Victor Pelevin is a prominent contemporary Russian author, with books translated into a multitude of languages. To me, his novels act as a series of Dhamma talks (Buddhist sermons, if you will).
I have also always thought that Pelevin’s novels can be broadly divided into two groups: “This is how to do it” and “This is how not to do it” groups. For instance, “The Clay Machine Gun” and “The Sacred Book of the Werewolf” are “How to do it” stories, with the protagonists reaching his and her (respectively) destinations. “Babylon”, on the other hand, is the “How not to do it” story, as the protagonist ends up enslaved by the world he has created.
One of my favourite novels by Pelevin is “Life of Insects”, which tells the tales of a number of characters, all of them “How not to do it” stories bar one. One of the most interesting quotes from the positive story for me is “Don’t break the bucket”.
I have a problem. Some women push my buttons. Some men anger me, but in the context of feminism it is different. I usually dismiss men’s offensive actions and words as expressions of patriarchy. I take action, when I can – for instance recently I complained about the BBC radio 2 broadcasting misogynist statement when discussing a proposed Paternity bill. Complaining about the BBC to the BBC is like trying to stop a tide single-handedly. However, if no one does anything, nothing changes, as we know. In addition, I hope that statements such as “women of child-bearing age should only be employed by striptease bars” broadcast completely unopposed on the national radio service (for which we the listeners pay annual subscription) will raise more than one objection.
But coming back to women. I have noticed recently that very often I end up in deadlocks with women over silly issues. Once I was engaged in a debate about capitalism with a woman to the point when I completely forgot that I was supposed to be doing something completely different for work. The mysterious aspect of these “quarrels” is that more often than not the women have more in common with me than not: they are intellectual, independent and strong-willed. I suppose it is slight differences that unnerve me.
In Part I of this post I started asking questions about whether Buddhism in the West is part of patriarchy. Today I offer a possible link between practices of men’s Initiation Rites and some of the elements of Buddhism.
Men’s Initiation Rites
When we consider principle practices of Western Buddhists, primarily daily meditation and meditation retreats we might enquire something like this: since monastic practice is a model for our Western lay practice, do Buddhist monasteries constitute an extension and continuation of men’s long houses, places of men’s initiation rites?