Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Did the Buddha Wear Nail Polish?

A few days ago Marguerite from Mind Deep posted a list of 15 Buddhist Blogs by women (thanks for including me, Marguerite!). So it got me thinking about the gender issue as it relates to practice. Do we relate to practice in a different way? Are there aspects of practice that call out to us more, as women? Is it a non issue? How does that relate to annata (no self)?

So it seemed good to have Green Tara here to keep us company for this conversation. You've seen her before if you pop by here on a regular basis. Tara is regarded as the female Buddha of Compassion. Green Tara, specifically, is recognized as a protector against fear (I have some experience with this!)

I have never really thought about it but at a recent art show (and on several other occasions) people have commented that my Buddhas have a very female look. I was surprised by this when it was first pointed out but could see it immediately. One idea of the spiritual life that I like, is that we are energy having a human experience. And if we're born here as women well then some of us are having a more feminine experience of that energy. We all have masculine and feminine energy and perhaps it's simply a continuum and each of us lie somewhere along the scale. But for me, there are definitely differences in this energy. And I don't think this stands against equality in the social/political realms. We can be different but have equal opportunity.

So it is interesting to look at the Buddhist women blogs and explore the differences (and similarities) in our practices. A couple of observations, I have made in my short life as a blogger : I have noticed that about 90% of the comments left on my blog are by women, as are the little pictures of those who sign on as followers. So I assume that what I say has more interest to women?

Personally I also notice (as my daughter would describe it) that my eyes glaze over when the discussions of Buddhism become more theoretical or move away from an everyday life focus. I have wondered if this was a male/female difference or just a personal difference. I've always regarded it as a bit of a personal obsession on my part. I don't really know the answer to that one. I know I am strongly drawn to any Dharma that explores how it relates to everyday life.

When I think about the gender thing in relation to my own Buddhist practice experiences I notice that The Zen teacher that I studied with for 4 years was a woman. Some of my favourite Dharma books are from Joko Beck, Pema Chodron, Tenzin Palmo and Lama Tsultrim Allione, all women. I must say that Ezra Bayda and Tarthang Tulku are also big favourites of mine and last time I checked they were both still men! As a slightly interesting aside, someone told me they'd heard that Dzongsar Kyhentse Rinpoche was seen wearing nail polish and quoted as saying he was coming back next time as a woman (is this hearsay or gossip?).

So in the spirit of exploring, I am reposting Marguerite's list of Buddhist Blogs By Women. I know I'm putting on my invisible hiking boots and packing a bag of cyber gorp for the trip. Enjoy!


  1. Cyber gorp? Can you leave some on the counter for me? :-) Thanks for visiting (or sending folks over my way - can't tell from the stats page). I love your art and sure wish I had the talent you have (no, that's not desiring - just valuing). I sense a difference in the blogs written by most men and women though I'd have a hard time putting it into words. I thought it was interesting when Marguerite commented that she couldn't tell the difference from my writing. :-)

    I'd like to list your blog under "dharma art links" if that's ok with you?

  2. One order of cyber gorp coming up! Sounds like you should bring a napkin, don't ya think? Thanks for the kind words and it would be lovely if you'd post me as a dharma art link.

    And yes it is hard to put into words the difference between blogs on the gender front. I waded in carefully and as you can see stumbled around a bit. I always find generalizations a bit dodgy anyway.

  3. I don't know what exactly is it either. I seem to be a "tweener" in that I comment all over the place, follow a wide range of blogs, and have posts that appeal across gender. Kind of a nice place to be as far as I'm concerned. But overall, there does seem to be something playing out when it comes to gender that aligns many people into their own gender groups. I'm a little hesitant to speak of categories, gendered interests, etc. - partly because I don't trust such division to hold up to the reality test.

  4. Thank you sister, for expanding this cyber conversation on gender and Buddhism! You may enjoy post I wrote today about the Elder Nuns . . .

    Deep bow,


    PS- really, really love your Buddha art!

  5. thank you for listing all these links-- I enjoyed checking them all out.

  6. A cup of tea is a cup of tea.

    Don't talk about it just drink it....

    You come through your work i see your image in your work, and why not it is excellent. Who cares about the differences of m and w...

    Just get on and enjoy the day.

  7. Thanks for the gorp, Z.S. If you swing by, check out Crimson Bamboo on my list. Fellow Canadian artist Peter Quenter and my shodo teacher. Awesome person.

  8. Sorry I couldn't work out the computer...

    the tea comment is from me

  9. Hello to all

    You do have a wide appeal Nathan! You seem to span both the practical and the theoretical. Always thoughtful and steeped in the Dharma.

    Marguerite, I started exploring your links to the Elder Nun post, lots of great material there!

    Layers, ah yes I think I saw you on one of my hikes. There is some wonderful insights and writing on that group of blogs!

    Ah Colin, that was you serving tea! Thanks for dropping by with a cuppa!

    108zenbooks - your site is just packed with wonderful zen goodies. I popped by Peter's site and it looks like a place I'd like to spend some more time. Some amazing photos there. I love the miksang photography. once saw a wonderful film on this which I believe is on you tube.

  10. What a cool list of blogs that I look forward to visiting.

    And your thoughts on the gender question brought up some interesting points.
    99% of the blogs I visit are written by women. It just worked out that way.

    I wonder if your female-like Buddha has a resemblnce to your own portrait? All my male portraits end up having hints of my husband's face, even though that wasn't my intention.

  11. all of your Buddha's and Tara's express so much serenity...I wonder, does it matter how feminine of masculine their faces are? Isn't it a balance of feminine and masculine qualities we all seek? It's all good. And your work is especially good.

    gentle steps,

  12. Hello,
    Thanks for coming by and commenting on my blog -- I am excited to get to know all the blogs on this list, and so pleased to come here and find you and your art.


  13. Hi Stacy

    It is so much fun to discover another universe of blogs. I love yours. It has a very direct, earthy feel. I love hearing about how you integrate practice into family life. How fortunate your children are!

  14. Well it's interesting - I can relate when you say your eyes glaze over at the shift toward the metaphysical. I'm not sure if it's a gender issue. In my case, my way in was through philosophy and theory and readings. I was a young college student reading Alan Watts, and then went on with western philosophy, where they taught us how to argue with everything. After gravitating back to eastern wisdom, teaching it, taking up practice, I got to the point where western philosophy makes me nauseous, and I can't teach it anymore, and perhaps like you, the slightest stirring of analytical conversation makes me go numb.