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Posts Tagged ‘Grace Schireson’

Western Buddhism: The 50 Year Lessons (Part II)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 1, 2012

By Lewis Richmond, Buddhist writer and teacher

A few weeks ago I began a series of posts called “Western Buddhism: The 50 Year Lessons.” In that post I mentioned three lessons: enlightenment is not what we thought, meditation is not good for everything and religious corruption is universal. Outside of ethnic enclaves, Buddhism is really quite new in the West. Even the word “Buddhism” itself — a term coined by 19th century European scholars to categorize it as a world religion along with other “isms” — is not quite right. There is no such word “Buddhism” in Buddhism. The Buddha himself used the word marga, which simply means “path.” Buddhism is a wisdom path, a long, difficult, and complex journey. It takes time and effort, and mistakes are part of it.

I would like to continue my exploration of 50 year lessons with two more: Prejudice Against Women Runs Deep, and Conflict is Part of the Path.

Prejudice Against Women Runs Deep.

Buddhism began in Northern India in the 5th century B.C., in a caste-ridden, conquistador society where women were ranked below men in nearly all things. According to scripture, the Buddha did not initially want women in his monastic order, and it was only through the pleading of his disciple Ananda, speaking on behalf of Prajapati — a leading woman disciple and the Buddha’s biological aunt — that the Buddha reluctantly agreed. Since Buddhist scriptures were not committed to writing until several centuries later, we don’t know whether this incident was literally true, but it was certainly culturally normative for that time. That bias against women has remained operative in Buddhist countries to this day. The young Karmapa — reported to me by people who were there — said recently in a public gathering that the prejudice against women in Buddhism was simply wrong and should be changed. After 2,500 years, that’s good to hear. Correcting that “mistake” is probably easier said than done, however. Read the rest of this entry »

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