Gender and Human Rights Session at Manchester Buddhist Convention 2013

By Oxana Poberejnaia,

blogger for Feminism and Religion

I am grateful to all participants of the Gender and Human Rights session at MBC 2013 for a friendly yet thoughtful discussion. We had both sexes present in the room, and all ages (from 3: thank you, Aki, for top behaviour!) and up.

I had been preparing for the session using the book

Buddhism After Patriarchy
A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism
Buddhism After Patriarchy
Click on image to enlarge

Rita M. Gross – Author

and recommended it to everyone at The Convention.

My goal was, as I laid it at the beginning of the session, to facilitate inner searching for each of us around such issues as: “Is any organised religion compatible with Feminism?” “Are we happy with the current situation in Buddhism regarding women?” “Is Buddhism part of the problem or does it offer solutions?” and “What should we do next?”

I also hoped that through conversation, new common insights would arise and solutions to common problems found. And indeed they were. For instance, I have found another person who also dislikes this common place separation into “Western” and “Eastern” ways of thinking or doing things. I also believe that we now live in a global world and deal with common problems.

Buddhism, we believe, changes every time it enters a new culture, and feminism is something that Buddhism is absorbing now, with various degrees of success, but this process is inevitable.

I also liked how we drew parallels between our Buddhist practice and practising Feminism. For instance, one is allowed mistakes on both paths. Also, just you cannot be too mindful: it is best to be mindful at all times, it is also preferable to be Feminist at all times – whatever it means for each individual. And if it means challenges every sexist joke told around you, then so be it.

We also discussed how we ourselves chose our Buddhist tradition, based on our belief about what’s right regarding gender equality, and also how we can work within our traditions for gender equality. Questions were asked if a tradition that started very much as a patriarchal one can evolve into a more equality-supporting one.

A thought was expressed that Buddhist practise transcends all mundane matters, including gender divisions. This is undoubtedly encouraging to us, particularly because we as Buddhist practitioners know from our own experience that we are not defined by any conditioned characteristic, including gender. This inner knowing helps me a lot in my Feminist activities.

 

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