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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
116 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY into life circumstances that cause them to face discrimination and hardship, this is clearly the result of karma. There is a cer tain pragmatism here that feels incompat ible with a Western sense of justice. And yet this line of thinking compels a more intersectional way of understanding ine quity. As one lama recently told me when I interviewed him about death and rebirth: “You have to look at the specificity of a person’s situation to determine how much their gender burdens them in rebirth.” Social and political theorist Alexis Shotwell, in an essay titled “‘Like Water into Water,’ If Buddhism, Then Feminism, But What Sort of Feminism?” argues that Gross’s foundational ideas should be pushed further through an “intersectional” scope. Intersectional feminism asserts that gender is just one part of a complex matrix of related identities including race, class, ability, age, and sexuality. Gross, like other scholars of her generation, continued to write about gender as a binary system of men and women rather than as a fluid con struct that includes people who are gen derqueer, though Shambhala Publications notes that before Gross’s death she had placemarked a section in the manuscript where she intended to write a chapter on “transgender issues.” This may inspire her students to write further on this topic, which is critical to our age. As Judith SimmerBrown suggests in the introduction to Buddhism beyond Gen- der, readers are often left wanting more specificity as to why clinging to gender roles subverts enlightenment and, more important, how a practitioner can work with it. Another section Gross intended to write before her death was on Madh yamaka logic. The Madhyamaka school in Asia. She argues that male scholars interpret certain texts and biographical elements of the historical Buddha’s life in ways that obscure the status of women disciples, citing, for example, scholarly works that show how male commentaries on the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya diminish the arhatship and parinirvana of Yasod hara, the wife of Siddartha Guatama, for political reasons related to bhiksuni ordination. Gross points out that in the Khuddaka Nikaya, in which we learn about Mahaprajapati, the first nun—and the Buddha’s aunt and foster mother—the Buddha declares that it is a false view to think that women cannot attain enlight enment. Despite this strong historical case for equality, sociocultural inequities per sist, such as the most senior nuns sitting behind even the most junior monks at religious teachings. Lineage holders con tinue to be nearly exclusively male, and the monastic education of nuns is inferior to monks in many respects. In some corners, conditions are improving—for example, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has recently insisted that nuns be allowed to sit for the Geshe degree. Gross uses these examples to show how cultural forms of sexism in Buddhism are not in accordance with core Buddhist tenets. In my own research as a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, I have investigated a term for women, “kye men,” which means low rebirth. Though not used much by younger generations, the term refers to the idea that being born female is the result of low merit. Nearly every Tibetan I have interviewed (men, women, younger people, older people, monastics, laypeople) say the same thing: men and women are equal, but if they are born