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Jun 26 2011

Buddhism sounds familiar

The other day I dared to impugn the feminist credentials of a global religious leader, head of state complete with palace and throne, and internationally revered dude whose every antic goes virtually unquestioned by the entire world. I caught a little flak for this impugnment.

The impugnment to which I allude, of course, is that of the Dalai Lama. I said “he is no feminist,” and I meant it, by gum.

The Dalai Lama, successfully marketed to “spiritual” Western iconoclasts as a god among men, is problematic from a radical feminist viewpoint. I have already explained why this is so, but I don’t mind repeating myself. The Dalai Lama is 1) a global religious leader, 2) a head of state complete with palace and throne, and 3) an internationally revered dude whose every antic goes virtually unquestioned by the entire Western world. These are three dude-qualities that without exception spell, and have always spelled, trouble for women. Why feminists think it’s OK to overlook these in the case of the ridiculously enpedestalized dudely Dalai Lama I cannot say.

What I can say is that Buddhism, the Dalai Lama’s ism of choice, is just as goofy and fucked up as any other dude-invented religion. I mean, reincarnation? Seriously? What a load.

You know, no jokey essay on Buddhism would be complete without a fond remembrance of delusional ex-movie star tough guy-turned-reality TV Deputy Dork Steven Seagal, who came out as a reincarnated lama, evidently having paid his personal guru-monk to ordain him.

Anyway, while those moments when spinster aunts may be observed to endure gasbag Christopher Hitchens are as rare as feminists on TV, it is difficult to suppress a chuckle at Hitch’s assessment of Buddhism, from his infamous 1998 Dalai takedown, as “the sinister if not indeed crazy belief that death is but a stage in a grand cycle of what appears to be futility and subjection.”

Even if you are, for some reason, okay with Buddhism’s fairy tales of magic and rebirth and ascendance, you may consider it useful to know whether or not your religion hates you. One way to divine the attitude toward women of any given venerable institution is to inspect its power structure for evidence of female representation. So how many Buddhist lamas, tulkus, monks, or poobahs are women?

Zippo.

They got nuns, though. Long-suffering nuns (is there any other kind?):

“[Nunnery founder] Shugseb Jetsun Rinpoche was particularly known for holding a lineage of Chöd, the meditation practice of offering one’s own body for the benefit of others.”

Sound familiar?

Here is a list, handed down by the Buddha Himself, of the crap (the Eight Garudharmas) that nuns are expected to endure on accounta they are members of the sex class:

1. A nun who has been ordained (even) for a century must greet respectfully, rise up from her seat, salute with joined palms, do proper homage to a monk ordained but that day.

2. A nun must not spend the rains in a residence where there is no monk.

3. Every half month a nun should desire two things from the Order of monks : the asking (as to the date) of the Observance day, and the coming for the exhortation (of a monk).

4. After the rains a nun must invite before both the Orders in respect of three matters; what was seen, what was heard and what was suspected.

5. A nun, offending against an important rule, must undergo manatta (discipline) for half a month before both the Orders.

6. When, as a probationers, she has been trained in the six rules for two years, she should seek ordination from both the Orders.

7. A monk must not be abused or reviled in any way by a nun.

8. From today admonition of monks by nuns is forbidden, admonition by monks is not forbidden.

The Buddhist website from which I swiped the above list claims that these gender-based injunctions are not intended to control women, but are actually for the nun’s own protection.

Sound familiar?

Women are, in fact, specifically prohibited from attaining Enlightenment, period. Per El Buddho himself: “It is impossible that a woman should be the Universal Monarch/King of Death/Brahmaa.”

Yes, women are the sex class, yes, even for those chill, enlightened Buddhists! Busy Buddhism-mocking spinster aunts on the go are nothing if not shoddy scholars, so here’s a little blurb supporting my argument from — I say it loud and proud — Wikipedia.

“According to [professor of Buddhism at Stanford] Diana Paul, Buddhism inherited a view of women whereby if they are not represented as mothers then they are portrayed as either lustful temptresses or as evil incarnate.”

Sound familiar?

I was eventually able to transcend Wikipedia to turn up a paper authored by this same Diana Y Paul which contains this unpleasant but hardly surprising revelation concerning Buddhism’s elemental misogyny:

“If a woman is acknowledged as having the spiritual potential of becoming a Bodhisattva, then she has access to the way of enlightenment. If she is denied this capacity, she is denied the religious goal of Mahayana Buddhism. Some texts, such as the Pure Land Sutra, deny women birth in the Pure Land unless they despise their female nature. Despising the female nature results in rebirth as a man in the Pure Land. Vows to be reborn as men were seen as acts of piety performed by devout Buddhist women. In texts of this kind, the female sex is subordinated to the male sex as inferior — as defective and impure in body. Only through denial of one’s feminine body in this lifetime is there spiritual attainment in the next. While men too were to deny their sexual and bodily needs in order to gain rebirth in the Pure Land, there was never a specific vow for them to despise their own body. Sexual transformation from female to male is taken literally — that is, a women dies and is reborn as a man.”

Paul is quick to suggest that not all Buddhist sutras reflect this high-grade misogyny. However, she acknowledges that such “liberal portraits of women a religious beings” comprise an “extremely small percentage” of these religious texts.

But I digress. Back to the Dalai Lama. Surprise. He hates Buddhist homos, promotes religious intolerance, eats meat, opposes abortion, and sees nothing oppressive about men paying to rape women.

“Men-to-men and women-to-women is generally considered sexual misconduct,” he asserts.

And here he’s just blatantly buttering up the faithful:

“To have sexual relations with a prostitute paid by you and not by a third person does not constitute improper behavior.” But if your best man buys you a hooker for your bachelor party, karma gonna get you. You’ll probably be reincarnated as one of those poor body-offering nuns.

The Dalai Lama, it turns out, is just another liberal dude in a gaudy toga, imbued with misogynist dudeliness, like all liberal dudes.

155 comments

1 ping

  1. GMM

    Image is everything, isn’t it? I had the impression that Buddhism was a refreshingly peaceful, lovely religion until very recently, and was told by many a dude that it was totally not misogynistic. Well, maybe a *little.

    *In Tantric Buddhism, the “real woman” (or karma mudra) an enlightened man/yogi should have sex with in order to steal her female essence is ideally eight to sixteen years old. If none are available, a 20 year old will suffice. But women over 21 are evil “goddesses of wrath” (sound familiar?) and should be avoided at all costs.

    And if the wise man is having trouble getting his karma mudra to consent, there’s always alcohol:
    “The Kalachakra Tantra urges the yogi to render the mudra pliant with intoxicating liquor: ‘Wine is essential for the wisdom consort [prajna]. … Any mudra at all, even those who are still not willing, can be procured with drink’ (Grünwedel, Kalacakra III, p. 147). It is only a small step from this to the use of direct force. There are also texts, which advise “that if a woman refuses sexual union she must be forced to do so” (Bhattacharyya, 1982, p. 125).”

    If alcohol doesn’t work, there’s always rape.

    After the sex act, the child (sorry, real woman) is
    “of no more use to the tantrik than husk of a shelled peanut.”

    For more lobe-blowing woman hatred, see:
    The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Part I – 3. The Tantric Female Sacrifice
    by V. and V. Trimondi
    http://www.trimondi.de/SDLE/Part-1-03.htm

  2. Catherine Martell

    Indeed, Buddhism is not “the nice one”. When it’s the dominant religious ideology (Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bhutan, Tibet, Burma, etc), it acts like all religions, becoming a vehicle for patriarchy, concomitant oppressions including homophobia, caste and classism, state-sponsored violence, etc.

    I’m not usually a Hitchens fan, but he is absolutely right that the snuggly feelings many western liberals have for Buddhism – usually in indirect proportion to their knowledge about its application in reality – constitute orientalism.

    NB: Kumari Jayawardena, in Feminism & Nationalism in the Third World, found historical evidence that Sri Lankan women became Buddhist nuns because it allowed them some escape to a less male-populated sphere. But she noted that frustration was felt by these women with the way Buddhism itself considered them inferior to male monks. Which is an exact match to the experiences of many Catholic nuns.

  3. Lovepug

    I remember back in the day being lulled by the alleged peaceful enlightenment of Buddhism when I did a few sittings and the San Francisco Zen Center. Then afterwards, you share a meal and listen to the dudes who are allegedly so much more enlightened than you ramble on about how fucking enlightened they are. After a few weeks, I just got tired of listening to those idiots. And sitting is boring.

    I also tried the Hindu stuff and the Shivananda Center in Berkeley. More women represented, and the meditation at least had music, but the requisite, tiresome, holier than thou dudes were there as well.

    But! They did have these awesome black tea cookies that were absolutely melt in your mouth and I’ve never been able to find them or recreate them since. So, if I ever did go back, it would only be for the cookies. Cuz those cookies were certainly the closest thing I ever got to Nirvana.

  4. Sandalwood

    Add that to the fact that the Dalai Lamas of the past were pretty much parasites who thrived off the blood and sweat of their people. Religious wars, vicious sectarianism; in most Buddhist countries (not positive about Tibet), a monk ordained for ten minutes is more senior than a nun of twenty years.

    I have a book entitled “The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama” where the history of Tibet is told through a series of delightfully uninformative talks with the Dalai Lama, who seems rather intellectually stunted, fleshed out by a sympathetic author. The Dalai Lama supposedly believes in evolution and we’re supposed to take this as evidence as how modern and liberal he is. A picture section with some nice pictures of golden statues built off the back of peasant labour contains a picture of a mural and an enlightening passage:

    “Tibetan origin myths say that the Bodhisattva Chenrizi sent what the Dalai Lama calls ‘energy’ or ‘positive karmic connection’ into a male monkey as the Bodhisattva guided the evolution of the first Tibetans”.

    And the mural is like some multi-handed d00d shooting a rainbow into a meditating monkey. There’s some shit about demoness monkeys and sacred barely too.

    Two thoughts:
    1) That’s not how evolution works you numbskull.
    2) Holy crap I can’t believe I payed $27.50 for this piece of excrement book.

  5. scrappy

    Twisty, as usual, you have done a public service.

    I spent my early twenties at this place: http://www.naropa.edu/

    Where most of my time was spent listening to dudes tell me that if I didn’t want them to prong me, it was because I wasn’t enlightened enough.

  6. DepecheNode

    I say this with the utmost respect, because I am a fan of your blog, but I feel as if there are a few mistakes within this post.

    First of all, I feel that this post would cause many unfamiliar with Buddhism to assume that the Dalai Lama is the leader of all Buddhists.

    That is not true, he is only the leader of one form of Tibetan Buddhism. However, this is the most popular form of Buddhism in America, so I understand why one might think of only that when discussing Buddhism. There are in fact many different forms of Buddism, some more progressive than others. Many do not follow the Dalai Lama.

    Also, many do not believe in reincarnation, and some allow for female monks. When you are talking about reincarnation and rebirth, you are pretty much only talking about Tibetan Buddhism., Many Japanese forms of Buddhism, for instance, do not believe in reincarnation.

    I do agree that Buddhism, like every other major religion, is steeped in misogyny, because all religions are nothing more than reflections of the societies that create them.

    However, I do know of more modern, progressive Buddhist groups who do not preach the sexist ideals of the past. They’re probably int he minority, but they are out there.

