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Lions Roar : November 2015
ADVICE FOR DIFFICULT TIMES Can I Serve Others Without Falling into a Gender Trap? Women don’t have to sacrifice themselves to be good Buddhists, says BRENDA SALGADO. Helping others starts with honoring yourself. Question: Women are all too often expected to sacrifice their own needs in order to serve others. As a feminist, I believe it’s important not to fall into that stereotype, but at the same time I respect the Buddhist ideal of a life of service. How can I dedicate myself to serving oth- ers in a way that doesn’t force me into an uncomfortable gender role? Answer: Being raised by women who were often taught to put their own needs last, this has been a question I have sat with in meditation. I am grateful for spir- itual teachers, in particular indigenous elders, who have helped me remember wisdom about how to walk this balance. One of my teachers, Grandmother Amalia from Mexico, shared a healing practice with me that includes the affirma- tions: “From this moment on, I choose to LOVE myself, I choose to CARE for myself, and I choose to RESPECT myself. When you love, care, and respect yourself first, you will be better able to do the same for those you love.” I have found this to be true. When I make time to honor my mind, body, and spirit, I find it easier to be more spacious and loving to those around me. Years ago, the Dalai Lama opined that “Western women will save the world.” Even the Buddha spoke of mothers’ devoted love and compassion as a model for the spiritual path. When we honor all beings, particularly women and those who have been most oppressed in our culture, we create the conditions for a society based in collective wisdom and balance, where all humans and Earth are valued and respected. We are modeling for future generations what service, jus- tice, dignity, and power can look like. As we work for joy and liberation for future generations, we can start by practicing it in the present ourselves. ♦ ©KELVINTT/DREAMSTIME.COM Send your question to email@example.com Such androgynous symbolism is the norm for all theistic religions, with a single significant exception. The three monotheistic religions generally refer to the Supreme Being using masculine pronouns and images. Though they claim that the deity is beyond sexuality altogether, since that is part of His transcendence, most adherents of these religions are quite horrified and offended to hear that deity referred to using female pronouns and images. In Jewish and Christian feminist theology, reams have been written on this problem, which remains, espe- cially at the practical level, one of the most intrac- table problems for feminists to reconstruct. ... Though some Jewish or Christian feminists might initially expect that the maleness of the Buddha should give me just as big a problem, the Buddha, no matter how interpreted, just isn’t as important to Buddhism as God is to the monotheistic faiths. The maleness of the historical Buddha is analogous to the maleness of the historical Jesus—a sociologi- cal necessity of his patriarchal times and an acci- dent of his particular personality, not an essential attribute of his being. In forms of Buddhism that have a more abstract and metaphysical concept of buddhahood, the ultimate level of buddha (dharmakaya) is impersonal, while the manifest and relative levels of buddha (sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya) occur in both female and male form. From Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism, by RITA M. GROSS, published by the State University of New York Press. BRENDA SALGADO is the director of the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California. NO BIG GUY IN THE SKY There’s no male God in Buddhism, says feminist scholar and Buddhist teacher Rita Gross, because the ultimate level of enlightenment has no gender. BECAUSE BUDDHISM IS non-theistic, there is no gendered Absolute or Supreme Being valorizing the male sex among humans as does the deity of male monotheism. In all theistic religions, the Absolute Supreme Being is also personified and given human traits, includ- ing gender. In a religion like Hinduism, the deities are, sensibly, symbolized as being of both genders. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2015 23 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE