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Buddhadharma : Winter 2010
45 winter 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly the West—to find a model that also addresses issues that have never been addressed in Asia, such as sexuality between teach- ers and students, and who gets enlightened and who doesn’t. However, the monastics are also modeling something very important. They’re modeling a kind of renunciation and sim- plicity and integrity, and it’s their responsibility to live up to that. I have reservations about abandoning any kind of interface with monastic communities. We would lose a lot by doing that because there is something very important being modeled there. The other reservation I have about moving entirely away from cultural models from Burma or Thailand or Laos or Cambodia or Sri Lanka is that there are a lot of women whom I consider to be in the same tradition that I’m in, but who have never had the good fortune to be exposed to strong women or strong women teaching. They have never been taught that liberation is possible for them. I would find it uncomfortable to say, “You’ve got to do your own work,” and just leave them to their own devices. I feel accountable to a much larger sangha of women than just Western women. Lama PaLden droLma: I completely agree. GraCe sChireson: We are creating independent models, but at the same time we’re acting as a bridge, where we’re visible to a great number of people and where women will have the experience of seeing us stand up. When I practiced in Japan in an all-male monastery, I would go to the lectures and 80 to 90 percent of those who came to hear the teacher speak were Japanese women. They were so heartened to see me as a woman practicing with the men, even though that wasn’t what they wanted to do. It’s hard for me to stay involved in the larger training cen- ters in the West, which are not usually led by women, because of the different standards and the lack of respect. But I try really hard to stay involved because I think my presence there will make a difference in the long run. rita Gross: Looking at it as a scholar of religion, I’d say the whole Buddhist community needs both people who work within the standard conven- tional institutions and people who go outside of them. I’ve always felt that if you can manage to stay within an institution, and change part of it from the inside, that’s very powerful. You really have an impact if you can stay within the institution and, for example, get a whole institu- tion to retranslate its liturgy so that it’s more gender-neutral and gender-inclusive. But there are many people who are not temperamentally able to take the flak of staying in a traditional patriarchal institution, and for them to start new institutions that present other models is also necessary for the overall progress of the whole Buddhist tradition. It’s often those very institutions that seem so radical that act as a spur for more conventional institutions to actu- ally change from the inside. Buddhadharma: Earlier you talked about how young women practitioners often don’t acknowledge the issue of gender inequality in Buddhism. Presumably the outlook of the next generation of women is important. How do you begin to talk to young women about these issues? Join the conversation Go to www.thebuddhadharma.com to participate in an online discussion on women and Buddhism with many of the authors and panelists in this issue, including: Grace Schireson, Lama Tsultrim Allione, Rita Gross, Lama Palden Drolma, Joan Sutherland, and Sandy Boucher Share your experiences and ask your questions, beginning November 30. Some women still have a strong adherence to the patriarchy, in the sense of wanting to be daddy’s good girl. Women need to examine how male-identified we are, or how intimidated we are. —Lama Palden Drolma