Practicing Buddhism as a Feminist Christian

Eastern Religion Women
Wives be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He the head of the church, He Himself being the savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

The book Ephesians in the Christian bible makes it quite clear that women are subservient to men. Being a feminist I found this a little hard to swallow during my three years at The Master's College (a private Christian college). I found myself continually questioning things that seemed unfair or geared towards a different era and culture. I always felt awkward walking among women who agreed with the inequality in a male/female Christian relationship.

Once I stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity I finally started to enjoy being a woman. I realized that my dreams do not consist wholly of getting married and having children. Although many Asian cultures practice the traditional family roles, I found it quite inspiring that one of the seven main elements of Buddhism was Egalitarianism. Meaning, women are just as capable of enlightenment as men are. I believe that if we took Buddhism and put its elements into practice in today's society we would only be benefiting our children and ourselves.

Looking to Buddha and his teachings seemed odd to me as a white American female. I found it difficult to open my mind to eastern thought and I kept wanting to argue Buddha's logic with Christianity. However, once I sat down and finally began to really think about what he was saying, it all fell into place. It starts with following the Four Noble Truths:

1) All life is suffering (dukka)

2) Suffering is caused by desire (tanha)

3) Suffering can only cease if desire ceases

4) Follow the Eight-Fold Path

Overcoming dukka and tanha through the eight-fold path:

1) Right thought

2) Right conduct

3) Right speech

4) Right livelihood

5) Right effort

6) Right mindfulness

7) Right concentration

8) Right understanding

And using it as a map to direct our lives, we can only make things better for ourselves. "The 8-fold path can be grouped into 3 groups. The first is "Morality". The idea here is to live a life where one tries to constantly practice kindness and love, and to live life such that one's conscience is clear. That comes from our practice of Perfect Thougths, Perfect Actions, Perfect Speech and Perfect Livelihood. Basically, we live life to the best that we can.

The 2nd group is "Concentration". With a clear conscience cultivated with "morality", we cultivate our minds so that it'll be calm, peaceful and concentrated. This comes from our practice of Perfect Effort and Perfect Concentration.

The 3rd group is "Insight". With a very strong, calm, concentrated and peaceful mind, we learn to work with ourselves, to gain insight into ourselves, to eventually overcome all our problems and all the unsatisfactoriness in our lives. This comes from our practice of Perfect Mindfulness and Perfect Understanding. " (http://www.serve.com/cmtan/buddhism/fournt.html)



When I first looked at the eight-fold path I thought that it was practically impossible to carry out, however, many of the things on there are things that we do everyday anyway. Right conduct involves no stealing, no killing, no intoxicants, and no immoral sexual acts. Some of these may be very easy, and others extremely difficult. I believe that religion cannot all be done for you. There must be some sacrifice and work on the believers part or it is not actually pertaining to your life. How can you say you truly practice something if you aren't doing anything different?

Buddha asks us to focus on ourselves and have continuous self-examinations, and awareness, he asks us to act out of love and have a steady effort. He preaches self-discipline and no slander, which leads us to be kind to one another and ourselves. This is what I want for myself. This is what I want for my children: A society that doesn't long for genetic engineering but a society that continues to better itself through its actions toward one another. It starts with controlling our road rage and being nice to the person who cuts in line at the gas station. It starts with less "one night stands" and more meditation. It starts with what I need to work on not with something I find wrong with my neighbor.

It is possible to integrate this into our society. I believe it is. I believe by offering yoga classes and a class such as Asian thought at the local junior college is a pretty good start. Buddhism should not be dead to America, it should be offered as an alternative to our tired and overworked religions such as Catholicism or Christianity. We should delve in and seek to understand what has not been placed in front of us. We cannot simply accept one religion as truth when we have not studied or put into practice other religions.

I believe that as a woman and as an American we need to search for different views on society and do all that we can to better ourselves. If enlightenment is possible, then we should overcome our ignorance and strive to understand what holds us back.

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UNIVERSAL PRAYER By SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA

O Adorable Lord of Mercy and Love !
Salutations and prostrations unto Thee.
Thou art Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient.
Thou art Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute.
Thou art the Indweller of all beings.

Grant us an understanding heart,
Equal vision, balanced mind,
Faith, devotion and wisdom.
Grant us inner spiritual strength
To resist temptation and to control the mind.
Free us from egoism, lust, greed, hatred, anger and jealousy.
Fill our hearts with divine virtues.

Let us behold Thee in all these names and forms.
Let us serve Thee in all these names and forms.
Let us ever remember Thee.
Let us ever sing Thy glories.
Let Thy Name be ever on our lips.
Let us abide in Thee for ever and ever.

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