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Melvin McLeod
  • Women's Liberation, a discussion between Sharon Salzberg, Barbara Rhodes, Judith Simmer-Brown & Pat O'Hara, on what it means to be a woman dharma teacher and how they'd like to se Buddhism in America evolve. From Shambhala Sun, July 2000; moderated by Melvin McLeod, editor. I found particularly interesting their answers to the last question McLeod asked, "As women, what changes would you like to see in the way Buddhism is practiced in the West?" The discussion then ranged on these topics:
    • Inclusion of women in imagery, lineages, legends and stories.
      • Sharon Salzberg remarked "The motivation that brings so many people to the dharma is looking for a sense of connection. What they find is exclusion rather than inclusion, and that's a source of tremendous suffering and heartache. So it seems very important to reach into the various traditions and bring forth the elements that provide inclusion and connection and welcoming."
      • Barbara Rhodes said that in listening to the others talk, she realized she was too used to the instutionalized sexim in her tradition. "I think I'm out of touch with how programmed I've been to accept that ... I forget how much this has on some level demoralized me and a lot of other women. I'm just used to it. I need to look at that issue more deeply."
    • Ensuring that women remain influential in Western Buddhism. Judith Simmer Brown observed "There's a pattern whenever you have a new religious movement that women are often influential at the beginning, but one or two generations later they're gone. As these movements become institutionalized, the structures become increasingly patriarchal and women are moved out."
    • Revisioning hierarchy, so that it is based not on privilege but on a true sense of spiritual power. Sharon Salzberg described it as "something like a hierarchy of function which doesn't demean or denigrate anyone."our teachers, the lineages, and the hierarchical forms that allow us to
      really understand what spiritual power is. And I would view the
      democratization of American Buddhism as a problem if we began to make
      everything the same for the sake of whatever problems we might have with
      hierarchy. But there are appropriate hierarchies and there are
      inappropriate hierarchies, and trying to figure that out is really
    • "A solidly lay Buddhism in America that is much more receptive to the needs of families, that incorporates the whole sense of the domestic life, both for mothers and fathers [and] in which serious practice is still very much the foundation" (in the words of Judith Simmer-Brown).
    • A viable monastic community. Sharon Salzberg said "Particularly for women, that's the container where a sense of lineage and of tradition can be passed on.
21 July 2006