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

By Rita M. Gross | Go to book overview

14
Verdicts and Judgments: Looking Backward; Looking Forward

Two major tasks in the feminist revalorization of Buddhism have now been completed. Buddhist history has been surveyed to see what are the precedents for women's roles, images, and life experiences in Buddhism. The implications of major Buddhist teachings for gender issues have also been discussed. Now it is time to summarize our findings and to look toward the post-patriarchal future. What verdict can we derive, overall, regarding Buddhist attitudes toward gender as we have watched the unfolding of the historical record and analyzed major teachings of the three turnings to glean what they imply about proper, dharmic ways of dealing with human sexual differentiation? Can we explain why the record is as it is, why it contradicts in so many ways the implications we derived from the analysis of Buddhist teachings? Are there any grounds to imagine or hope that significant reconstruction could occur in the Buddhist future? What major guidelines are appropriate for the reconstructions deriving from a feminist critique of Buddhism?


VERDICT: INTOLERABLE CONTRADICTION BETWEEN VIEW AND PRACTICE

Overall, the view of Buddhism, as expressed in major teachings of each of the three turnings, is that "the dharma is neither male nor female." 1 This view is expressed explicitly in texts presenting second-turning teachings of emptiness and implied in the first-turning teachings of egolessness and the third-turning teachings regarding Buddha-nature. None of the major teachings of Buddhism supports gender inequity or gender hierarchy. Instead, if one tries to link these core teachings with questions about bow best to think about and deal with human sexual differentiation, one must conclude that the Buddhist worldview and ethic are more consistent with gender equality than gender inequity, more consistent with flexibility and non-fixation regarding gender roles and stereotypes than with rigid, unalterable gender-specific norms and behaviors. Therefore, I am convinced that the only possible conclusion one can derive is that, at

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