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Buddhadharma : Winter 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 10 40 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 10 40 GRACE SCHIRESON is the author of Zen Women: Beyond Tea- Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters. She is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Empty Nest Zendo in North Fork, California. CHRISTINA FELDMAN is cofounder of Gaia House in Devon, England, and a guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. She is the author of Women Awake: Women Practicing Buddhism. LAMA PALDEN DROLMA is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder and resident lama of Sukhasiddhi Foundation in San Rafael, California. She com- pleted a three-year retreat under the direction of the late Kalu Rinpoche. RITA GROSS is the author of Buddhism After Patriarchy and A Garland of Feminist Reflections. She is professor emerita of comparative studies in religion at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. (portraitsleft—right)PeterSchireSon,unknown,unknown,ellieStrand terms of gender equality, particularly in the monastic community, and this issue is a hot potato right now between the lay and monastic communities. Still, I feel heartened by the changes over the last thirty years. Lama PaLden droLma: One of the opti- mistic things in the Vajrayana tradition that I certainly experienced from the beginning was that the very high mas- ters just threw out some of the old stuff, saying that it was cultural or whatever. For example, there were Mahakala rooms at the monastery where women weren’t supposed to go. They just said, “Oh no, that’s fine, you can come in,” and they let us live in the monasteries and study. But there’s quite a difference between the high rinpoches, who have a lot of realization and from the beginning have treated us with respect and love and equality, and what I think of as the “middle management lamas,” who aren’t as real- ized and are more culturally bound, as well as the monks who live in monasteries and haven’t had much contact with the West. But even male Western lamas often aren’t treated well by Asian monks, so it goes beyond a gender issue into a Western–Asian issue. However, in general things have come along quite well, and many of the Tibetan teachers have made an effort to ask I don’t agree with that at all. That’s just genderizing the dharma. There are no problems.” That’s the perpetual issue we face: women make some gains and then people forget how things used to be. It’s frightening to think of the up-and- coming generation of meditators reject- ing the work of feminists as genderizing the dharma, to which I always reply, “We’re not genderizing the dharma. We’re un-genderizing it.” The dharma was genderized thousands of years ago when women were first put in a separate class. Christina FeLdman: There have been really great changes since I began teach- ing in the West in 1975. In the Theravada tradition at that time there were almost no women teachers and the imprint was still very much a monastic model and lineage. Now we have a wonderful group of senior women teachers and no one is surprised to see them sitting on the stage or standing at the podium. That in itself is quite a turnaround. With young women, I often find that all they’ve known is gender equality, and most have never been to Asia, so they haven’t seen how hard it is for women practicing there. There’s this sense that “I wasn’t really aware you did any work, but it’s great you did, if you did.” Their feeling is that the work is done. But there is a long way to go in the Theravada tradition in The perpetual issue we face is that women make some gains and then people forget how things used to be. It’s frightening to think of the up-and-coming generation of meditators rejecting the work of feminists as genderizing the dharma. —Rita Gross