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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
REVIEW | SARA LEWIS 117 of Buddhism, known as the “Middle Way,” arose in response to the Yogacara, or mindonly school, which posited that reality is merely an illusory projection of mind. The Middle Way argues that the self and phenomena do exist, just not in the way we think. It uses highly sophisticated logic to teach how relative and absolute truths fit together in terms of dependent origination. The philosophy of Madhya maka is complex, but many students have observed its striking similarity to post modern writings on gender and power. If Gross’s students were to continue her writing in this area, it would likely be of great benefit. Throughout the book, Gross scoffs at the notion of “women’s enlightenment,” asking, “Which is it going to be? Clinging to gender identity (or any other identity) or attaining enlightenment?” Whereas realized practitioners would, by defini tion, see the self and its myriad identities as empty, there are some Buddhist masters who have vowed to attain enlightenment as women. Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, who is known for spending twelve years in a cave retreat, comes to mind. Should we see such a vow as clinging to gender identity or as bodhisattva activity? Could such a vow be a kind of skillful means meant to inspire women practitioners rather than the harm ful ego clinging that Gross believes only hinders realization? In accordance with Gross’s aim, which was to write for Western Buddhists, Bud- dhism beyond Gender may serve to fur ther inform the evolution of engaged Bud dhism. In one of her most important points in this regard, Gross notes that a core aspect of systemic misogyny comes from cisgendered men not regarding themselves as gendered. This is not because they have stopped clinging to gender identity but because masculinity (like whiteness) is a default, unmarked category. It is both invisible and allpervasive. No one speaks, for example, of “male lawyers or male scientists.” While investigating gender is nearly always synonymous with “women’s issues,” much of the work that needs to be done relates to masculinity. In this regard, we might look to dharma centers that have embarked on the deep and painful work of investigating white ness to more deeply understand how unearned privilege bolsters some people over others. Such groups examine the ways in which fear and shame prevent white people from examining race. Similarly, Gross argues that many men are deeply unaware of how their gender identity is linked with the self merely because those in positions of power do not need to think about it. This is what is meant by privilege. In this way, investigation into the nature of gender becomes less about “supporting women” and more about fostering a criti cal understanding of relative and absolute truths. Gross’s argument is that we cannot stop clinging to gender identity unless we are deeply acquainted with it. One Tibetan word for meditation is gom, “to become familiar with.” Feminist scholar Donna Haraway argues that those in subjugated positions, such as women and genderqueer individuals, often have a clearer view of reality than those blinded by privilege. What would it look like to use this piercing view of reality in practice—to understand the prison inherent in misperceiving real ity? These are exactly the kinds of ques tions Gross wanted us to ask.