THE ‘CENSORED’ TARA: POWERFUL PASSION VS PRUDISH PURITY. Depictions of women in Buddhist art and literature and the sexual objectification, denigration and censorship of women’s biology and nakedness

This short research article for Dakini Day today, inspired by a recent visit to the British Museum (London), considers ancient and modern representations of the bodies and sexuality of women in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist art and texts and how the excessive sexualisation and denigration of women’s breasts and genitals (exemplified by online porn), combined with purity culture and male religious patriarchies (as exemplified by monks) has led to such depictions of women being either ‘sexualised’ or ‘censored’ and thus drained of their inherent importance, power, life and passion.  As exemplified by British censorship of a stunning Tara statue taken from Sri Lanka in the 19th Century. The article considers the following topics:

  • BUSTY BUSTS – DEPICTIONS OF WOMEN AND GODDESSES IN ANCIENT BUDDHIST INDIA AND TIBET
  • TOPLESS TARA STATUE– CENSORED BY THE BRITISH AS ‘OBSCENE’
  • VAJRAYANA AND TANTRIC DEPICTIONS OF WOMEN, GODDESSES AND UNION PRACTICE
  • TEXTUAL REPRESENTATIONS OF WOMEN AND GODDESSES IN BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES
  • RELIGIOUS PATRIARCHIES AND PRUDISH PURITY CULTURE
  • MAHASIDDHAS, TANTRIC UNIONS AND CELIBATE MONKS
  • THE MADONNA-WHORE COMPLEX AND HOW IMAGES ARE BEAUTY ARE USED AGAINST WOMEN 
  • BREASTS, WOMBS, VAGINAS AND BLOOD: THE DOWNPLAYING AND DENIGRATION OF WOMEN’S BIOLOGY

The first half of the article considers artistic and textual examples of topless/naked women in Buddhist art and contemporary censorship.  Despite the pornographic and explicit images of women easily and freely available all over the internet and Facebook, posts about Buddhist women are sometimes censored on Facebook/social media despite the fact, that they are ancient, sacred and beautiful images of Buddhist goddesses and yogini practitioners.

So what are the reasons for this objectification/prudishness/censorship?  In the second half of the article I suggest three main reasons: Religious and monastic patriarchies, 2) purity culture, which categorises women into sinners or saints, sexual or virginal; and 3) the downplaying and denigration of women’s sacred and important biology and experience.

Naked breasts are not inherently sexual, anymore than a tantric union is. The fundamental purpose of breasts is to create and provide milk to babies (hence the term mammary glands and why humans are considered to be mammals). In addition, the vagina is also not only a source of entry for male visual and sexual pleasure. It is the door of life, emitting babies and menses blood.  The fact that women (even in the ‘liberal’ 21st Century) are often asked to cover them up for ‘decency’s sake’ when breast-feeding, while having to tolerate all the sexual depictions of topless women around them, is an example of this double standards when it comes to women’s bodies and biology.

If people project ‘impure’ and ‘obscene’ qualities onto images (due to their own patriarchal and sexist social conditioning) that women’s bodies and functions are for the male gaze and like a ‘costume’ that can and should be ‘covered up’ in public these images (and women’s biology) lose their beauty, passion, potency and power to enliven, magnetize, instruct and awaken all beings!  May women’s bodies and biology be respected and worshipped ‘nakedly’ for their inherent beauty and profound, important functions, as the source of life, birth and bliss!

Music, I am Woman by Emmi Meli….I am woman, I am fearless, I am sexy, I’m divine, I’m unbeatable, I’m creative. Honey, you can get in line.” Or something more wrathful, 50ft Queenie by PJ Harvey, ‘I’m one big queen!’

Written by Adele Tomlin, 27th March 2022. Dedicated to women and girls, in particular L for being a ‘real friend’ when it was needed the most. 

BUSTY BUSTS – STATUES OF WOMEN AND GODDESSES FROM ANCIENT BUDDHIST INDIA
Yogini (c. 900 AD, Tamil Nadu, India) displayed in the British Museum. Photo: Adele Tomlin (2022).

