Working with Obstacles: Is Female Rebirth an Obstacle? by Rita M. Gross

Rita GrossBuddhist teachings recommend appreciating obstacles because they are helpful to our practice.  Without obstacles we would never develop profound understanding or compassion.  Buddhists have also frequently claimed that female rebirth is an obstacle.  If obstacles are of great benefit, shouldn’t women, who encounter more obstacles than  men, rise to the top of the hierarchy of  revered Buddhist teachers? But that has not happened.  Is this obstacle actually of benefit to women, as teachings on the helpfulness of obstacles would suggest? After practicing Buddhism for almost forty years, I have come to appreciate how much the many obstacles I faced over the years have taught me.  For a woman of my generation (born 1943), none has been greater than the limitations placed on me as a woman, both by Western culture and by Buddhism.   Continue reading “Working with Obstacles: Is Female Rebirth an Obstacle? by Rita M. Gross”

From Bihar, India—The Thirteenth Sakyadhita Conference by Rita M. Gross

Rita GrossAbove and all around us is a blue and white stripped fabric tent, as, about 250 strong, we participants in Sakyadhita’s Thirteenth Conference on Buddhist Women, shiver in the cold, listening to a wide variety of papers about women and Buddhism.  We are meeting in Vaishali, in Bihar, India, at a Vietnamese nunnery that was recently founded at the place where Mahaprajapati, the first Buddhist nun, was ordained.   She is a great hero to many Buddhist women for her persistence about receiving formal ordination as a nun, thus founding an institution that has endured for some 2,500 years in various parts of Asia, and now in the West as well, so it is fitting that we should meet here.  The nunnery complex is still incomplete and under construction, which is one reason why we are meeting, essentially, in the outdoors.  The thin fabric walls over little protection from the coldest winter in north India in forty years.  That was not part of the planning for this event! So everyone, speakers and participants alike, wear all the layers of clothing we have, and cheerfully practice patience.  It is quite a sight! Continue reading “From Bihar, India—The Thirteenth Sakyadhita Conference by Rita M. Gross”

What Do Women Bring to the Interfaith Table? by Rita M. Gross

The most important thing that women bring to the interfaith table is our sheer presence. I do not support theories of gender essentialism, which claim that women and men are fundamentally different, that men have a masculine essence different from women’s feminine essence. Regarding most interfaith issues, I do not think that women offer different insights than men could. But because religions have been such a boys-only club, the presence of women at the interfaith table loudly proclaims a critical message that can be proclaimed no other way. Religions are no longer going to be male sanctuaries, closed off to women except for the supportive roles we have traditionally played. Continue reading “What Do Women Bring to the Interfaith Table? by Rita M. Gross”

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