fba 3.0 is here! try it now for all devices: help us get the new site ready for primetime!


We provide transcribed talks by 35 different speakers

Social network icons Connect with us on your favourite social network The FBA Podcast Stay Up-to-date via Email, and RSS feeds Stay up-to-date
download whole text as a pdf   Next   

Vinehall Mitra Event 2 - Follow up Questions at Padmaloka 1981

by Sangharakshita





(Side one)

Sangharakshita: So this is what has been officially described as a Question and Answer meeting but don't run away with the idea that it is going to be a small scale replica of the Question and Answer session that we had on Vinehall One. In the first place we haven't asked people to write down their questions for two reasons: one because there are so few people compared with the those that we had at Vinehall, and secondly because I thought it might be better if it wasn't a straightforward question and answer meeting so much as a question and answer cum perhaps discussion meeting. Because since there are relatively so few people it is possible or more possible to have that sort of thing anyway. So what I thought was that in the course of this last five days, this of course being the fifth day of the whole retreat or event, so that we're sort of half-way through, since you've been here now fully five days and since you've heard various talks, have had no doubt discussions amongst yourselves, have had time and space to reflect on things. You've also done communication exercises together it could be that various questions have quite naturally arisen in your minds. 

It isn't on an occasion like this that one has to think up a question. If you don't have a question to ask, well, don't bother. Just sit back and listen to other people's questions. But it may be that some questions have quite naturally arisen. Questions connected with meditation or questions connected with one or another aspect of Buddhist teaching or questions arising in connection with communication. But whatsoever it is, whether questions arising in connection with this topic or that, the idea is that one should have an opportunity of putting that question and hopefully clarifying that particular issue or clarifying that particular area for oneself and possibly for others too. 

So maybe you could just sort of think back over the previous five days and just ask yourself whether a question hasn't naturally arisen in connection with any of these areas, something maybe that you've been thinking about, something that you would welcome some clarification of and if possible let it be a genuine question, not just something coming straight off the top of one's head which one hasn't actually thought about. So take it that in terms of the Five Wisdoms that, all right, you've developed the first, now there's an opportunity to start developing the second. 

__________: Can you explain that?

S: I thought you'd been studying that hadn't you or is it some other study group perhaps? You haven't come across this before? No, the Three Wisdoms. The Three Prajnas or Pannas, the Suttamaya Panna, the Cintamayapanna and Bhavanamayapanna. That is to say, first of all the wisdom or understanding that comes simply by hearing as when you hear a lecture or read a book. Two: the wisdom or understanding that arises when you reflect upon something, turn it over in your mind, make it your own and even develop your own original ideas on the subject. And thirdly the wisdom or understanding that comes by meditation when with your concentrated mind, or backed up by your concentrated, integrated mind you develop actual insight into the subject concerned, have an actual realisation of the truth of that particular subject. So you've heard a lot surely in the course of the last few days so it's time, perhaps that one started awakening one's own reflections, one's own thoughts. Perhaps that's already happened in which case you might have some questions on this or that topic. 

__________: Bhante, I came to Padmaloka with several concerns (?) questions, several concerns and reservations about sexism in the Friends. When we were listening to the video recording of yourself and doing the question and answer session at Vinehall these reservations crystallised into, I think a fairly painful realisation for me that you seem to be manifesting yourself as male chauvinist person. (Laughter) Let me just clarify that with reference with reference particular to the spiritual hierarchy - animal, woman, man - and you said that women occupied a lower position in the hierarchy because of their biological impulse. Now just taking that argument on its own grounds if possible it seems to me that the logic there is fallacious from the beginning because even if woman did because of her biological makeup have a more difficult spiritual path one should not place her at this moment in a lower position on the spiritual ladder but should place her in the same position but it simply means that she has a more difficult path to ascend. 

S: But that's really the same thing in other terms. 

__________: Well, that's (?) but more importantly taking that argument on its own grounds, I think the grounds themselves are extremely dubious. Firstly. because it seems to me that the mistakes or confusions at least on the grounds of biology or of social conditioning. As Subhuti did in some of the tapes(?) on the caveman. For example, the question of women coming to you with concerns about motherhood I think that those grounds have been examined in great detail, as you're probably aware, by the women's movement, to what extent is a concept of motherhood actually (?) as against the social conditioning (?). That wouldn't be so serious in itself - this is quite a long question.... 

S: There's about three questions already. 

__________: There's one question. These are just some of the elements to it. That is compounded both in the fact that you seem to use male and female in very traditional stereotype terms. Women as open and receptive, amiable - male, thrusting, aggressive. There are definite stereotypes that seem to be traditional ones and that the Friends seem to use (?). I think that all of this is compounded by not just by the what seems to me dubious logic and peculiar thinking but more so by the use of language which is very common in a patriarchy and I think this sort of standard sexual stereotype works out again in all sorts of writings, both in your own and in others in the Friends. An obvious example is the use of the male term, generic term. A classic example from the short puja. The Buddha was a man, that's false. He was androgynous. As we are men, that's false. People who say the puja are not men, they're women. I think there I'll leave it there. 

S: I don't see that there's really any question that has emerged. I don't see that you really put forward any counter-argument. You've only expressed a general sort of dissatisfaction without making the grounds of that dissatisfaction really very clear. Let me just give an example. For instance, you started off by using the word sexist. Now that is really quite an emotive term so in discussions of this sort subject what one finds is that people often use these emotive terms. I would say that these emotive terms should be avoided. For instance we've got all sorts of expressions of that sort now. We've got racist, we've got sexist. There are various other ... 

__________: Can you suggest ... 

S: Well, I'd need to understand first what one meant by that term. But what I'm actually saying is the term doesn't really mean very much. It's a sort of emotive term which expresses someone's reaction but doesn't have a really clear intellectual content. And one of the reasons why I object to the term is that as soon as that label is applied one is supposed to be very uncomfortable and want to deny that one is that at once. You see what I mean? 

__________: I see what you mean. 

S: But I think therefore one can ask, well, what is it that one is getting at, what does one mean by sexist? Because I mean, it begs the argument. Well, let's put it say in very crude terms. Supposing the subject under discussion is men and women. All right, you're trying to establish, let's say that either man is superior to woman, or woman is superior to man. So if someone starts arguing that man is superior to woman, he is at once labelled sexist, right. The assumption being that it is agreed already that man is not superior to woman, but that is an assumption. That is what we're discussing. That is what we're trying to find out. Right, so the use of these sort of emotive terms really prejudges the issue. It assumes that the issue is settled and that certain things are agreed but they're not, that's the whole point. 

So when one uses an expressions like "sexism" and "racism" then you're assuming or you're postulating that there are certain ideas upon which all decent people agree. If you don't accept these ideas you are not decent because sexist is a quite negative term in some circles at least (?) . So I think therefore that these terms which prejudge the issue must be avoided. So I'm not clear what you mean by the term "sexist". Perhaps you assume that the meaning is clear but ...

__________: (?)

S: But actually no meaning attaches to it at all except it indicates someone's emotional reaction of dissatisfaction to something. It doesn't convey any clear idea to me.

__________: Well, I haven't looked it up in a dictionary but in the way I was using it and I think the way it is normally used, although it involves emotional (?) is that irrational values are allocated to a particular topic on the ...

download whole text as a pdf   Next