    I just wanted everyone to know that not all Buddhists are the same and the belief systems of Buddhists vary wildly from sect to sect, group to group.

  7. Gray Rose

    As a student of Buddhism, I have no argument with the fact that a lot of the scriptures, and a lot of the leaders, of Buddhism are glaringly misogynistic. However, the Lotus Sutra does specifically say that women can be enlightened, which as we know is a real shocker in the patriarchy. Unfortunately there are sects which follow the Lotus Sutra and don’t pay much attention to that part, but I know of, and practice with, one group that does. I’m in a lay Buddhist organization that follows the Lotus Sutra, so there are no priests, just people. Some are in administrative positions, but they’re not supposed to be more important than others. We still have plenty of patriarchy, some of it coming from Japanese culture, some of it from American culture, but at the very least, our group has no doubt that women can achieve the exact same enlightenment as men. I’m not trying to preach my own sect, just giving an example, and this is the one I’m most familiar with.

  8. Kenzie

    Perhaps a reason why many north american feminists (and liberals) make the mistake of thinking that buddhism (and/or tibetan buddhism, thanks DepecheNode) is less problematic than christianity is that they themselves have not been personally oppressed by it. It looks superficially better at a distance (even though, like any personal spiritual belief undertaken by a large group, it lends itself to abuses by those who prefer power to community).

  9. Katy

    Because the Hitchens’ link above is currently broken, I provide here what appears to be the source article by him: http://www.salon.com/news/1998/07/13news.html

    And hey, Lovepug! I’ve also visited the SF Zen Center, under duress, dragged by someone I still call a friend, because she thought meditation would help alleviate my depression. In a way, it did; the depression was replaced by anger and loathing. Save me from San-Francisco-hippy-flavored dudes!

  10. Irlandese

    Now I can feel free to ignore Buddhism the way I ignore all other dogma-based institutions, without any vague feeling of guilt for being so resistant to such ‘enlightenment’. Ritualistic anything makes me BALKY.

  11. Bushfire

    the depression was replaced by anger and loathing

    Now that sounds VERY familiar.

  12. Rididill

    ‘the depression was replaced by anger and loathing’

    Yeah. Does anyone know what to do about this? I’m finding it quite tiring.

  13. Puffin

    To pick a minor nit – there are female lamas. Lama Tsultrim Allione is one, an “emanation” of another major female Buddhist poobah, Machig Labdron.

  14. Kea

    Ah, the anger and loathing. Only thing that keeps me alive. So be grateful, bitches.

  15. Ciara

    Wow. I have only a very superficial understanding of Buddhism and had no idea about this stuff. I suppose their PR machine must be working because I really would have thought of Buddhism as the “tolerant religion”. So glad to have been enlightened by this article!

  16. gitana

    To reiterate a previous post, Buddhism is conglomeration of many rituals and traditions. It is like ice cream. There are many flavours and like ice cream there are many forms (dairy, soy, coconut, etc.)

    There are thousands of sutras, many of them attributed to Buddha, but most of them were written down after his passing. To denigrate Buddhism, based on one the sutras and the natterings of the leader of one school of Buddhism (out of hundreds), is culturally biased. Certainly those teachings described here are heinous, but all of them?

    Really?

  17. Frumious B.

    Well, this was timely. I’ve been meditating lately, and the 8 heavy duties or whatever they are called slipped my mind.

  18. minervaK

    Like I said. Turn something into a religion, and it goes to shit, more or less immediately.

  19. Lindsay

    That stuff about the subjection of nuns to monks is pretty horrible; what I knew about Buddhism before reading this post would’ve barely filled a thimble, so this is all (very depressing) news to me.

    I did more or less know about karma, though: whatever your life is like now, it is that way because of how you acted in your past lives. So if your life sucks, you brought it on yourself — that has always struck me as immensely cruel. Does anyone else feel that way?

  20. Bushfire

    Yeah. Does anyone know what to do about this? I’m finding it quite tiring.

    Revolution!

  21. Jill

    Quoth gitana: “To denigrate Buddhism, based on one the sutras and the natterings of the leader of one school of Buddhism (out of hundreds), is culturally biased.”

    I do not denigrate Buddhism on accounta the Dalai Lama. I denigrate it entirely independently of the Dalai Lama, because it is a religion, and religion is intolerable. Those Eight Degradations are not the Dalai Lama’s flight of fancy, for example. They come straight from the head Buddha. That dude was quite the little misogynist.

  22. TwissB

    Thanks, Twisty. That was the pasting that the creepy Dalai Lama and all his brethren in religion deserve. I’ll never understand why so many people long for, not only that secure sense of self-righteousness and membership in a political club that can’t be voted out of office, but long as well for endlessly changing, highly complicated Rules To Live By, handed down by unquestioned authority, that are as arbitrary, trivial and deeply demented as rules for negotiating SM rituals, or memorizing all of the names, powers, and weapons attributed to each of the myriad of monsters in children’s pseudo-lit. The appeal to people who are dying to lord it over and control others is obvious enough, but what motivates others to try to believe that they can believe six impossible things before breakfast if they will just submit and melt with love toward everybody – except those whom the Masters decree shall be loathed. Could anything be a more boring waste of time? And could anything be sillier than to become expert in the minutiae of such unreal matters as the precise number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin?

  23. Ron Sullivan

    Just because he looks like Phil silvers doesn’t mean he isn’t the pope.

  24. Unree

    @gitana, even putting aside what Jill said about the Eight Degradations, Buddhism is not quite flavors (or flavours) of ice cream. Unless you note that soy ice cream is a heck of a lot rarer, harder to find, and harder to sell than the cow kind. Godbaggery does offer a few flavors that don’t proudly hate women. But liberal flavors don’t have the power that bigtime patriarchal religions have. See, for example: the Church of Rome all over the world, Orthodox vs. liberal/Reform Judaism in the state of Israel, and Southern Baptists all over the U.S. south.

  25. minervaK

    Not to nitpick, but the vast majority of what is today called “buddhism” is questionable as to origin — while it’s possible that the Eight Degradations (HAR) came direct from buddha himself, it’s more likely that they were invented by dudely followers, since the -ism part of buddhism (including the monk/nun thing) didn’t come into being until well after the original buddha dude was dead. As all blamers know, one of the primary rules of setting up a religion is to claim that all the shit you say came direct from the messiah, so that you can get away with it.

  26. minervaK

    Godbaggery does offer a few flavors that don’t proudly hate women.

    Ha. Name one.

  27. DepecheNode

    Godbaggery does offer a few flavors that don’t proudly hate women.

    Ha. Name one.

    Unitarian Universalists, Quakers.

    There are two.

  28. minervaK

    I’m sorry. I got carried away. I know better than to discuss religion on the internet.

  29. Flora Poste

    “I did more or less know about karma, though: whatever your life is like now, it is that way because of how you acted in your past lives. So if your life sucks, you brought it on yourself — that has always struck me as immensely cruel. Does anyone else feel that way?”

    It strikes me as an elaborate rationale for the victim blaming that brings comfort and even pleasure to the religious and non-religious alike.

    It also seems very similar to the “you must have done something to deserve it” mentality (only applies when bad things happen) so beloved of all the Catholics I know.

  30. Chantelle

    @DepecheNode re: Quakers

    Nice try but historically, Quakers (particularly in the US) have preached the idea of modesty – for women only. What a surprise! This included women-only meetings, not for the purpose of empowerment but to keep them “pure”, as well as slut-shaming.

    It is actually irrelevant whether a text/dogma/creed is patriarcal or not. Because there is no religious group that exists outside of patriarchal society, by definition there will always be elements of misogyny no matter how warm and fuzzy they may seem in relation to the rest of that society.

  31. allhellsloose

    “You must have done something to deserve it” applies in the main to women within Catholic circles since they are p*ssed on (and told it’s raining) from High on a daily basis. It’s always best to apportion blame on someone else when you inflict pain. The actions of a misogynist. Sorry for the slight derail.

    “Religion is intolerable”. Exactly this.

  32. Jenna

    About time someone exposed Buddhism as just another misogynistic organization and nothing more. Now how about doing the same for Baha’i, another one that has people deluded?

  33. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    This kind of encapsulates my experience with organized religion and religious folks:

    http://www.thejaywalker.com/pages/shit_happens.html

  34. madeleine

    It had been my impression that in original Buddhism there was no difference between castes, races and genders, so after reading this post I did some research. It appears that in buddhist circles there is discussion about the historicity of these 8 degradations.
    Some say they cannot have come from Buddha himself, as the term used in the sixth for a woman who has been practicing for 2 years did not exist yet in his day.
    His first listeners were not ordained, they asked if they could sit and listen and he said: Come (‘Ehi’). These people are known as the ‘ehi bhikkhuni’ – female – and ‘ehi bhikkhu’ – male.
    Of course you can never be sure who said what and why so long ago. But the original texts, that also say never to believe anything that you haven’t experienced for yourself, have been very helpful to me. Not so the buddhist ‘church’.

  35. Mortisha

    Don’t understand the whole worshippy mindset that goes with religion. Especially the elevation of some dude that people go all feverish over. Same thing with that screaming glazed eyed cult of celebrity. Is that manufactured or a genuine natural impulse for people?

    Truly.Do.Not.Understand.It. It is just another person.
    Guess if the situation was reversed and I had someone go all worshippy on my arse I’d be creeped the hell out and run bug-eyed into the mountains never to return.

    Some people are great teachers, if they have got a good point to make, great let’s hear it but please let’s not pretend their shit don’t stink like everyone else’s.

  36. Gnatalby

    Buddhism is a religion with just as many drawbacks as any other, that’s totally true.

    But there are female tulkus. It’s not 50/50 or anything, but it’s not zippo.

  37. Jill

    Although I can appreciate a blamer’s natural appetites for historical accuracy and minor quibbling, arguments concerning the provenance of this or that Buddhist idea are not really germane on this, an atheist, anti-religion blog, wherein it is regarded as settled fact that spirit-world holy magic of any kind, whether invented by the original prehistoric guru or his (always his) subsequent medieval cultists, is nonsense. In other words, the sacred texts of Savage Death Island decree that all organized religion is not merely misogynist, but silly.

    Which is not to say that you can’t get some good self-help slogans, platitudinous life-coaching, and TV sitcom titles out of religious texts. “All things must pass,” “turn the other cheek,” “we reap what we sow,” “one day at a time” — words to live by!

    On a semi-related note, I have found, in my long, tortured years of Internet feminism, that comments beginning with the phrase “not to nitpick, but” invariably contain a nitpick.

  38. Sarah

    Hooboy. Not sure if the Kama Sutra is a Buddhist text or not, but reading that back in my funfem days is what turned me away from all Sutra-related things. I was hoping for a fun sex handbook with illustrations, but instead got a text instructing me on precisely how OK it was to drug and rape women.

  39. Jill

    Gnatalby June 27, 2011 at 7:21 am
    But there are female tulkus. It’s not 50/50 or anything, but it’s not zippo.

    Any ratio other than 50/50 is unacceptable from a feminist viewpoint.

    However, just so you know, before I made that blanket statement about the zippo female tulkus, my No.1 googling skills were able to turn up just two. Given that there are thousands of tulkus overall, I determined that this number was statistically insignificant. Heck, it would be pretty insignificant if there were fifty.