Recently, I attended two exhibitions on Asian and Buddhist art in London (one at the British museum, the other at the Victoria and Albert Museum). I was particularly struck by the simple, busty beautiful ‘nakedness’ of the images of women in statues and friezes from ancient India, Nepal and Tibet. They were depicted topless with full, ample bosoms and only wearing a loin cloth (see yogini statue above from India). Depictions from the ancient Amaravati Buddhist stupa relics in the exhibition, featured many women in this state of undress (see image below).

Fragment from Amaravati of a dome slab carved in limestone (‘Palnad marble’), see: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/A_1880-0709-53
Woman in the Amaravati sculptures. This style of dress and depiction is typical for that place and era. Photo, Adele Tomlin (2022).

Images of the Buddha’s mother giving birth also show her topless with topless attendants.

Ancient image of Buddha’s mother.
Image of statue in British Museum. Photo: Adele Tomlin (2022).

Even today, within indigenous cultures in Africa and Asia, women walk around topless, mainly due to the climate.

Other statues of goddesses, like this 15th Century Tārā (below), which I wrote about here, also defy conventional norms of 21st century beauty with a large hooked nose and less so-called ‘feminine’ features. 

15th Century Tibetan Tara stature at the British Museum. Photo: Adele Tomlin (2022).

The contemporary ‘Barbie-fying’ images of women, dakinis and yoginis I have written about  here, in relation to Miranda Shaw’s depiction of them (see image below) in her ground-breaking book: Passionate Enlightenment. in her ground-breaking English language book: ‘Passionate Enlightenment’. When I challenged Shaw on this, she greatly praised my research and agreed with me that such depictions are not necessarily accurate portrayals of the women, as they were not always referred to as ‘physically beautiful’ in the texts.

Image of yogini in ‘Passionate Enlightenment’ (1994) by Miranda Shaw
TOPLESS TARA – CENSORED BY THE BRITISH AS ‘OBSCENE’ 
The ‘censored’ Tara in her full glory at the British Museum, London standing in front of the Amaravati relics currently on display there.  Photo: Adele Tomlin (2022).

Censorship and objectification of naked breast images and artworks is not a new phenomenon associated with social media though. In the British Museum, this Tara statue from Sri Lanka (see image above), who is topless with stunning, full breasts and small waist, with only a loincloth covering her. was also censored. In an online review by Shannine Daniel (2021) she writes that the Tara statue, which had been taken by the British in the 19th Century, had been censored from public display for ‘obscenity’:

“Although it is difficult to determine exactly when and where the statue may have been sculpted, some scholars date it back to somewhere between the 8th and 10th centuries.  It is 143cm in height, without its plinth, and it is believed that the statue was skillfully designed to depict what would have been perceived as the epitome of feminine beauty and grace. Cavities found on parts of the statue suggest that it was originally decorated with gems — including one large gemstone on the crown that adorns the goddess’s head — which, over time, may have been lost, or perhaps stolen. Some also believe that the goddess was once depicted to be holding a lotus flower in her left hand.

This particular statue was found in the Eastern Province of Ceylon — as Sri Lanka was then known — between the years 1812 and 1822, when the country was under British rule. The Governor at the time, Robert Brownrigg, gifted the statue to the British Museum in 1830. However, it was initially never displayed and instead hidden away, the statue’s nudity was considered “too obscene” and therefore inappropriate for the British public at the time.

So instead, the statue of the goddess was placed in a secret storeroom in the Museum, called ‘the Secretum’ for around thirty years or so, along with other treasures from across the world deemed inappropriate for the Victorian public. Only highly esteemed scholars with special permits were allowed into the Secretum to study the statue of Tara and the other treasures acquired — not necessarily with the consent of the native people — from foreign lands.

It was only in 1960, more than a century after it was taken away from the land of the people that worshipped her, that the statue of Tara was finally displayed to the public. She is now a resident of Room 33 at the British Museum, surrounded by artefacts from other ancient civilisations from across South Asia.”

