A female friend recently posted an article by a woman writer about motherhood. The article was entitled “Children are NOT life’s flowers” (referring to a famous Russian saying which means that children are what makes life beautiful).
A number of women contributed comments under this post. The discussion revolved around the image of an ideal mother and how we real mothers should relate to it.
It is amazing that in the current atmosphere of bringing out into the open so many issues, motherhood is not much discussed. Sexuality, gender and abuse are OK to speak about and question. At the same time, it is only within medical profession that such issues as “baby blues” or post-partum depression are valid topics.
We may ask: why should we be patient and kind while we are the ones who are being oppressed and wronged? I don’t have an answer for that, only that through history positive change has ever been affected only by people who made more effort than the ones who wanted to keep the status quo.
I have recently watched one of these real life entertainment documentaries. This one was on plastic surgery. A woman went under the knife to enlarge her breasts. The female presenter, wearing sterile white, peeped into the operation theatre and, facing the camera, said excitedly: “This operation might be life-changing!”
I thought: “Yes, precisely.” The money that the patient spent on breast implants could have bought – what? A trip to a strange land. A course for her to improve her employment prospects or to broaden her horizons. Art supplies for her to create something. A water pump to provide clean water in a village somewhere in the world where children die from preventable diseases caused by dirty water. Part of a salary for a teacher who works in a school for girls somewhere in the world where girls need extra help getting education.
What we choose to spend money, or indeed any resources (time, energy) on depends on our story of life. What is life for us: a race to the unattainable ideal of glossy magazine covers or a spiritual journey we share with every other creature on earth? Continue reading “Stories vs. What Is by Oxana Poberejnaia”
Viśākhā is often called the greatest female lay follower of the Buddha. She prompted the Buddha to give numerous teachings. She also donated generously to the Sangha (monastic order). Her crowning contribution was building a monastery called Migāramātupāsāda.
She is said to either die as a “stream-enterer” (a person who will definitely become enlightened, no matter how many life times it will take). Another account about her afterlife says that she would live for eons in happiness in one of the divine realms before achieving the final Liberation there and then.
Viśākhā appears in numerous Suttas of Theravadin Canon. From the modern feminist point of view, the content of these discourses reinforces patriarchal gender stereotypes. In particular, Viśākhā is portrayed as a caring Mother for her relatives, Bhikkhus (Buddhist monks and nuns), and other people.
I suddenly felt sad. Not depressed, but low and sorrowful. I realised that it must have been because I had just exploded and answered my husband in an angry, tense voice. He had said something and I reacted in this overblown manner. What he said could have been construed as an encroachment on my rights as a woman and a human. Whether this was the case or not, I was saddened by my own violent reaction.
How did that happen? Earlier that very day I was walking outside, quietly surveying autumn scenery of the North West England. The leaves were starting to turn in earnest. The birch trees sent their yellow carved leaves to the other side of the road, which did not have birch trees. I was in a state where my “I”, my “Ego” was relaxed and not constricted to just the confines of my body. I became conscious of this fact and a thought arose: “Here we go, finally I am getting close to Liberation.”
Feminism can be loud and in your face. Feminists can be unapologetic and radical in their statements. I could never bring myself to be abrupt with proponents of patriarchal views. Being a middle class Brit from a Soviet background, I withdraw from awkward situations and prefer to keep discussion within civil forms of defined discourse at conferences and letters to my MPs and to the BBC.
People who know that I practise Buddhist disciplines might say that this also plays a part in my avoiding direct confrontation. It is true but only up to a point. I do not rush into an argument mostly because of my training not to rush into anything, but to first become mindful and see where the impetus for my action is coming from: is it something worthwhile or is it some undigested trauma from childhood? It is usually the latter. Continue reading “Cheeky Buddha by Oxana Poberejnaia”
Queen Maya, the Mother of the Buddha of our age, who before his Enlightenment was known as Siddhartha Gautama, died shortly after his birth. So the future Buddha was raised by his aunt and stepmother. It is said that the womb of the Buddha’s Mother needed to remain unsullied by further pregnancies. This is similar to the belief that Mary Mother of Christ did not bear any more children after Jesus, which is held by some Christian traditions.
In addition, the Buddha’s conception and birth were both miraculous, according to the legend and some Mahayana texts (such as the 44th chapter of the Gandavyuha Sutra). The Buddha was conceived when a white elephant entered Queen Maya’s right side, or, in the Sutra, light entered the Queen’s body. The Buddha was born from his Mother’s right side. The light was emanating from every pore of the body of the Bodhisattva Buddha, while he resided in the Tusita (joyous) heaven before descending to earth. This light reminds us of the golden rain form that Zeus took to reach Danaë in her cell to conceive Perseus, and links these two Indo-European patriarchal discourses. Continue reading “Mother of All Buddhas by Oxana Poberejnaia”
In my previous post here on Feminism and Religion, “Emerging Energy Wisdom” I suggested we should develop new feminist wisdom for young women of the world, which will hopefully allow them to avoid some of the mistakes we have made (some irreparable). The gist of that wisdom would be “conserve your energy!”
Some of these mistakes originated in our being unaware of the limitations in a patriarchal society. I for instance thought that since I knew I was intelligent powerful and energetic I could affect any positive change I wanted. I also believed I could help anyone. I disregarded my own needs, including energy needs, as well as being blind to the objective conditions of patriarchy.
Today I would like to give an example, from fiction, of how this energy wisdom might work. In its application, I believe, this wisdom is related both to the Buddhist teaching of self-reliance and to the idea that each person must find their own connection to Goddess and God from modern paganism.
My friend whom I teach frame drumming teaches us shamanic journeying. There was an episode in one of my journeys, when, unable to see the way forward, I put the palm of my hand on the ground and went down a hole I was creating to the core of the earth. Since then, this scene came into my mind several times when I was talking to friends about inner truth. Also, the posture itself bears uncanny resemblance to the iconic Buddha posture of touching earth with his right hand.
According to a Buddhist legend, on the night of Enlightenment Prince Siddhartha encountered Mara, the Lord of Death, who threw various hindrances the Buddha’s way to prevent him from attaining Supreme Enlightenment. The final challenge was Mara’s claim that the Buddha had no right to be in the seat of Enlightenment. The Buddha then touched the earth with his right hand to call Her as a witness of his past spiritual achievements and his right to gain Enlightenment.
I am very grateful to Carol P. Christ and other contributors for their insightful comments and thoughtful questions to my post “Blindness of the Gals”. As I promised to Carol, here is my post that starts answering some of the issues raised in the comments.
I cannot say that it was giving birth to my daughter that first made me question my blindness to patriarchy in religion and culture. Rather, it was a gradual process of educating myself by reading works by feminist thinkers, and learning about the brave women and men who have been fighting and are still fighting for women’s rights.
Women (and men) are often blind to women’s inequality. I, as a Buddhist practitioner, have been blind to the reality of women’s second-class status in sacred texts of Buddhism and practice.
In her book “Buddhism After Patriarchy” Rita M. Gross describes how her fellow western Buddhist women completely overlooked the fact that women are not allowed into Rumtek Buddhist monastery in Sikkim, even after watching a video of a woman leaving an offering outside the gate and walking away.