Lately I’ve been reflecting upon the Global Women’s March that took place on January 21st. I was amazed at how many people showed up around the world to show their solidarity for women and all the other sociopolitical issues. They weren’t all women, in fact there were plenty of men, children, individuals from the LGBQT community, and others who showed up. This kind of union of the masses of people was liberating to watch and experience, for underneath all the signs and faces emerged two aspects: equality and inequality, its other side. Today, we currently witness a considerable amount of inequality between men and women so the question becomes: how can we better understand this inequality in order to achieve equality?
In the Tantric tradition of Buddhism we can find some guidance that can help shine light on the dualistic perspective of masculinity and femininity. The tradition holds that there are two principles: the feminine and the masculine. There are several levels of understanding for these qualities, but I’ll focus on the most basic of meanings. These principles are defined separately but are understood as working together. Females don’t just possess feminine qualities and males don’t just possess masculine qualities: They are inherent and co-emerge within all of us, continuously. Perhaps with some insight into the nature of these two principles we can restore sanity and nurture our perspective in a way that isn’t harmful to others or ourselves.
The first is the feminine principle, defined as wisdom and emptiness, which is space. These qualities are astute and pervasive, intelligent energies. They can be keen and perceptive, sensitive and all-inclusive. Where there is wisdom, there is clarity and within this clarity, there is the realization of the non-dualistic aspect of being. With insight and clarity of perception, one can witness injustice, oppression and hypocrisy while also witnessing justice, freedom and honesty. The basic nature of the feminine principle is awareness: open, free and ever-present.
The second of the two, is the masculine principle, which is defined as skillful means and compassion. These qualities show up as strength, resilience, tolerance, patience, accommodation, loyalty, groundedness, reliability and group orientation. By bringing these qualities to our awareness, we are able to begin to actualize them, meaning that the practice of such qualities is the active force towards their manifestation outwardly in our world.
When we all are more aware of these innate principles or qualities in us, we are able to benefit ourselves and others through a deeper understanding and a more cooperative, non-dualistic way of being in the world. When we isolate or separate the two, there is division, tension and competition. This duality can create anger, aggression, hatred, fear, dishonesty and many other mental and emotional disturbances. This division creates our suffering. Through our awareness and understanding of this suffering and its causes, we begin to remove our veil of ignorance and see what is truly happening.
Once we have an understanding of these two principles we can begin to see how they are really a union; in other words they co-emerge. Without the union of these two principles we are unbalanced. When we synchronize these energies we revitalize our human experience which gives us a deeper and more harmonious life. Our perception of gender is transformed and we can see beyond the relative, ordinary view of male and female and begin to perceive our humanity from a more unified viewpoint. We begin to relate to others as humans rather than just male or female. Thus, the dualistic perspective is transformed into a non-dualistic view. The co-emergence of the feminine and masculine qualities are integrated and can now benefit beings from a more balanced perspective. Through this understanding, we are able to experience less suffering mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. A sense of equanimity occurs, and one’s mind becomes more relaxed.
In sum, understanding the feminine and masculine qualities can help us relate to the current issues of our world in which so many of us feel oppressed, neglected, unheard and overwhelmed. We’re all looking for a sense of ease and harmony in which to live our lives. With the understanding of wisdom and skillful means, we can aim to bring intention and attention to the need of transformation in our minds and actions which can benefit ourselves and all beings.
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