This censorship reminded me of issues on Facebook with posting images of topless women, or deities in union, which were then ‘mistakenly’ classified by the Facebook computer algorithm as ‘sexually explicit’ or ‘selling sexual services’. It was only when making a direct appeal to a person to check the images and ascertain they were not as they had been swiftly categorised, that the decision was reversed. However, the fact that a woman’s breasts or nipples are being considered automatically ‘sexual’ is something worthy of challenge.

VAJRAYANA AND TANTRIC DEPICTIONS OF WOMEN, GODDESSES AND UNION PRACTICE
Contemporary depiction of Vajrayogini, supreme Highest Yoga Tantra Deity

As for ancient representations of tantric deities and goddesses, as anyone who has visited sacred Buddhist places and temples in India, Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal will testify, they are full of topless and naked women (and men), dakinis and goddesses, in union and alone. The archetypal example is Vajrayogini (see contemporary depictions of her above and below) who is represented as a youthful, full-breasted woman with a very lustful and wrathful expression. Her vulva/vagina are clearly represented in many images.

Contemporary statue of Vajrayogini

Yet, as I have written about before here, the hypocrisy/contradiction of having these images openly displayed in temples and monasteries, while celibate monks are taught to see women’s bodies as filthy and objects of aversion and suffering, is quite obvious to anyone who might think about it. No wonder many monastics end up becoming confused about their sexuality and relationships with women, and women feel used and abused by them as consorts and partners in the name of Vajrayana.

For example, the 17th Karmapa’s new painting of the goddess, Marici (as I wrote about here), based on a previous work by the 10th Karmapa (see below), adds a sheer blouse to cover her prominent breasts. The reason for this is not clear, but is it another example of monastic prudity or the wish for it not to be censored online? I suspect the latter! 🙂

10th Karmapa’s depiction of topless Marici

 

TEXTUAL REPRESENTATIONS OF WOMEN AND GODDESSES IN BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES
Female yogini and teacher, Yeshe Tsogyel (c.8th Century) is often depicted topless or even naked, despite her being a Tibetan woman.

The descriptions of female yoginis, siddhas, dakinis, consorts and goddesses in the scriptures and texts are also highly sexualized, naked, and talk about their passion, power, wrath and lust. This does not mean all women are represented that way, there are peaceful goddesses like White Tara and so on, who are less sexualized but still appear topless and half-naked.

As a female translator, student and ‘practitioner’ (albeit not a very good one), reading past translations of sadhana texts about women, it was sometimes striking how some of the language is ‘watered-down’. For example, I was recently told by one female translator that they would feel uncomfortable using the word ‘aroused’ for breasts when that is actually what the Tibetan says. One person even challenged me on my use of the word ‘erotic smile’ and using images of topless women in my articles, despite the fact that was how women dressed in India and Nepal during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha and the spread of Tantric Buddhism.

INDIAN MAHASIDDHAS, TANTRIC UNIONS AND CELIBACY

Also, the male monastic takeover of Vajrayana and tantric union practice is a well-documented phenomenon,  especially in Tibet. Prior to that, yogic Indian mahasiddhas such as Saraha, Tilopa and Naropa all had female teachers and consorts and had to leave the monasteries to engage in such practices, due to social misunderstanding and approbation. They are often depicted naked/topless and/or in union.

Saraha pictured with the ‘arrow-maker’ consort and teacher

Then there are representations of Buddhist masters and deities in union, surrounded by naked goddesses, such as this one of Guru Padmasambhava:

That does not mean celibacy and tantric union are contradictory. In fact, they can be complimentary and essential if undertaken for the right reasons: love, compassion and the desire for full awakening (as I wrote about here). However, as documented in the Kalacakra texts, Karmamudra/tantric union should only be attempted at a very advanced level of the completion stage six yogas (4th or 5th yoga). The reason for taking a physical partner is not for ordinary physical pleasure, but to unknot the tightly-knotted heart chakra[1].

