Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mara: like Aristotle

Jay Seidler, who has lived in Laos for a decade and lives in Thailand and blogs at Roots and Leaves, reminds us of the profound misogyny in the lore of Mara of Buddhism.  Jay writes:
As I read your entry about Aristotle's use of sarx, I can't help but think of the temptations of Buddha by the Mara, who tempted Buddha in the form of four women (perhaps the daughters of Mara depending on the version of the story)but in the end Buddha was victorious over the temptations of lust. This terrible lust which causes the continuation of suffering (rebirth) of course through the lust inducing womb-man. In Laos and Eastern Thailand a pregnant woman is often referred to has having mar(a). So even though Aristotle would have hated the illogical Asian barbarians, he would have felt at home with their attitude towards women.
For years, Jay has worked with women and men on equality issues, ongoing issues.  He works within cultures of peoples who have a different sort of logic from Aristotle's logic.  Nonetheless, often there is the same effect.

Buddhist nuns have not enjoyed equality with monks.  The struggle with Mara, for women, is more difficult than it is for men, as one might imagine.  Mara tells her:

That state so hard to achieve
Which is to be attained by the seers,
Can't be attained by a woman
With her two-fingered wisdom.

This is from "Can Women attain Enlightenment," posted at from "Soma Sutta" from Discourses of the Ancient Nuns (BL 143), translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1997). Copyright © 1997 Buddhist Publication Society.

And even in secular, or non-religious, life, there's the daily demeaning of and danger to women in Asia.  For example, Thúy-Lan Võ Lite of Equal Writes, has written recently of one of India's solution to its "climate of increasing numbers of rape, kidnapping and abduction, torture and molestation cases over the past few years."  The solution?  It's "a new set of eight female-only commuter trains to combat the prevalent harassment female passengers often face."  And Chally in Australia (a blogger for Feministe) follows up yesterday to say that "harassment on public transport is far from being a problem just in India. Transportation catering only to women is popping up around the world more and more, from Bangkok to Moscow. For instance, in the Mexican city of Puebla, there’s a new service comprised of thirty-five taxis which not only service just women but are driven exclusively by women."

These are reminders that Aristotle and his logic have no monopoly on influencing men around the globe to devalue and abuse women around them.

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