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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
SPRING 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 45 their aged families, often while married to some- one who drinks and comes back and beats them. Especially nowadays, when they can be educated and do long-term retreat, this is an incredible opportunity for them to discover who they really are and do what they really want to do. Steinem: That makes total sense to me, just as it does when a young woman becomes a Catholic nun, because her alternatives are exactly as you describe. But what if there were the alternative of a spirituality that was directly connected to nature, without a priesthood? For instance, in some Native American and ancient languages, there are no gender-specific pronouns. The tradi- tion could be one of a very direct connection to nature and a balance between males and females. Palmo: Buddhism itself is not especially patriar- chal. The problem is that the societies in which it developed are patriarchal. Our innate potential to become liberated is the same, male or female. When we’re sitting and practicing, or when we’re not acting out our gender roles, where is male? Where is female? The problem is that the males in any society were the ones who were most educated, so they wrote the books and had the voice. And they wrote the books from their own perspective, naturally, so women were reading something that had already been written from the male perspective. Steinem: I agree, except that for most of human history there wasn’t any patriarchy. James Henry Breasted, an Egyptologist, says that monotheism is but imperialism in religion. There was a with- drawal of god from nature and from women, which one can see physically on a Nile trip. Have you ever gone on that Nile trip? Palmo: Yes, I have. Steinem: You can see, in the representations of butterflies and men and women and so on in papyrus, that with each thousand years, there is more and more withdrawal—the goddess has a son and no daughter and the god gets bigger. You can sort of see the patriarchy evolving. But that’s relatively recent in human history. Body scanning, holding a question, taking and sending, and direct awareness methods such as shikantaza, yidam practice, Mahamudra and Dzogchen, and bare attention all involve energy transformation.