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Re: [Yanniru]- A Teaching Of Equality......

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Posted by Glenn on July 24, 2002 06:45:44 UTC

My response on your statement on this message forum-

You stated:

Actually the Lotus Sutra is quite clear that women cannot become Buddhas. The one woman who ever made it first became a man in a spontaneous transformation, and only then was allowed to become a Buddha. This is all in the Lotus Sutra.

..... The dragon girl, the young lady known as the which is described in the latter half of the "Devadatta" (twelfth) chapter, is best known for having provided all women a model of attaining Buddhahood.

The enlightenment of women is one of the key themes of the Lotus Sutra.From one standpoint, the discussion of the dragon girl in the "Devadatta" chapter is a tale about how arrogant men are defeated by women. Even Shariputra, known as the foremost in wisdom, is no match in faith for the dragon girl.

It is also a grand declaration of human rights that refutes, by means of actual proof, ideas and beliefs that against women. It seems that misunderstanding still lingers about the enlightenment of women as taught in the Lotus Sutra. Let's try to get an accurate grasp of the concept.

...."At that time Shariputra said to the dragon girl, "You suppose that in this short time you have been able to attain the unsurpassed way. But this is difficult to believe. Why? Because a woman's body is soiled and defiled, not a vessel for the Law. How could you attain the unsurpassed bodhi?"...

At that time the dragon girl had a precious jewel worth as much as the thousand-millionfold world which she presented to the Buddha. The Buddha immediately accepted it....

The girl said, "Employ your supernatural powers and watch me attain Buddhahood. It will be even quicker than that!....." (Lotus Sutra, Chap.12)

Let's consider the flow of the "Devadatta" chapter. After Shakyamuni completes his prophesy that the great villain Devadatta would attain enlightenment, one of the followers of Many Treasures Buddha (Jp. Taho), known as Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated, suggests to Many Treasures that they return home to the land of Treasure Purity. Wisdom Accumulated, judging from his name, must have been not only perceptive, but also highly intelligent. He must have thought that the teaching was finished, having just heard Shakyamuni preach the doctrine of the enlightenment of evil people and urge his followers to "make certain the Law will long endure" (LS11, 177), i.e., spread the Lotus Sutra after his passing. But he was premature in coming to this conclusion. Shakyamuni had not yet finished his instruction. There was more to the story, something even Wisdom Accumulated did not comprehend; namely, the doctrine of attaining Buddhahood in one's present form.

Thereupon, Shakyamuni Buddha says to Wisdom Accumulated, "Good man, wait a little while. There is a bodhisattva named Manjushri here whom you should see. Debate and discuss the wonderful Law with him, and then you may return to your homeland" (LS12, 185). Manjushri, who had just arrived from the palace of the dragon king in the ocean where he had been spreading the Buddha's teachings, appears at the Ceremony in the Air accompanied by many bodhisattvas under his instruction. A discussion between Wisdom Accumulated and Manjushri ensues.

Wisdom Accumulated starts out by asking Manjushri, "When you went to the palace of the dragon king, how many living beings did you convert?" (LS12, 186) Manjushri explains that in the palace of the dragon king he had "constantly expounded the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law alone" (LS12, 186), converting countless beings, and that the 8-year-old daughter of the dragon king heard the Lotus Sutra and immediately attained bodhi, or enlightenment.

Wisdom Accumulated doesn't believe a word of this. Convinced that Buddhahood can only be attained by bodhisattvas after they have carried out difficult and painful practices for immeasurable kalpas, he cannot believe that the dragon girl could have attained Buddhahood in the brief time of Manjushri's stay at the dragon king's palace.

The Daishonin says in the Gosho that Manjushri's propagation at the palace of the dragon king took place during the short interval while Shakyamuni was expounding the "Emergence of the Treasure Tower" (eleventh) chapter. He explains that the fact that Manjushri could convert many beings and that the dragon girl could attain enlightenment during that brief interlude is indicative of the power of the Lotus Sutra.

[Nichiren Daishonin writes: "And yet, contrary to all expectations, through the instruction of Monju [Manjushri], in the short space of time between the Hosshi ["Teacher of the Law" (tenth)] and Devadatta (twelfth) chapters when the Buddha was preaching the Hoto ["Emergence of the Treasure Tower" (eleventh)] chapter, in the midst of the ocean she [the dragon girl] attained Buddhahood. This was a most wonderful happening! If it had not been for the power of the Lotus Sutra, the foremost among all the teachings of the Buddha's lifetime, how could such a thing have come about?" (MW-7)]

Wisdom Accumulated obviously did not understand the power of the Lotus Sutra(Mystic Law). That's why he couldn't believe it when he heard Manjushri relate that the dragon girl had attained Buddhahood in her present form.

