Just before waking today, I had a dream. I was working in a room with two friends, most likely for a demonstration for Gender Rights. One of them told me that I needed to be public about a recent decision. Gossip had begun, maybe just speculation. A woman had mentioned to them that all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I showed up at an One Billion Rising event wearing a Buddhist robe. Interesting…. This has been on my waking mind all week. I have been wanting to write about it. Seemed like a strong nudge.
When I got to my desk, I saw that two posts on my newsfeed were in agreement. The first, Overcoming Resistance Against Theravada Bhikkhuni Ordination. It was about Buddha teaching the equality of women and how his male students overturned it once their founder died. The second one, by The Yogini Project was about the Fourteenth Precept. “"The fourteenth root downfall is to have contempt for women, who have the nature of wisdom. It is said that to have contempt for Vajrayogini and other wisdom dakinis who transcend the world constitutes a root downfall in both the Yogatantra and the Anuttaratantra.”
The fact is there are communities of women in most religions who are filled with passion, a vocation, an irresistible call to teach, to celebrate ritual and minister communities. There are Catholic women in the US and Europe not waiting for the Pope and his Cardinals to get the heavenly memo to ordain women. Maybe it is the right time for women to name themselves. For me it has been an exhausting struggle for twenty-five years. January 24, 1989, I was formally initiated as Buddhist monk. It was in the Vajrayana Tradition in Tarrytown, New York.
From The Passionate Heart ~
On this night, Rama had given us two initiations; Vadra and Dharma. The Vadra initiation was the initiation of power. It gave the initiate the ability to defeat any opponent. This included breaking through conditioning and past life tendencies. It was extremely important for the women in particular, who are trying to overcome centuries of repression, degradation, bondage, torture, and misery. Finally, this initiation conferred the power to break through the ultimate opponent, thought.
The second initiation, Dharma, imparted the gift to teach about the Holy Dharma and meditation. Rama said that we were not ready to formally teach, but now our lives should be examples of the Dharma. Now, we carry the imprint of this initiation and our lives should reflect the Holy Dharma. Rama told us that when he dies, it will be our duty to carry on the Teachings of the American Buddhist Society. While he is alive, we should talk about meditation to anyone who genuinely asks.
After that, I stayed for 4 years. I was catapulted out the door to practice in the world. Twenty-two years revealed that I am actually meant to practice Engaged Buddhism, I am not standing in a male lineage and I am a monk. I had to practice, as Gandhi would put it, I had to experiment. But nothing could deter me from my vocation. Possibly more like my teacher than I want to admit, he left his and I left mine. He named himself and I invested myself. To me this is as Buddhist as it gets: true Self-Discovery.
As women all over the world, announce their ordination, I hope they remain self-initiated, self-ordained, self-defined. Even if the various churches drop their bans, I hope the women decline the “laying on of hands.” Decline the principle transmission and stop the antiquated, patriarchcal tradition of succession. Somewhere in time from their founder to this moment, essence has been lost, modified and, at worst, tailored to meet the conscience of the day. (“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions.” Lillian Hellman) And so after waiting twenty-five years, certain it is right, I made my move. Buddhist Couture. Match the inside and the outside.
From The Engaged Heart
My best guess is that there are more women in the West whose souls are bringing them to their moment of initiation but are reluctant to stand in their self-discovery. We are attracted to the design of our incarnation while being repelled by patriarchal lineage… We do not want to be ordained in a male lineage and we do not want to emulate male lineage at all. There is no one to “lay on hands” or assign a name. There is no one to bless us and give us a traditional robe. There is nothing to reference – certainly not by looking backwards over centuries of male legacy. This is without tradition. This is not a line.
We are at the precipice of adventure, pioneers in Western Women’s self-discovery. Our calling comes from the inside out. Our knowing rises up from the heart. It radiates. It circulates. This is not linear but circular. It is not bestowed. It cannot be requested as there is no one to ask. It is dynamic and changing and unpredictable for there is no precedent. By its very nature, only you can know that you are called to this service. No one can tell you if you are right or wrong. It is all your design. So if you are hearing a song from deep within, hum the melody, write the lyrics and sing. Wait for no one.