The Man-made Obstacle

Distinguishing between problems of human birth and problems of human makingRita M. Gross

Obstacles can aid the practitioner on the path of awakening. This perspective, which is found often in Buddhism, teaches appreciation for the obstacles we encounter, because it is by learning to work with them skillfully that wisdom and compassion can be developed. Seen this way, obstacles are the very thing that make awakening possible. At the same time, throughout Buddhism’s history, female birth has been seen as something unfortunate, an obstacle, but not an obstacle that is an aid to awakening; rather, it is said to make awakening extremely difficult, if not impossible. But if obstacles are beneficial on the path, why is the particular obstacle of female birth regarded differently? Shouldn’t women, who have the many “advantages” that come with female birth, be more likely to attain prominence as revered Buddhist teachers? Though there have been important exceptions, that has not been the rule throughout Buddhist history. Instead, we women have most often been told that we should not concern ourselves with awakening but should try to accrue enough merit to be reborn as men in a future life. These two claims—that obstacles are helpful on the path but that female birth is not—are hard to square with one another. They entail a contradiction at the heart of Buddhism.

Many Western convert Buddhists are largely unaware of this contradiction or are uncomfortable with it. They might deny it. They might ridicule and express hostility to those of us who address it. Many dismiss traditional Buddhist misogyny and male dominance as irrelevant to Western Buddhists, because we live in a relatively egalitarian society. Such attitudes ignore how recent and fragile Western women’s greater equality actually is. The “war on women” now in full force in the United States should disabuse anyone of the idea that male dominance is a thing of the past.

Buddhist feminist thought has deconstructed the claim that female rebirth is an intractable obstacle, explored what is really at stake in this strange doctrine, and explained some of its historical origins. Buddhist feminists have rejected the claim that female rebirth is negative or unsatisfactory and shown that this claim contradicts many fundamental Buddhist teachings. Yet the stubborn fact remains that Buddhist women face obstacles that men never face. Buddhist men have never been told that they have limited spiritual capacity simply because they are males. Buddhist women, though, have frequently been told that we are inadequate for no other reason than that we are females.

People who have practiced Buddhism for several decades will probably come to appreciate how much they have learned from the many obstacles they have faced. They probably have also experienced someone telling them, while they were in the midst of such a difficulty, that they should just appreciate it because it will be helpful in the long run. Such advice was frequently given to me and almost always sounded superficial, even mean. Nevertheless, I do now appreciate how much I have learned from some of the obstacles I have worked through, and I wonder how to help students appreciate such things without sounding condescending or out of touch.

Whether and how that appreciation extends to the obstacles I have faced simply because I am a woman is an important dharma question, and my answer is far less clear. I was born in 1943, and for a woman of my generation, female birth was definitely an obstacle. Was it an obstacle for which I should be grateful? Did I accomplish more because of that female birth than I could have accomplished any other way?

Several years ago, at meetings of my professional organization, a number of my colleagues offered a panel in honor of my life’s work as a scholar of religion. On the final morning of those meetings, I had breakfast with a male colleague with whom I had for 10 years coedited a journal on Buddhist-Christian studies. As we were reminiscing, he said, “You know, Rita, if you had been a man, you would have gone straight to the top of your field.” By “straight to the top” he meant having a position at a prestigious university, something that, despite many noteworthy academic accomplishments, I never received. I replied, “But who knows if I would have found such interesting and important work if I had been a man?” I doubt that I would have pursued the work I have done on gender had I been a man, and I’m not sure that any other topic that has emerged in Buddhist circles or in academia in the past 40 years is as significant as gender studies. That is the puzzle. Being a woman involves arbitrary and irrational obstacles, but can anyone except those who actually experience those obstacles defuse them?

The personal story of how the “obstacle” of female birth has haunted and limited me throughout my entire life and career does not need to be recounted. It need only be said that much of my scholarship and work as a Buddhist critical-constructive thinker involves women’s studies scholarship and feminist thought and that, through that work, I made significant contributions to human knowledge. Had a man made discoveries that were as significant and interesting to men, he would definitely have gone “straight to the top.” Instead, I spent my career at a regional state university. Even after I had published three books of note, my situation did not change, except that, ironically, I was often invited as a guest lecturer to well-known colleges and universities where others were teaching my work.

