The Purpose of the Mukti Yoni Site is not to waste time cultivating negative thoughts and actions toward male chauvanists, or proponents and adherents to male chauvanist aspects of Buddhist culture. It is for generating awareness, facing reality, and finding support for a female-friendly, humanistic Buddhism. It is for moving forward, and not for getting stuck in the past!
DO NOT BELIEVE IN ANYTHING BECAUSE YOU HAVE HEARD IT.
DO NOT BELIEVE IN TRADITIONS BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN HANDED DOWN FOR MANY GENERATIONS.
DO NOT BELIEVE IN ANYTHING BECAUSE IT IS SPOKEN AND RUMOURED BY MANY.
DO NOT BELIEVE IN ANYTHING BECAUSE IT IS FOUND WRITTEN IN YOUR RELIGIOUS BOOKS.
DO NOT BELIEVE IN ANYTHING MERELY ON THE AUTHORITY OF YOUR TEACHERS AND ELDERS.
BUT AFTER OBSERVATION AND ANALYSIS, WHEN YOU FIND THAT ANYTHING AGREES AND IS CONDUCIVE TO THE GOOD AND BENEFIT OF ONE AND ALL, THEN ACCEPT IT AND LIVE UP TO IT.
-Kalama Sutra of Siddhartha Gautama, aka Sakyamuni Buddha
Yes, rejoice, halleluhia, for another era of feminist Buddhism has finally arrived on this planet earth! What does this mean? Relief! In essence, it means that Buddhist theory and practice will serve as a true refuge for all humanist practitioners, by not promoting and condoning theories and practices of gender discrimination, and by supporting and respecting all practitioners regardless of gender. Feminist Buddhism is practicing Buddhism with a constructive post-modern, integral worldview, and as such is a harbinger an engaged, humanistic Buddhism, which embraces and supports all practitioners equally, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or social economic status.
Obviously, if male chauvanism or mysogyny in Buddhism is acceptable to you and your way of practice, it is your own decision to pursue such activity. Feminist Buddhism is probably not your concern. As an example of humanistic Buddhism, however, a basic familiarity with it may be helpful for understanding other worldviews, even if you would personally prefer it if feminists would keep away from Buddhism! As a Buddhist, however, you might want to ask yourself how a practice which even passively supports regarding other living beings as inferior can help members of contemporary societies and humanity achieve wisdom, compassion, and peace.
Feminist Buddhist Practice
The essence of feminist Buddhism is practice. I.e., the best way to improve the conditions of women in Buddhism and Buddhist culture is to have large numbers of highly qualified female practitioners, leaders, and teachers, and male practitioners that support and regard women practioners as equals, spiritual friends, and role models.
Yet herein lies a litany of potential dilemmas.
How to overcome the difficulties of gaining practice experience with few or no female role models or spiritual teachers? One must perservere and utilize whatever inspiration possible! Here it is helpful to be resourceful. The life stories of the first Bhiksuni Arhants, eminent nuns, and female practitioners are indespensible, and can be referenced again and again. "What Bhiksuni Arhants?", you might ask? Not heard of in Tibetan Buddhism, but known to Theravada (from the Therigatha sutras), and Chinese Buddhism. (Feminist Buddhism is non-sectarian by definition!)
What to do when barraged with unhelpful messages from Buddhist texts or religious social situations that may not serve as antidotes to delusions but indeed may help them arise or at least leave you feeling demoralized? Here again, it is best to apply skillful means and keep a repertoire of positive reaction possibilities to draw on. Such possibilities can include both long term and short term strategies. In the short term, removing yourself from the objects of disturbing thoughts, along with breathing meditation, is most helpful. Relaxing with a movie having positive depictions and stories of women can also provide a pleasant relief. For the long term, assess what situations are uncomfortable, and seek to either avoid them in future, or improve them with the help of virtuous friends. If you discover that a particular spiritual group condones unhelpful gender bias in study and practice routines, and is reluctant to address your concerns, it is probably time to look around for a more conducive group situation for regular spiritual cultivation.
Feminist Buddhist Wise Action
Perhaps the most important talent of the feminist Buddhist is knowing how to draw the line - to not take in or condone mysogynist programming or male chauvanist discrimination - while at the same time refraining from generating negative actions of body, speech, and mind! Especially in the case of powerful objects such as spiritual teachers or religious texts, criticizing them is just taking on more unnecessary burdensome activity. The key is to deal with and improve the situation as much as possible without causing any harm.
Awareness and feminist sensitivity can go a long way to prevent troublesome situations occuring. If communities or teachers hold or practice male chauvanist or mysogynist beliefs, even privately, it would be better to know this before getting deeply involved in such relationships. On the other hand, if such is the case, but you still need the teachings or other community support, then relate to the situation with awareness. The 50 Verses of Guru Devotion clearly states that it is not necessary to agree with one's spiritual teachers on every matter.
Feminist Buddhists can learn much from African-American activists. The US Constitution was written by slave-owners, and yet African Americans today serve as Senators and members of Congress. Just because a system has a crude social or cultural history does not mean we can't still use it to benefit ourselves and others. We can all work to make a pure land here on earth, but until then, imperfection is part of the nature of worldly existence. Facing reality as it is rather than how we would wish it to be is the first step to take on the way to improving it.
Thus, when confronted with unhelpful gender bias in Buddhism, you have a choice whether to accept it or not. It is healthiest to take what is useful and leave the rest. Especially if your spiritual teachers are inaccessible or impossible to communicate with, taking on any doctrines that undermine the past 500 years of work to establish a post-modern humanist world may turn out to be unhealthy physically, psychologically, and socially. Protect yourself by considering if such doctrines will be helpful or necessary for your spiritual cultivation.
Be realistic by gradually accepting the fact that religious teachers from social and cultural contexts that have not had the benefit of a well-established humanist tradition are unlikely to propound such. That is, human rights may be easily understood with respect to a particular situation, but not as a general humanist principal applying to everyone everywhere. Bear in mind that modern liberal arts subjects like sociology, world history, the history of western civilization, and political philosophy subjects are not, and have never been, part of a classical Buddhist monastic education. Perhaps the wise feminist buddhist, with firm resolve, perserverence, and courage, along with a warm heart and gentle approach, will succeed in introducing post-modern humanist concepts to traditional Buddhist teachers! Equipped with mindfulness, deep awareness, and supportive companions, there are no limits to the wonders the feminist Buddhist will achieve!