In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Don’t Resist: Resist!

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.

~Audre Lorde

Hey y’all, thank you so much for all the incredibly thoughtful comments on my first two posts. (For those just now hopping on board, they are here and here — the first one, which has my comment guidelines, might be especially helpful to read.)

Today I thought I’d share a post from my own blog (Kloncke! rhymes with honk, wonk, and badonkadonk) that speaks to similar themes (harm v. suffering; being open to situations v. putting yourself in danger) and might help illustrate some of the principles. In general I tend to write more about how dhamma might be useful for feminism (mainly because that’s what I’m working through for myself these days), but this one is a bit more about how a feminist lens can help make dhammic teachings more relevant. (And we’re not talking Add-Women-And-Stir.)

I promise I’m not always so serious! 🙂 In fact, the vast majority of the work on my own blog has quite a different vibe, based on my own theories of mindful blogging as spiritual praxis. More on that later. For now, goodnight — looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one!


I’ll be the first to admit it, folks: non-resistance, one of the core elements of Buddhist or dhammic praxis, seems like a sham. On its face, non-resistance sounds like one or a combination of (a) weakness: a sort of rationalized fear of fighting back; (b) delusion: playing Mary Sunshine and pretending that there’s nothing to resist; or (c) apathy: leaving it to fate or karma or whatever to sort everything out.

With a slightly more nuanced view of non-resistance, we realize that it doesn’t so much refer to external conflict or confrontation, but has more to do with our internal states, as a tool for reducing suffering. A British professor, a guest speaker I heard at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center back in September, cited as an example the moment you open a delicious-looking box of chocolates, only to find that they’ve all been eaten up — except the coconut ones, which you hate. The more we resist reality (by fantasizing about the missing chocolates; resenting the scoundrels who devoured them), the greater our suffering will become.

Ok, understandable, but something still feels off. It was at that moment, when he pulled out the bonbon anecdote, that the thought occurred to me: This white guy has no idea of the weight of the words he’s using.

Resistance. Struggle.

These words carry a lot of meaning for a lot of people. How could he use them so blithely, so unawares?

Now, it wasn’t just a matter of the professor: his explanation, language and vocabulary were also tied to the audience he was addressing: largely wealthy, white, overeducated, and middle-aged. But there was also a larger context: the neighborhood in which this dharma talk was taking place. Area 4, poor and gentrifying, a long under-resourced and heavily policed area, with lots of homeless and near-homeless people of color.

When talking about non-resistance, how often do we hear examples of irritation like sitting in traffic? Not getting a bonus or promotion at your firm? Undergoing chemotherapy?

In my experience, A Lot.

And how often do we hear examples of police profiling and brutality? Eviction? Domestic abuse? Racist education? Colonization? War?

It’s a shame that so many dharma talks by convert Americans in the U.S., from what I’ve seen and read, are couched in terms of a white ruling-class (and often straight, male, cisgendered, non-disabled) experience. Some may include the “social justice question” as an afterthought, or as a response in a Q & A, but rarely do dharmic explanations center around the people who must resist routinized oppression in order to survive. Talks ignore these realities. And that ignorance, willful or not, can raise a lot of skepticism about the dharma. Earlier in 2009, brownfemipower approached this same question from a different angle: the notion of submission, and whether it can ever be relevant to people who don’t really have a choice.

Fortunately, though, the way I see it, when we get to the deep meaning of non-resistance, we understand that it is totally compatible with political and social struggle. Lately I’ve run across a few explications that speak to confronting violence or abuse.

Some psychologists, among them Tara Brach and Marsha Linehan, talk about radical acceptance—radical meaning “root”—to emphasize our deep, innate capacity to embrace both negative and positive emotions. Acceptance in this context does not mean tolerating or condoning abusive behavior. Rather, acceptance often means fully acknowledging just how much pain we may be feeling at a given moment, which inevitably leads to greater empowerment and creative change.

