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Buddhadharma : Winter 2007
winter 2007| 32 |buddhadharma The primary feminist criticism of Buddhism is that dharma teachers are most often men. Feminists have responded with dif- ferent solutions to this problem. One obvious solution is to make structural changes to ensure that women are trained and promoted as teach- ers. However, some feminists have argued that giving dharma teachers any real authority is itself a patriarchal practice that cannot be redeemed by encouraging women to become teachers. Many Westerners are deeply suspicious of the authority that a Vajrayana or Zen teacher has over his or her students. These suspicions regarding Rita M. GRoss is pRofessoR eMeRita of coMpaRative studies in ReliGion at the univeRsity of Wisconsin—eau claiRe and a senioR teacheR at lotus GaRden, the RetReat centeR of Jetsun KhandRo Rinpoche. unlimited teaching authority grew particularly after scandals involving abuses of power that rocked North American Buddhism in the 1980s. Never- theless, from the point of view of Buddhist practice, there are limits as to how egalitarian and demo- cratic Buddhism can become. While power has been and can be abused, some aspects of Buddhist life do require the authority of a lineage and teacher. It is important to sort out which issues can be decided by group consensus and which aspects of Buddhist life cannot be subjected to majority rule. It would be dangerous to allow people who do not understand Buddhism thoroughly to decide what should be taught or what meditation tech- nique to use. Many fundamental Buddhist teach- ings, such as the four noble truths or the teachings on egolessness, go so much against the grain of Are We Equal Yet? While things have improved since Buddhist scholar Rita Gross wrote her groundbreaking book Buddhism After Patriarchy, she says that many of the barriers to women’s development and recognition as dharma teachers remain firmly entrenched. holGeRGRossliBByViGeon/insiGhtMeditationsociety