I had Zen teacher who gave talks everyday during retreats. He said that anybody listening in the meditation hall who disagreed with what he said could walk out. I never had the courage to do it then, but I’m walking out of the hall on this teaching.
Acariya Dhammapala, in the Theravada school of Buddhism, wrote in the seventh century a treatise on the paramitas, the Ten Perfections. In his discussion of the practices that lead to enlightenment, he listed the conditions under which an aspirant can realize the moral and ethical perfections that lead to nirvana. One of the conditions is:
“The male sex: For one who has attained to the human state, the aspiration only succeeds when made by a man, not when made by a woman, eunuch, neuter, or hermaphrodite. Why? For the aforesaid reason (i.e., because the Buddha is always of the male sex), and because there is no fulfillment of the required characteristics (in these other cases). As it is said: “This is impossible, bhikkhus, this cannot come to pass, that a woman might become a perfectly enlightened Buddha.”
I am out of here.
This is what I love about Zen. If it makes no sense or gets in the way, throw it aside and move on. (Remember, “If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him.”)
Strange also, when you consider that Buddha himself saw the spiritual potential of men and women. The practice is about self-empowerment, no matter who we are, no matter what our circumstance. Anyone can do it. We are all it.
This does not mean that social convention always keeps up with the truth of practice.
In America, Zen would not have advanced and cannot be realized fully without the participation and leadership of women. (I trained with a brilliant woman master for nine years.)
Take that, Mr. Dhammapala.