– Christopher K. Germer from “Getting Along” (Tricycle, Spring 2006)

Non-resistance means looking at the totality of a given situation: not denying any aspect or focusing too narrowly on one area. And not getting lost in our own imagination, our own reactions, or our own desires to appear strong, calm, courageous, or unperturbed. In a conversation with Pema Chödrön, Alice Walker makes a similar point about the importance of acknowledging and accepting pain when somebody tells us to “go to the back of the bus”:

The cause of someone’s aggression is their own suffering. So we can connect with our own aggression and provocation, feel that, and exude good wishes for ourselves and others.

Let’s be clear: exuding good wishes for ourselves and others doesn’t rule out strong action. Even physical, militant action. In his essay “Loving the Enemy” (2002), Jeffrey Hopkins writes,

If your own best friend went mad and came at you with a knife to kill you, what would you do? You would seek to disarm your friend, but then you would not proceed to beat the person, would you? You would disarm the attacker in whatever way you could—you might even have to hit the person in order to disarm him, but once you have managed to disarm him, you would not go on to hurt him. Why? Because he is close to you.

If you felt that everyone in the whole universe was in the same relationship to you as your very best friend, and if you saw anyone who attacked you as your best friend gone mad, you would not respond with hatred. You would respond with behavior that was appropriate, but you would not be seeking to retaliate and harm the person out of hatred. He would be too dear to you.

We’re not talking docility here. What makes non-resistance so great and useful is that it’s not a prescription for action or non-action, but rather an aid to clear-sightedness that we can apply to any given situation. It says: look at the reality in front of you. Much as we might want to deny that our friend is brandishing a knife, he is, and that needs addressing. Much as we might want to concoct some story of betrayal — that our friend has now become our enemy — in truth he’s only our enemy if we make him so. Otherwise, he’s only sick, changed from what he was before.

As my teacher Goenkaji says, Accept each moment as it is — not as you would like it to be, but as it is.

And when the moment comes to resist, you’ll resist.

23 thoughts on Don’t Resist: Resist!

  1. Thank you for this post and the one on dhamma comments…it’s given me much to think about. I’ve been trying to apply these concepts and thinking in my own life and your explanation of “acceptance” is clarifying 🙂

  2. I have to admit I’m having mixed feelings about your posts, and I’ve been debating whether I should express them or not. I think the quote above from Andre Lorde has made me feel I should speak rather than be silent.

    In many ways we are the same. I’m interested in the dharma from a psychological and philosophical perspective and meditate daily, although I don’t call myself a Buddhist and have not taken the Five Precepts in a ritual manner.

    The material you’re posting is more or less straight dharma as it could be heard in talks from any number of Buddhist renunciates available on the net. The difference is that here it is being removed from the context of Buddhist practice, and most crucially from it’s connection to mindfulness and meditation practice.

    I can’t help feeling that presenting the teaching in this manner risks making it purely intellectual, without the challenge and benefits of ongoing meditation, where we are discouraged from focusing entirely on the intellect and rationalisation. The result could be a weakening of well-rounded practice, leaving something that resembles pop psychology. Chicken Soup for the Liberal’s Soul maybe?

    There’s also the question of attribution. In one paragraph you state:

    “In the first place, dharma is not totally a Buddhist thing. The word (with its slippery, multiple translations as “teachings” or “the way things are”) is largely associated with Buddhism, insofar as it is what the historical Buddha taught.”

    Buddhist tradition states that Siddhartha Gotama, referred to as the Buddha, wrote and taught the material referred to as dharma. To reduce this relationship to ‘Largely associated’ and ‘what the historical Buddha taught.’ weakens this relationship between the Buddha and the teaching he created in a peculiar and unnecessary manner. Would people generally state that Pride and Prejudice is “largely associated” with Jane Austen? What are you trying to achieve with this bizarre phraseology? Do you have some reason to believe he didn’t create the dharma? In what sense can something created by the Buddha not be a ‘totally Buddhist thing?’

    While you acknowledge that you have an interest in dharma and Buddhism, I think you have to take more care in stating where traditional teachings end and where your own thoughts begin. In the post Suffering, A Feminist Introduction you write:

    “Yes, in this particular sense: I looked for the source of suffering (and freedom from it) in external causes, and therefore conflated suffering and harm.
    Now I began to see things differently. Oppression (along with its flip side, privilege) causes harm. Causes pain. But is this the same as causing suffering?”

    A more honest way of putting this would be:

    Yes, in this particular sense: I looked for the source of suffering (and freedom from it) in external causes, and therefore conflated suffering and harm.
    The Buddha saw things differently. Oppression (along with its flip side, privilege) causes harm. Causes pain. But is this the same as causing suffering?”

    The sloppy attribution runs throughout your articles, and I think you know this. Rather than making more effort to distinguish between your own thoughts and a 2500 year old cultural tradition it seems as though you instead included the Andre Lorde quote.

  3. @lyle

    I think it would, in some contexts, be totally appropriate to say that Pride and Prejudice is “largely associated” with Jane Austen. It’s also associated with the movies, and with particular actors who have portrayed her characters in the movies. I’m sure it has been adapted and commented on by other authors, and so “Pride and Prejudice” exists because of Austen, but is not ONLY what she made it, others have contributed in not insignificant ways. I agree that it would be unusual to use that phrase, but I don’t think it would be inaccurate.

    Second, I think there are always difficulties in bringing religious or philosophical concepts to an audience that is not well versed in them or in the terminology and foundational tenents. I appreciate the OP’s willingness to do so, because it’s been very interesting to me to be exposed to new ideas. I guess my question to you is – is there really that much consensus within Buddhim as to what “the Buddha saw” or taught that the OP is ignoring? Or is some of what you’re objecting to as sloppy attribution a way of the OP trying to convey to an audience not expected to be well versed in the topic that they are getting only one person’s understanding of the concepts and that we should not see it as the official and universally accepted teaching/tenents of Buddhism? Or that there might be different/opposing interpretations by other adherents?

  4. I just want to point out that the final example given with the friend brandishing a knife is actually pretty problematic, as it associates violence and “madness.” Violence and mental health issues are really commonly and really falsely related a lot in culture, and it adds to a lot of stigma and violence against people with mental illnesses. The idea that people who behave in ways that are highly oppressive (racist, sexist, etc.) are “crazy” is also a common trope — one that’s really stigmatizing and ableist in itself — and one I fear that this analogy is also playing off of.

    I understand the point that is being made with the analogy, but I think that better, more accurate, and less oppressive language is most definitely needed to convey it.

  5. Lyle: is dharma a cultural tradition or is it alive?

    Lorde’s words are intended to reference the concepts of resistance and struggle, not a desire on Klonke’s part to reinvent dharma for a modern audience. At least that’s how I read the post.

  6. thank you for that note, cara – i’ve enjoyed the previous posts, especially the ideas about commenting – but was thrown off and offended by the ableist stereotypes in the example. i very much appreciate those issues being raised by a mod (rather than relying on commenters to articluate them).

    i’m assuming that the example and framing is rooted in what Kloncke describes as “couched in terms of a white ruling-class (and often straight, male, cisgendered, non-disabled) experience” and encourage Kloncke, and others, to find a new way to express this concept that rejects the ableist tropes contained in this formulation.

  7. Hi, longtime reader; first time poster. As a practicing Buddhist, I have been enjoying these essays. I just have two quick comments to make about the above comments.

    First, to Cara: I understand what you’re saying, but I think in this case, the argument only works if the friend is overtaken by a madness- a temporary illness or insanity. If the friend has been secretly, sanely plotting your death for the past 3 months, than one might have reason to react more strongly to her attack. It is when you know your friend’s heart, and you believe she still truly cares for you, that you will treat her so gently.

    Second, to Lyle: I think you made a very thoughtful point, but I would add that the Buddha articulated the Dharma but it actually existed before him. It’s like saying the Golden Rule is associated with Jesus. He may have made the phraseology famous, but the idea of treating your neighbor as yourself is a universal truth. So with the Buddha’s teachings. He spoke an objective Truth, not just just his opinion. In addition, the term “dharma” itself is older than the Buddha, appearing in the Hindu Upanishads (the religion in which the Buddha was raised).