    A tulku, for those who are unfamiliar with this particular flight of fancy, is a dude who, by dint of his awesome power of divine awesomeness, is able to choose where, when, and in what form he will be reincarnated. In the hierarchy of Tibetan Buddhism (this religion is obsessed with hierarchy), tulkus are pretty hot shit. The rank and file Buddhist, by contrast, is at the mercy of karmic forces unknown, and is liable to return as a worm in a crummy neighborhood.

    If I were a tulku, which, as has been established, is impossible due to my sex, and also due to the fact that reincarnation is a flippin’ fantasy/delusion, I would choose to be reborn as my wonderful self, only enhanced with a few superpowers, and on the planet Obstreperon about a thousand years hence. I would like to be able to observe (with my telescopic super-vision) from a safe distance the radioactive bacteria-infested mess the Earth is likely to have become by then.

  40. tinfoil hattie

    Not my Buddha!

  41. humanbein

    I only know one thing, and that thing is that it’s all belief. The emotional needs that are filled by various religions are sometimes enjoyed even by very intelligent people. The same small kick people get out of reading horoscopes and then gathering and connecting intuitions suggested by horoscopes is like the same small kick people get from religion.

    Carry on enjoying whichever aspects of your Buddhist religion that are giving you joy, I say. Radical feminism gives you the tools to avoid being oppressed by it if you can shake off the training that might corrupt you.

    It’s possible that you can enjoy your own construction of any religion on your own terms, because there really is no law I recognize that can force anyone into believing anything they don’t want to. Though it might be in direct contradiction to many fundamentalist belief systems; you can edit out the patriarchal bullshit from any given religion to suit your own beliefs, and doing so is far from uncommon.

    Strip out the misogyny from any religion, and all you have left is a handful of charming and symbolic superstitions and the good stuff about love and altruism. Jill’s method is to simply dump all of it if any of it is flawed, which is the atheistic belief system. That works very well if you have no need for the tiny pearl of good stuff in religion, and shows an admirable strength.

    It’s all belief, so take what you need and throw out the bad. I’ll never defend the misogynistic bullshit found in any cultural system, I’ll just reject that part of it.

  42. Lovepug

    I would want to be reincarnated as a pug living with a human like me. My dog lives fulltime at an all-inclusive resort near as I can tell.

    Spirituality is a tough one for feminists. I’ve always had some kind of spiritual stirrings, but never found a good outlet for them. I knew early on that Christianity was a non-starter. Raised half-assed Catholic, even as a young child I knew that was some wierd stuff. Later forays into my friends’ various churches convinced me even further that I had no connection whatsoever. So, as a teenager and young adult, I explored Buddhism, Wiccan, Christian-Light, all manner of New Age from Louise Hay to Carolyn Myss, the Hindu/Chakra thing, Astrology (which has oddly been the most reliable), tried to read the Koran and was instantly bored (queue the fatwa on my head now), shamanism and the neo-pagan appropriation of Native American spirituality. Shit, I even read The Secret. When you live in the Bay Area, there is no shortage of classes and seminars you can take and speakers you can listen to (though I do kind of like Thich Nat Hahn or however you spell his name).

    I’ve done it all. At this point in my waning life, I still feel spiritual, but I’m okay now with not giving it a name (though at this point I think I qualify as a Pan-Theist). And by not trying to force it into some kind of tradition or practice, I feel even more connected with it. Maybe I’ll just call it Gertrude.

  43. Rididill

    ‘So if your life sucks, you brought it on yourself — that has always struck me as immensely cruel. Does anyone else feel that way?’

    Yes indeedy. In fact, among the Guatemalan hippie traveller communities, this has been directly used to blame rape victims in my recent experience. Similar but slightly different more widespread ideology is the mind numbingly idiotic ‘law of attraction’ – in which whatever we think, i.e. whatever ‘energies’ we ‘manifest’ will come true. This leads to quite silly advice such as, don’t carry pepper spray as it will make violence happen to you. If you pretend everything is awesome and safe, it will be!!

    Also, your health problems are just because you are so bitter and twisted inside (this was actually directly said to my face), i.e. critical about oppression in the world instead of wandering around in a happy clappy daze muttering about milk thistle and astral projection. I hate these people…

  44. Barbara O'Brien

    It is indisputable that there is a great deal of institutional sexism in Asian Buddhism, but don’t blame the Dalai Lama for that. And note that your post contains several factual errors.

    First, the Dalai Lama is no longer a head of state. He has relieved himself of all political power and turned the government in exile over to an elected parliament and prime minister. This made a big splash in the news a few weeks ago.

    The Dalai Lamas never had absolute power even when they were in power, in old Tibet.

    His Holiness has requested that all discrimination against nuns be eliminated, but it’s not entirely up to him. There’s some institutional bureaucracy that has to sign off on this, and they aren’t expected to do so anytime soon.

    The phrase “god among men” does not accurately reflect his position in Tibetan Buddhism. The concepts of “gods” as westerners generally understand the word does not apply to Buddhism. There are iconic characters that are identified as “gods” or “deities” to English-speaking people, but they aren’t gods or deities, exactly. “Archetypes” would be closer to how Tibetans understand them.

    If you knew more about the Dorje Shugden cult, you wouldn’t be defending them by claiming that His Holiness is discriminating against them. The cult was banned by the previous Dalai Lama for violent attacks on other Buddhist temples with which they disagreed. The current Dalai Lama re-banned them in the mid 1970s after the sect issued a book that predicted death and terrible suffering for certain other Buddhists who practice Buddhism differently from the way they do. Since its re-banning, the Shugden cult has done a bang-up job persuading westerners who don’t know Buddhism from broccoli that they are innocent victims of the Dalai Lama’s intolerance, but that’s a crock. His Holiness has, in fact, been a great champion of religious tolerance.

    I could go on, but the bottom line is that most of your comments about the Dalai Lama amount to lies and slander. Note that I practice in a Japanese Zen tradition and am not one of his followers; I just wish people would get facts straight (including Wikipedia).

    You got some other things right, including much of the sexism written into the various sutras. There’s a controversy among scholars as to how much of this, if any, began with the historical Buddha and how much was written in later. However, scriptures don’t have the same authority in Buddhism that they do in Christianity, and as a Buddhist I am free to disagree with them.

    And for one of the most unabashedly feminist works in all of the world’s religious literature, check out Chapter 7 of the Vimalakirti Sutra (ca. 2nd century CE) which clearly makes a case for gender equality.

  45. tinfoil hattie

    My friend’s 17 y.o. son contracted got leukemia at age 14 because my friend didn’t take her kids to Mass and pray enough. Her sister-in-law told her so!

  46. ivyleaves

    A short while back I looked at the ancient rules for buddhist nuns and monks to compare them. Not only did nuns have a bunch of extra rules, but the hierarchy of punishments for the same rules were different for nuns and monks. Guess who got punished more for the same offense? Guess who could get kicked out instantly for doing the same thing the other gender would just be questioned for? Guess which gender was in charge of making both lists of rules official? Guess which gender was blamed for asking for extra rules in the commentaries? IBTP

  47. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    My best friend Jim died of AIDS when he was 29 (blind, both feet amputated, weighing 97 lbs., abandoned by his family) because he was an abomination in the eyes of God. So I was told.

    When I came back home from burying him and returned to work, a so-called born-again lady refused to be in an office with me. This is forgivable, because people believed all kinds of crazy shit about HIV and how it’s transmitted back then (1987-88?) But I still remember how much this rejection hurt, from someone who was supposed to be my friend.

    And I still believe Christ would’ve wanted me to care for Jim.

  48. Tigs

    @Hattie: “Not my Buddha!” Priceless!!

    @Everybody:

    “Which is not to say that you can’t get some good self-help slogans, platitudinous life-coaching, and TV sitcom titles out of religious texts. “All things must pass,” “turn the other cheek,” “we reap what we sow,” “one day at a time” — words to live by!”

    My question is if/how we can take more than the platitude from problematic systems.

    I was never particularly interested in the Buddhism part of the Dalai Lama’s teachings, but what he has to say about compassion is pretty striking–and not merely a slogan, but rather a key part of an ethical system that is easily excised from all but the most minimal metaphysical gestures. To what extent can we defend these teachings, given what else we know about the dude?

    This is particularly interesting to me because I study political theory. The vast majority of political theory is deeply steeped, from conception to consequence, in misogyny and patriarchy. But it seems problematic to throw away things that seem really useful simply because other parts are shitty.

    If we were to throw out all the teachings of all the misogynists, we wouldn’t be left with a whole hell of a lot. So what’s the best approach here?
    Does my ever-growing love for Hegel make me a tool-tool-tool?

  49. ivyleaves

    I have one answer for this. I think only one teaching has any meaning – non-domination. I think domination is basically evil described. Analyze everything with that in mind, and you can become very very wise, and learn a lot about yourself to boot.

  50. Yardshark

    Quoting humanbein: “It’s possible that you can enjoy your own construction of any religion on your own terms, because there really is no law I recognize that can force anyone into believing anything they don’t want to.”

    This is how I approach marriage to my Nigel, yet here on SDI I’ve been chided that it’s impossible. (As helpful as that advice was, I’ll play it my way, thanks.)

    As far as the purpose of gathering the good and leaving the bad, for that I really don’t see much to recommend religion at all. We don’t need religion per se, and certainly don’t need a *particular* religion, nor a particular over-worshipped piece of “holy” writing, to get the kumbaya platitudes Jill refers to. They are thick on the ground and freely available to anyone. Just because a few of them got incorporated in some babble or other doesn’t make that babble special, though some people seem to think it does as they breathlessly quote it. It’s pathetic really.

    On the other hand, I don’t believe in an “atheist belief system.” We atheists don’t have a belief system in common.

    As a postscript, I myself have experienced what has been called in Zen Buddhism “kensho” or “satori” – and ain’t I a woman? Granted, those are only temporary (even if the state I was in did last about 2 years) as opposed to the permanent nirvana. This experience was not brought on through teachers or any seeking, nor was it associated with any sect of any kind. It is a physical/mental state that occurred due to some intense stuff going on in my personal life at the time, and only later did I figure out what others classified it as. It can happen to (or be deliberately achieved by) anyone (even an atheist such as myself), and need not be the special property of any religion. It sure as heck did not turn me into any kind of believer in spiritual nonsense.

  51. TwissB

    Coincidental happy talk about religion from Dick Cavett in this weeks’s NYTimes. He was entranced with the musical Book of Mormon’s treacly conventional “naughtiness” which only aims at safe targets. Unlike MinervaK who can trace the direct course from idea to religion to shit in one sentence, Cavett beams like the Dalai Lama as he amiably philosophizes: “This remarkable work inspires the thought that every religion springs from two universal needs: to explain the origin of the human race and to be comforted about the harsh finality and loss that is death. Whether this involves pyramids, 72 virgins, healing frogs, burning bushes, walking on water or tribes of alien forebears, the cameraderie, the mythologies and the comfort factors are about the same. Different religions — each of which always claims to have a monopoly on the truth — work for different people. (Is that too profound?)”

    No, Dick, just too familiar. Especially those 72 disposable virgins.

  52. Dawn Coyote

    I like Buddhism. It helped me to get a lot of things sorted out at a time in my life when I was very confused and nihilistic. I never believed any of the reincarnation/karma stuff, but other teachings were very meaningful to me (like the Heart Sutra, for instance). In Vancouver I sat with women teachers from various schools, and got a great deal from them. I only sat with men twice, and did not care for their teaching. Since I moved to SLC, I’ve looked for a group to sit with, but I’ve found only male-led groups, and I’m just not interested. Last fall I did one of those ten-day Vipassana retreats, and it pretty much put me off Buddhism altogether.

  53. Jill

    “Not my Buddha!”

    Haw! Viva Internet feminist culture!

  54. sjaustin

    If alcohol doesn’t work, there’s always rape.

    Just wanted to point out that using alcohol or other intoxicants to deliberately render someone pliant for sexual purposes is rape.

  55. minervaK

    On a semi-related note, I have found, in my long, tortured years of Internet feminism, that comments beginning with the phrase “not to nitpick, but” invariably contain a nitpick.

    Twisty, you scare and awe me in equal measure.

    I suggested earlier that I wouldn’t say any more on this topic, but I’m gonna. The pick-n-choose method is certainly the way to go, if one is going to participate in religion, but any species of magical belief is dangerous, because it removes focus from this corporeal realm. It’s a cultural sleight-of-hand — pay no attention to the man behind the curtain — so that the megatheocorporatocracy can rape the planet without anybody making a fuss. People who pay attention are dangerous.

    I now retire to the peanut gallery for margaritas.

  56. Barbara O'Brien

    “If we were to throw out all the teachings of all the misogynists, we wouldn’t be left with a whole hell of a lot. So what’s the best approach here?”

    You might look to western Zen Buddhism, which is thoroughly feminist. The monastic orders are co-ed, with both men and women taking exactly the same vows and living under exactly the same rules. And Id say roughly half of the Zen masters currently teaching in the U.S. and Canada are women.

    Grace Schireson, a Soto Zen master/teacher and founder of several Zen groups in California, writes and lectures on the subject of women in Buddhism quite a bit. If the subject actually interests you, I suggest reading her book _Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters_.

    What is clear to those of us actually practicing Buddhism in the West is that the misogyny is not only unnecessary, it is actually contradictory to much of what the Buddha taught. So when you toss it out, there is plenty left.

  57. Barbara O'Brien

    One other point about the scriptures — there is no Buddhist equivalent of the Bible, because there is no one single scripture that all schools of Buddhism look to as authoritative and authentic.

    For example, the post links to a text in the Pali Canon saying “It is impossible that a woman should be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One.” This text only has authority in Theravada Buddhism, which is the dominant school of southeast Asia — Burma, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia.

    In Mahayana (which is the dominant form in the rest of Asia) there are some scriptures that say women cannot enter Nirvana, and others that say they can. The Pure Land sutras which are particular to the Pure Land school, say they cannot. However, I don’t believe there is any such teaching in the scriptures considered authoritative by Tibetan Buddhism (the issue over nun’s ordination in Tibet doesn’t have anything to do with women realizing enlightenment, but more just plain institutional patriarchy). The scriptures considered authoritative in Zen don’t consider gender to be a hindrance to enlightenment, and there were even some women Zen masters back in Tang Dynasty China,

  58. HazelStone

    I posted this on Facebook and a female friend I ordinarily find pretty enlightened dropped this science on me:

    “I think this author carries a lot of anger inside her (which only harms her own health), and while I believe there is a place for extremes, I’m always saddened to see such an angry tone surrounding feminists. It turns people away. Our true power, whether male or female lies in our ability to be a reflection to the world of who we want to be and what we want to see. My opinion, I’m not trying to put anyone down, we all choose our own paths.”

    Just fabulous.

  59. Jill

    “I think this author carries a lot of anger inside her (which only harms her own health)[...]I’m not trying to put anyone down [...].”

    Classic! Like, “Be nice, lady, or nobody will want to stop oppressing you! Of course, live and let live.”

  60. Lidon

    I remember learning about Buddhism in a religions class and, not being heavily acquainted with it, was rather disappointed to learn about the Buddhist nuns living in hovels while the monks live in polished monasteries. As always, IBTP.

    Rididill: Yes indeedy. In fact, among the Guatemalan hippie traveller communities, this has been directly used to blame rape victims in my recent experience.

    If they’re such believers in karma, I would think that they would be compassionate and sympathetic…guess they’re full of shit as usual.

    Lovepug: They did have these awesome black tea cookies that were absolutely melt in your mouth and I’ve never been able to find them or recreate them since.

    Wow, that sounds delicious! I must find these.

  61. Lidon

    Oops, sorry about the ellipsis!

  62. Laura

    Indeed, Zen Buddhism has our very own Nigel: Dogen. In 1240, he took aim specifically at those ridiculous extra rules for women, including the you-were-born-female-musta-done-somethin-bad thing. He calls these “the wild remarks of foolish people who do not understand what the Buddha taught,” and advocated bowing to and learning from women. Of course, Buddhism being expressed within the patriarchy, his writings about this were kept under lock and key for “unexplained reasons” according to the translator. (Here it is, though it’s pretty much insider baseball: http://www.shastaabbey.org/pdf/shobo/010raiha.pdf ).

    If it’s truth, and can be verified by your own experience, then it’s just truth, and doesn’t have to be “Buddhist” any more than gravity would have to be “Newtonian” or “English” or even a “belief”.

  63. buttercup

    Live by this one absolute truth-Dick Cavett always has been, and always will be, a fucking asshole.

  64. LS

    This is an interesting topic. I have never been religious but recently I have been learning about spirituality and it has led me from very dark times to having more perspective and feeling better about my life and finding new direction. I totally disagree with minervaK’s last comment; I believe it is possible to be spiritually conscious and still look at this world and work to enact change. The spirituality is the grounding force and a key to compassion which can guide you to be focused and effective in your tasks. In my opinion, being spiritually awake helps you realize how many of our world’s constructs are bullshit… It helps you think about the right way to fight.

  65. Kali

    I never placed much stock in the ideas of this guy who needed to abandon his wife and infant child in order to “seek the truth”.

  66. Sangjin Oh

    The claim that Buddhism, its writings, history, and present day practice is filled with patriarchy is unassailable.

    However, there are some blanket statements here that are far off the mark. The female monastic institution of Buddhism, while indeed saddled with unequal precepts, was undoubtedly revolutionary, in world terms, let alone in India. Never before had women earned such institutional power in the practice of religion. Never. That it took place in Indian culture, which to this day goes finds misogyny such as this http://tgr.ph/j8YgpZ, is trailblazing. Simply blaming the patriarchy can’t erase this fact. Female monastics to this day are at the forefront of Buddhist practice in Korea and Taiwan. They refuse to be silenced and they refuse to be satisfied with merely catering to “superstition” and “feel good piety.” They are engaged in hard-core, life changing praxis – aimed at undoing social and personal oppression, including gender oppression. This work is fueled by the core teachings of Buddhism, as these nuns themselves attest. None of these facts ignore the reality of a gross level of patriarchy within Buddhism, but they also attest to the reality of a different story within Buddhism, one that doesn’t jibe with the “it’s all hokey godbaggery” narrative.

    Shorter first paragraph: Aung San Suu Kyi (while not a nun, a practicing lay woman), fer crissakes. She’s no idiot, she’s no superstitious fool, she’s merely stood toe to toe with one of the ugliest dictatorships on the planet, and has done it inspired by the Buddhist teachings she’s studied and practiced diligently for decades. If she’s not baddass enough of a representative of a religious believer fighting the fucking patriarchy, I don’t know who is.

  67. Laughingrat

    HazelStone: if only our “angry tone” really did turn dudebros away! Think of how relaxing life would be without a bunch of chumps always harshing our (potential) mellow.

    Lovepug: What kind of texture were those black tea cookies? Do you think they had butter and flour in them? It may actually advance the cause of radical feminism if we can recreate these delicious cookies without the accompanying patriarchal BS.

    So, religion and patriarchy and all that: I learned recently that my grandmother’s church has two pastors. One is the Dude Pastor, who makes phat l00tz, relatively speaking. He’s the head of the church, makes decisions, all that stuff. The other pastor? She’s the “Nurturing Pastor.” Note the gender. She also makes about a third of what Dude Pastor makes. (Of course.) When Dude Pastor recently left, apparently it did not cross the church’s mind to make Ms. Nurturing Pastor their actual full pastor. They hired another dude, instead. (Of *course*.)

  68. Cyberwulf

    ‘So if your life sucks, you brought it on yourself — that has always struck me as immensely cruel.

    This is partly to do with people reassuring themselves that nothing bad will ever happen to them because they’re good people (see also those fucking “How Not to Get Raped” advice emails). However I also think it’s a throwback to Bronze Age/Iron Age hunting/agrarian societies when we had very little understanding of weather and climate change and herd migrations. Everything in nature was associated with a god or goddess that had to be appeased, and if something bad happened, it was because we made the gods angry.

  69. GMM

    @sjaustin, absolutely. I was trying to describe the mentality in the Kalachakra Tantra, use alcohol or if that fails use physical force. *Both* are a means to sexually assault a woman or girl.

    I was just talking to a woman who is a Tibetan Buddhist and she just started getting into the Tantric practices a month ago. When she tried to discuss her reservations on the Buddhist forum she belongs to she ended up being banned and her posts deleted. When she complained about the abuses in religion she was told by her teacher it was the person’s karma to be in an abusive situation. That if a child is given candy or alcohol to be sexually abused in Tibet for a “sex ritual”, it is the child’s karma that’s at fault.

    So the Dalai Lama said some cool things about compassion. Who the hell cares? It sounds like people think he invented compassion, for Gertrude’s sake. People can’t come to the same conclusions themselves without some Great Man pointing it out to them?

    And should we gloss over the fact that Tibet was an oppressive, feudalistic theocracy because the Dalai Lama said some nice stuff about compassion, stuff you can find in a Hallmark greeting card?

  70. Ashley

    Jill, with all due respect for your excellent patriarchy blaming skills, you just don’t know a lot about Buddhism. Barbara’s note on scripture is but one important issue with your interpretation.

    There are tons of female and feminist leaders in Western Zen, but there is also the same in the Tibetan tradition. There is, in fact, a radical feminist Buddhist teacher in the Dalai Lama’s branch of the Tibetan tradition. Her name is Robina Courtin (here’s a clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri2hA1TqDT4&feature=related). There is also Tenzin Palmo, who I don’t think explicitly identifies as a feminist but is working to improve treatment of nuns and has vowed to attain enlightenment in female form, which is a big flippin’ deal in Buddhism. And Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche is a lovely tulku. There is also a very cool tradition of some secret practices maintained by kickass women who live out in the Tibetan wilderness. Basically, Buddhism is a complicated thing. Wikipedia isn’t going to cut it in explaining a mystical, esoteric tradition that spans thousands of years and dozens of cultures.

    Anyway, there are tons of studies that show that meditation helps people develop concentration, improves healing time, and generally offers a lot of health and other benefits that can help feminists do their work more comfortably and effectively. One doesn’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  71. Ashley

    ‘So if your life sucks, you brought it on yourself — that has always struck me as immensely cruel.

    That’s actually a misinterpretation of the Buddhist idea of karma, and an important one to clarify for those interested in social justice… Buddha taught that we have a consciousness that has always existed, infinitely, and has had time to get into all sorts of trouble. So we all have infinite bad and good karma. Yes, in a way, the idea is that if something bad or good happens, you brought it on yourself. But everyone has done infinite bad and good things, so what happens in this life is basically the luck of the draw, and you can’t be blamed for it. You might have been a radical feminist for the last million lifetimes, but a chad a million and one lifetimes ago, and your chad karma just happens to hit this time around, so you end up having to live in a world where America’s Next Top Model exists. But crucially, the teaching of karma does not, ever, ever, ever, mean that one should ignore the suffering of oneself or others. Ending America’s Next Top Model would still be absolutely imperative.

  72. Jill

    I’m not saying “don’t meditate.” Meditate all day long; it doesn’t hurt anybody.

    I’m saying that organized religion, which is fundamentally patriarchal, hierarchical, sexist, and misogynist in nature, and has a long and lively tradition of fostering women’s oppression.

    I’m saying that all religions are predicated on the existence of some supernatural spirit world or transcendent out-of-body crap (if they were not, they would be “science”) and are therefore silly.

    Anyway, as I mentioned previously, this blog is not the venue to discuss the particulars and delicate nuances of Buddhist practice. As somebody pointed out above, a thing is truth or it isn’t; no need to call it Buddhist.

  73. Sangjin Oh

    There is nothing delicate or particular about it. You’re simply negating, in a condescending and willfully intellectually lazy way, both verifiable facts and millions of people’s lived experiences – because they don’t jibe with yours. For someone of who otherwise brings an A+ game in each and every post, this is a minor disappointment, but you are wrong and it is a bit weak of you to dodge it. This blog is not an arena for theological debate, but it is a space for blaming patriarchy, and finding the resources to do so. We’re saying, there are some kick ass resources within Buddhism to become a bad ass patriarchy blamer and if you’d not be so brazenly dismissive, you might see that there is something for you to learn on this account.

    The insights of the Buddha and his followers about the nature of suffering, oppression, and domination and how it can be overcome with peaceful practice and careful, diligent, and articulate insight into the workings of the human mind have not be replicated by science, no matter how “true” they are. Buddhism has worked as a tool of personal and social liberation for many people, even as it has also failed, spectacularly so, across the ages (namely, its history of passivity in the face of horrific social inequalities – there are definitely very, very bad Buddhists out there, past and present). But, by god, the very same damn thing can be said of science.

  74. sjaustin

    GMM, I’m sure your intent was not to minimize rape by intoxication; however, your phrasing was problematic. I do think we’re in total agreement here. And it’s absolutely disgusting to say that it’s a person’s karma to be abused. It’s just another excuse for victim-blaming. One more manifestation of rape culture.

  75. NotThisAgain

    Sangjin Oh, you’ve said nothing that couldn’t also be said of Christianity or any other religion. Or is Buddhism uniquely, specially true and benevolent above all others?

  76. Jill

    What are these “verifiable facts”? That there are some women Buddhists? That some of them identify as feminists? Goody for them. If they purport to promulgate feminist revolution by getting reincarnated as dudes, I weep for them.

    Sorry, but your religion, like all religions, is a cult. If your version of it contains no mystical element, then it is not a religion, but a self-help program, i.e. a scam. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and you don’t need Buddhism to know the true nature of suffering and shit.

  77. Ciardha

    “Godbaggery does offer a few flavors that don’t proudly hate women.

    Ha. Name one.”

    Sikhism (the founder Nanak point blank stated men and women were equal and spoke against the female oppression.) I’m sure sexism comes in somewhere, but the founder at least seems to have been foursquare against it. His attitudes were pretty enlightened for the 15th and 16th century in India- or just about anywhere for that matter.

    I’m not a Sikh but my sole male best friend (and for over 25 years- since we met in college) is. He’s always been a guy who was refreshingly nonsexist in attitude, and when he said something that had a possible tinge of sexism and I brought it to his attention he was immediately apologetic and agreed I was right.

  78. pheenobarbidoll

    “has vowed to attain enlightenment in female form, which is a big flippin’ deal in Buddhism”

    if it’s not misogynistic, WHY would this be a “big flippin deal”?

  79. tinfoil hattie

    We’re saying, there are some kick ass resources within Buddhism to become a bad ass patriarchy blamer and if you’d not be so brazenly dismissive, you might see that there is something for you to learn on this account.

    And we’re saying (by “we’re” I mean “I’m”), I don’t need no misogynistic, oppressive religion to become a bad ass patriarchy blamer. Even if there are feminists who believe in said religion. You’re dismissing the experience of anyone who has come to believe that religion is crap.

  80. Katy

    “has vowed to attain enlightenment in female form, which is a big flippin’ deal in Buddhism”

    if it’s not misogynistic, WHY would this be a “big flippin deal”?

    And also, it’s impossible.

  81. DepecheNode

    Jill, the only thing more disappointing than this post is your reaction to the comments.

    Many people, myself included, have pointed out factual errors in your post. Still, you refuse to acknowledge them.

    In case you don’t want to go digging through the thread, I’ll bring them up again:

    1. You allude that the Dalai Lama is the “head” of all Buddhists. He is very much not. He is the leader of one form of Tibetan Buddhism, a sub-form of a sub-form of Buddhism.

    You said that your do not denigrate Buddhism based on accounts of the Dalai Lama, but you do, several times over, in that post. If you think you aren’t then you are the one who is doing the nitpicking.

    2. Many forms of Buddhism do not believe in reincarnation, so using that as a basis of dismissing all forms of Buddhism is ill-advised. But you keep bringing it up in your responses, even after others have mentioned your error!

    You say things like:

    “That there are some women Buddhists? That some of them identify as feminists? Goody for them. If they purport to promulgate feminist revolution by getting reincarnated as dudes, I weep for them.”

    Even though you should know that many Buddhists straight up don’t believe in reincarnation. It’s not a small, fringe minority either, entire sects and forms of the religion ignore it.

    Please stop spreading lies and misinformation and focus on the facts, which should be more than enough.

  82. Ayla

    Religion defenders/apologists never, ever, ever seem to get the point the critics are making.

  83. madeleine

    The funny thing is that original Buddhism was very much anti ‘organized religion’, both the ‘organized’ and the ‘religion’ part. It is a set of mental exercises to keep your cool in this shitty life, regardless of caste, color, shoe size etc. It is the baby in the bathwater.

  84. Melinda

    Hah! Ayla FTW. Jill is not “spreading lies and misinformation” because, and I feel safe making this enormous generalization, no one is here to learn about Buddhism from Jill! No one is going to quote her keen and insightful understanding of the religion!
    Whether the DL is the head of a country is irrelevant. Whether every form of Buddhism endorses the concept of reincarnation is irrelevant. And most especially, whether the moral teachings of Buddhism are valuable is irrelevant.
    You don’t need to embrace religion to be a good person. And atheism is not a “belief system”; atheism rejects “belief systems.” As so many of us are tired of pointing out, not collecting stamps is not a hobby.

  85. blah

    ‘misogyny is not only unnecessary, it is actually contradictory to much of what the Buddha taught’
    To nitpick, we don’t know what the Buddha taught, we only know what his followers say he taught. So in ‘the Buddha was a misogynist’, ‘the Buddha’ refers to the mythical, possibly quite fictional, figure with millions of followers and serious impact on the world, not to a historical flesh and blood man no-one really knows anything about. If you believe your religion is against misogyny, the people you really need to convince are your co-religionists.

  86. Z

    Also – I thought the main point of the post were the actual political positions of the current Dalai Lama. Which is quite interesting information.

  87. Julezyme

    I think this author carries a lot of anger inside her (which only harms her own health),

    Clearly, radical feminism is carcinogenic.

    Between my family history and ideological views, I am doomed.

    Rage on!

  88. DepecheNode

    Religion defenders/apologists never, ever, ever seem to get the point the critics are making.

    Jill’s point isn’t my problem. I agree with her point!

    If you’re going to hate on a religion, wouldn’t you rather hate on it for the right reasons though and not misconceptions bred through bias and ignorance?

  89. tinfoil hattie

    If you’re going to hate on a religion, wouldn’t you rather hate on it for the right reasons though and not misconceptions bred through bias and ignorance?

    I dunno. Hating on it just for fun seems to work for me.

  90. Nepenthe

    One of my professors told the story of why there are no Theravadin nuns. Because of patriarchal rules, a nun had to be present at the ordination of the next nuns. And at some point there was a moratorium on ordaining nuns and the last one died. So now Theravadin “nuns” are actually lay women who have taken 8 vows instead of the 10 that the ordained take. In the last decade or so there’ve been moves to rectify this mishap, conferences and whatnot, and some nuns have been ordained while the big abbots weren’t looking. However, a significant population of “nuns” has pointed out that this state of affairs is much better, since functionally “nuns” are the same as ordained nuns, but they don’t have to follow the Eight Garudharmas or the last two precepts, which forbid handling money (roughly). I’m not sure whether the whole story is true, but I do know that nuns and “nuns” are generally pretty kick-ass ladies.

    For the love of all that is unholy, don’t use Wikipedia as a resource on Buddhism or Tibet. I threw my towel in on that whole sector a few years back… complete, irrevocable mess. One could try to rephrase a basic article to be comprehensible to someone who isn’t a Geshe, but then just be reverted while a bunch of dolts spend months working out how many emanations can dance on the head of a pin.

  91. DepecheNode

    I dunno. Hating on it just for fun seems to work for me.

    I’m sure the pundits who rally against Planned Parenthood feel the same way. Why try do discover the truth behind an issue when you can just make shit up and get indignant over that?

    Facts be dammed! We have a cause! Who cares about the truth?

  92. Jill

    [Y]ou should know that many Buddhists straight up don’t believe in reincarnation. It’s not a small, fringe minority either, entire sects and forms of the religion ignore it.

    The thing is, I do know that. But so what? I just don’t give a flip what Buddhists, or any other Ists, “believe”. It is the act of “believing” itself that jabs my delicate spinsterly lobes.

    Now, I’m sure you’re a really nice person, and if you get a big bang out of following the Noble Fivefold Trail and eschewing the 10 Deadly Sins and traversing the 472 Bhumis in pursuit of the Dharma Cloud, be my guest. But as has been stated, this blog isn’t the place to look for “respect” for “beliefs.” I’m sorry you’re upset that I mocked your religion but after all, this is an anti-religion blog. What did you expect?

    Meanwhile, Buddhism — like all religions — is responsible for spreading far more lies and misinformation than I could ever muster in even a lifetime of lie- and misinformation-spreading! This shit just writes itself:

    “He becomes engrossed in the mystic contemplation of emptiness. [...] He gains the power to split up his body into an infinity of forms and he is in a position to have knowledge of he entire universe. [...] At the end of the highest contemplation the Buddhas appear before him and consecrate him a bodhisattva. He puts out the flames of affliction produced by ignorance through the showers of rain from the cloud of Dharma. He now becomes endowed with supernatural powers.” — from the (non-Tibetan) Dasabhumika Sutra

    Seriously? Why would anyone want to spend even 10 minutes “engrossed with the mystic contemplation of emptiness”? Well, I guess if the payoff is supernatural powers, maybe.

