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Buddhadharma : Winter 2007
winter 2007| 36 |buddhadharma Buddhism heard about were all men. Western prac- titioners of Zen Buddhism recite daily a lineage pedigree devoid of female names. Only recently did some women painstakingly reconstruct a lineage of female dharma teachers. Until sexist and male-dominated conventions and institutional practices are eliminated from Buddhism, we must conclude that although gender is ultimately irrelevant, it still matters in the rela- tive world. As I have argued many times, the Bud- dhist view may be gender neutral and gender free, but Buddhist practices and institutions are not. And the view and practice should be in line with each other, not in contradiction. Among the Bud- dhist practices that honor gender far more than it deserves to be honored, none is more devastating than the omnipresent tradition of not honoring and recognizing women as dharma teachers, which is founded on the equally devastating practice of not training women competently and completely. And that practice, of course, traces its parentage to sexist notions of female inferiority and the need for men to be ranked as superior to women in each and every case. Since many Western Buddhists are completely unfamiliar with Buddhist history and the way in which Buddhists have traditionally accepted the social practices of their cultural matrix, it is important to circulate this information more widely. There are valid reasons why so many non- Buddhists regard Buddhism as a highly patriarchal religion that is quite disadvantageous to women, and we should be familiar with our own dark side. It would be unwise to conclude that gender ineq- uities are a thing of the past now that more women are teaching dharma in the West. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that much has changed for Buddhism worldwide in the past thirty years. There is a flourishing Buddhist women’s movement, and much progress has been made in reestablish- ing the nuns’ sangha and upgrading the training nuns receive. The training available to laywomen has also improved greatly, and Western Buddhism is almost entirely a lay movement at this point. Among Western Buddhists, many women have also been recognized as lineage-holding dharma teach- ers, more so in the Zen and Vipassana communities than in Tibetan Buddhism ones. Most observers would agree that something unprecedented in Buddhist history is taking place in the West. If we were to count all the Western dharma teachers, rather than only the best-known and most recognized ones, almost half would be women. To what do we owe these vast changes in Bud- dhist practice? Certainly, they are more in line with fundamental Buddhist teachings than the tradi- tional sexist and male-dominant practices. Those of us who advocate greater gender equity in Bud- dhist practice always look to Buddhist teachings for our warrant for what we advocate, and we also look to past exemplars, such as Yeshe Tsogyel, for inspiration. If classic Buddhist teachings con- tradicted practices of gender equity, we would The Buddhist view may be gender neutral and gender free, but Buddhist practices and institutions are not. The view and practice should be in line with each other, not in contradiction. stanleysaGoV/insiGhtMeditationsocietykatecuMMinGs