    1. Margie, your argument is upsetting to me on numerous levels, but I’m going to answer it very, very simply.

      If there is absolutely no way for the analogy to work without relying on ableist tropes, then a new analogy is needed. Because this one is broken.

      If there is absolutely no way to express the concept without an analogy that relies on ableist tropes, then it’s seriously time to rethink the concept, and what possible use it has when it does active harm.

  8. Lyle, to be blunt, you are the one intellectualizing here. In fact, it feels like a quality derailing, spinning us away from considering how dharma practice is connected to daily life and experience, and how that experience can be vastly different based on social context, historical precedents, and yes, race, class, and all that other juicy shit.

    Buddhism is not solely meditation, and frankly many white, “western” people fail to see this. In fact, I’d argue it’s as much or more about the ethical teachings, how we work with others, and our relationships as it is about zazen. I’ve practiced nearly a decade now, have sat retreats, have been in leadership positions in my sangha – but it always, always seems to come back to how I am with others and how I am in the world on a daily basis. And that world, as far as I’m concerned, is greatly marked by social oppressions that must be faced, must become, somehow, a part of our practice. Because otherwise, in my view, you aren’t really all that serious about liberation from dukkha.

  9. I’d have to agree with others that the analogy cited from Hopkins fails, and does extend stereotypes in a way which renders it too problematic to be useful.

  10. @lyle: So basically you’re accusing klonke of plagiarizing from the Buddha’s thought? I think her writing makes it quite clear that she is sharing her understanding of these teachings, not claiming to have come up with them herself.

    Regarding the ableism in the crazy friend analogy: I’d like to restate the problem in a way that (I hope) might move us back toward discussing the content of the post itself. I apologize in advance for repeating what’s already been said, and I’m doing my best not to sound like I am lecturing anyone, nor do I want to pile on with criticism. Rather, I think this objection that people have raised to the analogy actually is closely related to the subject of kloncke’s post, which I would very much like to discuss.

    As Cara stated, the problem with the analogy is that it associates violence (or, more broadly, a desire or attempt to harm another) with madness. A less careful reading of what Cara and Abby Jean have said might lead one to the conclusion that this is bad because it’s mean to mentally ill people, to associate their conditions with a propensity toward violence. And that’s true, but it is only a very limited understanding of the problem.

    It’s also an incomplete and incorrect understanding of how the world is. In reality, madness is not the sole available explanation for violence or harm. Many people are violent or attempt to do others harm, not because they are mad, but for other reasons. And this gets to what (I think) kloncke is actually talking about here, this understanding and acceptance of reality as it is so that you can then respond appropriately. Understanding and accepting the reality of someone’s harmful or violent behavior is not consistent with dismissing it as madness.

    So the analogy breaks down, because really, how likely is it that you friend would go mad AND become violent toward you? It’s a situation that we are highly unlikely to encounter in our lives — like, ever. But, we are much more likely to encounter people who, for reasons other than madness, are violent toward us and try to do us harm. Part of the mechanism the friend analogy uses to make the point that you wouldn’t beat up your friend is the way the friend’s culpability for his/her behavior is removed — it depends on the (ableist) assumption that crazy people are not responsible for or in control of their behavior. This allows for the conclusion that, because you know the friend really wishes you well, his/her violence is a temporary aberration that doesn’t really count. Certainly it removes any justification for revenge.

    That’s just not consistent with how the world is. Sometimes people harm us by accident; but sometimes they harm us on purpose and they really do mean to. We have to find a way to deal with that head on. If we are going to argue that revenge is a poor idea — an argument I’m at least partly on board with — we have to find a way to support that argument while acknowledging that people do act in harmful ways on purpose. And sometimes, they won’t stop trying to harm us unless we stop them. Not just in the moment, but long term.

    I think that, as kloncke seems to be arguging, there are ethical ways to defend ourselves against such, but it is hard to navigate them.