HH Dudjom Rinpoche, Ngagpa (Vajrayana) master and teacher

The previous Dudjom Rinpoche (see photo above) is said to have told students that unless the teacher can bring the thigle/semen back up the central channel at the brink of orgasm then they should not do it. He is said to have demonstrated this ability to a few students by weeing and then bringing it back up the urethra. I do not know if this story is true or not. However, the 14th Dalai Lama has stated publicly that unless a master has zero attachment for ordinary sexual pleasure and sees a plate of excrement in the same way as a plate of tasty food, then they should not practice union with a woman, especially if they are a monk.

So what are the reasons for this contemporary prudishness, which is completely at odds with the freely available pornography and sexual content online? In the second half of this article I suggest three main reasons: Religious and monastic male patriarchies, 2) purity culture, which categorises women into sinners or saints, sexual or virginal; and 3) the downplaying and denigration of women’s powerful biology and experience.

PRUDISH PURITY CULTURE AND RELIGIOUS MALE PATRIARCHIES

There has been much written and said about the male view and purity culture that insists women and girls be ‘pure’ and ‘virtuous’ in the eyes of men as mothers, sisters and daughters, yet men and boys are not held to the same standards. Some cultures and religions insist that women should even be covered up with nothing else showing other than their eyes.

As this photo “What if” by Yemeni photographer, Boushara Yahya Almutawakei shows below, if such religious puritanical culture was applied to men, it would be considered strange, outrageous and unacceptable by the majority of men, so why do women accept it as a cultural or religious requirement?

“What if” by Yemeni photographer, Boushara Yahya Almutawakei
THE MADONNA-WHORE COMPLEX AND HOW IMAGES ARE BEAUTY ARE USED AGAINST WOMEN 
Artwork by Elizabeth Heyert

From a non-religious perspective,  this religious right, purity culture (also exemplifed by Catholicism and Christianity with the virgin Mary) connects to the Freudian idea of the Madonna-Whore complex, that men can only deal with women as individuals when they put them into two simplistic categories: pure madonna or impure whore.  The latter then being seen as an ‘open target’ for disgust, denigration, sexual objectification and lack of compassion, as exemplified by the prostitute. If men were forced themselves to see women as living, feeling individuals,(comparable to their mothers, sisters and daughters) and not just pieces of flesh to be bought and used, it is said that punters (those who pay for sexual services) would decline. Use of prostitutes has been documented as requiring a lack of love and compassion for the woman, or a Jekyll and Hyde ability to switch it on and off at will.

This phenomenon has been explored and depicted recently by artist, Elizabeth Heyert (2019), see here

Elizabeth Heyert

Additionally Bill Yuan writes about the damaging effect of this simplistic categorisation of women in the Damage of Porn Usage Beyond Bedroom: Madonna-Whore Complex (2021): “Pornography, beyond sexual dysfunction, promotes sexless love, loveless sex, by creating a gulf between emotional intimacy and sexual desire.”

The ‘male gaze’ and objectification influences women too, as Naomi Wolf wrote about in the Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women (1991)  Beauty contests for women are also supported by women, even though the entry conditions are sexist and ageist, for more on that see here

“The beauty myth posited to women is a false choice: Which will I be, sexual or serious? We must reject that false and forced dilemma. Men’s sexuality is taken to be enhanced by their seriousness; to be at the same time a serious person and a sexual being is to be fully human. Let’s turn on those who offer this devil’s bargain and refuse to believe that in choosing one aspect of the self we must thereby forfeit the other. In a world in which women have real choices, the choices we make about our appearance will be taken at last for what they really are: no big deal.”–Naomi Wolf, ‘The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women’

The sexual, intelligent and intellectual woman – considered an impossible combination for those who suffer from the Madonna-Whore complex (Image: actress Claudia Cardinale)
WOMEN AS SEXUAL ‘PIECES OF MEAT’ AND THE DOWNPLAYING/DENIGRATION OF THE FUNCTION OF WOMEN’S BIOLOGICAL BODIES AS HUMANS AND IN RITUALS

In the same way, as Carol J Adams writes, in The Pornography of Meat and The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. producing and eating meat, also requires a ‘looking away’ and lack of compassion for the animals bred and killed for that purpose, as does the sexual objectification of women bodies as pieces of ‘meat’:

The focus on women’s bodies and the fragmenting of individual body parts causes women to become sexual objects, just as animals become objects when eaten as “meat.” When a man identifies himself as a “breast man,” “leg man” or “ass man” he reduces women to their body parts, consumed like meat.

