Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Happiness Project ...or How to Save the Human Race

The following is a comment I submitted to Mike Cross of Mining Aśvaghoṣa's Gold (a link to that site is over on the sidebar). Given the flexibility I've allowed for a response and given that I've also recently posted a comment to Sweeping Zen on this blog, I've decided to duplicate my comment here, admittedly after minor edits and the correction of a few typos. I am open to any comments anyone cares to make, but particularly individuals who also are regular readers of Mining Aśvaghoṣa's Gold -- especially comments that offer insight or volunteer additional perspective:

Are you sitting down? I hope so, since I want you to still be breathing when you finish reading this comment. In fact, just so you know as you continue to read, I’ll be using the mirror principle before I’m finished with what I have to say. What I’m going to say is not said out of anger, but said with the attitude that the mirror principle doesn’t do anyone much good unless it’s used as something besides an excuse for mistakes.

In your comment today you say: “Aśvaghoa does not try to contradict male-centric views of women by counterposing a view of his own about women.” I can’t argue with that, but my sense is still that Aśvaghoa was a bit of a sexist. And I think it’s entirely acceptable for Aśvaghoa given his time, so you shouldn’t be offended.

On what basis do I put forth the argument that Aśvaghoa was a bit of a sexist? Namely, that the views of women he presents throughout Saundara-nanda and the verses of Buddhacarita that I’ve been around for (I’ve been little busy lately for several reasons) present women as sex objects, as opposed to human beings in their own right. The only possible exception I think of off-hand might be a verse or two in Canto 6: A Wife’s Lament, when an older woman makes an effort to console Sundari. I’ll admit that I can think of reasons that Aśvaghoa might be excused, but for this comment that’s not my point. You, yourself, have repeatedly said that Aśvaghoa doesn’t support the idea of Sangha since he doesn’t mention it, so I feel I can claim Aśvaghoa was a sexist.

That Aśvaghoa might have been a sexist doesn’t bother me much. What does bother me, however, is that I think one reason you’re so comfortable with Aśvaghoa is that you’re a bit of a sexist yourself. I’m concerned that you are subconsciously using Aśvaghoa to reinforce your own tendencies. After following your commentary for several years, the only counter-evidence that I can think of is your praise of Marjory Barlow. Unfortunately, since Marjory Barlow was of advanced years when you were her student, she might as well have been Mother Teresa. Moreover, you appear to regard Marjory as a sort of mother figure, which also is a gender specific role.

One of the reasons I’m mentioning this now is that recently I’ve been spending a fair amount of time sitting with the karmic inheritance of my life and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am so much of a feminist that I haven’t even felt the need to be a card-carrying one! The fact that I haven’t been aware of it, though, has caused a fair amount of damage in my life, because I haven’t been prepared to defend myself against the sexist perspective (which remains prevalent in academia as well). I have to admit that, in this regard at least, I’ve been naïve. This, coupled with the fact that my ego is nowhere near as greedy and needy as yours, has caused me to back-off and drop-off views when in actuality I shouldn’t have. I haven’t been aware of my role as a feminist and, therefore, have fallen short in my responsibility to a role I was born into -- whether I like it or not.

I’m mentioning this now because the initial problem that I started sitting with was that I’ve been feeling increasingly limited and claustrophobic in my on-line presence, a presence that felt very rich and dynamic at its start. I’ve been trying to identify the reasons behind what I’ve been feeling. The most likely hypothesis I have traces back to you, specifically the combined dynamic of your sexist attitude and my willingness to drop off views. I think this has operated indirectly in a “six-degrees of separation” kind of way with consequences for how I am treated and viewed by others on-line. It’s my belief that your sexist attitude likely began to contaminate my on-line presence even before I officially signed on as a reader. I’m especially thankful to have friends who helped me see this. On your behalf, I will say that I don’t think you ever intended to limit my on-line presence.

Lastly, I should add that I’ve never viewed you as a teacher, although undoubtedly I’ve learned a lot from reading your blog. I wonder if your need to establish some sort of superiority has also contributed to the way you’ve treated me and others who have left comments.

Feel free to take a few days to sit with and think about my comment. I have experiments lined up for the rest of the week and likely won’t have enough time to respond until the weekend.

Again, I’d like to reiterate that, although I am aware that you may find this comment initially hurtful, it’s not intended to be malicious or vengeful, rather the intention is that we learn from our past mistakes. In that spirit,


(If anyone wants to check in and make sure Mike Cross is feeling alright, that might not be such a bad idea.)


gniz said...

Hi Happi. I am a reader of Mike's blog and I'm no stranger to having a conflict with him on that same blog over the years.

In particular a while back, we had some sparks when he made reference to my being Jewish and I grew upset about that.

I am not here to pass judgment on either Mike or you, since you both can clearly take care of yourselves and have no need of me interfering.

The only suggestion I would make (since you asked for input) is that there were points in your comment when you seemed to blame Mike for some issues you were experiencing in the world--and how you were showing up online in certain respects.

My own opinion is that I should take responsibility for my actions and my behavior. Nobody can force me to behave a certain way online or anywhere else. I choose what to be drawn to and how I will take in certain kinds of information--and how to use that information in my life.

So I suppose my suggestion is that while there may be nothing wrong with offering ones opinion on certain things (like someone writing sexist or incorrect statements), it might not be fair to hold anyone else responsible for what I do or how I behave in my life...

Best of luck and hope you are well. And I hope this comment is helpful and not counterproductive for you to read.


Happi said...

Hi Aaron -

"I choose what to be drawn to and how I will take in certain kinds of information--and how to use that information in my life."

I completely agree with the vast majority of what you've said. And yet my on-line presence and my ability to live a normal life appear to be threatened. The fact that in the past I have choosen NOT to confront what I have perceived happening for the last three years and that things keep getting worse instead of better, is my motivation for making the stand I'm making at this time. Another way of saying this is that in the past I've choosen to withdraw and remain unaware (essentially trying to ignore what I'm seeing out of the corner of my eye) and instead sit -- an approach has been ineffective and has caused some damage to the on-line mahasangha has driven me to take a different approach.

If Bodhidharma had been sitting in his cave and the boulders started falling down on his head due to an earthquake or such thing, I think he would have tried to do something :-)

I'm working on another post. Still have a couple of hours to go...

Thanks for your comment.


Happi said...


-that approach has proved ineffective and has caused some damage to the mahasangha, suggesting I should try something different for a change.