all material copyrighted, Jacqueline Kramer, 2007-2008
When Tara was close to enlightenment she was offered the opportunity to transform into a man in order to achieve full parinibanna. She chose instead
to become enlightened in the form of a woman saying, "In this life there is no such distinction as 'male' and 'female', neither of 'self-identity', a 'person'
nor any perception (of such) and therefore attachment to ideas of 'male' and 'female' is quite worthless. Weak-minded worldlings are always deluded by
this." She then vowed to become enlightened in a female form because "There are many who wish to gain enlightenment in a man's form, and there are
but few who wish to work for the welfare of sentient beings in the female form of a woman." Dondrup Zangpo, an Indian Yogi, chose to seek enlightenment
in the form of a woman in Tibet and was reborn as Machik Lopdron, the great Chod teacher. Kuan Yin made the ultimate compassionate choice to refrain
from parinibanna in order to work for the enlightenment of all sentient beings just as a mother feeds her children before eating herself. There are other
stories of enlightened women in the Buddha's time who share their enlightenment poems in the Therigatha. Western women of the various Buddhist sects
have been hunting around for female enlightenment stories. There are precious few but even one debunks the myth that enlightenment can only occur in
male form and gives hope to women.
I am very grateful to have been born a woman. It's not because I didn't undergo all the horrendous experiences that are traditionally dolled out to those
in a female form; unwanted pregnancy, sexual abuse, invisibility of my capabilities, family inheritance going to the male sibling, betrayal, self-loathing,
being seen as a sexual object, lower wages and guilt about my sexuality. It has not been a free ride but there is a tenderness and connection to the Earth
I receive in this female form that I am grateful for every day. I would not change this deep visceral knowing for all the money and recognition in the world.
Over the years of finding female spiritual role models I've learned as much from the goddesses and crones as I have from the Bodhisattvas. The first
teacher of feminine spirituality was my mother. She worked hard to get out of the hole she perceived herself to be in, a hole dug by centuries of abuse.
She wanted to be free and caught a whiff of freedom in the Los Angeles air where she learned to meditate and explore her psyche. Her wisdom
crystallized down to this; "Love is the only game in town". She steered our family in a spiritual direction and expressed love generously. I have a book my
mother gave me with the inscription, "To our darling Jackie-find comfort and solace and inspiration in beauty. Our great love-mom and dad." She gave me
this book when I was in the hospital undergoing a medical abortion. Not only did she refrain from shaming me, she increased the love coming towards me
during my dark night. This is what a goddess does.
I learned how to honor being in a female body from the wild women and crones of Sonoma and Marin County. These women understood the deeper
meaning of tantra, that it is not a license to have unrestricted sex but a celebration of the female aspect of spirituality coming up from the Earth and
through our bodies. These Earth women love this miraculous blue-green planet teeming with life forms. They feel this love and awe with their whole
bodies. They also feel anguish in their body when the Earth is pillaged and raped. Theirs is not an intellectual spirituality but full of the messiness, pains
and pleasures of being in human form.
One particularly courageous Earth goddess I have drawn inspiration from is Ina May Gaskin who wrote "Spiritual Midwifery". She took back birthing from
the male model and remembered its ecstatic, transformative qualities. The more conventional, but just as powerful, goddesses of La Leche League
reclaimed the wisdom of feeding our babies from our breasts. Some particularly wild women from the north reclaimed menstruation as a time to celebrate
our fertility. I always felt an intimate, sensual connection with the Earth during Menses. The wild women of Sonoma County celebrated this monthly
mooning. What is inherently female and beautiful, our juicy, feeling, alive bodies, over years of abuse had become framed as vile and disgusting. A
handful of women advocated for celebrating our daughter's fist menses and once again honored that which is unique to women, the ability to have life
grow in our bodies.
Women sometimes ask me why I have chosen to dedicate my life to such a male dominated form of spiritual practice as Buddhism. It is true that all
schools of Buddhism have been male dominated, Theravadin, my root practice, is the worst in regards to women. Yet I feel a strong, ancient calling to
Buddhism and derive great benefits from its wisdom and practices. For some reason no matter where I go to draw nourishment and inspiration my heart
always seem to lead me back to my Theravadin sisters and brothers. It's a mystery what calls different people to different practices. Sometimes we are
called to something or someone that looks like an unwise choice on the surface. But if we only made safe, easy choices nothing would become
transformed, nothing would move forward. Sometimes we unknowingly, walk into the fire and learn later that it was of benefit to our sisters and brothers.
We have few models of enlightened Buddhist woman, but all we need is a few. We can go forward and use our own lives to make more stories. Wasting
too much time feeling depressed or angry about the past does not serve our daughters or ourselves. We need to grieve and move on. Becoming joyful
at our good fortune to be born in this alive, life giving female form provides fertile soil for healing our planet. On the absolute level there is no male, no
female, but in the realm of relativity we are women. This is the body we have been given, or have chosen. How delightful to embrace and honor, but not
get attached to, the female form that has breasts which give milk, a womb which gives the gift of life and a cycle that intimately connects us with the
Earth. I am grateful to move towards enlightenment in a female form.
|October 2008 - Being A Woman by Jacqueline Kramer
|The Hearth Foundation - Copyright 2007 - 2008
Wendy Myers Web Designs - Copyright 2007-2008