The Lotus Sutra teaches that all living beings possess the world of Buddhahood. There is not even a hint of discrimination toward women. To discriminate against others--in any way--is to discriminate against your own life.
In a fiercely discriminatory society, Gautama Buddha staunchly refused to allow his actions to be coloured by distinctions of class, gender and birth, or of lay practitioner and monk or nun. Whether male or female, being noble or base depends entirely on what a person has done. It is one’s actions and sincerity that count. The Lotus Sutra teaches that men and women are equal both in enlightenment and in practice.
In the future, rather than a situation where either one sex or the other dominates society, it will be necessary to develop a completely new civilization in which there is balance and harmony between the sexes.
It is a fact that the images of “masculinity” and “femininity” we have in our consciousness are deeply influenced by cultural traditions that have developed over long periods of time and thoroughly pervade every aspect of the social ethos. Therefore, it seems to me that the important thing is not that society come up with a particular model for how men and women ought to behave, but that people first and foremost make tenacious effort to live as decent human beings, and allow others to do the same.
In Buddhism, too, there are various explanations about the roles of men and women. But these naturally are coloured by the views of men and women that were prevalent at the times and in the societies where these teachings were expounded. They cannot be taken as having universal application. The important thing is that both women and men become happy as human beings. “All women have the right to become happy. They have to become happy without fail.” That is the spirit of the Lotus Sutra.
The author is president of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist association, a
peace-builder and a prolific writer.