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With regard to women, establish the attitude you would have toward…
February 1st, 2015 (February 2nd, 2015)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

With regard to women, establish the attitude you would have toward…

Great king, this was said by the Blessed One who knows & sees, worthy and rightly self-awakened:
"Come now, monks:
   with regard to women who are old enough to be your mother, establish the attitude you would have toward your mother.
   With regard to women who are old enough to be your sister, establish the attitude you'd have toward a sister.
   With regard to women who are young enough to be your daughter, establish the attitude you'd have toward a daughter."

This is one reason, this is one cause, great king, why young monks —black-haired, endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life— without having played with sensual pleasures nevertheless follow the lifelong chaste life, perfect & pure, and make it last their entire lives.
— Bharadvaja sutta (SN 35.127)

   One might note that this significantly differs from the classic mis-interpretation of the Mahāparinibbāna sutta (DN 16)'s passage
Then the Venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One:
– "How, Lord, should we conduct ourselves towards women?"
– "Do not see them, Ananda."
– "But, Lord, if we do see them?"
– "Do not speak, Ananda."
– "But, Lord, if they should speak to us?"
– "Then, Ananda, you should establish mindfulness."
   As I previously explained (, the Mahāparinibbāna sutta does not  justify any sort of sexism (and anyone who quotes this passage out of context is confused —as is usually the case for quotes out of context!). It does not  say that women should not be seen as human beings with buddha-nature, worthy of receiving the Dharma or deserving compassion as much as any man. What it says is that women should not be particularly seen as 'female' —in a gender-related therefore sex-related way— when it is inappropriate  in the given context.
   In the Mahāparinibbāna sutta, the context is the setup of "places of pilgrimage" once the Buddha will have passed away. To state that a pilgrimage is not the appropriate context for sexually tainted relationships hardly is a condemnation of womanhood at large: the sutta simply rejects judging appearances (i.e. 'seeing', in a sexually tainted way) and flirting (i.e. 'speaking', in a sexually tainted way) during pilgrimages!

   Once you've seen the relevant context in the Mahāparinibbāna sutta, the Bharadvaja sutta makes sense: mother, sister and daughter are female roles but, conventionally, they're not sexually tainted roles. In particular, 'sister' is neither 'wife' not 'lover' nor 'consort' nor "friend with benefit"… This sutta should make clear, however, that monks can  "see" women (and relate to them with respect, in a non-sexual manner fit for their monastic function).
   There is consistency between the two suttas, and neither the Bharadvaja sutta nor the Mahāparinibbāna sutta suggests monks should ignore women. The suttas simply point to Liberation from automatic / instinctive responses, i.e. point to the freedom of a context-appropriate response.

   And among the context-appropriate responses, I rejoice that the 17th Karmapa is insisting that the fourfold  sangha (monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen) called for by the Buddha isn't a threefold  sangha. Buddhists often talk of "Dharma friends"; this suggests supporting our "Dharma mothers", "Dharma sisters" and "Dharma daughters" (who want to dedicate themselves to Dharma study) too.

#Buddhism   #Dharma  
SN 35.127: tr. Thanissaro bhikkhu
DN 16: tr. sister Vajira & Francis Story
Photo: across the table at the local South-Indian vegetarian restaurant, the girl who gave me the opportunity for today of "establishing the attitude toward a daughter." May she live free from unsatisfactoriness! © Denis Wallez