Nichiren Daishonin says that such disbelief in the Mystic Law is a manifestation of "fundamental darkness." In this context, fundamental darkness means we have a mistaken notion about the true nature of our existence, and, ultimately, the potential of our own life. Also, the Daishonin characterizes the disbelief of Wisdom Accumulated as according with the "spirit of the specific teaching"3 (cf. Gosho Zenshu). In other words, Wisdom Accumulated represents the rather limited point of view that one can only attain Buddhahood by first passing through many stages of practice, for example, the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice.

By contrast, the dragon girl represents the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra. The dragon girl reveals with her life "new thinking" that flies in the face of the patriarchal old way of thinking. The "Devadatta" chapter can be likened to a "philosophical drama." It presents profound ideas in the form of a dramatic narrative with deep meaning. I think that is why one never tires of hearing it.

Before Wisdom Accumulated has even finished stating his disbelief, the dragon girl herself suddenly appears. She greets the Buddha, vowing that "the Buddha alone can bear witness to this [the fact of my having attained Buddhahood]. / I unfold the doctrines of the Great Vehicle [of the Lotus Sutra] / to rescue living beings from suffering" (LS12, 188).

"I unfold the doctrines of the Great Vehicle to rescue living beings from suffering"-these are notable words. It's a wonderful passage.

She says, in other words: "Everyone might ridicule me. But that does not concern me in the least. The Buddha knows the truth. I will simply devote myself to helping people become happy through the power of the Mystic Law that has saved me." Attaining Buddhahood in one's present form means developing in oneself the Buddha's strong spirit to unhesitatingly lead all suffering people to happiness. It is to take action cheerfully and with composure to help those who are suffering, even though one might be subject to ridicule or discrimination. Those who carry out such a practice shine as Buddhas just as they are.

Still the men, hopelessly stubborn and missing the point, continue to express disbelief. This time it is Shariputra who voices doubts after hearing the dragon girl's determination. There are two reasons for Shariputra's disbelief. In the first place, Shariputra, like Wisdom Accumulated, has the fixed notion that the Buddha's enlightenment can only be attained by carrying out painful practices over an extremely long period of time. The second reason relates to the "five obstacles"; the view that a woman cannot become a (Brahma) heavenly king, a King Shakra,4 a devil king, a wheel-turning sage king5 or a Buddha. Therefore, he criticizes the dragon girl, declaring it impossible that in her form as a woman she could have quickly become a Buddha.

The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai of China says, "Shariputra argues employing the provisional teachings of the Tripitaka."6 The Tripitaka, or Hinayana, are provisional teachings, in which the five obstacles are discussed. In this "scene," Shariputra, as a proponent of the Hinayana teachings, plays the role of "bad guy."

That the dragon girl has attained Buddhahood in her present form is a wonderful refutation of both the view that attaining Buddhahood requires practice over an extremely long period and the doctrine of the five obstacles. Next the dragon girl takes up a jewel that the sutra says is equal in value to the thousand-millionfold world, a metaphor for the entire universe, and offers it to Shakyamuni, who accepts it immediately. The dragon girl then declares to Shariputra, who has watched this, that her own attainment of Buddhahood will be accomplished in less time than it took for her to present the jewel to Shakyamuni and for Shakyamuni to accept it.

This gesture, while highly symbolic, does indeed amount to a fundamental refutation of the previous, prevailing understanding about the nature of enlightenment.

The "jewel worth as much as the thousand-millionfold world" represents the Mystic Law, which is the wellspring of the universe and of all life. We can also say that it symbolizes one's own life, which is an entity of the Mystic Law. Offering the jewel to the Buddha means offering one's own life, which is infinitely precious and irreplaceable. In other words, it is to devote one's life, in the sense of the term namu; it is to have faith.

The Buddha's acceptance of the jewel indicates that the lives of the dragon girl the Buddha have become one. In other words, by this action Shakyamuni provides actual proof of the dragon girl's attainment of Buddhahood.

