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Schools of Buddhism => Mahayana => Topic started by: Namaste253 on July 16, 2015, 09:35:01 am

Title: Gender Inequality in the Pure Land?
Post by: Namaste253 on July 16, 2015, 09:35:01 am
This thread isn't just intended for Pure Land Buddhists. This is something that I read last night from The Lotus Sutra:

If, after the passing of the Thus Come One, in the last five hundred years, there is a woman who, hearing this Sutra, can cultivate according to its teachings, at the end of her present life she will go straight to the blissful world of the Buddha Amitayus, where he is surrounded by great Bodhisattvas. Born from a lotus flower, seated on a jeweled seat, this person will never again be tormented by desire, tormented by hate and stupidity, or tormented by the filth of arrogance and jealousy. He will obtain the Bodhisattva's spiritual penetrations and the patience of the nonproduction of Dharmas. Having obtained this patience, his eye organ will be pure. By means of this pure eye organ, he will see Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, equal in number to the grains of sand in seven million two thousand kotis of nayutas of Ganges Rivers.
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It seems that the Lotus Sutra is saying that the woman who is born in the Pure Land will be born as a man. Please compare this to the Thirty-Fifth vow of the longer Amitabha Sutra, which perhaps more vaguely promises that women will be born in the Pure Land as men:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, women in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters who, having heard my Name, rejoice in faith, awaken aspiration for Enlightenment and wish to renounce womanhood, should after death be reborn again as women, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.
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In this translation, it's more explicit:

When I obtain the Buddhahood, women of boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds of the ten quarters after having heard my name thereby awakened in faith and joyful aspiration, and turning their minds towards Bodhi, therefore dislike their own female lives, when they be born again, in their next life should not be incarnated into a masculine body, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

In this day and age, in which gender equality is the norm, how should we read these passages from the Lotus Sutra and the larger Amitabha Sutra? I ask this in all seriousness and I am sorry if I am offending anyone.
Title: Re: Gender Inequality in the Pure Land?
Post by: Cobblers Apprentice on July 16, 2015, 01:20:15 pm
I think it is apparent that there is what could be called a "patriarchal bias" alive and kicking within all the great Faiths of the world - to a greater or lesser extent. And as I see it, this involves both the foundational texts and the on-going traditions.

Each Faith must recognise this. Fortunately Buddhism has no "inerrant" book to complicate matters. Also, the sheer number of female Dharma teachers in the West offers hope.
Title: Re: Gender Inequality in the Pure Land?
Post by: Namaste253 on July 16, 2015, 01:29:49 pm
I think this apparent sexism is counterbalanced by the fact that there are Kannon and other female Bodhisattvas who are venerated and loved by so many Buddhists. Shinran, for example, considered his wife to be an incarnation of Kannon.

I wonder what Nichiren Buddhists, Tendai, etc. would say regarding the passage in the Lotus Sutra.

Perhaps we can see that, in a time when women were considered inferior, it was actually the more feminist perspective to see that women would be given the "gift" of birth as men for following the Buddha.
Title: Re: Gender Inequality in the Pure Land?
Post by: Cobblers Apprentice on July 17, 2015, 11:13:29 am
Namaste, there was a talk given by the "zen man" (and Shin man) D T Suzuki in New York, this when he was 88 years old. The talks have been turned into a book, "Buddha of Infinite Light". Anyway, the book includes the following which is relevant to this thread...

.....we believe in Amida Buddha as our Oya-sama, or Oya-san, as it is sometimes called. It is the term used to express love and compassion. Oya means parent, but not either parent, rather both mother and father; not separate personalities, but both fatherly and motherly qualities united in one personality. The honorific san is the familiar form of sama. The latter, Oya-sama,is the standard form. In Christianity, God is addressed as the Father - "Our father who art in Heaven" - but Oya-sama is not in Heaven, nor is Oya-sama Father. It is incorrect to say "he" or "she," for no gender distinction is found. I don't like to say "it," so I don't know what to say. Oya-sama is a unique word, deeply endearing and at the same time rich with religious significance and warmth.

(Maybe this highlights the limitations of language - even worse, how language can control and direct our thoughts, even keep them in captivity)

Hopefully I have broken no rules by quoting words specific to Pure Land Buddhism.
Title: Re: Gender Inequality in the Pure Land?
Post by: Namaste253 on July 17, 2015, 11:16:22 am
You are posting some important things. If, in Buddhism, the ideal is no-self, then distinction between male and female ultimately don't matter.
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