What does Buddhism say about gender?

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Ardha
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What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Ardha »

https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/ques ... n-illusion

Something I heard, which then got me thinking about what Buddhism would say about transgender issues, or being gay etc. There is a reference to ultimate reality and conventional reality too, but I'm not entirely convinced. Especially considering that for a time Buddhism wasn't that friendly towards women being enlightened and practicing. What's the verdict on this?
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Virgo »

Ardha wrote: Wed Mar 24, 2021 3:57 am https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/ques ... n-illusion

Something I heard, which then got me thinking about what Buddhism would say about transgender issues, or being gay etc. There is a reference to ultimate reality and conventional reality too, but I'm not entirely convinced. Especially considering that for a time Buddhism wasn't that friendly towards women being enlightened and practicing. What's the verdict on this?
This this recent thread: https://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=36047

Virgo
Ardha
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Ardha »

Virgo wrote: Wed Mar 24, 2021 4:07 am
Ardha wrote: Wed Mar 24, 2021 3:57 am https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/ques ... n-illusion

Something I heard, which then got me thinking about what Buddhism would say about transgender issues, or being gay etc. There is a reference to ultimate reality and conventional reality too, but I'm not entirely convinced. Especially considering that for a time Buddhism wasn't that friendly towards women being enlightened and practicing. What's the verdict on this?
This this recent thread: https://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=36047

Virgo
I've looked through it but it isn't exactly what I'm looking for though. hence why I posted the link to the forum.
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Virgo »

Ardha wrote: Thu Mar 25, 2021 11:55 pm
I've looked through it but it isn't exactly what I'm looking for though. hence why I posted the link to the forum.
Hi Ardha, my opinion is that you should talk to a gender therapist. You might be able to get one through school, university, your job, or health insurance, etc.

Virgo
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Ardha wrote: Thu Mar 25, 2021 11:55 pm
Virgo wrote: Wed Mar 24, 2021 4:07 am
Ardha wrote: Wed Mar 24, 2021 3:57 am https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/ques ... n-illusion

Something I heard, which then got me thinking about what Buddhism would say about transgender issues, or being gay etc. There is a reference to ultimate reality and conventional reality too, but I'm not entirely convinced. Especially considering that for a time Buddhism wasn't that friendly towards women being enlightened and practicing. What's the verdict on this?
This this recent thread: https://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=36047

Virgo
I've looked through it but it isn't exactly what I'm looking for though. hence why I posted the link to the forum.
That thread goes into some detail, what specifically are you looking for that is not mentioned in that thread?
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Ardha wrote: Wed Mar 24, 2021 3:57 am https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/ques ... n-illusion

Something I heard, which then got me thinking about what Buddhism would say about transgender issues, or being gay etc. There is a reference to ultimate reality and conventional reality too, but I'm not entirely convinced. Especially considering that for a time Buddhism wasn't that friendly towards women being enlightened and practicing. What's the verdict on this?
The Buddha actually departed from traditional indian religious culture in that he accepted women into the sangha.

As pointed out above, there is already a lengthy discussion about this.
Gender is a what you might call a ‘worldly’ issue of concern. In other words, it’s all about conditional phenomena and therefore ultimately unsatisfactory regardless of how one identifies oneself. Trans or not, a person is still dealing with the suffering of samsara. In makes no more difference than how one feels about what to eat for dinner tonight.

What’s interesting to me is that these days, everyone is suppose to take an official position on things. The Lama of my local sangha was asked what the Buddhist group’s position was regarding Black Lives Matter. The thing is, nobody asks the doctor in the emergency room at the hospital about that. Well, Buddhism is also about healing people. I think it’s the same with the trans issue. If you are a trans person, that’s fine. The question is, can you sit on a cushion and meditate? Can you recite the name of Buddha? Can you practice compassion towards others? If gender doesn’t have anything to do with that, then Buddhism doesn’t care about how you identify yourself. How much one is attached to one’s identity, that might be a different matter. Buddhism would be concerned with that.
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Malcolm »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Fri Mar 26, 2021 9:27 pm
Ardha wrote: Wed Mar 24, 2021 3:57 am https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/ques ... n-illusion

Something I heard, which then got me thinking about what Buddhism would say about transgender issues, or being gay etc. There is a reference to ultimate reality and conventional reality too, but I'm not entirely convinced. Especially considering that for a time Buddhism wasn't that friendly towards women being enlightened and practicing. What's the verdict on this?
The Buddha actually departed from traditional indian religious culture in that he accepted women into the sangha.
No, Jains had nuns before the Buddha admitted women into the Sangha.
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that name does not exist."
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Malcolm wrote: Fri Mar 26, 2021 10:12 pm
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Fri Mar 26, 2021 9:27 pm
Ardha wrote: Wed Mar 24, 2021 3:57 am https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/ques ... n-illusion