Everyone, men and women alike, possesses the "attainments inherent in her nature." It is a jewel that exists in the lives of all living beings. This is the meaning of the "mutual possession of the ten worlds" and ichinen sanzen; this is the Lotus Sutra's fundamental revelation.

The ten worlds(realms of existence) include the world of Animality. The dragon girl has the form of an animal, and naturally the world of Buddhahood is also inherent in the world of Animality. Her Buddhahood is invisible, however, to an eye that is colored by prejudice.

The Lotus Sutra teaches that all living beings possess the world of Buddhahood. There is not even a hint of discrimination toward women. If it were true that women could not become Buddhas, then the doctrine of ichinen sanzen would fall apart. And to deny ichinen sanzen is to deny the possibility of anyone's attainment of Buddhahood. Therefore, the dragon girl's enlightenment signifies not only the enlightenment of all women, but the enlightenment of all men as well.

Regarding the description of how the dragon girl "in the space of an instant change[d] into a man" (LS12, 188), some have suggested that if she has to take on the form of a man in order to attain Buddhahood, then the Lotus Sutra still presents a discriminatory view of women.

That's an incorrect reading of what happened. The dragon girl's enlightenment indicates the principle of attaining Buddhahood in one's present form. You must remember that she had already become a Buddha in her female form.

The dragon girl's changing into a man is nothing more than an expedient means that she employs to drive home the fact of her Buddhahood to Shariputra and the others, who were convinced only men could attain Buddhahood. It does not mean that a woman can only attain Buddhahood by first turning into a man. This has been clear from the first with Bodhisattva Manjushri's introduction of the dragon girl.Manjushri's remarks in their entirety:

"There is the daughter of the dragon king Sagara, who has just turned eight. Her wisdom has keen roots and she is good at understanding the root activities and deeds of living beings. She has mastered the dharanis, has been able to accept and embrace all the storehouse of profound secrets preached by the Buddhas, has entered deep into meditation, thoroughly grasped the doctrines, and in the space of an instant conceived the desire for bodhi and reached the level of no regression. Her eloquence knows no hindrance, and she thinks of living beings with compassion as though they were her own children. She is fully endowed with blessings, and when it comes to conceiving in mind and expounding by mouth, she is subtle, wonderful, comprehensive and great. Kind, compassionate, benevolent, yielding, she is gentle and refined in will, capable of attaining bodhi" (LS12, 187).

This truly describes the Buddha. I think we could say it also presents an ideal not only for women but for all human beings. Since she has "thoroughly grasped the doctrines," "reached the level of no regression," possesses the compassion, wisdom and power to lead people to happiness, and is "capable of attaining bodhi," she has already in fact attained Buddhahood. The dragon girl herself says, "I have attained bodhi" (LS12, 188).

In terms of the ordinary view of attaining Buddhahood that we find in sutras expounded before the Lotus Sutra, the circumstances of the dragon girl would suggest that, among all the Buddha's followers, she has the dimmest prospects of attaining Buddhahood. Namely, she (1) has the form of an animal; (2) is a woman; and (3) is very young in years, being only 8 years old. Even if it were said that this dragon girl had become a Buddha, her outward appearance alone would have definitely prevented people from understanding and believing this. And so, for the benefit of Shariputra and the others, she manifests a form that will be convincing to those who are obstinate and a bit slow to understand. That is the reason for her changing into a man.

Indeed, Speaking of women changing into men, we find similar accounts in many Mahayana sutras other than the Lotus Sutra. In light of the truth of nonsubstantiality (Jp. ku), which is one of basic principles of Mahayana Buddhism, for one to fixate on superficial differences between men and women is pointless and unnecessary from a doctrinal standpoint. However, Shakyamuni must have foreseen that at the time there would be great resistance to the idea that women could become Buddhas in their present form.

Indian society at the time was highly discriminatory toward women. And in Buddhism, too, in the Hinayana teachings, discrimination toward women is very much in evidence. Therefore, it may be that by explaining that women would first become men and then attain Buddhahood, Mahayana Buddhism sought to cushion the blow, as it were, and make it easier for people to accept the idea of women attaining Buddhahood. The doctrine of women transforming into men could therefore perhaps be characterized as a "product of compromise." But That's certainly one side of the story.
Fundamentally, Buddhism views all living beings as individual manifestations of a single great, golden life. This is the truth to which Shakyamuni had become enlightened. This is what is illustrated by the principles of dependent origination and nonsubstantiality. This, in essence, is the Mystic Law. From this enlightened standpoint, it would be ludicrous to assert that one sex is superior to the other. However, in order to cause that Law to spread and take root in society, the Buddha had to consider how to explain it in terms people would accept. Under certain circumstances, Shakyamuni, while fundamentally determined to teach the Law "according with the Buddha's own mind," had to employ wisdom and adapt his teaching to the capacities of his listeners simply to get a hearing; he had to draw others gradually toward his own enlightened state of life. The explanation we find in Mahayana sutras of women turning into men could, therefore, be seen as a revolutionary doctrine refuting the Hinayana notion that women could never become Buddhas.

