ACCOMMODATION AND SEXISM
A big story in this week’s news concerns some religious clerics who requested (and were given) special treatment by Canada’s Border Security. They apparently did not want to be checked over by any women staff for reputedly religious reasons. CBSA , as they have done before, it seems, accommodated their request. Is this a matter of accommodating religious beliefs, like women wearing face covering or those in uniform being allowed to substitute a turban for a cap?
All religions have their restrictions, and Buddhadharma is no exception. For example, its part of the Theravadin monastic regime that they avoid being touched by anyone. I’m not sure why this might be. Buddhists don’t subscribe to theories of contamination. Our tradition began in part because of our great grandfather Shakyamuni’s rejection of the caste system and its discrimination. There is, of course, an acknowledgment that we can be distracted by being touched when we are engaged in meditative practice. Perhaps, some monastics sustain their practice so thoroughly that it even pervades airport travel. I don’t wish to pre-judge a situation, but I suspect we are once more dealing with another example of the claim that men can be corrupted or stained by contact with women. This is certainly present in some Buddhist traditions, and that is our mistake to challenge and correct.
Our Canadian society is great because we tend to respect those different from us. We do and do need to accommodate differing religious beliefs. This must not be unquestioning, however. We need to ask whether requests like these are driven by racism, sexism or other prejudices, rather than real religious orders. As Buddhists, if we are aware of such practices in practitioners of our Way, we are obliged to question and confront this where we find it.
Yours in the Dharma,
om namo amida butsu