Karma Lekshe Tsomo’s Buddhist Feminisms and Femininities

Language is powerful and can express more than mere concepts.

My Buddhist studies were limited to one course back in the early 2000’s, but I never looked at religion the same since. It completely changed my POV of Catholicism and Christianity. And, it also surprisingly shifted my thoughts on feminism. It totally gave me this Zen outlook on some things. So, I was really interested in reading Karma Lekshe Tsomo’s Buddhist Feminisms and Femininities.

It is simply an attempt to develop different, culturally attuned ways of thinking about gender that do not rely on hyper-analysis and “perpetual reflexivity.”

What I found utterly fascinating was their concept of divine hierarchy. If you were born animal, for example, you were of a lesser rung on the divine latter. If you were born into a certain social level, you were of a higher rung on the ladder. Their concept of Hell was having your soul revert back to a lower rung and forcing it to work, over the course of many lifetimes, back to a higher rung on the ladder. If you forgot the lessons of your previous lives and fell into the same pit over and over again, well your soul was fucked. Unless, of course, you got the help of an experienced Buddha.

The hyper-intellectualism of much feminist literature appears pretentious and weird to many indigenous women. The heart of the Buddha’s teachings is to see things “as they are…”

One might conclude that the fundamental problem with beauty is not the manifestation of beauty, per se, but the attachment to beauty. In other words, the desire to be beautiful.

If readers find this book on Hoopla, it would be best to know that it’s mostly a collection of academic articles on the intersectionality of Buddhism and Feminism. I have no shame in stating that I skimmed through it very quickly because many of the references are quite obscure. But, I wanted to absorb it for my own studies in minority feminisms. One of the first steps in research is to arrive at somewhat concrete definitions of what something is and/or is not. Even if those definition are later subject to criticism. One of the key topics within minority feminisms is beauty. So what can we say? It definitely varies from culture to culture. But, I’d say the Buddhists have it correct in stating that it’s a universal essence, a je ne sais quoi sans physique. (My French is clearly terrible.) Beauty and woman, femininity, are intertwined for better or for worse. These elements should find themselves in a minority feminisms conversation.

Disinterest in beauty itself, dispassion toward beauty, and no attachment to beauty – coupled of course with virtue – constitute the truly beautiful person.

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