Had Shakyamuni simply told people the truth from the outset, the resistance would have been too great. When he expounds the Lotus Sutra, he declares for the first time the teaching "according with the Buddha's own mind" that women can attain enlightenment without changing form. The problem, however, is that when explanations are tailored to the biases of society in this fashion, there is a danger that even people of sincere faith will become attached to those biases, leading to a distorted interpretation of the teaching. The effect often is that when a distorted teaching gets handed down it does nothing but exacerbate and harden the discriminatory attitudes of society. If we were to trace the historical view of women in Buddhism, we would probably find many such instances.

The five obstacles that Shariputra mentions are a good example. This doctrine is thought to have appeared after Shakyamuni's passing during the period when Hinayana Buddhism (the Theravada school) prospered. Monks and the Buddhist order became highly authoritarian; and, in a reflection of the bigotry of Indian society at the time, there was open discrimination against women and lay people. Many of the Buddhist monks were from Brahman families; and it may be that their inability to completely discard the discriminatory and elitist assumptions of their class was a factor in Hinayana Buddhism taking on such a discriminatory character. Shakyamuni Fought Discrimination in Society

Discrimination against women goes directly against the spirit of Shakyamuni. Indian society in Shakyamuni's day was disparaging toward women in the extreme. The Brahman scriptures, too, teem with abuse and vilification of women.

In such an age, Shakyamuni did not discriminate against women in the least. After deliberating the matter, he allowed women to become nuns and carry out monastic practice. And both Mahaprajapati, who had raised him, and Yashodhara, his wife from before renouncing the world, became nuns. This is said to have been a landmark development for the time.That's because in Brahmanism only men could take up the monastic life.

In Buddhism, however, during Shakyamuni's lifetime and the period shortly after his death, many women left secular life and were active in the samgha, (the Buddhist order). We get a glimpse of the situation at the time from a Pali text titled the Therigatha, or Confessions of Nuns. In the epilogue, the renowned Japanese Buddhologist Dr. Hajime Nakamura writes: "The appearance [in Buddhism] of an order of nuns was an astonishing development in world religious history. No such female religious order existed in Europe, North Africa, West Asia or East Asia at the time. Buddhism was the first tradition to produce one."10 The women who became nuns had a variety of different backgrounds. Dr. Nakamura explains: Formerly, when they lived in the secular world, the nuns had been ordinary women. Living in a polluted age, they had fully experienced the pain and hardship of life in this world. Some had lost husbands, some had lost children, some had been ostracized, and some had been so destitute that they had only just managed to survive. Some had experienced bad luck with men, and been married a number of times, only to have the relationship always end in disaster. And there were women who were simply poor and ill-fated.... There were also women who had at one time determined to take their own lives on account of the overwhelming hardships they faced.11 Of course, the order also included women who had been wealthy, and who had been endowed with intelligence and beauty. But even such women could not avoid the suffering of aging and the problem of death. Shakyamuni taught many such women the path to happiness.

People's worries are still the same. Since Shakyamuni did not discriminate between cloistered and lay people, he also taught laywomen the path to happiness. Shakyamuni's laywomen followers included Vaidehi, the wife of King Bimbisara of Magadha and mother of Ajatashatru; and Shrimala, the queen of Ayodhya, an ancient city in central India. But Shakyamuni treated these prominent women the same way he treated women from ordinary backgrounds. There is a famous saying: "Not by birth does one become an outcaste, not by birth does one become a brahman. By (one's) action one becomes an outcaste, by (one's) action one becomes a brahman."12 In a fiercely discriminatory society, Shakyamuni staunchly refused to allow his actions to be colored by distinctions of class, gender and birth, or of lay and cloistered. As a result, he was seen as a dangerous person by conservative elements of society who stood by the status quo. At the outset, the samgha pulsed vibrantly with Shakyamuni's spirit of equality. A nun gives an account of calmly rebutting someone who had been whispering that women could not attain enlightenment. Pointing out that women are able to quiet their minds, manifest wisdom and attain awakening, she asks, "How is it possible, then, that being a woman could be an obstacle to attaining enlightenment?"13 Teachings of Shakyamuni that seem to back up the words of this nun have also been handed down. One text cites him as saying: "There are differences between men and women, but there is no basis for discriminating among people in terms of the essential nature of life. Just as a man can practice the Way and attain enlightenment, if a woman practices and passes through the necessary courses of the heart, she will without a doubt arrive at enlightenment."

