27 August 2008

inquiries into being female

Recently I mentioned to some friends the response I had written to Sangharakshita's writing on the subject of the spiritual capacity of women. The kinds of views he expressed seemed to be accepted by many members of his Order until the last few years, though support tended to be more public, while dissent was private (for example within the private journal of the Order.) Anyway one friend told me that she had found the article very useful and suggested that it might be helpful to other people becoming involved with the FWBO.

It's about 16 pages. I have updated it to correspond to my current thinking, which comes 10 or so years after the original writing. By the way Sangharakshita read an earlier version of it some years ago and said he enjoyed it! May it be of use...

(Word document)
Tearing Open the Dark
inquiries into being female
in the friends of the western buddhist order

Some References
Sangharakshita is the founder of the Western Buddhist Order, into which I was ordained in 2001. His website is sangharakshita.org.

FWBO Discussion site (focus on gender)

(Image "Meditation" by William Bartlett.)


Jayarava said...

Hi Suvarnaprabha

You might enjoy one of my older blog posts which is relevant to this one.
Women and Ordination
It seems as though there is ample evidence these days to undermine the "tradition" view (seemingly endorsed by Sangharakshita) that in general at least women were seen as less capable, or that there was a social stigma. The story of Baddha is instructive (you may recall Suryagita singing about her at the last convention?) Baddha shows that the Buddha was not at all reluctant to ordain women in the beginning, and that there was a pre-existing Jain tradition of women ascetics. Baddha was hard-core in that she didn't shave her head, but had her hair pulled out by the roots! The Buddha expresses no doubts or reservations and places no extra burdens on her when he says "ehi Baddha" and that is her ordination.

Suvarnaprabha says.... said...

Hi Jayarava, I did enjoy your piece! Very interesting. I don't suppose I think that because the Buddha instantly 'ordained' a woman doesn't mean there wasn't a stigma. Perhaps there wasn't as big a stigma as was implied by the special rules...

Suvarnaprabha says.... said...

golden radiance- i just re-read your piece on women, posted on your blog. i am so pleased you have made it available for others, particularly gfr gals [women who've requested ordination] who might be newer to the ordination process and to the fwbo. i found it so helpful when i read it myself years back, and feel that your quest, and your poetic expression of it, is such a service to us who have followed down the path behind you. i feel deep gratitude.

it is such a beautiful piece, so personal, but also so thorough. your points are well thought-out and well-documented. also it is fair. i understand why bhante found it "refreshing". it is fun, too, to read the updated version, and know your ponderings since you first wrote it.

you are such a gifted writer. i am glad to see you are devoting time towards this gift. some of the personal details i enjoyed were about barbies and reptiles, about being a body and being golden light, about the special advantages of birth control and divorce, thoughts on anger/insecurity/hostility/defensiveness, mean groups of girls, and not wanting to be thought of in a particular way. what is artful is a deeply personal reflection hitting a universal chord, precisely because it is personal. for me, this piece does that.

i remember when i read it the piece finished very strongly with an invitation for women to practice. that if we want to awaken we must practice, and we must get on with it right now.
it was a very urgent conclusion, and in my memory it burned in my brain as a mantra, which i have drawn on when i felt myself straying towards my own habits of anger/insecurity/hostility/defensiveness. i do love the new ending as well. i am curious about this revision.

so, that's my fresh impression of reading the piece again. thanks so much for sharing it, and for living it. xo indigotara

Suvarnaprabha says.... said...

From an email I got:
I downloaded your piece last night and read it. It was helpful to read on the men/women issue, but, not just that, it was a very moving and thoughtful piece of writing on how an issue becomes a koan for us, and how - if we stay with it - it takes us deeper and deeper into the truth about us and about life. I thought you communicated really well about that process of reflection and uncovering the truth... thanks.

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