Buddhism after Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism

By Rita M. Gross | Go to book overview

Orientation to Buddhism: Approaches, Basics, and Contours

A feminist history, analysis, and reconstruction of Buddhism draws upon two major bodies of theory-feminism and Buddhism. In addition to the lengthy definition of feminism as academic method and as social vision found in the first appendix, discussions of feminist method and theory regarding specific issues are found throughout this book. However, if one is reasonably unfamiliar with Buddhism, it is difficult to appreciate feminist analysis of Buddhist materials. It is very difficult to be introduced to a body of knowledge and to feminist commentary on that body of knowledge at the same time--an ongoing problem for teachers and scholars presenting the women studies perspective in all fields. One aspect of my solution to that problem is to give relatively complete discussions of those aspects of Buddhism upon which I will comment from a feminist point of view during my feminist discussion of them. But I am selecting from the Buddhist record, rather than discussing the entirety of Buddhism, which would be impossible for one author to do within one book. Therefore, the other aspect of my solution to the problem of simultaneous introduction to Buddhism and to feminist perspectives on Buddhism is to begin with an overview of Buddhism.


BUDDHISM: BASIC TEACHINGS

To beginners, Buddhism can seem like an incredibly complex and dense religion, but everything in Buddhism really does go back to a few basic teachings that really do encapsulate the entire tradition. Though simple, they often seem difficult to comprehend because they go against the grain of ordinary hopes and fears.

Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. Its central teachings point out to its adherents the cause of and the cure for human suffering, locating both within human attitudes towards life. Buddhism is non-theistic, or not concerned about the existence of a supreme being, because a supreme being would be unable to relieve human suffering, as it is defined by Buddhists. A supreme being cannot

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