Whether male or female, being noble or base depends entirely on what a person has done. It is one's actions and sincerity that count. That is Shakyamuni's spirit.

Early Buddhist texts attribute various negative statements regarding women to Shakyamuni. But these are thought to have been intended, rather, as admonitions to help male practitioners avoid being distracted.Certainly, some point to the fact that Shakyamuni's teachings to monks and nuns regarding women are completely different from those addressed to lay people. Even if that's true, I think it would be a mistake to conclude that the Buddha was prejudiced against women. Shakyamuni's teachings to monks and nuns were obviously intended to help them maintain a strict practice.

During the age when Hinayana Buddhism flourished, this original spirit of Shakyamuni all but disappeared. Generally speaking, Hinayana Buddhism deified Shakyamuni as a superhuman being. It asserted not only that most people could not become Buddhas, but that unless you were a monk you could not even attain the state of arhat, the highest enlightenment of voice-hearers. And it blatantly discriminated against both lay people and women.

The doctrine of the five obstacles is thought to have appeared at that time. The decline of monastic Buddhism was evident already during the reign of King Ashoka, just a hundred years after Shakyamuni's death.18 Hinayana Buddhism had strong authoritarian and discriminatory leanings, and had lost Shakyamuni's spirit. By contrast, a new current of Buddhism, known as Mahayana, gave rise to a "renaissance" aimed at returning to Shakyamuni's original spirit. The Mahayana sutras explain women's attainment of Buddhahood in a variety of ways. For example, the Sukhavativyuha, which is variously translated as the "Sutra of the Buddha of Infinite Life" (Jp. Muryojukyo) and "Great Sutra of Amida Buddha" (Jp. Daiamidakyo), give "causing women to be reborn in the pure land" as one of Amida's vows. However, the idea was that women would be reborn in the pure land not as women but as men. Also, the Shrimala Sutra (Jp. Shomankyo) and Vimalakirti Sutra (Jp. Yuimakyo), which emphasize the doctrine of nonsubstantiality, assert that to distinguish between men and women is itself an illusion and meaningless, and criticize the Hinayana teachings' discrimination against women.

Many other Mahayana texts similarly explain that women can attain Buddhahood after first transforming into men. These include the Hoshaku Sutra (Jp. Hoshakukyo), the Sutra of Great Assembly (Jp. Daijukukyo), and the Wisdom Sutras (Jp. Hannyakyo). On the surface, the explanation of the dragon girl turning into a man in the "Devadatta" chapter can be seen as an extension of these other Mahayana sutras. But the Lotus Sutra teaches the principle of attaining Buddhahood in one's present form. In other words, it does not present changing into a man as a condition for women to attain Buddhahood. The Lotus Sutra, therefore, fundamentally differs from these other texts.

The Lotus Sutra teaches that men and women are equal both in enlightenment and in practice. For example, the "Teacher of the Law" (tenth) chapter says, "These good men and good women should enter the Thus Come One's room, put on the Thus Come One's robe, sit in the Thus Come One's seat, and then for the sake of the four kinds of believers broadly expound this sutra" (LS10, 166). This amounts to a declaration that men and women are equally qualified to expound the Law in the Buddha's stead. In the "Encouraging Devotion" (thirteenth) chapter, Shakyamuni bestows prophecies of future enlightenment upon a multitude of women. And the people to whom Bodhisattva Never Disparaging (Jp. Fukyo) bows in reverence (acknowledging their inherent Buddha nature), saying, "I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance" (LS20, 266-67), include both laymen and laywomen, priests and nuns. The premise, here, naturally is that women equally can attain Buddhahood. Nichiren Daishonin says, "The attainment of Buddhahood by women is not permitted except in this sutra" (GZ, 472), in reference to the Lotus Sutra. And: When she [the dragon girl] attained Buddhahood, this does not mean simply that one person did so. It reveals the fact that all women will attain Buddhahood. In the various Hinayana sutras that were preached before the Lotus Sutra, it is denied that women can ever attain Buddhahood. In the Mahayana sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, it would appear that women can attain Buddhahood or be reborn in the pure land. But they may do so only after they have changed into some other form. It is not the kind of immediate attainment of Buddhahood that is based on the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life [ichinen sanzen]. Thus it is an attainment of Buddhahood or rebirth in the pure land in name but not in reality. (MW-2, 152 [176]

