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Dharma The Old and The New
Women and Dharma (my version)
DHARMA, THEN AND NOW
To truly understand what the meaning and purpose of dharma is we must define it first. As I looked into this very abstract meaning of this, the meanings became even deeper and more complex. “The belief of dharma or Dharma dates back to literally the 1200 B.C. It is considered the living life force in the life of the Indian. Dharma is considered Moral Law of the world”.(Abreu, Sean 1)
In the story of The Ramayana it was considered good “Dharma” by the wife of Sita when she wanted to near Ramayana in the woods when he was vacated from his home. Sita took it seriously that her dharma was very much attached to her husband. When the demon Ravana kidnapped her, she again shows her use of dharma with only letting Ramayana rescue her, and again she shows it with her faith as a wife when he abandoned her and didn’t believe that she was pure. Sita was faithful and loving and full of hope, even when her circumstances dictated differently. The story has long been a story passed down and looked at by the Hindu population to set a precedence on how one should act, during the good times and bad.
In my study of dharma, I have learned that there are two types. The first one is Dharma that is spelled with a capital “D”. It has a different meaning then the dharma spelled with a small “d”. I thought that was very interesting, almost like a play on words in the English language like “Lie” and “Lie” Lie down on the floor, or She will lie. Like in those two very different meanings of the same word, dharma has a similar effect. “The Dharma with a capital “D” means “Dharma [Sanskrit] approximately translates as “that which upholds, or supports.” Dharma also interprets a nebulous range of religious concepts: righteousness, the virtuous path, the law, teachings, a manner of being, to fasten, to hold, to maintain, to preserve, to employ, to practice, to keep, and to possess”. (Abreu, Sean 1)
“It has a meaning of supernatural. When you follow “Dharma” not only are you following a way of being, you believe in a power greater than yourself. The dharma that is spelled with lower case letters is broken down and a little more complex than the capital. “ It has to do with the wheel of life and the way time goes in one’s spiritual life. It’s dividing up into six realms. There is the beginning at the top, the heavenly realm where divine beings devas, enjoy a very long life of godlike blissful existence”. (Gyalwa Karmapa 1)
The main reason why I went through such lengths to describe what dharma means, is so that we can begin to understand the reasoning behind, especially the women who follow it
“At first it was thought that women were not going to be able to maintain an order of the practice of Buddhism thus “dharma” but the aunt of Buddha herself established and order of women that governed themselves and created an order of priesthood and showed that they were more than capable of holding themselves responsible and upholding the laws that they were subject too.” (Gylalwa Karmapa 2)
“ They were able to establish their own Mahaprajapati were:
Khema, foremost scholar of Great Wisdom.
Bhadra (Yasodhara), foremost in miraculous accomplishment (mahasiddhi).
Gautami, foremost in holiness.
Sakula, foremost in clairvoyance.
Dharmadina, foremost missionary and teacher.
Uppalavanna, foremost in realization.
Bhadra Kundali, foremost in psychic faculties.
Nanda, foremost of the Forest Meditators.
Bhadra Kapila, foremost in remembering past-lives.
Patacara, foremost holder of the Vinaya.
Sigalakamatra, foremost in "attainment through faith'.
Sonya, foremost in diligence.(Gyalwa Karmapa 4)
I believe that this gave other women the courage for other women to venture out to find enlightenment and not be intimidated by a man. If you look at women today in the modern day, they are even more determined not to be undermined by men in order to achieve goals.
In India there are women who are honored as priestess. They even have colleges named after them in honor for all the work that they have done. That is a gigantic difference from the way they used to be treated. (Pankaj Jain, 2)
Muslims invaded India and many of the traditions were intertwined. Muslim believes in one God and following Dharma is an entirely different story. Originally women were and to a large extent, protected by men from the Hindu and Muslim society. In this modern day and age the womanizing in Iraq is widespread and women are abused. Even though traditionally Dharma is not the women in Iraq’s following I have found a source that tells a different story.
In Iraq, women are taking out there injustice that is done to them by practicing Bujikan Ninjutsu. People can probably not correlate the relationship that Dharma has with Ninjutsu. On the contrary it has everything to do with dharma. Ninjutsu is a Japanese art, with every aspect being spiritual and devoted to Buddhism. This is including Yoga, dharmic thinking and practicing. They may follow their Muslim faith, but if that faith has not treated them well, then with every ounce of practicing this very lethal art, they are practicing dharma.
