While reading about meditation, Buddhism, Zen, spirituality, absolute truths about human wisdom etc etc, there is one evident fact that as a militant feminist I cannot ignore. The majority of these teachers, if not all of them, are males. It cannot be the case that there aren’t any female teachers/authors, and if I search I might be able to find them. But that itself is a concern isn’t it? Why is it that the mainstream, easily accessible literature is full of male teachers and authors?
If the question is asked aloud the answer one can get boils down to the age old argument; there are less women scientists because women are weak in maths, extrapolate that and you will get there are less women spiritual teachers because women are weak in understanding the intricacies of wisdom, mind, cognition and behavior.
I think it was Osho who said that women can achieve enlightenment sooner than men and so the patriarchal societies kept women away from pursuing anything of that sort. Whatever the first part of this argument means, I think the second part is worth considering. Like how patriarchy had made sure women will become weak in maths it also made sure women will not become any kind of a master of anything.
It is rather disappointing to read these books. There is no fresh perspective in them. They are all filled with perspectives from conditioned minds about emotions. By virtue of being men in a patriarchal society they are all trained from the beginning to tame their feelings and emotions, to suppress them, and their brains get wired in such ways. The definition of enlightenment from those pre-conditioned minds is then about being able to absolutely tame emotions, being able to get rid of any attachment to emotions!! There is nothing wise about being able to turn yourself into a nothing-affects-me state. When you see a child being hit, your mirror neurons should be able to fire away in such fierceness that you get the jerk yourself, you get the heat on your skin, you get the pain inside you, then this society becomes a place worth living in. It seems human beings are intrinsically incapable of showing compassion and respect unless you can relate the other to your own brain. The fact that we have such a system within our biology which reacts when we see the other suffering should be enough to claim that argument. For a rich person it is impossible to think what hunger is, what homelessness is, for a man it is impossible to get out of phallus oriented privileges and understand the oppression of the other genders, it is difficult for a white man to understand what racism is, it is diffiuclt for a privileged man to understand why we need feminism, for a soldier who has the weapon it is impossible to see what the other is losing. It seems the extend of an injustice is unfathomable to an individual unless he or she is made to feel it.
In the presence of a biological system that caters to the others experiences and that human species by enlarge is incapable of utilizing that system for its benefit, enlightenment, then, is being able to comprehend the entire situation of the other person, to feel it as if it was of one’s own situation. Enlightenment should be a quality of being subjective towards others and not always just objective. Emotions are facts, which have a chemical measurable factual reality to it. They say when emotions arise do not get attached to it, but let it go. Let it go where! And who should get attached or not attached to it? The thinking cognitive ‘I’ and the feeling ‘I’ are in the same brain. Compartmentalizing brain’s functions has done more damage than it is obvious, it seems certain functions are to be considered as of low status ones and it should be abandoned. In every level of function there is an ‘I’, as there are feedback loops in every level of function within the brain. Which ‘I’ should be the one that gets to be preserved and which ‘I’ s should be abandoned?
All these questions arise repeatedly the more I read about Buddhist teachings. The apparent notion from my perspective is that Buddha ran away, and then taught the world that every suffering is the activity of one’s own mind. Yashodhara must have felt abandoned, cheated, and thereby sad. Imagine the Buddha telling her, your pain has nothing to do with me, it is the result of your own mind’s work. Isn’t he just escaping from his action that caused these emotions in the first place. Again, consider the possibility of telling her; you were not supposed to expect anything, or get attached. Since you have, that is why now you feel sad!