The idea was that women could only become Buddhas after first changing their form, i.e., transforming into men. This notion reveals a lack of understanding of the doctrines of the mutual possession of the ten worlds and of ichinen sanzen. Without a correct understanding of the true entity of life, or ichinen sanzen, any claims of attaining Buddhahood or gaining rebirth in the pure land are just words without any substance-empty promises. That's why the Daishonin says that this is attainment "in name but not in reality."

In Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, there is equality of the sexes through and through. In one famous passage the Daishonin says, "There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women" (MW-1, 93). He also says, "a woman who embraces this sutra not only excels all other women but also surpasses all men" (MW-5, 157).Nichiren Daishonin gave some women the honorific titles of "sage" and "saint," such as Nichimyo Shonin (Saint Nichimyo) and Konichi Shonin (Konichi the Sage). This is still further evidence of the Daishonin's liberality.

The Daishonin's actions in this regard stand out as very much the exception in Japanese society and the Buddhist world of his day. Probably no other Buddhist figure of the time praised and respected women as highly as did the Daishonin. At the time, women were prohibited from entering Mount Hiei and Mount Koya, 19 as well as Todai-ji and Daigo-ji, the state-supported temples of the old Buddhist schools. Unlike these traditional schools, the Nembutsu (i.e., Pure Land) and Zen schools and other so-called new Buddhist schools of the Kamakura period (1185-1333) addressed the issue of the salvation of women; but they taught that to attain Buddhahood or gain rebirth in the pure land women had to first be reborn as men.

By contrast, the Daishonin declared, "Are not all practitioners of the Lotus Sutra, both men and women, World-Honored Ones?" (GZ, 813) In this we see his greatness. The First Person in Japan To Leave Secular Life Was a Woman.

As a matter of fact, it was not the case that women had always been excluded from Buddhism in Japan. For example, the first person in Japan to renounce secular life and take Buddhist vows was a woman.That was the nun Zenshin-ni. She is thought to have been the daughter of Shiba Tatsuto, who came to Japan from China (in A.D. 522). Zenshin-ni became a nun in 584. There were two others who took their vows at the same time; and it seems that they, too, were women. I think this could be taken as evidence that there was little if any discrimination against women in early Japanese Buddhism.

It seems that women on the whole enjoyed high status in Japanese society around that time (between the sixth and eighth centuries), because there was also a succession of empresses.During the Nara period (710-794), temples for nuns were built in provinces throughout the realm. The famous Hokke-ji in Nara was one such temple. The nuns at these temples, known as "Temples of the Lotus Sutra for the Expiation of Sin," were supposed to pray for women's peace and security through the benefit of the Lotus Sutra. However, this institution declined after the ninth century, and the nunneries were either abandoned, turned into monasteries for monks, or became branches of major temples.

In attempting to account for this, I think we have to consider Buddhism's development into a kind of national ideology, as well as its relation to the indigenous Shinto tradition. In any event, as in India, we see that in Japan, too, the original egalitarian spirit of Buddhism proved extremely difficult to maintain.

We have to make continuous and unceasing efforts to return to the prime point and to the spirit of the founder. Religion ultimately comes down to people. The character of a religion is determined by the character of its adherents. Also, from another angle, change is continuous. The present patriarchal society will not-must not-continue indefinitely.

Looking at the broad sweep of history, before the start of the common era, we find evidence of an extremely long period, in excess of several millennia, during which human society was predominantly matriarchal. Thereafter, society became patriarchal. By comparison, the period of patriarchal society has so far been of much shorter duration. In the future, rather than a situation where either one sex or the other dominates society, it will be necessary to develop a completely new civilization in which there is balance and harmony between the sexes. Nichiren Daishonin's teaching is thoroughly egalitarian. For instance, the Daishonin says that "all living beings possess the virtuous nature of the dragon girl" (GZ, 798). In that sense, the dragon girl represents all people. That's why the dragon girl proclaims that her attainment of Buddhahood is also Shariputra's attainment of Buddhahood. First Strive to Shine as a Human Being.