Something I heard, which then got me thinking about what Buddhism would say about transgender issues, or being gay etc. There is a reference to ultimate reality and conventional reality too, but I'm not entirely convinced. Especially considering that for a time Buddhism wasn't that friendly towards women being enlightened and practicing. What's the verdict on this?
The Buddha actually departed from traditional indian religious culture in that he accepted women into the sangha.
No, Jains had nuns before the Buddha admitted women into the Sangha.
Even if Jains did so first, the acceptance of women by the buddhist sangha (as well as that of the Jains) was still a departure from the mainstream religious traditions in India.
But thanks for the “I did not know that!” moment.
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by KathyLauren »

Buddhism says nothing about transgender issues, other than the standard moral code applicable to all situations: be compassionate. As far as Buddhism is concerned, gender is a secular issue, no more or less illusory than any other secular issue.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Ayu »

KathyLauren wrote: Fri Mar 26, 2021 11:52 pm Buddhism says nothing about transgender issues, other than the standard moral code applicable to all situations: be compassionate. As far as Buddhism is concerned, gender is a secular issue, no more or less illusory than any other secular issue.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
:good: Thanks.
For the benefit and ease of all sentient beings. :heart:
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Könchok Thrinley »

KathyLauren wrote: Fri Mar 26, 2021 11:52 pm Buddhism says nothing about transgender issues, other than the standard moral code applicable to all situations: be compassionate. As far as Buddhism is concerned, gender is a secular issue, no more or less illusory than any other secular issue.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
Great post Kathy!

This is important to keep in mind. So often I have encountered people who are more than happy to cite the highest view to excuse their vices, but when it comes to tolerance towards LGBTQ+ or different races, they suddenly become brahmins, citing rules, regulations and purity.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

For those who do virtuous actions,
goodness is what comes to pass.
For those who do non-virtuous actions,
that becomes suffering indeed.

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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

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KathyLauren wrote: Fri Mar 26, 2021 11:52 pm Buddhism says nothing about transgender issues, other than the standard moral code applicable to all situations: be compassionate. As far as Buddhism is concerned, gender is a secular issue, no more or less illusory than any other secular issue.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
Change of sex did appear in ancient India, caused by a change in person's karma or samskaras:

"Two passages in the Vinayapiṭaka of the Pāli canon that is claimed by the Theravāda school of Buddhism document the possibility that a change of sex is possible in this life. In keeping with the logic of the monastic rules articulated in the Vinaya collection, the Buddha’s response focuses on which rules are broken and which are not broken, following a change of sex.

Now at that time the sexual features of a woman appeared on a certain monk. They told the Blessed One about this matter. [He said,] “Monks, I allow the same teacher, the same ordination, the same rainy seasons together with the nuns. I allow reinstatement among the nuns for those offenses that nuns share in common with monks. According to those offenses of monks that are not shared in common with nuns, there is no offense.

Now at that time, the sexual features of a man appeared on a certain nun. They told the Blessed One about this matter. [He said,] “Monks, I allow the same teacher, the same ordination, the same rainy seasons in relation to the monks. I allow reinstatement among the monks for those offenses that monks share in common with the nuns. According to those offences of nuns that not shared in common with monks, there is no offense” (Vin III.35)."

Changing Sex or Changing Gender in Pāli Buddhist Literature
by Carol S. Anderson
http://sfonline.barnard.edu/queer-relig ... iterature/

The causes of Gopaka's becoming a male god after her death are discussed in Shurangama samadhi sutra, chapters 56.. 58, transl. by Etienne Lamotte and Sara Boin-Web, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 2003.
svaha
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They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Könchok Chödrak »

The Dalai Lama said once about this issue:

"Well, what does your partner think?"
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

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On the passage cited above, the commentator who compiled the Samantapasadika wrote, in part:

