perhaps suggesting the order of the grand order. There are stark similarities between Catholicism and Krishnaism. There has been some research on the historical Jesus in Kashmir, but it would be great to see more scholarly work done in this area, albeit impartially. Who knows – Christainity might by Krishtianity in the original sermon?

    BTW, I’ve seen your research included as part of Zeitgeist. The Quran labels women as half-brained. And yet for your knocking off everything other than Islam, Moslems have been triumphantly using your own works from Zeitgeist trying to prove that theirs is the only religion of truth, and the Quran says so. Just so you know~!

    1. Thank you.

      Yes, I am aware that Muslims have been using Zeitgeist to their advantage. Here is a forum thread discussing this phenomenon:

      Muslims use Zeitgeist for Islamic Advantage ([url]http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2570[/url])

      However, in the first place, I did not write ZG and have nothing to do with parts 2 and 3. I only consulted at the last minute on the religion part. Long before and many times since I have critiqued Islam in my books (to a lesser degree), blogs and other online articles, as well as in numerous posts on my groups, forums and social networking accounts like Facebook.

      Secondly, any Muslims holding up the religion part of ZG are really shooting their own religion in the foot, since Islam very much teaches that Jesus Christ was a real person, a great prophet, in fact, whose authority is transferred to Mohammed. If there’s no Jesus, there’s no Mohammed. Moreover, no Jesus, and the Koran is quite obviously not the Word of God, who would omnisciently know that Christ is a myth and would therefore not speak of him in such a way as to indicate He really had been reading the New Testament, rather than knowing what had truly happened.

      Therefore, ZG really serves to unravel the entire morass built on the Bible, from the Old Testament, to the New, to the Koran.

  4. ….
    I think he was making a pass at Americans. He always says how we view women as objects of desire not actually people. He was been ironic.

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