Comparison Between an Eastern and Western Philosopher
Murasaki Shikibu and Mary Daly were two feminist philosophers from different times, and different places in the world. Both women held similar beliefs on what needed to be improved in the world. However, their solutions to the problems of the world were quite different, indeed. Some may say that Mary Daly was a pioneer of her day; pushing woman’s rights forward in leaps and bounds. In the same way, some may say that Murasaki Shikibu was one of the greatest minds of her day; with her quiet resilience pushing on to eventually become a major influence on woman’s rights in Japan.
Murasaki Shikibu lived in Japan, at a time when being a woman was looked upon as retribution, for bad Karma in a past life. In this time people believed that woman could not attain salvation. They could only prepare for reincarnation, and hope that they lived a chaste enough life to be reborn as a man (Moore & Bruder, 2008).
Murasaki believed much of what Japanese Buddhism taught. However, she believed that woman could,in fact, achieve salvation. Japanese Buddhism at the time was a combination of:
- Shinto Animism: A nature loving religion where there are many Deities; the sun, moon, fire, and water are all good examples (Moore & Bruder, 2008).
- Four Noble Truths: “There is suffering; suffering has specific and identifiable causes; suffering can be ended; the way to end suffering is through enlightened living as expressed in the Eightfold Path” (Moore & Bruder, 2008 p.530).
- Yin: Expansive forces in the universe (Moore & Bruder, 2008 p. 537).
- Yang: Contractive forces in the universe (Moore & Bruder, 2008 p. 537).
- Confucius Virtues: Confucius believed one could become a superior man who was honest, and whose thoughts matched their deeds; a person who could be depended on for anything.
- The Mahayana Buddhist doctrine of void: Prince Shotoku merged the belief in one God with The Shinto Religion.
To this Murasaki added the quest for spiritual enlightenment (Moore & Bruder, 2008).
Murasaki’s father was an educated man as well as a Governor. Murasaki’s intelligence was realized at a very young age. When she was young, her father told her that he wished she had been born a boy because she would have brought him much happiness. Nevertheless, he still let her observe her brothers studies. She became well known for her writing including a diary and a book that may have been the first novel ever. This book was called The Tale of Genji ("Female Heroes of Asia: Japan", 2012).
The Tale of Genji was set approximately 75 years before Murasaki’s time. The time span of the events that occurred in the book lasted approximately the same amount of time, 75 years. In this book Murasaki speaks of love, jealousy, rage, and passion. These emotions are not looked well upon in the Buddhist religion; it is in fact considered a sin to feel these emotions. However, the book has since been viewed as a learning tool. The book shows that when the characters focus on their earthly needs and succumbs to these emotions they in affect, suffer deeply. Moreover, it is not until someone releases these, needs and emotions, that they can truly reach enlightenment.
Mary Daly lived from 1928-2010. She was known for her feminist work; specifically, in the male dominant world of religion. One of her colleges, at Boston College, is one of her biggest supporters. John Mcdargh often speaks of something that happened back in the 1970’s, to a young African American student, in one of her classes. Daly noticed that the student was struggling with his studies, so she questioned him about it. He confided in her that he had been traumatized by a hate crime at the university. She spent time with this student for weeks, slowly bringing back his self esteem, and helping him to look at the situation from a different historical standpoint (Hunt, 2012).
Daly believed that God was an important part of everyday life. However, she believed that God being the all powerful male figure, was detrimental to woman’s rights. Furthermore, she maintained that Gods dualistic image of a vengeful father and an all loving fatherly figure, paved the way to bad intentions. She thought that people started to feel like they could justly hate and discriminate against others, who do not live as the vengeful God mandates. In fact, they believed that they have a moral obligation to do these things purely out of “love” for their fellow man (Moore & Bruder, 2008).
Daly Believed that since society felt as if it was an honor to refer to God as a male, then society is claiming that woman are somehow inferior to men. Furthermore, Daly believed that God should be a verb, not a noun. She went on to say that God has stolen our identity. In addition, she ascertained that God dangles salvation over our heads; and promotes hate, fear, and guilt. She demanded that woman stand up for their selves and use their anger to spread the word of a sexless God (Moore & Bruder, 2008).
These two philosophers, although from different times and sides of the world, agree on many points. Both agree that woman should be more important in the religious world. Additionally, they both agree that God should be considered a verb; that god is not male or female, God is unexplainable and asexual. In addition, both of these women were responsible for educational works that will help woman for years to come.
The major difference between these women is the way they went about getting their information out. Murasaki was meek and timid. She lived a righteous life where anger was not permitted. Daly fueled woman’s anger, so that woman everywhere could be heard. In addition, although they believed in a sexless God, the similarity between the religions ends there. Murasaki was a Buddhist who believed that if one did not meet their karmic goal, they would be reincarnated again and again, until they got it right. Only then, would they reach enlightenment. Daly was a post Christian who lived by the doctrines of Christianity, other than the aforementioned beliefs that she held.
In conclusion, both of these women were extremely intelligent woman, who actually made a difference in the world. Murasaki Shikibu made it through her quiet resolve. In the same way, Mary Daly made it through force, pushing her way out into the male dominant world. Neither of these women were wrong in regard to the way they chose to make a difference. Both of their lives left an imprint that will last many years to come.