Women and the Unborn



“I can tell you something about this matter of women’s Buddha Mind. I understand that women feel very distressed hearing it said that they can’t become buddhas. But it simply isn’t so! How is there any difference between men and women? Men are the Buddha Body, and women are the Buddha Body too. You shouldn’t entertain any doubts of this sort. When you thoroughly grasp the Unborn, then, in the Unborn, there’s no difference whether you’re a man or a woman. Everyone is the Buddha Body.

“You women, listen closely now. While, in terms of physical form, men and women are obviously different, in terms of the Buddha Mind there’s no difference at all. Don’t be misled by appearances! The Buddha Mind is identical; it makes no distinction between men and women.

“Let me prove this to you. There’s quite a crowd of people here at this meeting, but when they hear the sound of a drum or a gong outside the temple, do you suppose the women mistake the sound of the gong for that of the drum, the sound of the drum for that of the gong? Do you really think there’s any difference between the way the men are hearing these things and the way the women hear them? There’s absolutely no difference at all. Now, everyone, is this true only for ‘men and women’? In this hall we have young people and old, monks and householders, men and women, all here mingled together; but when it comes to hearing the sound of the gong or the drum, can you say the old people hear it this way, the young ones hear it that way? Can you tell the difference in the way the monks hear it, the way the lay people hear it, the way the men hear it, the way the women hear it? The fact that there’s no difference at all [proves that what’s involved] is none other than the One Identical Buddha Mind that everyone intrinsically possesses. So this talk about ‘men’s and women’s’ is nothing but names of traces produced by your thoughts. Before these traces get produced, in the realm of the Unborn, there’s nothing about ‘men’ or ‘women.’ And since that’s how it is, as there’s no difference between men’s Buddha Mind and women’s Buddha Mind, you shouldn’t harbor any such doubts.

“Suppose you are staying continually in the Unborn, abiding in the Buddha Mind just as it is and forgetting any distinctions between men and women, when suddenly you see or hear something [disturbing], someone says nasty things about you, or thoughts of clinging and craving arise and you attach to them: you’ll carelessly switch the Buddha Mind for thoughts, and then claim it’s because you’re only a wretched woman, or some such thing. Without being deluded by your physical form, thoroughly grasp this One Way of the Unborn, and [you’ll see that] not only men and women, but the buddhas of the past and those of the future are all the identical One Buddha Mind. There’s no reason that women should be a special case and not be able to realize buddhahood too.

“If there really were some reason that women couldn’t become buddhas, just what do you think I would have to gain by deceiving you all, lying to you and insisting they can, misleading everyone in this big crowd? If it were a fact that women couldn’t realize buddhahood, and I told you that they really could, deceiving every person here, I’d be sure to land in hell well before all of you! Just because I longed to realize buddhahood, from the time I was young I engaged in hard and painful practice; so now do you suppose I’d want to get punished for lying to you all and land up in hell? What I’m telling you is no lie. I want you ladies to grasp it clearly and, from here on, feeling fully assured, pass your days in the Unborn Buddha Mind.”

Bankei always held women in high esteem. His spiritual relationship with his own mother had much to do with his eventual Union in the Unborn Buddha Mind. He discovered that within the Unborn there is no distinction between man and women, with male vs. female. This is akin to the Pauline admonition, “In Christ there is no east or west, male or female”, rather all are equal and As-One in Christ. Throughout the millennium women have had much to do with breaking down patriarchal and parochial stereotypes. Within Catholicism this is most prevalent. The fact is that many women religious are better educated and far more intellectually astute than their male counterparts. I’ve always been a strong advocate for women priests. The old argument is that women are somehow ontologically inadequate, given their sex, to walk in the shoes of Christ. This is utter nonsense. Indeed, it’s an outright crime to assert that women are ontologically inferior. Ontologically inferior—yeah, right. They’ve never been ontologically inferior to bear the full burden of the cross! It’s all about maintaining power and control and one can only hope that in some fashion the new and directly forthcoming Pope will have enough wisdom to finally dissolve this centuries-old atrocity. There were similar obstacles during Bankei’s age—indeed Patriarchalism has been a dominant strain in many diverse cultures. He had enough forthright wisdom to break-through the barriers and to declare the utter absurdly that the Unborn could somehow be different in men and women. There is no distinction. The Unborn does not discriminate. All are free, asserted Bankei, to pass one’s days freely in the Unborn. He draws upon the whole notion of “hearing” as being an equal-opportunity signifier. The sound of a gong is no different within a man or woman, yet there is far more going on here beneath the surface. The central motif behind “hearing” and “listening”, to the Buddhadharma in particular, is reflective of Parato ghosa—the great deathless sound that emanates from the very heart of Suchness Itself. This is truly hearing, in a heightened mystic-sense, with the ability to hear with eyes that see the Dharmadhatu—Dhammasota.  When one awakens (Bodhi) to the Unborn Buddha Mind one ascends and transcends all skandhic-dualism’s (like male vs. female) as their Dharma-ear opens and reveals the inner-essence that is realized inwardly by one’s inmost Self—there is no male/female in the Self; It is the Self-Same Unborn Mind and no-thing more. Don’t be deluded and attached to outside form, says Bankei, rather rest in the assurance that All Is One in the Unborn. In the Unborn, man AND woman become as One. The Dharma of the Unborn Buddha Mind is a non-material (arūpa) one; there is no difference between male and female.

The following Buddhist parable makes light of the age-old conundrum that man’s spirit is somehow superior to woman’s. Indeed, this old woman awakens the ol’ Brahmin to the absurdity that he is somehow “purer” in stature:

One day a brahmin saw an old woman who was selling cakes of white marrow (meal, flour??) and said to her: “I have reason to stay here for about a hundred days. Make me these cakes regularly and bring them to me, I will pay you well.” Each day the old woman made the cakes and brought them to him. The brahmin liked their taste and was happy with this plentiful food.

At the beginning, the cakes made by the old woman were white, but later, little by little they lost their color (rūpa) and their taste. The brahmin asked the old woman what was the reason for this. She replied: “It is because the canker (gaṇḍa) is healed.” The brahmin asked her what she meant by this and the old woman answered: “At my house, a prostitute contracted a canker on her privy parts and we applied flour (saktu), ghee (ghta) and sweet herbs (yaṣṭimadhu) to it. The canker ripened, the pus (puya) came out and mixed with the poultice. This happened every day and I made the cakes that I gave you with this: that is why they were so good. Now that the woman’s canker has healed, where am I going to find [the wherewithal to make them]?”

Having heard this, the brahmin struck his head with his fists, beat his breast, vomited and shouted: “How can I say how much I have violated the rules of [alimentary] purity? But now my business is settled.” Leaving all his affairs, he returned in haste to his native land.”

Heh, heh! Indeed, quite a good little moral as how to best vomit-forth notions of one’s ontological-self-superiority.

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