Feminism and Religion has got to be one of my favorite blogs to read. I look forward to the often daily posts in my inbox. Often I choose to comment when a viewpoint diverges from my own or otherwise gets me thinking. And I kind of look forward to that as well because within this benevolent friction, lives the great gift of opportunity to learn and grow.
Recently, Carol P. Christ posted an entry referring to the post of another contributor, Oxana Poberejnaia, on Buddhism as it can relate to feminism. You can read both of those posts for more background on my thoughts below, though this post should hopefully be able to stand alone.
This seems to be a difficult concept for many Westerners. Suffering could also be called dissatisfaction. This, most persistent suffering encountered in life, is the existential kind. It's the "if only" or "I wish" moments of the world where things are not as we'd like them to be. This isn't wrong to feel. It just is. As the Buddha said, "Life is suffering". He didn't mean this in a negative, Debby-downer sort of way, but to reveal the nature of beings ruled by the "I want" thinking of desire where it seems at times that nothing is exactly good enough. We must have more and more in the hopes of filling that existential void within; of quieting that voice that tells us to find satisfaction outside of ourselves in material things and novel people.
So, we all suffer to some degree. This is often less about the struggles of the everyday and more of a persistent nagging feeling we all have experienced in our gut. This is the suffering without a name that can make us feel confused and ungrateful for not simply being happy for all the wonderful gifts in our lives. It's the something missing; the suffering of sentience as opposed to the suffering of not having material needs met. We are all familiar with both kinds of suffering though we can often forget that just because we are healthy, fed, clothed, etc. that we still may have inner suffering to become aware of and attend to. Sometimes we feel we are not entitled to that suffering and repress it. Other times we become identified with it and let it run our lives and relationships.
It is in this place of inner suffering that our unconscious patterns and reactions live. We regret, we lament, we mourn who we could've been. We beat ourselves up for our choices and admonish ourselves for not being better. And when someone wrongs us, we react as we've always reacted - from a place of defensiveness. We feel hurt, we get angry, we lash out. We think there is no other way to deal with these emotions. We think we must feel them, react on them, receive our justice, and only then can our suffering cease. When really these emotional reactions are all within our control if we choose to realize it. When we see our true nature as divine beings, these reactions cease to have any power and can cease to exist all together.
Accepting the nature of our suffering allows us to acknowledge it so we can be free from it. Just as you can't heal a wound that you do not know exists, so too does our suffering live on if we don't acknowledge its existence. If we become free from suffering, we would naturally wish the same for others, creating the consciousness of the Bodhisattva or the heart of Bodhichitta.
But this altruistic concern for the welfare of others begins within the individual. It begins in the place of “Know Thyself” as it is written in the stone at Delphi, once a temple devoted to Gaia before Apollo. This is a lesson of the Goddess and can be further heard in the words of Doreen Valiente's charge “for if that which you seek you find not within, you will never find it without”.
On Life as Gift, Death, and Samsara:
Buddhists consider life a gift. They are not trying to be liberated from everyday experiences and the joys of life but to become totally immersed in them with mindful awareness. They are trying to be liberated from the fear of death by understanding their own true nature and the reality of death. Death can be fully accepted as part of existence while simultaneously being seen as an illusion. For what we really are can never truly die.
Recognizing that our true human nature and potential is divine may be the main goal of Buddhist practice. By doing so we can free ourselves from the limiting views of unconscious ego that can control our emotions and reactions which often cause pain to ourselves and to others. We can work to reveal our true nature as pure, altruistic beings striving for happiness. After sitting in meditation for a time we may finally discover that we are the divine void - the everything, the nothing, and all the spaces in between. We may remove the shackles of societal programming, peeling back all the subtle layers of unconsciousness, and revealing ourselves to be the totality of the Universe. This divine recognition is liberation from Samsara and living in the now of Nirvana.
On Buddha and the Goddess:
I believe that if Goddess Religion in the modern era had more time to evolve and manifest, it would ultimately end up looking a lot like Buddhism. For me, Buddhist practice reveals our nature as Goddess through the human journey of the Buddha. He is Cernunnos, sitting in the lotus position with torque and snake in hand while his antlers pierce the sky above him. He is the Gnostic Christ, the Anointed One, who suffered and learned before us so that we may have the tools to reach liberation. He is Persephone who journeys to the Underworld to bring back lessons of the seed; of immortality and the illusory nature of death. He is the Divine Son, The Holy Father, and the Spirit of Consciousness as Goddess. He is the divine principle of the Seeker, the Lover, and 100% a being of the Goddess while also the Goddess herself.
Though the Buddha is male, note that in most portrayals of his appearance, he can be quite ambiguous – seemingly neither completely “masculine” or “feminine” as we perceive these traits in our current culture. He is a whole human, defined only by his divinity and without attachment to divisive ideas such as gender.
Buddhist philosophies set us free as the Maiden does, teach us compassion as the Mother does, and ultimately gift us with the ego-less wisdom of the Crone. It shows us that we are now and always have been the conscious creators, the divine architects, and those who give birth to all of existence. I believe the Buddha taught these lessons and that they are the timeless words of the Great Goddess.