Articles October 9, 2020

A Bigger Sky: Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism

Pamela Weiss

Archetypal masculine and feminine energies are wider and more comprehensive than common definitions of male and female gender. These archetypes are not about gender identity; they represent universal forces—what Carl Jung called anima (feminine) and animus (masculine)—that exist in each of us. When they are in balance, life flows with grace and ease. Good health and balance reign in our minds and bodies, and all across the planet. Winter turns to spring, summer turns to fall, and all is right in the world.

But when these energies fall out of balance, chaos descends. The delicate turning of the seasons tilts into tumultuous climate extremes, fear and divisiveness reign, sectarian dogma fills the airwaves, and episodes of violence escalate. The emergence of these issues today suggests the need for recalibration of our global governing structures and policies, and of the confusion embedded in our hearts and minds that keeps the wheel of human and planetary destruction turning.

We live in a time that is profoundly out of balance. If we look at our use of language we can see how it reflects the ways in which we favor masculine qualities. Listen: hard, fast, light, cool, penetrating, mind, intellect, clarity, reason, transcendence. And: soft, slow, dark, warm, receptive, body, emotion, mystery, intuition, transformation. We champion the mind over the body, and we esteem mental clarity over messy, irrational feelings and intuition. We prefer fast over slow and hard over soft. We champion knowing, are uncomfortable with the unknown, and suspicious of the mysterious. We speak of “en-light-enment” as waking up from darkness and delusion.

Masculine and feminine parity offers an example of authentic integration, not as uniformity, but as wholeness. True equality does not mean we become the same or even similar. Wholeness is not homogeneity. It is the full appreciation and celebration of differences. Winter is winter. Spring is spring. Maturity means appreciating both the unspoiled beauty of snowfall and the roaring yellow bloom of tulips.

We live in complex, divisive times. Our wide aching world is calling out for integrated, innovative forms of spiritual life and practice to meet the potent challenges we face: climate change, growing economic disparity, and entrenched systems of racism, misogyny and oppression.

The world is calling us to give birth to new norms. This task requires us to embrace paradox and mystery and to give ourselves over to the beautiful, terrifying unknown. This takes courage and compassion, wisdom, and generosity, and the ongoing willingness to listen deeply and to speak our truth.

Pamela Weiss

Pamela Weiss

Residential Retreat Teacher

Pamela Weiss is a Buddhist teacher in Theravada and Soto Zen, and a guiding teacher at San Francisco Insight. She has been practicing since 1987, including several years of Zen monastic training and retreat teacher training through Spirit Rock. Pamela is the author of A Bigger Sky: Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism.