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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
FALL 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 11 quality of meditation within ourselves. Sure, it might take twenty years or thirty years. But if we keep practicing, one day—even though we still are involved in worldly life and soci- ety—we will learn to take all situations to the spiritual path and find inner peace. FROM A TALK GIVEN AT ORGYEN KHAMDROLING DHARMA CENTER IN DENVER, MAY 2014 ADDRESSING THE INFERIOR STATUS OF WOMEN Ajahn Brahm went to Vietnam in May to present a paper on the status of women in Theravada Buddhism at the United Nations Day of Vesak conference, but he was told on arrival that he could not deliver it. Here is some of what he had planned to say. On December 1, 1955, in Montgom- ery, Alabama, an African-American woman refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. That simple act of defiance for the cause of social justice became one of the most important symbols of the modern civil rights movements in the U.S. That woman was Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks became a Buddhist before she passed away in 2005 at age ninety-two. One can speculate that she chose Buddhism because it is well suited to advancing social justice issues. As Buddhists who espouse the ideal of unconditional loving-kindness and respect, judging people on their behavior instead of their birth, we should be well positioned to show leadership on the development of gen- der equality in the modern world and the consequent reduction of suffering for half the world’s population. Moreover, if Buddhism is to remain relevant and grow, we must address these issues head on. But how can we speak about gender equality when some of our own Theravada Buddhist organizations are gender biased? In a recently published paper by Emma Tomalin and Caroline Starkey (Sakyadhita Newsletter, Winter 2012), the authors explored the role that Buddhism in Thailand and Cambodia plays in maintaining gender disparity in education and “ultimately ask what is the relationship between the reas- sertion of women’s traditional ordination rights and female empowerment through education?” They noted that “Several schol- ars, both Thai and Western, have implicated Buddhism as one explanatory factor for the historical inequality between genders, par- ticularly in the poorest areas.” Also, they point out that “Many advocates of bhikkhuni ordination consider that there is a direct rela- tionship between the low status of women in many Buddhist traditions and the inferior status of women within Buddhist societies.” By restoring equity to women in the Thera- vada sangha through reinstating bhikkhuni ordination, we will be addressing the inferior status of women in many Theravada coun- tries, promoting gender equity in education and thereby making a strong statement in support of the Third UN Millennium Devel- opment Goal: Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. By fixing our own house first, we have the considerable opportunity and moral author- ity through our books and sermons to inspire and encourage our Buddhist followers to also work toward gender equality in spheres other than religion. That will lead to a world with less violence, better health, and more prosperity. VISIT petition2014.org TO VIEW A PETITION TO INVITE AJAHN BRAHM TO PRESENT HIS PAPER AT THE 2015 UNITED NATIONS DAY OF VESAK CONFERENCE