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Buddhism and Women - Jan Willis

In our series on Gender, Spirituality and Gender

Until we have trained our minds, we all tend to divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’. We select futile individual characteristics to distinguish between ‘us and them’, or we use an imaginary order - something that is only perpetuated because we believe in that particular story. Even though these
distinctions are not reflected in the world, we act upon these perspectives and thereby they do have real -often devastating- consequences.

The Buddha spoke of letting go of grasping onto individual or group identity and embracing our fellow humanity. In short: enlightenment is something you do together. Also -perhaps especially- with those who are ‘not-us’, those beings who act in a way that we find horrific or who think we have no right to speak. Jan Willis is pre-eminently someone to help us investigate how to do that.

Two and a half thousand years ago you were really unlucky if you were born a woman. No access to education, to own property, no opportunity to live your life as you choose. Today, this is still the case in many places and in the Netherlands, for example, women still earn on average 13% less than men - for exactly the same work.

Two and a half thousand years ago, the first women joined the Buddha. Women suddenly had the opportunity to live a different life, to lead and run their own nunneries.

Jan Willis grew up in the 1960s in the southern United States, a young black woman from a neighborhood near the steel factory where the Ku Klux Klan ‘kept people in their place’. Now -as professor emerita of Wesleyan University- she teaches in Amsterdam about Buddhism and Women and in Loenen about Engaged Buddhism.

Jan Willis  - Professor Emerita of Religion at Wesleyan University   https://www.janwillis.org

Jan Willis was one of the first students of Lama Yeshe, the founder of the FPMT. She has forty years of experience as a scholar, teacher and practitioner and personal, lived experience of how to choose the path of the dharma when encountering racism and sexism.