    P.S. Only one of the sources in my original post was a Wikipedia link, which I was able to verify by finding the original source material. But you’re right; talk about lies and misinformation!

  93. buttercup

    “As so many of us are tired of pointing out, not collecting stamps is not a hobby.”

    Ooh, Melinda, thank you. I need that for a dude who continually tries to mansplain to me that atheism is in fact a religion.

  94. Kara

    On mindfulness meditation and Aung San Kyi: sometimes a rose grows out of a pile of horseturds. That doesn’t mean that turds are roses and not turds.

    I find mindfulness meditation really useful by the way, and even though it originated from Buddhism you can learn it without having to learn anything about Buddhism.

  95. Ashley

    You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and you don’t need Buddhism to know the true nature of suffering and shit.

    The funny thing is, that’s basically the last thing Buddha told his followers before he died. You can call a search for truth Buddhism or not–that doesn’t matter, as far as most Buddhists are concerned. What does matter, according to Buddhism as I understand it, is seeing for yourself what’s true. I’d say your average patriarchy blamer, even a religion hating patriarchy blamer, could get behind that.

  96. KH

    This was a good post, as usual. Comments were enlightening–I even enjoyed skimming quickly past the comments which were ‘splaining me about Buddhism (blah, blah, nitpicking, Buddhist terminology, blah blah, faint praise for IBTP, challenge to meet commenter’s ideals for enlightened blaming, blah blah, criticisms of echo chambering, blah). Not my Buddha, indeed!

    My circle of acquaintances contains many western-style Buddhists. One of them told me that their various meditation get-togethers around the world were like vacations where everyone was sleeping with everyone. Yet there always seems to be some older dude who is revered as a teacher. This squicked me out to no end. It’s an old story, the same old, old story. [Note: I do not care which brand of Buddhism it was I was told about, nor do I care about how your Buddhism is different.]

    In my ruminations on theism, I can’t figure what makes one theism better than any other theism. They’re all fictions overlying human longing and mortality. Perhaps some people prefer rules that others have made for them. The sense of rightness is hard to come by any other way. It can be hard to live without that feeling, though margaritas and tacos do help alleviate the pain. Pity we can’t have them all the time!

  97. minervaK

    You don’t need to embrace religion to be a good person. And atheism is not a “belief system”; atheism rejects “belief systems.” As so many of us are tired of pointing out, not collecting stamps is not a hobby.

    Warning: I will be quoting this. Where do I send the royalty check?

    And, damn it, the margaritas haven’t kicked in yet, so I find myself again compelled to not keep my mouth shut: if is really “just a search for truth,” why isn’t it called Just A Search For Truth? Anything that’s got somebody’s name on it, you can bet your bottom dollar that there’s a whole host of pointless rituals, robes and rules (the three Rs!) involved, pointed at removing that bottom dollar from your pocket. You have to make the thing insufferably complex, see, or the congregation will begin to suspect that they could have what you’re selling for free.

    I’m all in favor of mindfulness. I call it “mindfulness.”

  98. DepecheNode

    The thing is, I do know that. But so what? I just don’t give a flip what Buddhists, or any other Ists, “believe”. It is the act of “believing” itself that jabs my delicate spinsterly lobes.

    Well, if you didn’t care about what Buddhists believe you wouldn’t have written a huge post critiquing what you think they believe in.

    Now, I’m sure you’re a really nice person, and if you get a big bang out of following the Noble Fivefold Trail and eschewing the 10 Deadly Sins and traversing the 472 Bhumis in pursuit of the Dharma Cloud, be my guest. But as has been stated, this blog isn’t the place to look for “respect” for “beliefs.” I’m sorry you’re upset that I mocked your religion but after all, this is an anti-religion blog. What did you expect?

    I’m an atheist. I don’t expect you to respect any religion. I just expect you to get your facts right when smacking them down (or at least admit when you made an honest mistake).

    A well-written, accurate, attack on any religion is much more effective and thought-provoking than one that’s based on cultural misconceptions.

  99. pheenobarbidoll

    Until a religion/belief/set of rules to live by/what have you can have a woman reach a position of authority without it being a big deal or anything *other* than normal, accepted, encouraged and status quo- then it’s not a religion/belief/set of rules to live by/what have you that I care to be involved with. And it’s not a defensible religion/belief/set of rules to live by/what have you.

    It’s just as horrid and disgusting a religion/belief/set of rules to live by/what have you that views POC obtaining positions of authority as some big hairy deal and not normal, accepted, encouraged and status quo.

    If my blamer eyes were to read ” Well, they’re trying really hard to fix all the crap that contributed to discrimination against Native Indians, and you’re only reading part of it”, my blamer stomach would empty.

    I have to choke back the vomit as it is when I read ” a woman is trying to get to a certain highly held state and it’s a big to do for her to do so”.

    As if that doesn’t tell me ALL I need to know about how women are viewed.

    If *any* part of one’s belief system tells me, hints at or implies I’m not worthy because I am female, then fuck you and fuck it.

    I don’t care if it’s one sentence out of a 100,000 page mission statement.

  100. Ayla

    “If *any* part of one’s belief system tells me, hints at or implies I’m not worthy because I am female, then fuck you and fuck it.”

    YES!!

  101. Keira

    Hooray. Coming here is a lovely, wonderful reaffirmation that what I think is not ridiculous.

    The Dalai Lama is about to visit Australia, and after seeing too many blog posts and facebook status-updates about how great he is, I cracked.

    I pointed out (for my veg friends) that he isn’t vegetarian. I was told, “oh, but its hard to grow veg in the Himalayas”. I pointed out that he eats meat even in Melbourne, a city with 3 million people and many veg restaurants. I got told, “oh, but he’s a nice guy generally”. I pointed out he hates gays, they replied, “oh, but you know, still nice, generally”.

    Oh come on! How can someone be considered nice when they hate more than half of the world population? And the less douchebagy half, at that.

  102. Tingmo

    I am a Tibetan radical feminist and atheist, but it has been disheartening to see the anti-Dalai Lama sentiments here. My only request is that everyone review the sources of their information thoroughly, because the Chinese propaganda machine could be behind some of it. I won’t deny he is sexist, but I respect his non-violent approach to Tibet’s freedom struggle. For most Tibetans, Buddhism is a part of their identity. When my sister visited Tibet many years ago, she met a few people who risked imprisonment and death by sewing pictures of the Dalai Lama into the hems of their clothes. Before bashing him, please remember he represents not just their religion, but the struggle for their country’s freedom too. Also, he isn’t intellectually stunted. English isn’t his first language =).

  103. nails

    Thanks Jill. I was gonna look into buddhism soon (the meditation portion mostly), I thought there might be something to it. Now I know not to.

  104. Keira

    Ok, there’s more.

    “You might look to western Zen Buddhism, which is thoroughly feminist”

    I’m not convinced that any group/practice/organisation can be thoroughly, or even somewhat, feminist without making it a conscious and specific goal, given they exist within patriarchy. In terms of pan-gendered groups, I’ve only come across ones that claim to try, none that have achieved anything like thorough non-sexism.

    Lovepug and Lindon, you can often find the cookies, and similar versions made with yam, at vegetarian chinese restaurants (the kind with mock meat).

  105. nails

    “Oh come on! How can someone be considered nice when they hate more than half of the world population? And the less douchebagy half, at that.”

    Mother Teresa suffered from inexplicable good PR as well. She was a monster. Advertising poisons everything, forces people into snap-judgments about things that they should investigate a lot instead. It works on everyone, to a certain extent.

  106. tinfoil hattie

    What does matter, according to Buddhism as I understand it, is seeing for yourself what’s true. I’d say your average patriarchy blamer, even a religion hating patriarchy blamer, could get behind that.

    I don’t need Buddhism to see what’s true. I don’t need to “get behind” any religion (notoriously full of lies and hatred) to discern for myself what is true.

    As for you, Depeche Dude, I for one DON’T CARE about Buddhism, Catholicism, Methodism, Islam, Judaism, Wicca, et. al. So stop Dude-splaining. Twisty said: “This is an anti-religion blog.” No matter how many lofty, sanctimonious pronouncements you make about how WRONG we all are, we won’t change our minds.

  107. Fede

    Ah, the old unless-you-know-every-last-detail-about-the-subject-i’ll-consider-your-criticism-a-failure argument. And this from someone who is purportedly an atheist, making her/his defence of Buddhism a purely intellectual excercise. How dudely.

    Consider this: whether the Dalai Lama is the leader of all Buddhists matters not. It is of as little consequence as all your other nit-pickings. The point is that despite protests to the contrary, there is ample evidence that Buddhism, like any other godbagism, is hierarchical. Where it’s not the Dalai Lama’s ass hanging over the top branch, it’s someone else’s. There is ample evidence – only some of which Jill brings to light here; I do hope that’s OK with you – that women are considered inferior to men within Buddhism. There is ample evidence that Buddhism is, in fact, a belief system, which makes it a sect. Jill mocks sects, and her mockery is the stuff that good days are made of. Not ‘effective and thought-provoking’ enough for you? Well, there’s a post on Fucking Pedantic Assholes that covers this situation admirably.

    pheenobarbidoll said it so well that she’s already been quoted, but it bears repeating:

    If *any* part of one’s belief system tells me, hints at or implies I’m not worthy because I am female, then fuck you and fuck it.

    I don’t care if it’s one sentence out of a 100,000 page mission statement.

  108. tinfoil hattie

    Tingmo, who cares? Buddhism is anti-woman. The Dalai Lama is anti-woman. I don’t respect him because of that. I don’t have to respect him just because people in Tibet identify as Buddhist. That makes no sense.

  109. Scientist Jen

    “What does matter, according to Buddhism as I understand it, is seeing for yourself what’s true.”

    Holy shit! How come nobody ever told me Buddha invented science? Maybe the godbags are right; science IS a religion.

  110. Tingmo

    I am all for doing away with religion. Buddhism was created by men. I don’t need to be told it is sexist. Only a few months ago, my father told my sister and me not to touch a miniature stupa because being females, we would contaminate it. Later, my mother assured us he didn’t know what he was talking about but I thought it interesting. Just another example of men making up rules on the spot to remind women we’re less than them.
    The point I was trying to make was that the Dalai Lama is not a religious figure to me. I am not going to listen to his views on subjects he has very little experience with or even bother defending them. Keep in mind he was groomed to be the Dalai Lama from a very young age, brought up in a monastery surrounded by monks. Tibetan society itself, like most others is misogynistic. He is not preaching the inferiority of women, but is reflecting the attitude that has seeped in from his surroundings. That is obviously something we need to work on. He even touches on that in this interview – http://www.progressive.org/mag_intv0106.
    I do respect him as the political leader of our government-in-exile. A lot of the comments seem to dismiss him as a soft spoiled New Age hack in love with his own holiness, when that is all most people seem to want from him. Forget pushing for serious talks with China, they’d rather listen to him tell them how to live their lives. I guess you can’t really blame them. Whether it’s Cindy Crawford’s secret to youthful skin or the Dalai Lama’s recipe for happiness, there’ll be a market. He doesn’t do it for personal fame or glory or riches though. Tibet’s independence is an uncomfortable issue most people would rather ignore and he does what his government thinks will give it the most exposure.
    I don’t mean to drone on and I realize most of what I’m crying about isn’t supposed to be in the scope of this blog but if you have time, please give this a read: http://www.freetibet.org/files/DalaiLamaReport%281%29.pdf. I probably come off as a person in denial, but as entwined as a regular Tibetan’s identity is with Buddhism, an attack on the Dalai Lama is an attack on their cultural identity (one that the Chinese are trying very hard to wipe out in Tibet). And he really is a more decent dude than most others. No doubt he would benefit from a good feminist education, like most people in the world.
    I wish I was more eloquent and persuasive. Unfortunately, I can only ask everyone to familiarize themselves a little more on the situation, because a lot of people are echoing the CPC’s lies. Just a little depressing to find yourself on the other side of people you consider allies…
    ‘“Tibetan origin myths say that the Bodhisattva Chenrizi sent what the Dalai Lama calls ‘energy’ or ‘positive karmic connection’ into a male monkey as the Bodhisattva guided the evolution of the first Tibetans”.

