In these days of deep psychological soul-searching and spiritual re-assessment it is common to hear voices raised in support of the female energy of divinity. This has been an aspect of contemporary spirituality—probably initiated by Dion Fortune in the early 20th century, which has particularly grown in popularity in the West over the last few decades.
However, widespread acceptance of a female aspect to divinity is starting to spread even further afield with several previously dogmatic faiths beginning to realize that our planet and its fragile ecosystems are in urgent need of the sort of healing and nourishment that only the Goddess can provide.
There are some quarters within orthodox religious practices that firmly oppose the disengagement with an established order that such a change would necessitate.
They would much sooner hang onto the old established ways.
Buddhism is one of those remaining dogmas still fixed to what some perceive as a golden patriarchal age. However, the winds of change are even blowing through the foundation of this essentially male-dominated system.
In her book Time to Stand Up Buddhist writer and teacher Thanissara opens the first of many acerbic observations of her chosen faith with the following statements; “…at the heart of androcentric Buddhism there tends to be a psychological bias towards nihilism. This is a life-defying and somewhat aloof disregard for the world … and as an ideal doesn’t necessarily translate into a sharing of resources or support for the impoverished and marginalised.
The author extends her criticism further by directly connecting the ecological problems that we currently face with this same spiritual dissonance and deep disconnectedness with the realities of our rapidly decaying natural world.
Thanissara refers to this as ‘systemic patriarchy’ and, through ’Time to Stand Up’, she reveals her fervent belief that it is indeed the feminine principle of that is central to rebalancing our world and to initiate environmental healing.
In her book she describes some of the deep challenges that she faced back in the 1980s as a young nun in training in the Buddhist tradition.
Sadly, as a consequence of having to cope with the misogynistic tendencies of her fellow practitioners the author openly admits that she
…began to internalize a disregard for myself as a female.
Maybe it was the resultant sense of isolation that this created within her that fuelled what the book continues to identify as as strong revolutionary streak within her a take that closely mirrors the story of the Buddha himself when confronted by a set of circumstances that lay outside of his comfort zone.
Throughout her book the author steps outside of the confines of religious and spiritual philosophical debate to challenge head-on the massively powerful corporate powers that control us and which also seek to decimate our natural world for the sake of profit.
She also identifies personal, physical, psychological and spiritual abuse in its many virulent strains and the forms that they take in reigning down upon the sympathetic, empathetic and enlightened members of our non-orthodox communities. She see this being promoted and sustained by those protected by what she refers to as ‘privilige of hierarchy’.
Having highlighted the scale of the ecological disaster that she feels is fast bearing down upon humanity the author does manage to offer some hope and degree of salvation for society and our planet.
In the main, this sense of optimism centers around fast-evolving personal and collective change along with the process of deep inner transformation.
Despite her misgivings Thanissara does feel that the Buddhist way can offer us guidance in how this is attainable.
Finally the book loses with an afterword—a personal and reflective commentary by the author regarding her motivations for acting to combat the forces of destruction around us, as well as her experiences and devotion to the Buddhist practice of Khan Yin.
Our Review of ‘Time to Stand Up’ by Thanissara
If you listen very quietly you can hear the creaking strains of decay and destruction from deep within most of our established religious institutions here in the West.
In the Eastern theological disciplines this is rather less evident—if indeed it is happening at all!
Buddhism is one of those old-time religions that has to engage in a serious debate over its role in a modern society and the ramifications of its failed doctrines related to our natural world.
Voices for change are unlikely to be heard from the males in the religion but it might just be initiated by the women and in particular from those women who are still committed to fundamental Buddhist values but whom recognise the problems that exist.
To this end the personal insights, observations and commentaries of Thanissara in her book offers a very important point from which that discussion should and must take place.
Time to Stand Up is a brave book, written by an impassioned and vitally dynamic writer who cares deeply about the direction we are heading and the role that Buddhism is, in part at least, taking in leading us all off in completely the wrong direction.
Throughout her book Thanissara offers the reader a timely warning that change is not only necessary but that it is also part of the natural order of things. This is not the woolly-headed, feminist tirade on the masculine influence and its destructive influence over the past 1500 years that it could so easily have become. Instead it is a beautifully-reasoned, excellently constructed and exciting publication that carries its reader along from page to page.
As the author herself states—it is indeed time to stand up and she is clerkly prepared to follow her plea through with concerted action on her own part Thanissara does herself a great deal of credit both in writing this book and by using a form of directed communication that hopefully will resonate with those at whom she is directing her opinions.
As a vibrant, fascinating, charmingly introspective look at Buddhism this is a book that brings a sense of hope to those who engage with, and venerate, the divine feminine—not just women but also men who are strong enough of character to stand up and admit to the mistakes of the past.