In the fourteenth story, ‘sexual features of a woman appear’ (itthiliṅgaṃ pātubhūtan) means if, in the middle of the night while fast asleep, the sexual characteristics of a man (purisasaṇṭhānaṃ), such as a beard and moustache disappear entirely, and the sexual characteristics of a woman arise (itthisaṇṭhānaṃ), then ‘the same teacher, the same ordination,’ means ‘I allow the very ordination previously taken, and the very teacher previously chosen. Another teacher or ordination need not be taken.’ ‘The same rainy seasons’ means ‘I allow the same number of rainy seasons, the same number of rainy seasons counted since a monk’s ordination.’ It does not mean that one has to start counting all over again from this point forward. ‘Together with nuns’ means ‘I allow the provision of meeting with or being in the company of nuns.’ Thus it is said, ‘Now without the form [of a monk] (rūpaṃ) while living among monks, then go to a nunnery to live with nuns.’ ‘Those offenses shared by monks and nuns’ means ‘those offenses related to ordination or related to talks [that are] shared in common by monks and nuns.’ ‘Offenses may be rehabilitated among the nuns’ means ‘I allow rehabilitation among the nuns having followed the disciplines done by nuns.’ ‘There is no violation for those offenses’ means ‘there is no violation for those offenses such as emission of semen not shared by nuns and monks.’ According to this word-analysis, there is no offense for those offenses caused by the arising of usual sexual features (liṅga).
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Ardha »

KathyLauren wrote: Fri Mar 26, 2021 11:52 pm Buddhism says nothing about transgender issues, other than the standard moral code applicable to all situations: be compassionate. As far as Buddhism is concerned, gender is a secular issue, no more or less illusory than any other secular issue.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
Some threads and discussions might disagree with that statement. The stack exchange says that Buddhism says it's an illusion.

Though Lion's roar had an interesting take on it: https://www.lionsroar.com/does-my-trans ... n-no-self/

It popped into my head how Buddhism would approach the issue of being trans for one reason or another.
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Ayu »

Ardha wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 5:12 am
KathyLauren wrote: Fri Mar 26, 2021 11:52 pm Buddhism says nothing about transgender issues, other than the standard moral code applicable to all situations: be compassionate. As far as Buddhism is concerned, gender is a secular issue, no more or less illusory than any other secular issue.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
Some threads and discussions might disagree with that statement. The stack exchange says that Buddhism says it's an illusion.

Though Lion's roar had an interesting take on it: https://www.lionsroar.com/does-my-trans ... n-no-self/

It popped into my head how Buddhism would approach the issue of being trans for one reason or another.
This non-self view is difficult for everybody. The article in that link does not speak against transgender identity but it recommends overcoming the idea of a stable unchangeable true and inherently existing self.
To the contrary they support gender change, if people feel the urge to do it.
A little bit more below in the article you quoted it is said:
... What you describe is what I think of as the “authentic self,” the urge to live in this world in the most whole way possible. For some of us, it might mean braces or a different haircut; for others, it may mean monastic robes and a shaved head. For a certain number of people, it will require gender-reassignment surgery. So yes, embrace your authentic self completely. If that means you need to make some practical adjustments, you will have plenty of company. ...
And:
Narayan Helen Liebenson:
The teaching of anatta does not say there is no self; it states that nothing conditional can be pointed to as being who or what you are. Given that no aspect of being can be identified with in any kind of continuous, independent sense, to me, teachings of compassion and loving-kindness can be your north star.
For the benefit and ease of all sentient beings. :heart:
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by KathyLauren »

Ardha wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 5:12 amThe stack exchange says that Buddhism says it's an illusion.
Sure it is. Buddhism says that everything in the phenomenal world is an illusion. It is true, but so what? That does not mean that the phenomenal world and all the illusory things in it do not exist in their own way.
During the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese Ch’an [Zen in Japanese] master Qingyuan Weixin famously wrote: “Before I had studied Ch’an for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance, I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers.”
https://tricycle.org/magazine/first-the ... -mountain/
So the knowledge that everything is an illusion does not invalidate any of the experiences we have in the samsaric world. We know they are illusory, but we still have to live with them and deal with them.

As I said, Buddhism has nothing much to say on the subject of gender. There is the story cited above of monks or nuns spontaneously changing gender and the Buddha having no problem with it. That is about the extent of it.

I like the take of Andrew Holecek in the Lion's Roar column. In order to approach the absolute, you first have to find authenticity in the relative world. That makes sense. You cannot realize the ultimate while living inauthentically. The transgender experience is a search for authenticity.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

What exactly does one identify with, gender-wise?
This is where I am ignorant/confused on this issue.
Is it a case of looking down below one’s navel and thinking/feeling, “oh, no no no this is the wrong stuff down there!” ...like accidentally putting on someone else’s shoes?
Because I would suppose anything other than that would be a cultural imputation.
If one never experienced the feeling of a gender conflict, then of course, the issue of gender identity wouldn’t necessarily arise in the first place. It’s like a stomach in that way. If there’s no stomach ache, you never notice it. Nobody regards a condition of a quiet stomach. But if there’s a stomach ache, if something isn’t happening physically the way you feel it ought to be, then one notices it.