I do not believe it is because of taking out rage on a country that doesn’t treat them correctly but I do strongly believe it is the peace that they feel when they practice. There really is nothing like it in the world.
A ninja practitioner has to meditate and have a clear mind in order to perform the feats they desire. There is weapons skill. The sword is the main weapon and in order to wield a sword it must become an extension of one’s arm. In order to develop that kind of concentration a fear must be overcome and a state of mind must be developed to attain that focus. When a formal class is started everyone in that class is treated the same, no matter what their rank may be. The class is one unit performing different tasks, connected to each other, body, mind and spirit. There is a bowing in the beginning of class, this calms down the spirit and gets it connected to everyone in the room. You are one with your class. These women in Iraq need this for a life source. It is so difficult to describe unless you experience it. They have followed their hearts with the practice of dharma, and I know why. Not from research but from experience. I know what they feel when they train. There is no other feeling like it. It is dharma.
I think the women of old that followed Dharma or dharma really put their husbands and families first. The thinking is what comes around goes around. If the woman was lucky she would have a husband who loved her and really thought about her well-being and her following dharma (her dharma) was not only good for her spiritually but benefitted her by way of getting what she deserved and treated like a queen. On the other hand there were those whose lives begged for them to have a better existence. Some animals had better existence than they did. It is like I said; it highly depended on the husband. If he loved and sensitive, she would have a good life, if he was cruel and demeaning, she would rather have died. Marriages were set up by the parents.
“In classical medieval and modern times, girls often married early in life, thereby entered the second stage, that of the householder. Today, young Hindu women do not usually marry until their twenties, but this has not always been the case. Frequently, the arrangement of marriage took place just after the girl was born, or some time later in her childhood. Occasionally, the marriage would be arranged to a boy who was relatively close in age, but it was not uncommon for a young girl to be matched to a much older man, perhaps twenty or thirty years her senior. “Parents had interest in arranging her marriage as early as possible because of the great concern with virginity. When girls’ marriage was arranged when they were young, their purity became the responsibility of the groom’s family.”(Pablo 1) There is a lot to be said about the purity of women and it was a big responsibility and sometimes it may have been too much for the parents to deal with. In today’s modern day, however the woman has much more say on who she will marry.
“In the early days for most of Hindu history, the girl was not allowed to have the same kind of education as her brother. Boys left home to receive their education from a guru. Girls always had to be under their fathers’ watchful eye. What education she got came from her parents. She spent most of her time learning domestic skills from her mother, as well as some ritual aspects of religion. She was not considered capable of studying the Veda.”(Pablo 1)
“Now there are woman Hindu priests they put together many different kinds of ministries and are very active in decorating and putting activities together.” Numerous women Hindu priests and Gurus serve the laity in the United States as well, and preside over temple management, monasteries and other Hindu institutions. Buddhism and Jainism, two offshoots of Hindu Dharma, also have had prominent orders of nuns.” (Guru Nanak 69)
The Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America explained that Zen Buddhism was brought to America by the Japanese , Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. “ Zen being originally an Asian Buddhist tradition first came to the west from Japan.”(Pierce 639)
Dharma comes from different parts of the world. In medieval times when women were ostracized and not respected it was believed that they couldn’t do the same things as men, but over the years, women have proved themselves and in many cases surpassed that of their counterparts. Whether it originated in which part of the world does not make a difference, only that it exists and runs strong. I think it would benefit our people of the United States if we conducted ourselves in many of these behavior areas as far as the treatment of man. Dharma, to me has it right.
Abreu, Sean. The Universal Meaning of Dharma, Buddhism/Taoism @ suite 101
A Chan Buddhist Interpretation 2010
Karmapa, Gyalwa, Dharma Fellowship of His Holiness : Library : Member Essays
Jain, Pankaj. Women in Hindu Culture Huffington Post 1 (2011)
Mangin, Lucy,” Iran's female ninjas: fighting for sexual equality” (2012) The Guardian
Rosemary Skinner Keller. Encyclopedia of Women and Religion In North America
Lori Pierce. Buddhism: Origins of Buddhism in North America. Bloomington, Indiana 2006. Print
Vasudha Narayanan. Hinduism: Hinduism in North America Including Emerging Issues. Bloomington, Indiana, 2006 Print
Valmiki, The Ramayana: India, C. 550 B.C.E.-C. 400C.E. The Bedford Anthology of World Literature Volume Bedford/St. Martins, Massachusetts (2009)