Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Happiness Project ...or How to Save the Human Race (III)

I'm not sure that this post has anything to do with happiness or saving the human race, but since the comment I submitted has not been published on Mining Aśvaghoṣa's Gold, I thought I would reproduce it here -- once again, following the comment I responded to and with a few edits. (I also made a few edits in the comment box and don't recall what they were.) I don't know whether I'm speaking with clarity or from delusion, but as I get ready to post this, I'm remembering that Avalokitesvara's compassion manifests in multiple ways (though I'm not certain how skillful I'm being) and that if my words are deluded "The flower of the dharma turns the flower of the dharma."

If you think you approached me with loving kindness, you are deluding yourself.

I think you approached me with a kind of anger towards men in general -- the kind of anger which is sometimes observed among women who consider themselves to be feminists.

The prejudice against men and our perceived sexism might be the female equivalent of the prejudice against women of the brahmin Udāyin (and even more starkly the Buddhist striver in Saundara-nanda).

You say that male prejudice is acceptable. But acceptable to whom?

You accept that Aśvaghoṣa was prejudiced against women, and that he manifested that prejudice in his poetry, because, you opine, he was of his time.

In the same spirit of acceptance, I accept your opinion -- as an extremely stupid opinion.

My response:

Either you fail as a good listener or your last response is invitation to address some issues that would be good to address. I’ll risk responding, since I’ve considered you to be a friend -- even though I think walking away, or at least not feeding the fire, might be the wiser decision. It would be sad, after both of our efforts, but I’m beginning to accept that may be the reality.

Responding to your comment:
- I accept I’m deluded, although I’m not sure it’s about loving-kindness. I think every person on the planet is deluded – the more serious question is to what extent. I think the delusions of people that don’t question their own views and actions are the most problematic.

- I would rather male prejudice against women didn’t exist. Most of my life I have functioned as if it did not. I made the assumption that I would be treated with equality, yet as I sit with my karmic inheritance I can see numerous instances in which I was not. Which response is more helpful, especially since most of those people are no longer in my life?: (a) Should I be angry at those people? Or (b) Should I accept the reality that sexist attitudes exist and that I should be better prepared to recognize, call attention to, and finally, defend myself against those attitudes? For myself, the answer is (b). The primary reason is that anger towards people who are no longer in my life and about a past which I can’t change would only cause more damage to myself, whereas (b) is realistic and productive. I wonder what your own answer would be, if you were in my shoes?

- I made the rhetorical argument that Aśvaghoa was a sexist. I did not say that I necessarily think it’s true. In fact, I said:
 I’ll admit that I can think of reasons that Aśvaghoa might be excused, but for this comment that’s not my point.
That Aśvaghoa might have been a sexist doesn’t bother me much.” (Since I can’t do anything about it, one way or another, it would be a waste of my time and energy to be bothered by it.)
The extent to which Aśvaghoa was sexist is something none of us can ever know and is besides the point. For example, he may have written Saundara-nanda the way he did to keep his audience attentive, since a mahakavya is an epic poem written for entertainment.” (I seem to recall you drawing a parallel between Aśvaghoa’s mahakavya and “All in the Family” the day after I made this comment, so I thought you understood that I do not necessarily believe that Aśvaghoa was a sexist.

What am I feeling right now? Honestly, hurt and resentful.

I feel resentful at having to accept the feminist role, especially given the negativity associated with that term. (I wouldn’t be surprised if you, yourself, are reacting to the negativity associated with being called a sexist. Labels are nasty if a person isn’t willing to look past the stigma associated with them to the partial truth they may contain. Each one of us contains the myriad dharmas.)

I also feel resentful at having to accept, not only being a feminist, but an angry one. I’m not a person who gets angry easily. Nor am I comfortable using anger. It’s interesting to observe that I began to feel the need to use anger, mostly in self-defense, right before I left for Antaiji. (I think I learned how to do this, by example, from Mike Cross himself.) 

Since I’ve never met you, I don’t honestly know if you’re sexist. But if you’re not sexist, you still should be made aware of the fact that the way you have treated me, both directly and indirectly, has played a role in my need to react and/or respond to people in self-defense – even if some of things you’ve said since you began on Buddhacarita were intended as an admonishment for others for behavior you contributed to creating*, since most people, including myself, can’t read your mind. 

Here’s a profound truth I hope you can process: I accept you for who you are, even if you are a sexist. I accept you for who you are, even if you show yourself to be incapable of realizing how much hurt I’ve already processed on your account – not only due to your own words, but also due to other people’s reactions to them. I accept you for who you are, even if you show yourself to be someone that I have to walk away from since we often end by arguing and hurting each other. As evidence for my accepting you for who you are, I suggest you read what I’ve recently written and ask yourself if I haven’t been standing up for you as well, in spite of how deeply your words have hurt and in spite of the fact that you often appear insensitive to my circumstances, which you contributed to creating, and use my circumstances to judge who I am. I’d be most deeply hurt if you attribute the fact that I accept you for who you are to my being a shallow person, especially if you’re inclined to feel that way on account of the fact that I am of the female gender – whether I’m a feminist or not.

(P.S. You might be interested to hear that in the course of writing this comment I’ve found a way a person writing a thesis might be able to make a good argument for Aśvaghoa not being a sexist.)

* I've also considered that that very behavior might be an attempt to point to, if not admonish you, for your own. I don't know.

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