What does such a story have to do with investigating whether obstacles are helpful to one’s practice or the specific obstacle of female rebirth? First, one must ask: what exactly is the obstacle? It is not lesser ability or fewer accomplishments on the part of women; it is not a flaw in women’s bodies or minds. The obstacle clearly lies in the system itself, a system that for no rational or dharmic reason privileges men’s perspectives over those of women and does not bother to explain its prejudices. To my mentors and colleagues in academia, it seemed obvious that men’s perspectives were the only interesting or important perspectives. What seems to be normal often does not seem to need justification in the eyes of those who hold such perspectives. It is the same in Buddhism. Traditional Buddhist texts actually acknowledge, though not explicitly, that the real obstacle faced by beings with a female rebirth is male dominance, not their female bodies. The traditional lists about what’s wrong with women include the “three subserviences” and the “five woes,” which all involve either social male dominance or male evaluations of women’s biology that may not be shared by women. Commonly in such thinking, what is cultural—namely, male dominance—is confused with nature itself, as if it were necessary and universal.

Regarding this confusion, Buddhists, with our sophisticated Madhyamaka resources, should have easily recognized it for what it is: taking what is relative to be absolute. Granted, this mistake accounts for the whole of deluded existence, or samsara. But traditional Buddhist analysis, which is quite aware of numerous other ways in which this mistake is made, has not acknowledged in any way that the assumptions that make social male dominance seem natural are dependently arisen mere appearances rather than anything truly and inherently existing.

Our greatest obstacles can indeed be our best allies on the path of practice, but there is a necessary caveat: This perspective only applies if the obstacle doesn’t kill us first. Obstacles can be deadly rather than helpful, and probably most often that is just what they are. We should not excuse overlooking serious obstacles to dharmic practice such as poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and so forth by naively reciting that obstacles can be one’s best friend on the path. Presented unskillfully, such comments truly are merely superficial and mean. One of the greatest weaknesses of traditional Buddhist thought is its unwillingness to address structural violence, often attributing it to karma and advising people to accept injustice as karmically appropriate.

In my case, it was only because I inherited a female body that I was motivated to thoroughly explore issues of dharma and gender at both relative and absolute levels. The purported obstacle was like a sword wound to the heart, a debilitating impediment to the Mahayana goal of utilizing my precious human birth in service to sentient beings. Nevertheless, looking straight into the obstacle, consistently and for my whole life, has transformed the obstacle into a source of blessing for myself and a way through which I have been able to help others. But this would have been impossible if I had listened to those who advised me that I was overreacting, that there was no real problem, that what I saw and felt was irrelevant. I was fortunate not to follow such advice. I knew that trying to ignore or repress something so obvious would only make it appear in even more disruptive forms, as it so often does in women’s low self-esteem, poverty mentality, depression, and lack of significant achievements.

In the Mahamudra teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism, one is instructed to look directly, deeply, and nakedly into a troubling emotion, such as grasping or aggression, without either accepting or rejecting it, thereby liberating its enlightened clarity and energy. The phrase “looking directly and nakedly” is critical in these instructions. The instructions say nothing about reacting to or acting out on the basis of the emotion, and they certainly say nothing about ignoring the whole situation, which would all be unfortunate choices. Unfortunately, fear of acting out on the basis of strong emotions often leads people to be advised to ignore them instead. That may be safer, but only in the short run.

Several years of working with the obstacles I encountered, using Mahamudra-based vipashyana meditation practice, yielded the surprising results of taming my intense anger and releasing a great deal of clarity about male dominance, both in Buddhism and more broadly. When I began to write about this process in the early 1980s, I soon heard that other women practitioners were angry with me. I think this might have been because they found the approach of finding “the clarity in the anger,” the title of one of my recent articles on the topic, as threatening to their own comforting anger. Anger can be very comforting, because it provides a reliable and seemingly justifiable sense of who one is: “I’m someone who is angry about injustice!”

Shortly after my book Buddhism after Patriarchy was published in 1992, a colleague reported to me that a mutual acquaintance had called him and noted that I had interpreted many familiar texts in startlingly new ways, saying, “Her interpretations are obviously correct! How come none of us ever came up with those interpretations before?” The reason, I think, is simple: It hadn’t been in his self-interest as a male to notice how male dominant the conventional interpretations are. It is, as realtors say, a matter of “location, location, location!” The painful truth is that the only person who can unlock the liberating potential of an obstacle is the person who has the obstacle. But an obstacle is, by definition, debilitating and extremely difficult to transmute.