    And the mural is like some multi-handed d00d shooting a rainbow into a meditating monkey. There’s some shit about demoness monkeys and sacred barely too.’
    Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it seemed a little respectful to mock a country’s creation myths in this manner. We pass these down as folk tales. Some of the older Tibetans may believe this, but I don’t think most do. The Publisher’s Weekly review on that book says, “In one particularly fascinating section, the Dalai Lama expresses reservations about the truth of the Tibetan creation myths involving a demon and a monkey and accepts Darwin’s theory of evolution as the most logical explanation of the origins of humankind.”

  111. XtinaS

    This post and these comments are what awesome are.  And I agree with you entirely, Keira:

    Coming here is a lovely, wonderful reaffirmation that what I think is not ridiculous.

    Word.

  112. Lovepug

    Is it useful or useless to the feminist cause to make any distinction between religion and spirituality? The premise seems to be that all religion is inherently patriarchal and therefore participation in religion cannot advance feminist evolution. I’m totally down with that.

    Religious vs. spiritual is how I tend to frame it. Any time I try to codify or ritualize or structure any spiritual feelings I have, it does not work for me. Religion itself to me has all that structure and by default doesn’t work to either heighten my spirituality or my feminism.

    It begs the question: If you cast spirituality as distinct, as being experienced by the individual, and as being unencumbered by overarching cultural structures as religion is thus encumbered, can one be feminist and spiritual?

    Hard to describe, but spirituality is just part of who I am. It always has been. Moreover, the way I experienced it was never validated by any relgious (including New Age) tradition I ever stumbled across. In an odd way, I secretly envied people who felt connected to their religion of choice. I used to think how nice that must be to have that all settled.

    That being said, conversely, parts of religious practices appeal to me. I like Buddhism for the inscense and the art. The SF Zen Center itself is actually a lovely building, and the Nyingma Institute had those killer cookies! Going to the Chartres Cathedral in France was sublime. I’ve participated in a couple of Shabbat that I thoroughly enjoyed. The Spiral Dances were fun until they got too huge.

    It seems like a few Blamers have been trying to express that there are parts of Buddhism like meditation that they find beneficial to their overall wellbeing. It can be hard as a self-identified feminist to reconcile enjoying a certain practice in a religion with the knowledge that said religion is steeped in patriarchy.

    So, knowing this, does participating in certain practices damage one’s feminist street cred?

  113. Jill

    You can meditate and do yoga and shit without being a Buddhist. I do it all the flippin time.

  114. speedbudget

    Tibetan society itself, like most others is misogynistic. He is not preaching the inferiority of women, but is reflecting the attitude that has seeped in from his surroundings.

    If he were indeed so wonderfully enlightened, wouldn’t he be preaching against the inferiority of women, rather than just going with it and excusing it by saying he is “reflecting the attitude that has seeped in from his surroundings?” Isn’t he supposed to be above all the shit in his surroundings?

    A well-written, accurate, attack on any religion is much more effective and thought-provoking than one that’s based on cultural misconceptions.

    I love tone arguments! That’s when you know the other side has nothing to go on.

  115. buttercup

    If you need godbagism to see wonder and spiritural fulfillment in the world, your doing it wrong, in my opinion. All I have to do is go watch my zucchini plant grow. It’s a fucking miracle. And we didn’t pray to anyone to make it happen, just planted some seeds.

  116. buttercup

    ugh. “you’re”.

  117. Fede

    I will not only disrespect but condemn any cultural identity, folk tales, and creation myths that make a father think his daughters are unclean for being female.

    Fuck ‘cultural identity’ on the whole, for that matter.

    I don’t need to revere the Dalai Lama or Buddhism or even cut them any slack in order to acknowledge the Tibetan people’s right to be free from Chinese subjugation. Tibetans have that right, Buddhism or no Buddhism.

  118. pheenobarbidoll

    “Only a few months ago, my father told my sister and me not to touch a miniature stupa because being females, we would contaminate it.”

    My father doesn’t believe anything like that, but if he had, he’d at least have known that’s the last thing to say to me. Not only would I have touched it, I would have violated it in every conceivable manner. It would touch places the sun don’t shine.

    Telling me ” Don’t touch that with your contaminated woman fingers” would be the fastest way to guarantee it got touched.

  119. Tingmo

    It’s easy to downplay the importance of cultural identity if you’re not a Tibetan living inside Tibet, where they are told they are Chinese and forced to give up Tibetan traditions and language if they want to succeed in an increasingly sinicized environment.
    And we didn’t take him seriously when he made the unclean woman hands comment. We just laughed in disbelief till he became uncomfortable and changed the subject. Anyway, I blame it on his lack of proper education and a tough childhood (working on mountain roads in India from the age of 10 because they could only afford to send his oldest brother to school).
    I realize I’m straying from the anti-Dalai Lama/Buddhism discussion so I will rein myself in right here.

  120. tinfoil hattie

    We don’t care about men here, either, Tingmo. No matter how tough they’ve had it. This is a feminist blog, and it discusses women.

  121. buttercup

    Tingmo, nobody is downplaying the importance of cultural identity. We’re downplaying the importance, nay, denying the importance, of patriarchal godbagism, no matter from whence it emanates. Big difference.

  122. pheenobarbidoll

    “And we didn’t take him seriously when he made the unclean woman hands comment.”

    I was trying to inject some humor into the thread, because seriously, everyone who knows me would know saying that would be tantamount to handing it to me right then and there. It would be sooooo touched the hot second no one was looking. I would touch the hell out of it every chance I got. And they’d know I touched it, but they wouldn’t be able to prove it. But I’d know they knew, and they’d know I knew they knew. And I’d drive them crazy. *mwahahahahahahhahahahahaa*

  123. Justina Bieber

    Earliest scriptures (not the Mahayana/Vajrayana scriptures) do not directly quote Siddhartha Gautama, they begin “Thus I have heard”…and perhaps, that might be good advice to everyone mentioning Gautama’s teachings.

    That said, thus I have heard, Gautama himself guaranteed his teachings for only five hundred years beyond his death (this guarantee itself suspect given that we are over 2500 years from that point).

    Whether or not the statement was made, what is obvious is that we are in a millennia-long version of the ‘telephone game’, in other words, repeating on hearsay what has been repeated to us and so on and on and about a subject of which we may be entirely ignorant.

    Look no further than the aforementioned version of the Garudhammas; the following link points out that it is critically flawed and cannot be considered historical evidence (and thus, if cited, the intended argument loses credibility):

    http://groups.google.com/group/dhammadharini/web/non-historicity-of-the-eight-garudhammas

  124. speedbudget

    I would probably mention how I’m totally PMSing then go rub the statue on my abdomen and comment on how it seems to help the pain.

  125. KatieS

    Buddhism sounds familiar. The Dalai Lama reminds me of Gandhi, whose followers revere him as an icon, too. I haven’t read the book, “Great Soul,” but a WSJ review of it reveals that he was abusive to his his wife, and liked to “cuddle” all night with young female followers who were nude, and kicked out other followers if they objected. This included his 17-year-old neice. I don’t plan to read it, but I’m sure there are other indications that he was as much a misogynist and molester as any guru-type figure.

  126. pheenobarbidoll

    I’d start with waving my hands menacingly close and whispering ” not touching, can’t be contaminated”

    And then move into

    ” So…I can’t touch it like this? *poke with 1 finger tip”

    “how about this, is this allowed” *two finger stroke*

    ” This isn’t what you mean is it?” *lick, slurp*

    And so on

  127. mivizu

    “Buddhism” as a term and concept is in some ways as reviled as “feminism” is, and it in fact attracts quite similar sorts of criticism. I have frequently found parallels between the two and the shift in my consciousness that came about through understanding Buddhist concepts was akin to the paradigm shift that came about through understanding radical feminist ones. Of course you are going to get people who abuse their status in Buddhist circles – as leaders or as holier-than-thou laypeople – but then you get funfeminists too: in both “isms” such people pick and choose the bits they like, or submit to old, well-worn hierarchies of power.

    Some of the remarks made in this thread are based on ignorance of what Buddhism teaches, but beyond that it should be pointed out that the term and concept of religion itself is a modern one, and that (therefore) Buddhism as a religion is a modern construct. I do want to make a brief remark about the concept of karma though, especially as it relates so closely to the issue of victim-blaming. Buddhist teachings all agree and emphasis that identity is a construct and that like all other phenomena has no essence and is not unchanging. Thus actions made during a life are not simply the actions perfomed from an individual’s will, but are generated by various conditions and contexts. In the types of Buddhism in which the effects of these actions are carried over somehow into another existence, they are not connected specifically to a distinct, personal identity. This idea of karma is, then, a useful paradigm for understanding suffering since it does the exact opposite of judging and blaming and rather it takes into account social conditions, other peoples’ actions, environment, and so on. Such an understanding of suffering applies just as well in one’s present life.

    Since this is, as emphasised above, an anti-religion blog, I will just add that the original issue of the political stance of the Dalai Lama is an interesting and important one: he has always struck me as a misogynist and a perfect Orientalist Buddhist for (or in the service of) the West and for patriarchy.

  128. Linda Atkins

    Thank you, Tingmo, DepecheNode and Barbara O’Brien. Indeed, one can certainly meditate without being a Buddhist and enjoy many benefits. Note that there is no supreme deity in Buddhism. The Buddha himself was a regular human being who sat down and observed the workings of his own mind and body long enough to learn some things that were helpful to him, and proved to be helpful to others. As mentioned, his final words were that we must be lamps unto ourselves. He did not entertain questions about matters supernatural, such as what happens after we die. He explained that he taught only one thing: how to end suffering. I’ve found my own meditation practice to be remarkably effective in that regard.

  129. Jinzang

    Another misconception in this post is that Chöd is practiced mainly or solely by women. It is not. It is practiced by both sexes. Self-sacrificing compassion is not limited to women in Buddhism. In fact, it is the basis of the bodhisattva ideal.

  130. Jill

    Thanks, everyone, for the heads-up about what true Buddhism is and for setting the record straight despite my silly remonstrations against airing the minutiae of Buddhist doctrine on this anti-religion blog. I am re-naming the blog “I Heart the Meat-Eating Buddha,” because spirituality is awesome!