In fact, it has been argued by many biological women that trans women activists and their insistence on ignoring biological sex and the inner workings of the female body when defining a ‘woman’, while emphasising regressive, gender stereotypes, has only exacerbated this idea that women’s biological bodily functions are nothing much to revere or focus on. Hence, British author JK Rowling’s recent assertions about the importance of defining women by biological sex and not in terms of gender and the statement by African feminist, Chimananda Adichie that ‘trans women are trans women’. For them (and others), breasts, wombs, ovaries, vaginas are not some ‘costume’ one wears/feigns to look ‘female’ they are a biological reality with important and essential physical and social functions. Indeed. For example, no matter how much people protest, biological heterosexual men are not being forced to consider a trans woman the same as a biological woman when it comes to sexual intercourse and making babies, so why are biological women being forced to accept them as such in sporting events and changing rooms etc? 

As I wrote about here before, tantric union practice is biological male-female for a reason and nothing to do with heteronormativity or transphobia but with inner channels and biology.  Even rituals have often been associated with menstruation cycles, blood and giving birth:

“The word – ritual – comes from – rtu – sanskrit for menses. The earliest rituals were connected to the woman’s monthly bleeding. The blood from the womb that nourished the unborn child was believed to have mana, magical power. Women’s periodic bleeding was a cosmic event, like the cycles of the moon and the waxing and waning of the tides. We have forgotten that women were the conduit to the sacred mystery of life and death.” ~ Elinor Gadon
 
As Louise Bourgeois’ visceral and moving artwork ‘The Birth’ (image below) shows us, women’s biology is painful, bloody, sensual, life-giving and experienced:
‘The Birth’ by Louise Bourgeois (2007). Medium: Gouache on paper. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/bourgeois-the-birth-t14856

To conclude then, let us ‘turn away from’ this sexual objectification, degradation and dismissal of women’s biology and functions and emphasise and praise their spiritual, sacred and practical purpose! 

Flesh petals, 1971. Graphite on paper by Faith Wilding (Paraguayan/American, born 1943)
FURTHER READING/BIBLIOGRAPHY

Tara: The Sri Lankan Deity At The British Museum by Shannine Daniel (Roar Media, 2021)

The Female Nude, Art, Obscenity, and Sexuality by Lynda Nead  (Routledge, 1992)

Art Review: 15th Century Tibetan Tārā with the ‘Roman nose’ by Adele Tomlin (2022)

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf (Harper Perennial 2002, first edition, 1991)

Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism by Miranda Shaw (Princeton, 1995) 

Dakini’s Warm Breath, the Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism by Judith Zimmer-Brown (Shambhala Publications, 2022)

Difficult and wild women: The Invisibility and Overlooking of Females in Buddhism, Past, Present and Future : Patriarchal Denial, Gender Blindness and Female Tokenism by Adele Tomlin (2021)

‘DAKINI IS TRUTH!’; TILOPA’S OVERLOOKED; FEMALE TEACHERS AND ENTERING ‘UNCONVENTIONAL’ CONDUCT (TUL-ZHUG) by Adele Tomlin (2021)

UNSUNG HEROINES, MOTHERS OF MAHĀMUDRĀ AND SOURCE OF SARAHA’S SONGS : Re-telling the (her)stories of the symbolic ‘arrow-maker’ Dakhenma, and the ‘radish-curry’ cook gurus of siddha, Saraha by Adele Tomlin (2021)

Tantric Buddhism, vows, sex and women – the importance of love, respect and consent   by Adele Tomlin (Dakini Publications, 2020)

Miss Himalaya 2012: an ugly beauty in Tibetan exile by Adele Wilde-Blavatsky (Phayul.com, October 2012) and Dolma Magazine (2012)

The Pornography of Meat and The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J Adams (Bloomsbury, 1990)

Damage of Porn Usage Beyond Bedroom: Madonna-Whore Complex by Bill Yuan (Medium (2021)