It is well known that, out of self-defense, those on the underside of worldly power and privilege often are double-sighted. We can see things from the dominant perspective, the one that is publicly taught and promulgated, but we can also see things that those who participate only in the privileged perspective cannot see. This tells us that, on any topic in which we mainly operate out of privilege, we should be humble. That is why white people are so often so blind to racism or straight people blind to homophobia. That is also why Buddhists should be much more careful about dismissing issues of social justice as irrelevant to dharma. But the knowledge gained from the double-sightedness possessed by those of us on the underside of privilege is so painful and infuriating that freeing its insight is difficult and often lost in self-defeating aggression.

What does this mean for those of us who have the obstacle of female birth in a Buddhist system that is male-dominated? First, it is critical that when we are talking on the social, rather than the metaphysical, level, its obstacle-ness be admitted. Given Buddhist history and current conditions in most of the Buddhist world, anything else would constitute blatant denial. Buddhist male dominance does harm Buddhist women, and, to a lesser extent and in different ways, Buddhist men. It is also a profound embarrassment marring Buddhist claims to be a rational, humane, and most of all, a compassionate religion.

This is a point on which we women should expect respect and help from our dharma brothers and they should give both to us. When the insights that have been painfully gained by our double-sightedness are ignored or discounted by the dominant group, the pain of facing obstacles of sexism and gender discrimination is greatly intensified. We should expect our teachers and dharma brothers to look at the evidence with clarity and honesty. We should expect and insist that men and teachers stop telling us that because enlightened mind is beyond gender, male dominance in Buddhist institutions is therefore not a problem. Such a claim is a misguided confusion of absolute and relative. Even more, we should refuse to be done in when some Buddhists tell us that our insistence on egalitarian dharma institutions and women’s dignity is based on our egos and that, if we were more realized, we would accept socially oppressive conditions. No socially dominant Buddhist group has ever taken up that ethic for itself. It is only for subordinated groups. Rather than being done in by such twisted dharmic logic, we can turn it around and ask male Buddhists to apply their advice to themselves, to demonstrate their egoless realization by not taking advantage of their institutional privilege.

For example, once I was in Bhutan with my teacher, Khandro Rinpoche, and her other students. We were at a sacred site guarded by male door guardians, though we didn’t think anything about that. It turned out, however, that their function was to keep women out of the sanctuary. Rinpoche, her sister, and the nuns traveling with them simply entered anyway. Because of our teacher’s prestige, no one dared stop them. When we students, however, started to enter the enclosed space, we were abruptly stopped and told, “No women allowed.” The few male Westerners in the group were waved forward.

We women were furious. The men not only took advantage of their male privilege but were totally uncomprehending about why the women were angry—as much at them as at the Bhutanese door guardians. Our teacher took us to an isolated spot to discuss the incident with us. There, one of the women in our group asked, “When we visit the nunnery, is there going to be a room that the men can’t enter?” One of the men had the gall to reply, “Yes, the women’s room!” Another man asked me what I thought they might have done. He didn’t seem to get it when I replied, “You should also have stayed out of the sanctuary with us.”

Whether or not our dharma brothers will calmly admit what clear seeing plainly reveals, it is critical that we act with wisdom on our own clear seeing. We must not slide into the temptations provided by the three poisons, the most dangerous of which, in this case, is ignoring. We face a great deal of pressure from men and Buddhist leaders simply to ignore Buddhism’s historical record of prejudice against women and the present configurations of male dominance. Women raised in patriarchal cultures, whether Asian or Western, are socialized to value pleasing men and to defer to them. As a result, avoiding conflict with local men is more important to women than recognizing and defending our own interests and needs or solidarity with other women. That is why, for example, women are often so tentative about promoting monastic ordinations for women in their own lineages, deferring to male opinions about the matter instead of recognizing that they have the weight of normative Buddhism on their side.

Ignoring often takes the form of denying or not recognizing that gender has always been contested in Buddhism, that in fact Buddhist texts are full of stories and comments that undercut or ridicule Buddhist misogyny and male dominance. From the time that Mahaprajapati refused to take no for an answer in her quest for a women’s monastic institution, Buddhist women and some men have promoted Buddhism’s ideals about gender neutrality and inclusiveness rather than its tendencies toward sexism and misogyny. It is truly sad, to the point of being incomprehensible, when Buddhists ignore that splendid heritage, as old as Buddhism itself, and claim instead that contemporary movements promoting Buddhist women’s interests and needs are somehow “foreign,” the result of Western feminism. That is how far women socialized to please men and defer to them will go in ignoring our heritage as well as our own interests and needs. It’s time to stop ignoring the great deviousness and destructiveness of that part of the Buddhist heritage that makes female birth an obstacle.