  131. Ayla

    Oh, my.

    The Great BJ Wars of Aught Six may be nothing compared to the Buddhist Kerfuffle of Veinte Om-ce.

    (I’m so sorry about that. So, so sorry. I’ve been practicing my basic Spanish and it just came out.)

  132. Verdigris

    Verdigris, I’d've picked up whatever tchatchke that was and started singing the “Touch-a touch-a touch-a Me!” song from Rocky Horror.

  133. Verdigris

    Ack. That comment was addressed to pheenobarbidoll. >.<

  134. JBT

    Now, I like to pick nits, being all primate an’ all, but I’ve really got to complain about the dissing of the One, True Anti-Philately League. The sisters of the APL meet regularly, and never once do we mention postage! We enjoy libations, and we’re not wetting our whistles to lick stamps, I tell you what!

    You might be surprised at the number of official, anti-hobby groups out there. I know the sisters of “What-is-up-with-ships-in-bottles?” is seeking members. They’re sponsoring a cruise, during which emptied libation bottles will be broken over the prow in a symbolic gesture of freedom.

  135. speedbudget

    Look, Jill. There is a Platonic ideal of what Buddhism is, and THAT is what you should be critiquing, not Buddhism as it exists in the stupid real world.

    I mean, no doy.

  136. Lovepug

    Re: I am re-naming the blog “I Heart the Meat-Eating Buddha,” because spirituality is awesome!

    Point taken.

  137. procrastinatrix

    A few days late to this schmear. It’s very convenient that Buddhism supporting/promoting such as Barbara O’Brien have left out that the supposedly more misogynist texts (as characterized by the supporters in the thread) are the older texts that originated in India, that directly led to Theravada Buddhism in the rest of Asia. Mahayana Buddhism, the one that supposedly hates women less, which includes Zen, is a grafting on to the original texts of Confucianism and other Eastern Asian philosophy.

    Men hate women. Therefore any religion founded by a man, hates women.

    Buddha’s mother and sister had to beg him to allow them to follow him. He said he would, but it would shorten the life span of Buddhism on earth because of the corrupting nature of women. Buddha was born from the side of his mother because absolute pussy corrupts absolutely. Doesn’t get more hatey than that.

    tinfoil hattie FTW–”Not my Buddha!”

    I also recall a long-ago (in Internet years) quote from Jill, “culture is another name for the status quo”. Amen, Sister!

  138. procrastinatrix

    I am also enjoying the commenters who are claiming “there is no scriptural authority in Buddhism” for the texts they find problematic, but quoting other texts to show how women-lovey Buddhism really is.

    It’s seems very similar to how liberal Christians I know defend the “good” bits of the Bible while ignoring the problematic.

  139. KatieS

    Your title reminded me of a book title: “If You Meat the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.” I’m sure that the author of that book was thinking of the Meaty Buddha when he wrote the book. One question to ask of the author, “Is that then roadkill, or is he dead meat?” I don’t want any nasty picture memes, so I’ll stop right there. IBTP for any of those memes.

  140. HazelStone

    Tingmo: “I won’t deny he is sexist, but I respect his non-violent approach to Tibet’s freedom struggle.”

    !!!!!!!!

  141. Jezebella

    I know, right? I guess the freedom struggle is for men only?

  142. stacey

    Just posting to say that I heart the “I heart the meaty buddha” banner. Absolutely tops!

  143. Jodie

    I could probably get behind reincarnation, at least as a nice daydream, if the goal was to live such lives of nonharm to others that we could come back as worms, trees, oysters, or some such.

    I don’t get the thinking that humanity is at the top of the pile and the next-to-last-step to godlike being. We’re just not all that.

  144. anne

    Late to this party but you know the funniest thing about religion? How men dreamt up all this horse shit and still insist they’re the more rational-thinking sex.

  145. carpenter

    Hi, I know I am late to this discussion too, but I needed to finally unlurk. I read Siddhartha as a teenager (a hundred years ago or so) and was immediately struck by the urge to write a book about the wife the Buddha left behind, who gets on with her life and raises an interesting kid and is how-about-that happy for the rest of her life without her spoiled entitled dude of an ultimately dead-beat dad of a husband.

  146. cj

    and then the world decided to prove you even more (terrifyingly) right:
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/Gangraped-Nepal-nun-now-faces-expulsion-from-nunnery/articleshow/9183371.cms

  147. Justina Bieber

    Goenkaji emphasises that, “The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma – the way to liberation – which is universal” and presents his teachings as non-sectarian and open to people of all faiths or no faith. Goenkaji calls Vipassana meditation an experiential scientific practice, through which one can observe the constantly changing nature of the mind and body at the deepest level, a profound understanding that leads to a truly happy and peaceful life.

  148. Jill

    Om mani padme hum!

  149. AlienNumber

    Hey Bieber, how convenient for the patriarchy to encourage its most tortured victims to change “one’s body and mind” about the oppression instead of you know, advocating Revolutionary Action.

    To quote one of my other most favorite internet feminists, Phemisaurus –”Granted, post-modernism is somewhat difficult to explain, but all you need to remember is that you are a man of agency and you can choose how to feel about being clubbed over the head.”

    http://phemisaurus.blogspot.com/

  150. Shelby

    “One of them told me that their various meditation get-togethers around the world were like vacations where everyone was sleeping with everyone. ”

    That’s pretty much it. I have an ex who cheated on me while she was at a 30 day meditation retreat. We tried to stay friends until I told her that I no longer believed in the Buddhist teachings and was now an atheist That’s the worst sin for a Buddhist and she barely talks to me now. I should thank her for helping me free myself from religion.

  151. GMM

    @AlienNumber, thanks
    that Phemisaurus link made my day.

  152. Preston

    [Blogger's note: I'm afraid the long-windedness of this comment detailing the intricacies of Buddhism compelled me to edit it down some]

    I just had a long discussion about this with someone, so I don’t have quite the energy to be as long-winded here, but, it is worth noting:

    The author really doesn’t seem to know a lot of the topic. [...] [372 words on intricacies of Buddhism edited out for clarity -- ed.]

    [...] You can NEVER read a Buddhist tantra and know that what you are reading is literal. This was done purposely to hide the meaning. [...] [147 words on intricacies of Buddhism edited out for clarity, after I stopped laughing -- ed]

    [...] in the Third (Secret Mantra Vajrayana) that women are treated as higher than men and that the female body is actually better disposed to attain Enlightenment than males. Given the fact that Secret Mantra is considered the highest teaching of the Buddha, this is a significant [I think you mean "sexist" -- ed] point.

  153. Parenthetical Abuse

    On the Western religious ‘iconoclasts’ who practice (what bits they like about) Buddhism:

    I’ve known a couple (high-school) Japanese young ladies who went the other way: that is, they looked at Buddhism, shrugged, and went ‘enh. what else we got?’ and are now practicing Christians. Their church wouldn’t be recognizable over here. But they’re convinced that Jesus was a pretty okay dude, and they’ve found a whole bunch of other kids who are groping around the edges of (what I hope is) elementary blaming. They recognize that the monolith isn’t cool, they’re trying to find other kids who agree, and they’ve found them next to Christ. Very weird to a westerner like me, but not everybody finds their anti-establishment friends on the internet.

    It’s my hope they’ll continue to question their faiths, and not be satisfied with the new shiny religion they feel they’ve discovered. But even as a gay girl from the South who gags a little inside when she sees a crucifix, I can’t begrudge ‘em a place to Not Be Their Parents, which is really what they’re doing.

    I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying I view hippie western Buddhists with an indulgent and possibly condescending eye, because yes, we know you’re special. Super-different from your Methodist family, the P, and all that. But I can’t identify ‘em as the same religion as the monks in Japan, no matter how much they might want me to.

  154. Dana

    I eat meat too. Always will. I know all the arguments against it and I don’t buy ‘em. When we die, if we’re not embalmed, we’ll be eaten by bacteria and fungi and whatever else and none of that will check what gender we are. If we’re dumb enough to go near a “man”-eating lion before that point, the name’s a bit of a misnomer–lions don’t do crotch checks before chowing down. I’m over the notion that we’re supposed to “rise above” our natures and do things we’re not adapted to do, like eat as though we’re rabbits. The notion of “rising above our natures” is exactly what Buddhism puts across to make women ashamed of being women.

    I heard the Dalai Lama started eating meat because he was diabetic and couldn’t avoid animal foods anymore. And that he specifically eats beef because you must kill fewer animals to eat a steak than you do to eat tofu. True story. What did you think all those pesticides were *for* in an agricultural field, anyway?

  155. Another Halocene Human

    Check out the blog “Crooked Path” for more on Tibetan Buddhism and its absolutely evil attitude towards women. As far as I can tell, Tibetan (tantric) Buddhism–the very sect that the Dalai Lama heads–is considered depraved even by other Buddhists. (Unfortunately, most of the texts are in the Chinese language, which I cannot read.)

    Many Indian and Tibetan gurus have been accused of gross sexual misconduct yet they rarely face any sanction whatsoever, even when they are foreign nationals. (Getting off the topic a bit, the notorious Sai Baba raped hundreds of little boys and never faced criminal charges. But look at how difficult it was to prosecute Warren Jeffs.) One lama even contracted HIV, knew about it, and continued to have unprotected sex with disciples, leading to the death of a young man in the late 1980′s.

    Check out Jane Campbell’s work. Women are inherently devalued. They are nothing but slaves from which the adept is supposed to suck up sexual energy, like some sort of psychic vampire. These women are then discarded and they move on to the next one. In the texts they are not even called women but referred to by various jargon, either referring to their genitals, or calling them “action-positions” (as opposed to fantasy positions). Sometimes women are called “goddesses” much in the Charlie Sheen motif. Originally there may have been worship of goddesses but they are now portrayed in tantric art as defective beings, often 1/3 the size of males with truncated limbs, much like the male anglerfish who has fused to the female in the act of copulation!

    Dalai Lama XIV once told followers who accused lamas and rinpoches of sexual abuse (this abuse being much like the abuse of a client by a therapist, but with the added weight of the silencing and shunning of their entire religious congregation, or ‘sangha’, not to mention very cult-like threats of retribution to those who are not deterred) that they should call the civil authorities and the press. It was as much admission that he cannot and will not do anything to end the abuses within his own cult. I think cannot is even more to the point.

    In a sense the RCC Pope is in a similar bind… to admit that priests and bishops are only human would be to give up some of their mystique. (I do not pull this interpretation from my nether-regions–a Pope has written that priests have a “special charism” (spiritual gift) which allows them to be celibate in situations that a lay person could not be, which God grants to them on ordination.) So the coverup continued. Unfortunately for them the coverup was botched and the truth came out. Now there is no mystique anywhere.

    Similar such revelations are badly needed in Tibetan Buddhism as well.

  1. I’m Confused… Why would I hate god, when god does not exist? « Women Born Transsexual

    [...] That goes for Buddhism and the Dalai Lama too.  The vaunted wisdom of non-western cultures fuck women over just as much as the desert three.  Jill over at I Blame the Patriarchy demolishes the Buddhism wonderful and Dalai Lama reincarnation of Buddha bullshit in a recent post.  Buddhism sounds familiar [...]

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