  11. Hmm, I think the issue of violence and one’s response to it in this post is related to the redeemability or not of the perpetrator of violence. The analogy was meant to provide a situation in which the person attacked understands at a gut level the redeemability of the perpetrator and, although taking action to protect hirself, is not inclined to go the next step of reflecting hate or retribution back on the perpetrator. I think the analogy is trying to make the point that being willing to act in self-defense is not inherently inconsistent with cultivating feelings of love, sympathy, or kindness toward the person/people who make up the system against which one has to defend hirself. That purpose could certainly be served by a less problematic analogy.

  12. A Friend recently wrote something that I’d like to share that concerns this very subject

    The irony, often tragic, is that by embracing the scarcity assumption, we create the very scarcities we fear. If I hoard material goods, others will have too little and I will never have enough. If I fight my way up the ladder of power, others will be defeated and I will never feel secure. If I get jealous of someone I love, I am likely to drive that person away. If I cling to the words I have written as if they were the last of their kind, the pool of new possibilities will surely go dry. We create scarcity by fearfully accepting it as law, and by competing with others for resources as if we were stranded on the Sahara at the last oasis.

    In the human world, abundance does not happen automatically. It is created when we have the sense to choose community, to come together to celebrate and share our common store.Whether the “scarce resource” is money or love or power or words, the true law of life is that we generate more of whatever seems scarce by trusting its supply and passing it around. Authentic abundance does not lie in secured stockpiles of food or cash or influence or affection, but in belonging to a community where we can give those goods to others who need them – and receive them from others when we are in need.

  13. Hi everyone, thanks for the thoughts and concerns. I’m appreciating the way our conversations are rolling.

    On the ableist “madness” example first, many thanks to Cara for raising it; I hadn’t thought about it in the sense of excessive association between mental health issues and violence. I’m gonna reflect on that for a bit. But yes, I do think that explanations like that demonstrate the paucity that I’m talking about — a paucity of “ways of making [the dhamma] felt” that speak to the realistic life-situations of marginalized communities (at least in the places where I’m from).

    Maybe a more relevant example for us (in the mental health vein) would come from Isabel’s post here yesterday, Where Are My Keys I Lost My Phone (the song’s been stuck in my head for about 18 hours now, haha), in the examples she offers about being late to meet her friends and her ADD counselor.

    As a friend or counselor of Isabel’s, or someone whose brain works in a similar ADD way, does it really benefit us to get angry or try to punish her for being late or forgetting an appointment?

    K, in comment #5 on that post, describes that exact scenario from their own life:

    and before long I am late, and getting the frosty eye from people who believe in their bones that this is purely a problem of my not caring enough about them.

    I think the point is, there is a common tendency to demonize people who are harming us (whether it’s a mere inconvenience or a serious transgression). We take their behavior very personally, rather than seeing it as a negative function happening in their own mind, that actually has very little to do with us.

    James Baldwin spoke to this really eloquently at the end of a wonderful interview with Dr. Kenneth Clark (video clip including the below quote here and full interview transcript here):

    What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it.

    Baldwin transcends that problem Cara mentions, of casting people who enact oppressive behaviors as “crazy.” Instead he calls on them to investigate the nature of their own, as my dhamma teacher would call it, “mental negativity”: anger, hatred, insecurity, fear: what leads them to project the “nigger” onto Black people.

    From a dhammic perspective, as I understand it, there are lots of reasons for having compassion for people who are doing us harm. One I read recently and loved, from Khandro Rinpoche: “Compassion is not about kindness. Compassion is about awareness.” What I took from the Hopkins example, then, is the possibility of not flattening the humanity of someone who is actively hurting us, (a) because we care about them (more superficial, but still essential, kindness-type compassion), and (b) because their mind and being are complex and work in ways that actually have very little to do with us, with Who We Are (more profound, awareness-type compassion).

    So it’s not about denying that, as you say, human, “people do act in harmful ways on purpose,” but, according to the dhamma, understanding that when they do, it’s more about their own craving and aversion than anything having to do with us. We are not “niggers” — other people invented them because they thought they needed to.

    To lyle, thank you for voicing your concern with the excessive intellectualism and weak attribution. On the first one, I actually really agree with you that the meditation practice is an important piece — and that’s exactly what I’m gonna be getting into in my next post later today! But I started out with some of the more conceptual stuff for a few reasons.