If one breaks through one’s tendency to ignore Buddhist claims about female birth, then fierce anger can easily come to the fore. Buddhism generally regards anger as detrimental to spiritual well-being and something to be avoided. That assessment is correct. One of the most difficult issues in working with obstacles is the mistake of thinking that there is no alternative to anger over injustice; that if one is not angry, one will be apathetic. If one truly practices Buddhist meditation disciplines, anger will be relatively short-lived, replaced by clarity about the issues. But having tamed one’s anger, one should not return to ignoring; rather, one should express clearly and carefully exactly what is wrong with Buddhist male dominance.

The relationship between anger and clarity is one of Buddhism’s most helpful teachings as we learn how to deal with obstacles. A woman once asked my teacher how to deal with anger. She replied, “Anger is always a waste of time.” The questioner was shocked and mumbled in response, “But what about things you should be angry about, like physical abuse?” Instantly, my teacher replied, “I told you anger is a waste of time. I didn’t tell you to give up your critical intelligence!” Retaining critical intelligence is essential. If others dislike hearing the results of critical intelligence and become angry themselves, that is their issue. We should not suppress our own insight, expressed rationally and without rancor, because others become upset and don’t want to hear unpleasant information. We are not “genderizing the dharma” when we point out Buddhist sexism, misogyny, and male dominance, and demonstrate how harmful they are. The only reply to such an accusation is to point out that the dharma was genderized long ago by those who first set up male-dominated Buddhist institutions, claimed that female rebirth is unfortunate, and proposed that rebirth as a man, rather than creating more equitable Buddhist institutions, is the solution.

There is another, very different dimension to working with any obstacle, but especially with an obstacle involving injustice. Buddhist human beings born as women have often been denied the full potential of their precious human birth. That is unfortunate and unfair, but every human life involves, for no apparent reason, some intense frustration, some denial of something important. How one copes with that denial is a measure of one’s success as a practitioner. After one has done everything one can to overcome the obstacle and, nevertheless, does not attain one’s heart’s desire, can one maintain equanimity, contentment, and cheer, avoiding self-pity and complaint? Doing so is not easy, but it is one of the greatest benefits of practice. If one can accomplish contentment in the face of obstacles, one knows that one’s ease is not conditional, not dependent on positive circumstances alone. This accomplishment brings tremendous peace and joy. Surely this is what our teachers mean when they say that obstacles are a blessing in the long run.

A final point needs to be made. Some obstacles, such as old age, sickness, death, loss, and personal grief go with the territory of having a precious human birth. Other obstacles, such as sexism, racism, poverty, homophobia, religious intolerance, environmental degradation, and nationalism are not attributable to the inevitabilities of being human but are caused by human greed, hatred, and ignoring. Therefore, they can be overcome. It is difficult enough for us to cope with the obstacles inherent in having taken birth. Because some of us manage to cope with socially created obstacles in addition is no excuse or justification for anyone to promote or benefit from them. Buddhists, especially Buddhist teachers, should never suggest that simply because a few people manage to cope well with socially created obstacles, it is permissible for Buddhist leaders and institutions to continue such practices. That would be a perversion of the inspiring and helpful teaching that we appreciate obstacles as a blessing.

Rita M. Gross is an author, dharma teacher, and professor emerita of comparative studies in religion. Her best-known books are Buddhism after Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism and A Garland of Feminist Reflections: Forty Years of Religious Exploration.

Photography by Luis González Palma
All images c
ourtesy Lisa Sette Gallery, Phoenix, Arizona.  

Image 1: Möbius Acrílico 4, 2013, handpainted photograph and acrylic on hahnemuhle watercolor paper.
Image 2: Möbius Acrílico 2, 2013, handpainted photograph and acrylic on canvas. 
Image 3: Möbius Acrílico 5, 2013, handpainted photograph and acrylic on canvas.
Image 4: Möbius Grafito 1, 2013, photograph and graphite on hahnemuhle watercolor paper. 
Image 5: Möbius Grafito 3, 2013, photograph and graphite on hahnemuhle watercolor paper. 