Elizabeth Heyert Interrogates the Madonna Whore Complex  (Elephant Art)

The male-female tantric union: Homophobic heteronormativity or biological inner essences? by Adele Tomlin (2021)

 


[1] The former Dudjom Rinpoche famously was said to have taught his students that unless a person had ‘equal taste ‘ of all phenomena without disgust and with a tsa lung practice that draw up urine/semen at the point of expulsion, back up the genitalia (as he is said to have demonstrated when asked to do so) then they should not attempt it.  For that reason, it has been said, by HH Dalai Lama and others, that only very few people are qualified to engage in such a practice. The consort also has to have specific qualities, as I have written about before here.

4 thoughts on “THE ‘CENSORED’ TARA: POWERFUL PASSION VS PRUDISH PURITY. Depictions of women in Buddhist art and literature and the sexual objectification, denigration and censorship of women’s biology and nakedness

  1. I appreciate all that you do and your sharing! Felt that it may be beneficial to share and would be important to do so with a heart of love, to express something as someone who is called nonbinary. To assert that “tantric union practice is biological male-female for a reason and nothing to do with heteronormativity or transphobia but with inner channels and biology” is in itself a harmful sweeping statement which has no inherent basis, it can be said that it is due to the very cause of heteronormativity that one could be emboldened to say that it has nothing to do with heteronormativity or causing harm to trans folk. The system of “biology” and the assertion of it having an inherent essence or existence other than an interdependent origination or designation. though this isn’t to push it away either. It is a reminder that it is completely comprised of a grasping to labels and cultural matrix. These designations appear according to the mutually agreed upon system called biology as perceived and believed to be established in some kind of inherent way when they are actually in brief are just a compounded billblah which can have use in the relative for some who subscribe to the system or to whom is works for such as energetic principle. What you and others may call a “female” body, (Ultimately, even a body is not a body, it is called a body) one with such a body you may label “female” may label otherwise. Neither are established in any way but are dependent designation for the purpose of the relative (ie. relating! Which can be said to be the heart essence of love and compassion.) As an analogy, you can take a tuft of soil into your hand and blow it – it disperses into the ten directions leaving no trace. This is the nature of all appearance and apparent existence. Just wanted to share with the intention to be of some benefit, if at all. May all beings dance the dance of the sky, vividly clear, nakedly open and luminous!

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, of course on the ultimate level, there is no self, other, separation, race, biology, body and so on. But we are not acting and seeing at that level on a daily basis. We are very much in a dualistic world and that world operates in terms of biological constraints and limits, sexism, misogyny, racism, ageism and so on. Thus, until one is an enlightened Buddha we have to deal with the dualistic appearances and injustices that occur because one is biologically a female or male. Would you also dare to say racism and race do not exist ultimately, when a person of colour feels they have been racially discriminated against? I doubt it.

      Gender (cultural ideas about how females and males act, think and look) is a sexist, outdated construct and has nothing to do with being biologically female or male. Try as one might like, our biology on the relative level, like our ethnicity, culture and race, cannot so easily be wished away or ignored. The biological bodies of male and female are different and cannot just be operated away either. Being a female in samsara is not just a matter of having long hair, looking pretty and wearing dresses and women’s clothes etc. Breasts, vaginas, wombs are physical aspects of bodies that also (most of the time) perform certain biological functions).

      The tantric union (in Vajrayana) as a practice is based on the biological and inner channels of men and women which then lead one into the ultimate union of bliss-emptiness. I understand this may be difficult for you (or others) to accept but sexism and misogyny towards biological males and females if a very real part of samsara and the relative appearances! Therefore, we have to deal with them on that level too.

      1. Dear friend

        Appreciate very much your response and rejoice in discussion as well as in your sharing of your beliefs open-heartedly!

        Relativity and the absolute nature are not separate, nor do they require being brought into union by some kind of conceptual elaboration or exertion. There is no is denying the infallibility of relative cause and effect either! It can be said that it is very extreme to make sweeping all-or-nothing statements in discussion. It can close the door in conversation for those who may have something to say other than what you believe. For example, that gender is *nothing* to do (with ie. bodily functions), or this has *nothing* to do with that?