    One, personally, I was someone who was initially drawn to dhamma and Buddhist philosophy through reading, not meditating, so that’s where I tend to begin. Two, since we’re here together in a non-Buddhist/non-dhamma-practicing space, I think it’s really important to first establish why any of this is even relevant to us as feminists, rather than just being like, “Hey, I’m a feminist and I meditate! Cool!” You know? Like nathan said, the sila or ethical aspects of dhamma seem to me to be a really important and fruitful point of intersection between feminism and dhamma. But you’re right: talking only about the ideas and leaving out the actual mechanisms for putting them into practice would shortchange dhamma, making it more like a theory than a praxis (theory + practice) or way of life.

    About the attribution question, I thank you for raising it and I’m going to sit with it seriously as I go forward in posting, mainly because I know I have a tendency (thanks to both personality and academic socialization) to crave praise for my ideas. Ego, and all that.

    Still, I stand by the statement that dhamma is not totally Buddhist, because that’s the way it was taught to me (under S. N. Goenka, and generally in the Theravada school), and it seems to be so in my experience. Do you disagree that one can be a Hindu, a Sikh, a Jew, atheist, agnostic, etc. and still fully practice dhamma (sila [ethics/morality], samadhi [mastery over the mind], and paññā [wisdom])? Part of why I choose to emphasize this dhamma/Buddhism distinction is that I hope it might help to allay fears that to truly practice dhamma requires ‘conversion’ to Buddhism, which alienates a lot of folks from the get-go. (Certainly did me.)

    In no way am I trying to detract from the accomplishments of Siddhartha Gotama, who worked hella hard on this stuff and is super inspiring to me, along with the many, many dhamma teachers before and after him! I’m also not trying to claim that I’m some sort of authority on dhamma. And it’s awesome to see other dhamma practitioners and Buddhists sharing their opinions on the threads! We won’t all agree on everything, and that can be good and useful.

    Ok, phew, enough noise from me. 🙂 Hope everyone’s day is going well. Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment — comment threads are truly where it’s at.

  14. One of the reasons I reacted as strongly as I did to the comments Lyle made is that this whole issue of attribution, as it was raised, seems to be missing how practice actually functions. Lyle cited the following:

    “Yes, in this particular sense: I looked for the source of suffering (and freedom from it) in external causes, and therefore conflated suffering and harm.
    Now I began to see things differently. Oppression (along with its flip side, privilege) causes harm. Causes pain. But is this the same as causing suffering?”

    And suggests that it should instead be shifted to reference Buddha as the source of wisdom. However, if you practice, if you actually meditate, engage others, and work with the ethical teachings, eventually it becomes internalized. Or, another way to say it is that you “become a Buddha.” So if Kloncke’s sense of all this has transformed as she has pointed to in other parts of the essay, than there is no attribution issue.

    Beyond this, though, I’m left to wonder why you see this post as overintellectualizing Lyle? Is it because Kloncke didn’t sprinkle in the words meditation? I honestly don’t get it.

  15. “Is it because Kloncke didn’t sprinkle in the words meditation?”

    That is almost a perfect representation of my concerns, but not perhaps in the way you intended.

    It shouldn’t be about “sprinkling in the words meditation”, it should be about a coherent presentation of dharma and meditation as a combined practice. It should involve a community of teachers and practioners, and it could also include a monastic community where individuals co-operate with others to support teachers with food, shelter and medicine, rather than just reading the material in a blog or buying someone’s book. Renunciation and moving beyond our own endless whims and desires is central to dharma, after all, and monks and nuns are a living example of this put into practice.

    Presenting the dharma as solely blog writing makes it seem ripped appart, fractured, compared to what I’m used to seeing, where material may be presented in recordings or texts, but as an addition to an actual Sangha, rather than as the only method of teaching.

  16. Lyle,

    So you’d also reject all those monks and nuns throughout history whose primary form of study with their teacher was in the form of letters? How about those hermit monks and nuns currently living in the mountains of China, whose physical, in person “sangha” is mostly the mountains, trees, plants, and animals?