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Kenneth Daly's picture

Prof. Gross touches on one of the main ways we use to avoid facing up to the topics about which she writes so well. "Buddhists should be much more careful about dismissing issues of social justice as irrelevant to dharma."

mustaphaputtgen's picture

"It is well known that, out of self-defense, those on the underside of worldly power and privilege often are double-sighted. We can see things from the dominant perspective, the one that is publicly taught and promulgated, but we can also see things that those who participate only in the privileged perspective cannot see. This tells us that, on any topic in which we mainly operate out of privilege, we should be humble. "
Exactly this "double-sightedness" has been coming to poke me in the ribs A LOT lately & it is such a relief to hear someone write so clearly about it. Thank you, Rita M. Gross, from the bottom of my heart. I feel met, heard, and encouraged to keep going - bearing witness to what I see & listening to others who have things to tell me about my blindnesses.

Kesho's picture

As a diversity trainer for over 25 years this is a powerful article because it puts front and center this idea: socially created obstacles can be overcome. Thank you Ms. Gross. I will read your books. I am just beginning my Buddhist practice. Tricycle, thank you for printing such an article.

astarte11's picture

I really think this kind of discussion are necessary and healing.
What it is funny to me is the author is very clear about what men should had done in Bhutan in the sacred places where women were not allowed, but what about what Khandro Rinpoche herself and her nuns, who were allowed to get into the place due to the her prestige, should had done?
It seems to me she is demanding western men support to the women's rights, while she seems to ignore the role of the few female Buddhist teachers with "prestige" enough to do something to change things for ordinary Buddhist women, not just for female teachers with prestige and their retinue.
I hope I have explained clearly what I mean. English is not my mother tongue, so I never know if the words I use are appropiate or not. I do not want to question Khandro Rimpoche personally, just pointing something that I found quite shocking.
Best wishes and happy Sakadawa.

mustaphaputtgen's picture

Dear Astarte,
That is a really good point.

I don't think Buddhist women stepping into patriarchal authority constitutes real progress, because those roles perpetuate the kinds of deluded hierarchical thinking and behavior that causes so much suffering in the first place. Monastic-is-higher-than-lay; male-is-higher-than-female; teacher-is-higher-than-student… All of it comes from the same place of not wanting to step into our own power and regard one another with wisdom, clarity and respect.

So yes, I agree with you. At that door in Bhutan, the clear answer is, "All of us, or no one," We can stand up to the ignorance that says it's OK to exclude & disrespect people on flimsy man-made grounds of "purity" or "attainment" or "merit" or whatever. We can give up the dharmic prize that is supposed to be beyond the door and its guardians, refusing to be separated from one another by the promise of "higher" states or spaces. Until we are willing to take that risk together, there's very little way forward for an embodied and awake Buddhism.

anita.lerek's picture

Great points and great reader responses. The wisdom or the dismay that should be added to the discussion is the fact that the obstacle of female birth extends far beyond Buddhism. Perhaps added clarity and critical intelligence can be gained by raising the discourse to a more general level, all the while retaining the individual context nuggets. The appeal to the general level is not to raise a more insurmountable barrier of frustration or intellectual obfuscation. Let's face it, the systemic female obstacle remains pretty wide-spread in our civilization, and often fatal. What has Buddhism to offer in aid of gender social change? Perhaps this could be a fruitful path to explore in this discussion and elsewhere. For one, I reiterate Rita Gross' excellent distillation: "looking directly and nakedly," with clarifying energy. Secondly I point to the strong orientation we have in Buddhism to the bodhisattva, helping goal. Let's use tools that may be tainted - for the good of all.

Wanderer33's picture

Thank you so much for this article! It is so very helpful.

jackelope65's picture

As a man, I feel extremely fortunate to have been exposed to such strong women , such as my mother and my wife of 46 years. When I became an attending physician, the chief of our department was a woman highly gifted in medical, professional, interpersonal, and leadership skills that she has remained a role model throughout my career. I joined a Kagyu Sangha years ago, and though externally patriarchal, was extremely balanced on the local level with male and female leadership as well as membership. Now, I could go into great depth of how the female human body is far superior than the male physiologically, with the exception, possibly, on average muscular strength, but this is well known. Perhaps I am just fortunate in my path with the addition of the "luck" of exposure to some of Rita Gross's works, but I wonder if men need to just open their eyes to see what is already present, women who deserve their respect as well as attention.

meditatortoo's picture

That is why, for example, women are often so tentative about promoting monastic ordinations for women in their own lineages, deferring to male opinions about the matter instead of recognizing that they have the weight of normative Buddhism on their side.

