Most people probably view Buddhism as being primarily a male dominated religion. This is because for centuries, Buddhism has been portrayed that way. In spite of the fact that as in most religions, practitioners of that religion can be broken down into two groups – those who choose to live a solitary or reclusive life away from society and those who choose to practice the tenets of their religion by living and working in family, societal and community settings. But still, it is the case in the West, that until very recently, women had no real visible presence in either setting in most religions. But that visible presence is slowly re-emerging and at Peaceful Abiding, we will be showing both men and women and all genders how they can become empowered through the practices and teachings of Buddhism and bring the sacred feminine back into the world.
It is the case over recent centuries, that there was the belief amongst Buddhist practitioners and teachers that women could not become enlightened. It was believed that you had to be born as a man if you wanted to reach enlightenment. In fact, it was more often than not the case, that women were forbidden access to most and certainly higher teachings and practices. If a woman chose to become a Buddhist nun, she would have very limited access to monastery practices. Women would not even be allowed to learn to read or write unlike the men so had no access to written teachings. Even the one or two women who did gain access to higher teachings had to defer to men in order to gain access to teachings and would most likely have been taught to read and write outside of a monastery setting.
Some recent research over the past 50 or so years has resulted in bringing to light and into our consciousness women who lived in Tibet and were indeed very spiritual and highly realised. Books of this research have outlined the challenges that these women faced until they were recognised as highly realised women. Interestingly, these books have been written by both women and men and more recently by Tibetan Lamas who want to present what the role of women was and is in Tibetan Buddhism and whether any women did manage to defy the male culture and become enlightened. (For book titles see below).
It is now possible to discover the teachings and practices that these wonderful enlightened Tibetan women Tara, Yeshe Tsogyal, Machig Labdron, Sera Khandro to name a few brought to the Buddhist path. Initially of course, their teachings became teachings primarily for the men of the time to take on board and practice, but now, they are in the female psyche too and are available for anyone to follow. So it is possible for everyone to follow their teachings, their path to liberation and importantly, women are no longer relegated to sit in ignorance on the side lines. In learning how they succeeded in defying the male dominated Buddhist culture and became enlightened in spite of that has given all of us an open door today to bringing the divine feminine into the world – and boy do we need it!
Our Mother Earth who sustains and nourishes us and all living sentient beings is at a critical juncture due to the activity of a male motivated and dominated world that has suppressed and continues to suppress the divine feminine (Mother Earth, women in many cultures etc.) and destroy the environment. Greed. aggression and ignorance have thus far dominated. To turn things around and create a healthy balance, we need to bring the Divine Feminine back into the world. Following the practices and teachings of the Divine Women who overcame all the odds in Tibet and became enlightened is an inspiration and shows how it can be achieved. Already, we see emerging wonderful living representations and manifestations of Tara, Yeshe Tsogyal, Machig Labron and Sera Khandro. These brave selfless women defy the odds and often act alone putting themselves in the path of danger in order to turn things around in their environments and reducate others. But our Mother Earth is crying out for more of us!
The teachings of Buddhism are not just for Buddhists and not just for any specific gender. They are a way of life for everyone who is willing and brave enough to put in the time to work with their own minds, habitual patterns and beliefs. Our Mother Earth is completely out of balance now. We need to recognise that balance can only be achieved if we bring back and manifest the qualities of the feminine into the world. Like the sun breaking through the clouds, the teachings and practices of Buddhism can start to give us glimpses of our own inner peace. We start to uncover our basic inner goodness and self-worth, become more empowered, our hearts and minds start to want to open again and do something to make a difference! As we gain confidence in our inner goodness, we become stronger, more resilient and we want to release the compassion that is within all of us. We become more patient, kind, tolerant and skillful in managing life’s ups and downs. But above all, life becomes worth living and saving the planet becomes possible.
At Peaceful Abiding, Christine will be teaching about these wonderful enlightened women teachers and their practices, thus helping you, regardless of gender, to discover your inner Tara, Yeshe Tsogyal, Machig Labron and/or Sera Khandro. Christine has been following the teachings of these wonderful women for many years and looks forward to being able to bring the essence of these teachings to you on your journey to self liberation.
Our website and classes will go live soon at peacefulabiding.uk
Women of Wisdom: author Tsultrim Allione
Machig Labdron and the Foundations of Chod: author Jerome Edou
Love and Liberation: author Sarah Jacoby
Dakini Power: author Michaela Haas
Sky Dancer: author Keith Dowman
Lady of the Lotus Born: The life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal: authors Gyalwa Changchub and Namkhai Nyingpo
Tara’s Enlightened Activity: authors Khenchen Palden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal
May all beings benefit.
Author: Christine Jeffcutt