Myself, for example, I have never given much thought to gender. I don’t think of myself as particularly “male” because I never assigned any intrinsic meaning to that other than bodily function. I imagine this is the biggest reason why people who do not experience gender conflict (body and identity don’t match up) by and large probably understand how it is experienced, and why they are confused by the relatively recent attention being given to gender issues. At the same time, I am aware of culturally imputed “male” expectations, social roles, and so on, which I’ve never really given much credence to.

But again, I’m only referring to cultural norms. And those change. When I was young, for example, the only men who wore earrings were pirates in movies, and the Roma who showed up to operate the carnival at the State Fair each year. Otherwise, an earring in a man’s ear was generally regarded as an indication he was gay, or a cross dresser, or whatever might pop up in the fearful imaginations of the culturally uptight.

Likewise, most of the time I am not thinking about anything in relation to gender. If I order a pizza to go, I’m not ordering it within the context of gender identity, just as I’m not ordering it as a Buddhist (aside from the old “make me one with everything” joke). In our family, my wife works outside the home. I cook and take care of the kids. But again, these are just things that are at odds with tradition. I don’t think about this as a gender identity issue.

So, I’m just curious as to exactly on what gender identity (and thus, identity conflict) is based.

Thank you for pardoning my ignorance.
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by KathyLauren »

Padma, your stomach ache example is a good one. One is not aware of gender identity unless there is a problem with it. Which is why the cisgender majority have no comprehension of gender identity: theirs is just fine, thank you very much.

You talk about the obvious dichotomy between sex, which is biological and obvious, and gender roles, which are social constructs and also obvious. But few people understand the neurological biology of gender identity. It is relatively new research, and few people are aware of it. Plus, as new research, it is still in development, which, to lay people, means "suspect". The emerging consensus is that gender identity is no less biological than a person's reproductive configuration. It is influenced by both genetic and pre-natal environmental factors, and is established prior to birth.

So being transgender is not simply looking down and thinking, "That ain't right", although that is certainly one possibility. It is also manifest as someone looking inward and realizing that the gender role that they were assigned at birth does not fit who they are. That is subtle, and impossible to explain to someone who has not had the experience.

Not all transgender people alter their body, though many do. But all suffer from some gender-related stress from trying to fit into society's pigeonholes. Most societies allow only two gender roles: man and woman. People get assigned to one or the other at birth based solely on the visible configuration of the genitals. Sometimes that assignment turns out to be wrong, and sometimes the correct gender is not even one of those two permitted roles.

Gender dysphoria is the stress that results from being assigned to a gender role that is not the right one. Fitting into the assigned role feels "wrong". The feeling of wrongness is usually unmistakable, but the cause is often subtle and hard to figure out. When a transgender person figures it out and adopts the correct gender role, the feeling of wrongness disappears. The stomach ache is gone.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
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Re: What does Buddhism say about gender?

Post by Ardha »

KathyLauren wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 1:51 pm
Ardha wrote: Tue Mar 30, 2021 5:12 amThe stack exchange says that Buddhism says it's an illusion.
Sure it is. Buddhism says that everything in the phenomenal world is an illusion. It is true, but so what? That does not mean that the phenomenal world and all the illusory things in it do not exist in their own way.
During the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese Ch’an [Zen in Japanese] master Qingyuan Weixin famously wrote: “Before I had studied Ch’an for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance, I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers.”
https://tricycle.org/magazine/first-the ... -mountain/
So the knowledge that everything is an illusion does not invalidate any of the experiences we have in the samsaric world. We know they are illusory, but we still have to live with them and deal with them.

As I said, Buddhism has nothing much to say on the subject of gender. There is the story cited above of monks or nuns spontaneously changing gender and the Buddha having no problem with it. That is about the extent of it.

I like the take of Andrew Holecek in the Lion's Roar column. In order to approach the absolute, you first have to find authenticity in the relative world. That makes sense. You cannot realize the ultimate while living inauthentically. The transgender experience is a search for authenticity.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
My question then becomes "if gender is an illusion then is performing the steps to alleviate the process just living a lie because it isn't you"? how does one become authentic when the reality (ultimate) is that such a pursuit is living a lie? It's like saying I am attracted to men when gender is an illusion, so am I living a lie? If you know something is illusory then how do you pretend it's real? Isn't that like kids with imaginary friends?
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