Monday, July 25, 2005

Can Women become Buddhas?

During last year's World Buddhist Conference (2004) in Singapore, there was a fierce debate among some of the monks, nuns and lay people present on whether there was such a thing as a female Buddha, commonly found in the Vajrayana tradition. Naturally, those monks of the Theravada tradition could not accept this concept, but they were missing the point altogether. The best answer to that question lies in the dialouge between Shariputra, the chief disciple of the Buddha, and a goddess, who was actually an enlightened Bodhisattva. This is to be found in the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra:

Shariputra: Why do you not change your female physical form?
Goddess: For the past 12 years I have searched in vain for a female form; what do you want me to change? This is like an illusionist who creates an illusionary woman. Is it correct to ask him to change this unreal woman?
Shariputra: No, since it is an unreal form, what can it be changed into?
Goddess: Likewise, all phenomena are unreal. So why have you asked me to change my unreal female form?
At this point, the goddess used her supernatural powers to transform Shariputra into a goddess and herself into a man similar to him.
Goddess: Why do you not change your female form?
Shariputra: I do not know why I have turned into a goddess!
Goddess: If you can change your female form, then all women should also be able to turn into men. Like Shariputra, who is not a woman but appears in a female form, all women are no different. Though they appear in female form, they are fundamentally not women. Hence the Buddha said, "All things are neither male nor female".
The goddess then used her supernatural powers again to transform Shariputra back into his original male form.
Goddess: Where is your female form now?
Shariputra: The form of a woman is neither existent nor non-existent.
Goddess: In the same way, all things are fundamentally neither existent nor non-existent; and that which is neither existent nor non-existent is proclaimed by the Buddha.
- o -
The Buddha-nature is universal and genderless. Since all sentient beings possess this Buddha-nature, everyone can achieve Buddhahood regardless of sex. The term "Buddha" does not refer to a man or a woman, but to a completely enlightened mind. Although the male and female form is fundamentally non-existent, sentient beings cling to them as a result of being deluded by their flucuating ignorance, which originates from fundmental ignorance. Once we are able to shatter fundamental ignorance though correct meditation, concepts such as male and female will cease to exist, along with all other dualities. In the enlightened state, flucuating ignorance is absorbed by the Buddha-nature and transforms into limitless skillful means. This means that an enlightened person still thinks this and that endlessly like an ordinary person, but all these thoughts are now manifestations of the absolute truth, capable of leading other sentient beings to the shore of awakening. This kind of infinite Panna is beyond the comprehension of practicioners who possess small capacities and aptitudes. Those who cling to names and forms are truly sad Hinayanists (followers of the small vehicle) - for they will never be able to see the absolute truth, the real "Buddha".


hoangkybactien said...

"This means that an enlightened person still thinks this and that endlessly like an ordinary person." _Wayne

Wayne, 99.9% of the article is very good. It is called "right view". However, there is a point, as quoted above, that appears to be
more of speculative than personal

Although words are used like fingers to point to the moon. But sometimes, if misued, they can also point to stars, instead. And it is the case with "thinks this and that endlessly".

Maybe, it should be like this:

enlightened beings (men, gods, devas) would use their mind when needs or circumstances arise; otherwise, they take refuge in Nirvana!

Wayne Woo said...

Well, if they are enlightened, thinking or not thinking they are still not apart from Nirvana. If they are not, thinking or not thinking they are still not apart from Samsara. But honestly I wouldn't know cos I'm still not enlightened.

hoangkybactien said...

You will very soon with that profound understanding of Buddhadharma at such a young age (33).

What I tried to point out is this:

Thinking is a function of the mind. It is an inherent characteristics of the mind. Whether one is enlightened or not this characteristics is still there.

The essential difference between an awakened mind and unawakened mind lies in the use of this thinking function.

Before awakening, the thinking function is just like a running car without a brake! They simply cannot stop it, even though they wish to do so, due the bad habit of clinging to thoughts in endless previous lives and present life.
In other words, it is totally INVOLUNTARY. There is always a voice in our head speaking most of the time. Our mind are like active vocanoes constanly gushing out all kind of myriad thoughts.

But once the mind is awakened, the domination of this thinking function in our mind ceases. It's more like an old maid, very obeyable, very controllable at our will. And at the same time one realizes intuitively that our five faculties are just like the five gates of the same building.

It is this thinking function of the mind that duality appears. Without duality characteristics, names and forms cannot be manifested.

Big bang theory conjectured that our universe is about 5, 6 billions years old. How old is our mind?