Just like "all lives matter" is a distorted, unhelpful response to "black lives matter" (with the agenda of the former being the mere avoidance of the issue raised by the latter), ignoring the conditions of women by focusing on e.g. "human rights for all" is a distorted, unhelpful response: human rights for all are an important cause, certainly, but it doesn't negate the specific difficulties met by women, in any way.
Similarly, "all should equally be protected" is a distorted, unhelpful response when it shields dangerous frauds from being exposed. Enough institutions have seen their moral authority tainted by the fallacy of such a position!
In Buddhism, teachers often hide behind the emptiness (of essence) of 'gendered' mental constructs and representations, to simply ignore the rampant, conscious or unconscious, sexism in institutions.
Emptiness is just translated into some assertion that gender doesn't condition the attainment of nirvāṇa.
However, the teachings on 'emptiness' very much call to pay attention to how different phenomena unfold differently in different contexts… which is to say the teachings on 'emptiness' should help one see reality as it is, and notably how, in a particular situation, reality might be experienced differently by men and women.
Realising emptiness is the realisation of the harmony of unity and differences (gplus.wallez.name/QiyMmgnDa4x); it's not blindness to diversity.
A skilled teacher addresses the difficulty of the students, including when these difficulties relate to conventional / societal constructs rather than questions about absolutes; a competent teacher doesn't deny societal constructs. The "two truths" in Buddhism are not "one truth and one illusion": conventional constructs are part of our realty, we may be able to shape their evolution, they're not 'inherent', but we cannot merely pretend they don't exist.
Among the institutions stained by scandals in Buddhism, and notably scandals around the abuse of women, all traditions have their own 'baggage'.
Theravadins face some solidified views about the inferiority of women in the establishment, even though little justifies them in the suttas. Many traditionalists show little willingness to restore the existence of the nun order, for example, even though the Buddha himself insisted the saṅgha was four-fold: laymen, laywomen, monks and nuns! There are some elements in the suttas which challenge the sexism prevalent in India 26 centuries ago, and some elements which accept some 'conventional' traits, but it's all context-dependent, not some inherent guidance forever!
Zen and Tibetan traditions face not only similar sexism, but also the regular arising of scandals based on charismatic authorities (be they 'authorities' by dharma transmission —Zen masters— or by rebirth —tulkus) using their privileged position to abuse the willingness of others. E.g. 21'06'' on Sogyal rimpoche, www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWhIivvmMnk. Such 'authorities' taint a "creative freedom to help a student" (which their traditions indeed grant them) with their own sexual preferences and tendencies (which their traditions do not consider 'awakened' just because it's from an appointed 'teacher'!). These traditions do discern "enlightened activity" (even when it takes 'surprising' forms) from the workings of the ordinary mind, but some of their teachers self-servingly confuse the two: it's no longer about the student anymore, but about the cravings of the teacher! It's no longer specifically tailored exceptions, but habits and abuse.
At the end of the day, most traditions have somehow integrated the sexism of their societies into the Dharma, instead of challenging such a sexism. And inaction in the face of abuses is a common plague for religious institutions, Buddhist or not.
Without rushing to conclusions (which may be hard at times!), it's therefore important to keep one's eyes open. After all, Buddhist practice is about seeing reality as it is: exception as exception, habit as habit, helpful as helpful, abuse as abuse! A discernment might be subtle, context-dependent, without caricatures of all-evil perpetrators and all-innocent victims. Clinging to one-sided perspectives or to moral certainties isn't helpful (gplus.wallez.name/JqYneaxNFp3 and gplus.wallez.name/fNntpgXdTHj). But it's not "all the same": indifference is not equanimity, inaction isn't necessarily wise restraint from the temptation of control, and silence isn't automatically wise (gplus.wallez.name/cU1H1wGq9j3). The path is narrow: it requires to pay attention, to discern, sometimes to respond.
The way institutional Buddhism integrates sexism can be subtle rather than overt, though. For example, most modern Zen practitioners in the West would consider gender equality as a part of the Dharma… but they'd still cling to traditional and patriarchal models of authority, all the same.
So when a difficulty arises, saṅgha members, ethic councils and teachers will cling to "rules", "procedures" and "right ways to do things" (usually based on some fallacy of 'ownership' or 'authority') as a way to 'normalise' the situation rather than to actually address the difficulty: they'll take the conventionally 'male' approaches of "focusing on the issue" and "calling upon authority", rarely a conventionally 'female', more holistic, more compassionate approach (where one cares about sentient beings and life and suffering, and context… more than about procedures!). They'll take the conventionally 'male' preservation of institutions and of power, the conventionally 'male' view that institutions are inherently constructive, over the conventionally 'female' empathy. Buddhists have long known, though, that true compassionate action conventionally appears as 'female' to the ordinary mind: the bodhisattva of compassion more easily takes the female form of Guanyin than the male form of Avalokiteśvara.
A well written analysis of such a patriarchal procedure, and some fallacies it assumes and perpetuates (in spite of a wholesome intention to start with, because it's tainted by additional intentions such as the protection of the 'order'), is a series of reflections by , back in 2013:
• http://108zenbooks.com/2013/09/13/a-conflict-guide-from-the-plum-village-lineage-north-american-dharma-teachers-sangha/ ,
• http://108zenbooks.com/2013/09/21/when-straw-men-rule-an-analysis-of-the-plum-village-lineage-conflict-guide-part-1/ ,
• http://108zenbooks.com/2013/09/22/straw-man-koan-deconstructing-the-pvl-conflict-resolution-guide/ ,
• http://108zenbooks.com/2013/09/29/the-dog-ate-my-zabuton-life-koans-we-die-by/ .
