Buddha, women and the neutrality of meditation.

Got into a conversation today with my girl about Buddhism and women. It's disturbing lore, because Buddhist nuns are treated as second-class citizens in the Sangha.

And that's not ok with me.

The real irony is that gender simply doesn't enter into the Buddhist description of suffering - there is no male suffering or female suffering. Indeed the solution, the eight-fold noble path, is often described as "universal". This inconsistency strikes me as incredibly unfair, not to mention inconsistent with the rest of the Buddhist teachings as I understand them. Even saying that he was "a man of his time", as the article linked to above does, doesn't excuse this inconsistency - although one could claim that he was taking a big enough risk by ignoring caste, and to take on sexism would stress his nascent movement beyond breaking. But that is being incredibly generous.

According to this story, the Buddha exhibited the supernatural gift of seeing into the future. His judgment was based on this supernatural 'knowledge', which turned out to be false. This brings his conclusion into question. It is time that we separate the brilliant, accomplished experimental psychological insights from the cultural instincts far removed from modern reality. Meditation cultivates non-reaction, dispassion, and ego-lessness. It is genderless. I find it interesting that the Buddha's mistake was tied up with a supernatural power.

There is some hope for those whom dogma matters: the five hundred years have more than elapsed, it is time for a new policy for women who would take vows.

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