How, then, does Buddhism see the difference between men and women? I understand the aspect of equality of the sexes-the fact that men and women alike are entities of ichinen sanzen. And yet, the existence of various differences between men and women is a reality. In terms of gender differences, it has often been said that women, for example, are far more perceptive than men; which might explain why women are so much quicker than men to see through lies and deceit.

Whatever else may be said, the ability to bear children is an exclusive characteristic of female sexuality. Because women are directly involved with giving birth to life, some view women as being in some sense more closely connected to the real essence of life.

Researchers in the field of depth psychology have investigated the characteristics of men and women fairly extensively. For example, the Jungian psychologist Dr. Hayao Kawai says that the maternal principle manifests in the faculty to embrace all things equally; whereas the paternal principle is evident in the faculty to divide and analyze things in terms of dualisms like subjective and objective, and good and evil.

There are many different points of view. The key issue, however, is whether these differences, finally, are genetic or acquired. That is, are they universally held in common by people in all ages and all societies? Or are they acquired in life due to the culture and traditions to which people are exposed? When it comes to any particular trait, determining to which category it should be attributed is very difficult. I hope future studies will shed light on the matter. In the meantime, an American researcher points out that while men are raised from childhood to risk danger, women are encouraged to seek safety. She writes: If a girl seeks out danger, people think that she wants to be like a boy. Even [the Austrian psychiatrist] Alfred Adler [1870-1937] says that a girl who climbs trees wants to imitate boys. It doesn't occur to him that girls might also find it interesting to climb trees. Nor does he realize that by seeking out danger as boys do, girls can develop independence.21 It is a fact that the images of "masculinity" and "femininity" we have in our consciousness are deeply influenced by cultural traditions that have developed over long periods of time. And the influence of these traditions thoroughly pervades every aspect of the social ethos, including language, religion, systems of organization, education and scholarship. Therefore, it seems to me that the important thing is not that society come up with a particular model for how men and women ought to behave, but that people first and foremost make tenacious effort to live as decent human beings, and allow others to do the same. In Buddhism, too, there are various explanations about the roles of men and women. But these naturally are colored by the views of men and women that were prevalent at the times and in the societies where these teachings were expounded. They cannot be taken as having universal application. The important thing is that both women and men become happy as human beings. Becoming happy is the objective; everything else is a means.

Anytime someone decides the way people ought to be, no matter how correct the idea might seem, what good is it if in the implementation people become miserable? Nor is it possible that only one sex could become happy at the expense of the other. In other words, it's enough that men and women, through cultivating their humanity, come to exhibit the hues of masculinity and femininity that naturally permeate their lives.

One of the books that sparked the postwar movement for gender equality in the United States was Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, which was originally published in 1963. In the first chapter, which is titled "The Problem That Has No Name," Friedan paints a picture of the suffering of many women in a climate where a woman was expected to be "concerned only about her husband, her children, her home."22 She writes: Sometimes a woman would say "I feel empty somehow ... incomplete." Or she would say, "I feel as if I don't exist." Sometimes she blotted out the feeling with a tranquilizer."... [She described her symptoms:] "A tired feeling ... I get so angry with the children it scares me ... I feel like crying without any reason."... Sometimes a woman would tell me that the feeling gets so strong she runs out of the house and walks through the streets. Or she stays inside her house and cries.23

Middle-class American women in the 1950s were associated with a lifestyle of brightness and abundance featuring such amenities as large lawns and gardens, and labor- saving electronic appliances. It seems to me that this was the stereotype that was conveyed even in Japan. But behind this facade, there were many who suffered owing to a spiritual void in their lives.I think that reaction to the tendency to try to make women fit a particular stereotype played a major role in inspiring the movement for gender equality. The purpose must always be the genuine happiness of individuals.

Because there is also a great deal of diversity among women, there is sure to be a certain amount of difference of opinion. In Christianity, there is a school known as "feminist theology" that is the focus of considerable attention. Proponents criticize the tendency of mainstream theology to accord superior status to men, and argue that church teachings have been used by men as a tool to control women.

Identifying the concept of "God the Father" as the wellspring of discrimination against women, some assert that the deity should instead be referred to as "God our Mother and Father." Such revisionist movements certainly have their critics, but it seems to me that the sincerity of their proponents is commendable.

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