Imagine a world full of people who lives with the motto that nothing affects me. The very liveliness of our existence comes from the great theatrical performance that cognition stages for us. Imagine how dull monotonous and dead people will be if they all lived without any cause and affect relationship! What on earth will be the reason or meaning of relationships then if human beings were to live as separate entities without one affecting the other. Does that not result in utter chaos and an excuse to everyone to commit injustice if you say your reactions are not the responsibility of my actions, so don’t dwell in the feeling get over it! Imagine telling a woman who was raped that all her feelings arose because she is attached to her body, she is feeling sad or humiliated because she let the other person dictate her emotions. These philosophies create two kinds of people, one kind who are asked to shut up and get detached and the other kind who can happily go about committing any act of irrationality and injustice. How much ever I read these appealing Buddhist teachings, I cannot get over the fact that he broke the trust of someone. Telling it is their fault that they trusted him in the first place is just a pathetic excuse. Trust does not happen suddenly on a single instance, expectations do not get build on a single instance. One do not trust or expect things from a stranger walking by on the street! It gets build in the other person slowly due to your actions. You are responsible for your actions that caused another person to develop trust in you. I think Buddha owes a huge apology to Yashodhara!
Abandoning emotions, not getting attached to self, the teaching of not feeling are all ideas springing from the mind of an oppressor who is inconsiderate about the oppressed, and it is just another valuable tool for patriarchy. Women are taught to remain silent in so many political, spiritual ways, it is unnerving to see how these ideas flourish.
Imagine that the tables were turned, that history wrote her-story and Yashodhara became the spiritual teacher. Upon reflecting her condition what spiritual teachings or philosophies would have sprang forth from her? She would have taught, when you feel sad cry your lungs out and get into the immense relief that follows. She would have taught; be responsible for your actions, do not evoke trust or love in another person unless you can remain responsible for it. She would have taught from the perspective of a doer, not from the perspective of a being done to mind. Buddha could not teach about what the doer’s mind should do or rather make it the essence of his teaching, because since he was so preoccupied with the underlying recognition of what he has caused, that all he could eventually teach was how to calm down the suffering person. Yashodhara on the other hand would have taught everything about how not to be the one that causes harm. Buddha taught how to get rid of suffering, Yashodhara would have taught how not be the reason for suffering. In the capitalist patriarchal society that is the teaching that we want. We do not want people to teach us how to cope with suffering we want people to teach us how not to cause suffering. The starting point of this journey to get rid of suffering is a person who causes suffering. The vicious cycle of attacker-victim-attacker and the waves of egotism that generations surf on would have stopped with such a teaching. Buddhism teaches altruism by cultivating non attached compassion, Yashodhara would have taught altruism by cultivating a full fledged understanding that what feelings can arise in one’s self can arise in another self and feelings are not to be abandoned but tended with utmost care, both yours and others.
We have a Buddha teaching us not to mourn for the death of a loved one, we would have had Yashodhara teaching us how not to cause the death of another sentient being, except for the natural death of course. Even then one is entitled to feel the loss, experience the reality of absence and do let your emotions act. All patriarchal religious identify suffering from the sufferer’s point of view.
– you are poor because you are not praying enough. They totally conceal the fact that resources are being accumulated as capital by some people and it is the actions of these people that cause poverty in this world!
– you have a disease because you are a sinner. they are gleefully silent about the fact that not everyone gets a disease and if only some people get it if biology cannot explain it then there is a doer responsible for that condition. They ignore the fact that healthcare is not equally prioritized across human societies, quality of life, healthy food, healthy living conditions are not equally distributed across human societies!
– there is a natural calamity because god is angry. They overlook the fact that natural calamity seldom affects the rich. the rich always have means to cope with, resist or survive without any damage when a natural calamity strikes. Why, when the global warming goes up in all its chaos and eventually there is a huge flood like in Noah’s story the rich would still be able to live and survive. Who perishes will be the sufferers who are asked to pray to an invisible being for mercy. The same invisible being is said to be keeping track of your actions, but you seldom see a rich man getting punished by god for accumulating wealth. He is encouraged to accumulate wealth by the religious institutions as long as he shares his profit with the gods.
Of course Buddha teaches not to harm anything, but that is not the essence of his teaching. The essence of his teaching is his ultimate escapism that – suffering arises from one’s own mind and others or external conditions are totally irresponsible for it. The essence of Yashodhara’s teaching on the other hand would have been about real responsibility, that your actions can cause suffering to others so be responsible for your actions. Buddha’s teachings aims to transform the suffering individuals, Yashodhara’s teachings would aim to transform the individuals who causes sufferings.