A recent example of ethical failure based on clinging to the logical fallacy of 'authority', 'rules' and 'procedures' relates to one of my rare posts in the "Zen Buddhism" community, a post now rendered invisible by a moderator.
After I exposed a liar, who also happens to idealise / idolise a rapist as a Zen master (the post contains the necessary data to assess this claim), the post was 'moderated' out… Amazingly, calling the liar a 'clown', once, was all it took to distract from the fact-checked issues of misappropriating 'authority', and of rape and abuse. A tree might well hide the forest, it seems! Now, surely this wasn't my best post, but the relative importance of issues here should still be clear!
And, of course, the suppression of the post was soon followed by the exposed person thanking the moderators… and a moderator 'welcoming' him in response.
There's nothing like seeing liars and apologists bask in the security offered by those clinging to their procedures and titles, as if these were proper keys to lead an ethical life! Except, of course, seeing rapists walk free (while a judge feels righteous and proud of his job) because the legal procedure is invalidated for whatever tiny reason irrelevant to the real issue at hand.
As the issues of abuse by some Buddhist 'authorities', and of the silent complicity of their 'senior' students, easily transcend g+ communities 'authorities', I'll now repost my warning in 'Public'.
You don't have to 'believe' me, or to consider my 'authority' against whoever (I don't rely on titles or 'official' rankings, as you know): you have the links, just make your own opinion on the relative importance and relevance of each element!
Long story short: when people, and in particular men, cling to their empty authorities, titles (be it 'moderator' or 'patriarch') and other delusional 'ownerships', to the point that it distracts them from actual issues that need an appropriate change of behaviour, the suffering and risks that affect real sentient beings are unwholesomely ignored!
On March 8th, the international women's day, sensitivity to the context makes it a particularly bad timing for the suppression of an issue affecting women first and foremost. I tend to see that if the saṅgha is to treat women better than it has done in the past, it starts with us, now: complicit silent while hoping that the problem will magically disappear doesn't seem a promising approach to me (because I don't see how causality would unfold to make that happen). And, yes, it's my perspective and I may be wrong about that: maybe not calling a liar a 'clown' was more important, who knows?
Apparently, there's a new clown on the bloc: ShuKyo Sokun. So, for the sake of protecting readers unaware of the recent years in Zen history, let's have a look at some news. After all, one of the guidelines of this community is "Be honest"! This community is already tolerating the openly-racist けろりん: maybe it'd be wholesome not to let mere rapists disguise as Zen masters "beyond morality"!
Let's ignore the reliance on appearance (shaved head, robe, etc.), the non-sensical use of capital letters in written "oral teachings" ( [link removed: the post has been deleted] ) and the 'calligraphy' as if brushing ink was enough to give content any gravitas ( [link removed: the post has been deleted] ).
Let's ignore those, because they could be seen as a matter of taste (even though clinging to preferences is indeed 'clinging', i.e. 'ignorance'…)!
We have someone bragging to be the "1st Patriarch of Tathāgata Zen to South America"
(plus.google.com/+ShuKyoSokunZen/posts/7Px71bQPp6W) even though he never received dharma transmission.
Now, if one does not play the "establishment zen" game with robes, titles, etc., one might indeed be the "Nth patriarch of lala-land", that's irrelevant and simply laughable. It might well be true, but it doesn't need a claim, it needs embodiment!
But if one does play the lineage game, then making the claim of being a patriarch in a given lineage (plus.google.com/+ShuKyoSokunZen/posts/bGHW47s58GH) after a teacher (Kyozan Joshu Sasaki) who notoriously didn't give any 'dharma transmission' is a serious lie.
Moreover, any lineage via Kyozan Joshu Sasaki is a lineage via a rapist, and there's no 'enlightenment' justifying the sexual abuse of female students. Documentation is available at
Anyone making an idol of Kyozan Joshu Sasaki has a faulty understanding of dukkha and of what causes dukkha.
Funnily enough, one might note that "1st patriarch of a specific lineage to South America" isn't particularly relevant. One can cut Zen into small pieces to appropriate a piece as "mine", "my Zen", but that's self-defeating!
A prior South American Zen teacher (with full 'dharma transmission'…) is Augusto Gen'un Alcalde, born in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1950, who, in early 2001, formally resigned from the Diamond Saṅgha, discontinued most of his teaching engagements and gave up the use of the title "Roshi"! Which of course was very coherent with his « true zazen, true shikantaza, is total freedom from ambition and authority » as found in his teisho on the genjo koan (www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/augusto/Genjo_Koan.htm).
Maybe Erik Storlie is onto something, with the article attached!
You can check the comment thread on the original post, gplus.wallez.name/bcGDGTnQk18, if you feel so inclined.
#engagedBuddhism #Dharma #iwd2016 #Zen #HeForShe
Click on image to continue:
Lineage Delusions: Eido Shimano Roshi, Dharma Transmission, and American Zen by Erik Storlie