In the March 3 issue of TIME, there was an interview of the Holiness Dala Lama by the TIME reporter Elizabeth Dias who specializes in theologies. I presume it was for the occasion of celebrating International Woman’s Day on March 8. One of the questions was:
“What do you think Pope Francis and the Catholic Church can learn from Buddhism’s view of Women.”?
On first glance, the question seems to suggest that Buddhism has a higher level of wisdom on the status of women. Dala Lama’s answer was: (complete quote)
“Generally speaking, each one should follow their traditional way, (but) sometimes we have to judge according to a new reality. For example, female rights are very important. His holiness, the Pope, I think is very, very realistic and quite strict. I really admired his dismissing one German bishop (who was living) his own private life in a very sort of expensive, luxurious (way).”
Honestly, I cannot sense any wisdom in such an answer…. but then I am not surprised at all.
When I was a small kid, I remember one day I overheard my mother ranting to her best friends, “I don’t want to be a woman next life!”
At that time, I was too young to understand anything about it.
When I got older, one day I happened to find a Buddhism pamphlet called “The Book of Three Lives (Reincarnations)”, which “explains” why we have such and such a life this round. The idea is to “teach” people how to build up good Karma for the next life from lessons in the past life.
It has lines like “Wonder why you always lose money in business this life; that is because you owed money from others last life.”
“Wonder why you are born into a rich family; that is because you gave generously to the poor last life”.
And then I found this one. ” Wonder why you are a woman this life; that is because you did no good in the past life.” My heart sank. O my Mom!
When I looked at other religious books, I found the same pattern. Women are secondary and inferior.
In the Book of Genesis, when I read that the first woman was made from the rib of a man, and that, after listening to a talking snake and eating a forbidden apple, she was condemned to suffer labor pain for child birth and that she had to obey her husband, I said to myself “ O Really?” When my wife was struggling with labor pain in the delivery room for my kids, I never felt that she deserved it because another woman did something wrong before. Instead, I felt I had to love her more because she was willing to go through that suffering for our family.
As for Islam, I wonder what would I feel if I have to share my loving wife with four other men, and that I have to cover from head to toe in black walking in 40-degree heat.
The most ridiculous (and horrific) case I found was the Devadasi in Hinduism, where young poor girls are “offered” to the temple for sacred duties. In reality, they simply become entertainment objects of the holy men in the church: the infamous Prostitutes of God offering “Sacred Sex”.
Why do women get all such rotten deals from religions?
Even worse, why would women be willing to accept these rotten deals and do not see them as exploitation in disguise? Apparently, they are under the chokehold of having to be faithful to their religions. In my humble opinion, all these great religions will be so much the better by removing these questionable (literally Man-made) gender biases built into their scriptures. These biases will only benefit the leaders, not the people following the religions.
When I remember my mother said she did not want to be a woman next life, it makes me feel that she did this one just for me.