    I fail to see how this single blog post is somehow threatening to misrepresent the vast and subtle dhamma, while there have been a myriad of lectures, books, and whatnot throughout history that weren’t so hot at teaching people anything about the path, but certainly didn’t destroy a single square inch of the path either.

    As a writer, I view blogging as a new form of doing the same things books, letters, and whatnot have done in the past. It’s different, but not really better or worse. And as a Buddhist who has blogged extensively about my practice life, as well as about what I see happening in the larger Buddhist world, I see blogging as an extension of my practice. It doesn’t replace zazen, precept practice, sangha engagement, and engagement in the larger world, but it certainly isn’t some exercise in ripping apart and fracturing the three treasures.

    You appear to be active on this blog, commenting on various posts and whatnot. So, I ask you, how is all this separate from your meditation practice?

  17. Katie,

    I just read the four posts you’ve put on this blog so far (in reverse order for whatever it’s worth). Of everything I read, the Christopher K. Germer quotation most spoke to me, particularly the statements “Acceptance in this context does not mean tolerating or condoning abusive behavior. Rather, acceptance often means fully acknowledging just how much pain we may be feeling at a given moment.” Wish I would have read that one four-and-a-half years ago.

    Thanks for writing. It’s fun for me to “hear” you speak in written form.

    Foolishly Yours,

  18. Hmmm….

    I almost didn’t want to reply, but well, here goes.

    Buddhism does not exist. Buddhism is a figment of our individual and collective imaginations. The “Buddhism” that we know in the “West” has little to do with Early Indian Buddhism, much in the same way that Early Indian Buddhism has little to do with Chinese Buddhism. What Buddhism has become a repository for–since its construction by Europeans as “Buddhism” (say as opposed to buddhasasana or some such), some unitary “world religion”–is all of our desires and dreams. In the early 20th century Early Buddhism was the religion of ‘rationality’ that could replace a corrupt, institutionalized, superstitious, oppressive Christianity. Then it suited our desires for mysticism and existential angst with Zen. Now Tibetan Buddhism is popular for whatever reason. Ironically, in Korea, Buddhism is seen as decadent, and Christianity is a vital, rational religion. So, why Buddhism? I guess the point I am trying to make here, is that all this discussion about what “Buddhism” is, has little to do with Buddhism and everything to do with our own conceits.

    Is Buddhism about meditation? Is it a philosophy or a religion? Is it about mindfulness, etc. etc.? The answers to these questions betray our own interests and desires. Why do we get upset when one person says Buddhism is X and another says it is not X? Why take sides?

    I think what could be useful is to step back a bit and ask: “are we not becoming problematically attached to ‘Buddhism’ when we want to think Buddhism is a certain way and to argue against the idea that it is another way?” Buddhism is a vast religion, with too many iterations to count. For most ‘buddhists’ throughout history, Buddhism was a complex of gods, rituals, social norms, and platitudes to get through their daily life. Indeed, even meditation was a minority practice among monks! Much of what we think is Buddhism has been a haphazardly constructed Orientalist stereotype that meets the needs and desires of Western audiences. We are spoon-fed a Buddhism that meets certain of our desires. Ironic.

    Given all this, the question should not be “what is Buddhism” or even “what does Buddhism say about X”? Rather, the question should be, “since every invocation of Buddhism is used for a certain end, is an appropriation, to what end am I appropriating Buddhism–and what are the consequences of that appropriation?”

  19. Ok, I appreciate all the contributions, but I think the convo about what Buddhism is is beginning to distract us from the point of the OP: non-resistance, and how to understand and make use of it as feminists.

    Let’s focus any further comments on that question. Thanks! 🙂

  20. Well, in that spirit, I want to thank you for connecting non-resistance and radical acceptance for me. I’m had learned some time ago that radical acceptance did not mean what I had first thought it to mean (and what a number of people I know who like not being held accountable for their actions like to insist it means) but had not seen that connection made to non-resistance before, and that was very interesting to me.

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