April 29, 2011. Muir beach
by Norman Fischer | May 03, 2011 at 12:55 PM
I have been trying to think about gender. In response to disclosures of sexual misconduct in North American Buddhist communities, we've been having some conversations here in the sangha, mostly small private groups that we intend eventually to turn into small "rolling" conversations, for those who want. Especially the delicate discussion about gender in teacher student relationship, which comes out as subrosa erotic currents as well as weird power relations that no one wants to think about or admit are there (least of all me!). Too difficult to talk about because there are no clear edges to it, that is, it brings you into the vague borders of what is conscious and not, what is actually going on or not. Then you think about it or write about it in a blog and you are inevitably saying something that is exaggerated or not true or you are forgetting to say the one thing that is true and salient. So one could argue that it is better not to have brought up such a thing at all.
Then there is the problem of who is speaking, a young or old person, a man, a woman, hetero or homosexual or something in between, teacher, student, new student, old student, and one's whole disastrous and confusing personal history enters into it. Who is not vulnerable and confused here? Even the great zen master is clueless! Zhaozho and company never went into this territory. So yes, better not to get into it, yet of course there it is, laying there on the table right in the middle of the meal, like a smelly old dead fish.
So I suppose the intention is to bring it up, get uncomfortable and confused, hurt one another irreparably, and then move on as if none of that had ever happened! Excellent! Truth is, spiritual practice together in an intimate sangha is all about love, certainly I do love people who practice with me (not "my" "students," I still can't see that, though I recognize the place I occupy and try to occupy it as long as I am standing in it). Do I love women more than men? Not more, but yes differently being a heterosexual guy, at least as far as I can tell. Generally I like women a lot. But maybe there is no way that could be true, because there is no way I don't see women thru a male sexualized lens and therefore cannot possibly see them? Which would have to go the same for men too I guess, in reverse? Which would mean that my perceptions of everyone are distorted. And yet I remain absolutely convinced of what I see, even though I know better. I do know better.
And we are trying, together, to get to the truth of things, despite all this. And what do we mean by truth? Is it a feeling we have, or don't have, or would like to have about our lives? Does truth make us feel better? If we feel better, does this mean we are truthful?