I love this 'normative Buddhism' ... having studied so deeply, and thoroughly, Rita I think is challenging us to interpret what as Buddhists our 'gut feeling' is on this matter. The Buddha taught that if we have seen the Dharma we have seen Him the Buddha. The historical Buddha Gotama, along with records of his Sangha and their rules, rooted in their culture is, thanks to the many venerable scholars and disciples all available to us, thanks to people like Rita herself who have dedicated their lives to this service.

The 'Living Dharma', that which the Buddha challenges us to follow, real experience, known truth in our hearts, held with clarity and sincerity is carried by each of us individually and collectively today, it pulses through our hearts and minds and if we are feeling our equanimity disturbed on this matter 'the role and contribution of Women as Buddhists today' then I personally think the Buddha would applaud us all if we're persuaded down the 'Path with Heart' (to pinch a title from Jack Kornfield) rather than cling to every letter of the historically recorded Dharma teachings, after studying these, digesting them, becoming one with them, we must ask what is right for now, and what will stand us in good stead for tomorrow, what is the Dharmic Truth in our hearts telling us, here and now? Do it! Live it!

I am sure it will bring a big smile to the Buddha and cheer his heart too, surely that is what lies right at the heart of His teachings, this challenge for us to pick up the Dharma for ourselves and run with it.

buddhasoup's picture

Prof. Rita Gross truly is a standout in the field of Buddhist studies. She brings a remarkably honest, thoughtful, yet very scholarly approach to Buddhist Studies. Perhaps were Prof. Gross reborn in a male body, she would have a comfortable chair at an Ivy League university. I am glad that her brave scholarship has been illuminated on the pages of Tricycle and other platforms; had she been an ivory tower scholar, we might not know her excellence so intimately.

The Buddha, with some helpful prodding, ordained women into his Sangha, which was a remarkable and courageous validation considering the male Brahmanic north Indian culture at that time. This act alone suggests that we as Buddhists need be mindful of the compassionate balance that the Buddha created with the Bhikkhuni Sangha, and the message that he sent to the Sangha. That Buddhism became patriarchal can be seen as an act of rejection of the Buddha; defiance of his teaching.

A Buddhism that understands the teachings and actions of the Buddha would not tolerate sexism and gender imbalance in the Sangha. There is a Bhikkhuni Patimokkha that stands as an ancient validation of the (relatively, for the time) co-equal role of women in the Sangha; see http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/vin/sv/bhikkhuni-pati.html I hope that those that profess to study the Early Buddhist Texts, and understand what the Buddha was imparting to his community, will appreciate that there is no place for harmful patriarchy in Buddhism. It exists in the modern east and west, for sure, but it is not consistent with what the Buddha taught.

buddhasoup's picture

I'd like to add, if I could, this essay from Bhikkhu Cintita's blog: "What Did the Buddha Think of Women?" It's a thoughtful and scholarly article that cites all the way back to the Early Buddhist Texts. It's well worth a good read. See http://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/home/topics-in-the-dharma/uposatha-1...

Franzwsm's picture

Thank you so much for this clear and precisely argued piece that exemplifies too the enormous value of critical and lengthy thinking and study. I was also disappointed and angry when I found that Buddhist practices were imbued with the obstacles of sexism and was advised that acceptance of this disadvantage was the only option. But I continue as I believe that the Dharma also has the capacity to overcome both for the institutions and individuals. And until male dominance is overcome Buddhism will be remain limited.

I am very grateful to Rita Gross for her terrific work, and in the same spirit think we should note that this has been undertaken in the context of the social, intellectual and political struggles of the feminist movement. We are fortunate to live in a time when the sexual politics of ignorance is being challenged in so many creative and wonderful ways.

sperlinda's picture

Having been a subscriber since the first issue, I have derived great benefit from thousands of items in Tricycle over the years. May I say that this article may be the most important ever as it is the most direct and succinct statement to date on gender discrimination. Peerless scholar-practitioner Rita M. Gross has brought a flood of tears to my eyes. What a relief it is to read her discourse on the non-dharmic obstacles that male-dominated cultures create to the enlightenment of women and to consider promotion of a thoroughgoing re-examination of what has been taken for granted by serious practitioners. Thank you so much, Lopon Gross, and thank you, Tricycle editors, for the courage to focus the current issue on what really matters to women in the dharma.