And now another question from the fine folks of St. Paul:

2. What are the most important ways in which we can honor the female lineage, support the practice of women equally with that of men, and ensure balance of masculine and feminine dynamics in our practice?

I dunno about this one. On the one hand, Buddhism has historically always been about male/female equality. Buddha was one of the earliest religious teachers in India to accept women into his order — although with some restrictions in deference to the customs of his day. Dogen, in the chapter Raihai Tokuzui (Prostrating to the Attainment of the Marrow) in Shobogenzo says, “As regards attainment of the truth, both [men and women] attain the truth, and we should just profoundly revere every single person who has attained the Dharma. Do not discuss man and woman. This is one of Buddhism’s finest Dharma-standards.” And, “when [a person] practices the Buddha-Dharma and speaks the Buddha-Dharma, even if a girl of seven, she is just the guiding teacher of the four groups, and the benevolent father of all living beings. We should serve and venerate her as we do the buddha-tathågatas.”

He also criticizes the then-current thinking among Buddhist monks that they must never set eyes upon a woman saying, “nowadays extremely stupid people look at women without having corrected the prejudice that women are objects of sexual greed. Disciples of the Buddha must not be like this. If whatever may become the object of sexual greed is to be hated, do not all men deserve to be hated too?”

So it’s pretty clear that in Buddhism, women and men are viewed as equals. On the other hand, when you go out of your way to try and “ensure the balance of masculine and feminine dynamics” sometimes weird stuff happens. Like I saw one wanna-be “Master” who told his audience, with a twinkle in his eye, “Women don’t really need to meditate. They have a natural spirituality.” Yeah, Roshi, I’m sure you get a lotta nookie with that line. I also know of a SoCal-based “Master” who held special classes for the ladies. Just him and a room full of cute little seekers of the truth. Nice work if you can get it.

Now I’m sure this is not the sort of balance of dynamics the questioner had in mind. But even when you go the PC route and try to satisfy certain people’s needs for the groups they think they belong to, to be acknowledged, you often end up spending a lot of time, effort & energy on what really amounts to nothing of very much importance.

In Dogen’s view we don’t even need to think in terms of male and female at all. Just treat all people with the same degree of respect & dignity and you don’t need to get fussed over whether the masculine & feminine dynamics are properly balanced or not. It all comes naturally.

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