It’s inevitable that issues of the day will find their way through Tricycle’s Buddhist filter, and the #MeToo movement is no exception. Like the countless marchers in Washington, DC and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, Lama Tsultrim Allione cautions us to “never underestimate the power of a nasty woman.” Arguing that “feminine models of strength have been lost,” Lama Tsultrim draws on Tibetan teachings, and more specifically on dakini practice, to tap into the divine feminine as a path to a wisdom beyond gender (see “Nasty Woman Meditation”). And in “Mind the Gap,” longtime contributor Noelle Oxenhandler reflects on sexual aggression she encountered as a young woman in the light of today’s #MeToo movement and her decades-long Zen practice.
As we prepare for press, I find myself thinking about the work of a former Tricycle contributor who did so much to expose Buddhism’s historical bias against women. Discerning, determined, and unafraid, scholar Rita M. Gross (1943–2015) changed the Buddhist conversation, forcing us to come to terms with the tradition’s male-dominated past and present. Her groundbreaking Buddhism After Patriarchy is still foundational in bringing together feminist and Buddhist thought. Rita did not, however, limit herself to issues of gender equality; rather, she used them to broaden our awareness of inequality and privilege more generally. In 2014, she wrote in these pages:
It is well known that, out of self-defense, those on the underside of worldly power and privilege often are double-sighted. We can see things from the dominant perspective, the one that is publicly taught and promulgated, but we can also see things that those who participate only in the privileged perspective cannot see. This tells us that, on any topic in which we mainly operate out of privilege, we should be humble. That is why white people are so often so blind to racism or straight people blind to homophobia. That is also why Buddhists should be much more careful about dismissing issues of social justice as irrelevant to dharma.
A nuanced thinker never content to leave things so cut and dried, Rita added one more sentence:
But the knowledge gained from the double-sightedness possessed by those of us on the underside of privilege is so painful and infuriating that freeing its insight is difficult and often lost in self-defeating aggression.
Like Rita, Lama Tsultrim is well aware of the “self-defeating aggression” injustice can engender. And she shows us the beauty to be found when spiritual practice uses even the most destructive emotions to fuel clarity and realization (see “Transforming Anger into Wisdom”).
I wonder how Rita would have understood and interpreted #MeToo, but I have a feeling that somewhere she is smiling. I’m sure she’d have taken to the fire of the movement. More than once she threw a little justifiable nasty our way—and it worked. In the end, we’re much the richer for it.
—James Shaheen, Editor and Publisher
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