        Labels referring to gender or the labels used in the name of biology are dependent designations, the labels male and female, men and women according to the functioning of composite parts, they are labels and words which mean things they are utterly equal in their phenomenal function as a pointing out. Whether it is a gender identity and so forth, or the assertion that the word male and the word female has an inherent basis in appearances. These are the stories that are told then believed in, within the relative, categories, concepts, interdependent designations applied to phenomena with belief in there being an actual basis,

        With that being said to see the absolute not being other than appearance and the appearance not being other than the absolute neither affirms nor negates that discrimination, misogyny, or oppression that occurs! It is very important, in the relative, to recognize how within these frameworks of belief, which are divisive, create pain and suffering for sentient beings.

        Whether or not one is called a Buddha, we have to encounter the veil of dualistic appearances in the relative where there is no dismissing that our mothers suffer because of clinging, anger, and ignorance. Sentient beings are called sentient beings because they conduct fallibly in accord with the realm of phenomena. There is no dismissing the divisive pretenses which perpetuate racism, transphobia, misogyny, ageism and so forth.

        As Mother Tara says, “There is neither man nor woman nor self nor personhood nor notion of such. Attachment to [the designations] ‘male and female’ is meaningless, and deludes worldly people with poor understanding. . . .She then vowed: Many desire enlightenment in a man’s body, while not even a single [person] strives for the benefit of sentient beings in a woman’s body. Therefore, I shall work for the benefit of sentient beings in a woman’s form as long as saṃsāra has not been emptied.”

        In the formations, though they appear in all their sophisticated and elaborate vitality, they are not established in anyway especially according to what one may think, what stories one can say about them, believe about them, elaborate based on upon them nor even how they appear. Nonetheless, that does not negate nor affirm the vivid appearance of these stories and constructs whether created under a cultural or biological context. They really do appear, so based on a perceived and subscribed substantiality to the conceptual notions of male and female overlayed onto the very apparent functions such as that of breasts, vaginas, and wombs.

      2. You have dodged my question about race and gender. Would you dare to say to a black person that race does not exist ultimately and therefore we should say that racism does not exist? No. So why say that sexism and misogyny don’t really exist for biological women? If a white person felt they wanted to identify as black and wore black face-colour and made their hair afro, would it be OK for them to insist to biologically black people that they are black? If you answer these questions then we are having a discussion. Perhaps it is you who wants to close the discussion? Race and gender ideas are based on biology I agree with you, and thus cannot be ignored, but the racial and gender stereotypes about black people and women are regressive and out-dated. What notion of ‘feminine’ or ‘woman’ are trans women relying on that makes them identify as women? Surely that notion of women is a sexist/regressive one?

        Biological men are not and never will be the same as a biological woman. That’s not transphobia its a physical reality. In the same way that a white, Caucasian person will never be the same as a black person of African descent. it is patronising to women to suggest otherwise. There is a LOT more to being a woman than wearing make-up, having long hair, high heels, looking pretty and feeling ‘feminine’ whatever that means. Wombs, vaginas, breasts (whether they are functioning or not) are not just some trivial physical things to be glossed over/diminished in being a woman. The inner life of a woman is a sacred thing and the source of human life itself. Such attacks by biological men, who want to identify as women, on biological women looks like another form of misogyny itself. By all means, if biological men want to look like and identify as women they should be free to do so without harassment or discrimination. But if they insist on everyone seeing them as the same as biological women, that is not OK and is also a type of harassment and bullying in itself if done aggressively.

        For example, why are trans men not harassing and attacking biological men in the same way for not accepting them fully as men? Why are they not insisting that men let them into the same changing rooms, toilets and competitions? The reason for that is simple, biology. Trans men are still biologically women and it would be unsafe for them to insist on those things with men.

        Patronisingly citing the ultimate non-dual level of reality to completely ignore the relative reality and lived lives of biological women (or black people), while ignoring their biological realities and the impact that has on their emotional, sexual, practical lives is just a form of bypassing and using spiritual philosophy to yet again attack and undermine women.

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