Imagine a scenario when one drunken driver kills a person in an accident. Here on one hand we have a state which punishes the individual for drinking and driving, and on the other hand a spiritual philosophical body which teaches the victim to cope with the injustice that has been occurred. This is the reflection in general about the teachings that guide humanity now. Had the society been brought up with a teaching that take responsibility for your actions and not cause suffering we wouldn’t need laws to punish rapists, to punish drunken drivers. Like saying if you are not good you will be punished by god, if you are not good you will be punished by the state (whatever good means!). It is as if an individual is totally incapable of being responsible and rational that humanity had to come with threats to teach them. We have been taught about how to invent excuses for our actions and then remedies to the victims. The Gita tells us to perform actions but do not claim the results of the actions. This is so wrong in so many ways. It creates a dissociation between the actor and his action. And once there is a dissociation with certain actions and results what prevents people from generalizing it. A rapist can quote Gita and say that I only did the action as god instructs just do the action and detach yourself from the results of it! He can say I raped, what happened with the rape is not my business, same as how Arjuna was told to kill, no matter what happens after the killing. The greatest sufferers of Kurukshethra war were Kunthi and Gaandhari. Imagine Kunthi giving a Gita, she would have taught do not do anything that is harmful to the other person. You are responsible for your actions and its results, do not do anything that will make you regret later. Imagine Gaandhari giving Gita, she would have taught never to act in selfish ways, get rid of the ‘I’ and focus on the ‘you’ or ‘them’. You get rid of the ‘I’ not because you do not want to be the suffering person, but you get rid of the ‘I’ so that you will not become the person who is causing suffering!!
Ha! How this world would have transformed into a beautiful place had the spiritual and philosophical teachings originated from the women (not the women who are part of patriarchy), who were courageous to express emotions, accept biology and let it work in its own ways, who knew that emotions are real and be responsible for yours and others’, who knew that meta-cognitive skills can be used to guide your act in the first place than teaching you how to react.
Have you observed how the self help books are almost always oriented towards the employees to deal with a tough boss or totally inconsiderate colleagues. They teach us how to cope with injustice, and unfortunately it is never oriented towards how not to cause injustice. As how the religious texts affirm that you are a sinner, the spiritual mystic teachings affirm that the majority of society comprises of victims who needs methods to cope with injustice. They remain silent about the people who cause injustice. Do these teachers write books about how to be a good politician, or how not to be a capitalist. They teach you do not fall into consumerism, but they won’t preach do not create consumerism. In an abstract level Buddha’s teachings come handy once you are a victim, where as Yashodhara’s teachings would come handy in creating a society with people who are entirely enlightened about their actions and its results. The focus of attention should have shifted from how to be a better sufferer to how to be a better doer.
Yashodhara would have said; I have a brain that is made in such a way that emotions are formed due to external situations. That is a huge responsibility on myself that I should make sure I do not do anything that would cause emotional traumas to another brain. The perspective shifts from myself to the other-self which in turn caters the myself. So the path is not getting rid of an ‘I’ so that no body can hurt the ‘I’, but keeping the ‘I’ intact and comprehending ‘the other’ as the same ‘I’.
So what should one do when one is made to a victim? Yashodhara would have asked you to understand that the feeling of grief or pain is not your creation but the result of someone else’s action. Let yourself express all the emotions that comes its way, but remember not to retaliate and cause a cycle of suffering. Feel angry, express your anger in responsible ways, feel sad express your grief, feel loss, own your emotions and accept them. Let them manifest and let go. Let memories come and let it remind you to be responsible, first for others and then for yourself.
History tells that Yashodhara became a Buddhist nun eventually..She had to, because all Buddha’s teachings were for her. He was desperately trying to teach her how to cope with what he did. In a parallel universe Buddha would have become a Yashodharist monk because she would have taught how to be responsible for your actions. She would have refused to identify as a victim and then take measures to silently cope with it, instead she would have ventured the reasons for her suffering, identified the culprit and would have created teachings which would have disinfected humanity.
PS: Personal, all of what is said so far is just personal perspective, reflections and contemplation. There is no absolute truth and hence no absolute argument. – Maya Leela