Are women (or, "truly feminine" persons) by their very nature unable to reach deep meditative states and awakening/enlightenment (whatever that is)?
Deida sais yes. I say it's total bullshit.
Deida on masculine / feminine (2006) meditation experience
For a start, a key quote by Deida.
If you are truly more Masculine-identified than Feminine, when you stop thinking, the deep silence is blissful. You don’t need to feel something moving, like your thoughts or emotions or body. Intensely awake stillness is sufficient for you to relax. As soon as you stop thinking, you abide as changeless, ever-present, objectless consciousness, and that feels like your peaceful home.
If, on the other hand, you’re more Feminine-identified, then when you stop thinking, you start feeling. You still enjoy flowing as the dance of life and love. Emotional flux and bodily surge is usually more interesting to you than the peace of nothingness. (Deida, n.d., "Wisdom Heart" talk)
This thinking has become a general feature of what´s called "sacred sexuality", eg here in "The Yoga of Intimacy"
In sacred sexuality, the masculine is consciousness (formless, pure awareness) and the feminine is light (form, pure white light) (Pierce & Winters, 2023)
Soma, the Buddhist nun (2000 years ago)
Here, in contrast, is the Buddhist nun Soma ca 2000 years ago (see also Wikipedia contributors, 2023). She agrees with my "Deida tells bullshit" perspective.
For one who truly perceives the dharma – when the mind is composed and knowledge flows – what does being a woman matter? Certainly, the speech of one who says 'I am a woman', 'I am a man' or even 'I am anything' is worthy of Mara, the Evil One.” (Quoted in Gornall, 2009)
Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
This is a short clip by one of the most well known teachers of Mahamudra and Dzogchen.
There is no male or female in pure being, emptiness, to be realised;
There is no male or female in that which realize it, precise knowledge
My partner´s view (2022)
And what´s your reaction? My partner's spontaneous reaction:
Deida's statement means that women cannot reach enlightenment. It reminds me of the medieval church view of women as either hysterical or sexual, in any case as lower beings who are governed by body and desire.
Here is what I am going to say in this post : Deida´s argument is based on an arbitrary choice of spiritual tradition. Had he chosen another one, he would have to reverse his argument.
Tantra as arbitrary starting point for polarity assignment
Much of Deida´s teaching revolves around the polarity of masculinity and femininity. Here is the problem:
Deida's assignment of consciousness to masculinity, and appearance / energy to femininity is arbitrary.
He chose the hinduist / tantric Shiva/ Shakti mythology as starting point. Had he chosen Tibetan Buddhism instead, he might have said the opposite. Or, nothing at all.
Deida´s tantra-based view on masculinity and femininity
The Tantric idea is this:
Shiva (masculinity) is ground, awareness, the unmoved.
Shakti (femininity) is energy, movement, the appearing.
From here, Deida develops his descriptions of "true masculinity" and "true femininity"
In more popular concepts, this idea comes up through the imagery of "man alone in his cave", eg by John Grey from "Men are from Mars..." tradition, or some relationship coaches. With one of these, "man sits in his stoic cave and ponders the wisdom". That´s a verbal quote. And please woman - do not disturb!
This aspect is the masculine aspect of the divine..it's all consciousness, that's the masculine aspect.
Femininity (appearance) is associated with
In short, in Deida´s words:
If there is any appearance at all, that's the feminine
Apart from that strange formulation, come on man...
All of this (masculinity is consciousness, femininity is appearance) is detailed in his buddy talk with Ken Wilber, drawing extensively on practical examples like beautiful feminine clothing etc.
From these observations, he develops some deep sounding but probably deeply meaningless bullshit hypotheses such as
Everything that can be perceived is the feminine, everything that perceives is the masculine.
Maybe I am not spiritual or masculine or intelligent enough to understand what he means - in real life terms. To me, it seems like pseudo-spiritual and pseudo-logical gobbledigook. Sorry Deida! It's really just words without any meaning.
Or, along with Bill Clinton, I have problems with defining what "is" is.
Are men really in emptiness?
One of Deida´s somewhat dubious hypotheses is the way be believes that men easily "abide" as consciousness.
Let´s face it: he describes a pretty advanced level of meditation, although he contradicts himself by stating that this "objectless consciousness" feels like something very particular.
As soon as you stop thinking, you abide as changeless, ever-present, objectless consciousness, and that feels like your peaceful home.
First, my suspicion, guided by my own experience and that of Sam Harris, is that "stopping thinking" is very hard - if one looks closely. Usually it´s a total self-deception. Just notice the thought "Oh I just stopped thinking..."
Second, it is a very particular meditative tradition where stopping thinking is even a valuable goal. In Mahamudra, for example, it´s completely superfluous: you mediated "with the thoughts". Having no thoughts is seen there as a kind of dumbness.
Or, said in another way: Deida in this text equates emptiness with nothingness. This too does not correspond at all to the definition of emptiness in Buddhism.
Can women be enlightened?
As a consequence of his assumptions about masculine consciousness and feminine non-conscious flow, women cannot reach awakening or enlightenment as it is understood in the most advanced meditative traditions such as Mahamudra.
The reason is simple:
Awakening depends on having consciousness, in the form of "reflexive awareness", or, in Culadasa's terms, "meta cognitive introspective awareness". That is simply an ideally uninterupted real-time awareness by the mind of the mind's current state and activities.
And that is why women, due to their inability and lack of true interest in cultivating states of deep consciousness, emptiness etc will constantly be swept away by the river of sensations, blinding them to experience and knowledge of their own mind in the moment.
And this, of course, is also the reason why they are by nature bitchy, abusive, boundary-violating. They simply can´t reach the stage of meta-cognitive awareness needed for self-control. They are trigger-prone.
Ground and appearance in Tibetan Buddhism
Here I want to show that in Tibetan Buddhism, consciousness is - if anything at all - characterised as the feminine.
Tibetan and the Bon meditative tradition make the fundamental distinction of ground and movement; of emptiness and appearance, or in the words of the Heart Sutra, emptiness and form.
Ground is the timeless, changeless, free-of-attributes all-pervasive space of the field of awareness itself. It is described in terms also used by Deida, eg
vast, endless, changeless, boundless, empty
Appearance (or form) is that which moves in that field: sensations, perceptions, thoughts, emotions, in short, appearing objects of awareness in movement.
Or, in other words of the Indian tradition: Nirvana and Samsara. Thus, suddenly Nirvana is masculine, Samsara is feminine. Hmm...
To make the point: In Tibetan Buddhism, and many other world traditions, the assignment of masculinity and femininity to ground and appearance it is just the opposite of what Deida and much of "sacred sexuality" make it out to be.
The prime example for this is the Tibetan teaching metaphor of Mother and Son:
"Awakened awareness is non-localised and pervades everything as the 'mother'-consciousness" (Dan Brown, Six Lamps, p12, bold by me)
Here, mother (femininity) is the ground, and son (masculinity) is the appearance. Father does not even play a role in the metaphors: I did not meet "Father" once in my list of metaphors.
A short Google session will help to understand that awareness/ consciousness has traditionally been associated with "mother". For example:
To say pure consciousness is the “sacred feminine” is not correct, as pure consciousness cannot be located within any attribute. However its essence is buddhi, which means, “pure knowing.” This “knowing” is equated in Buddhist, and other contemplative traditions, with the feminine. Buddhism has the female figure of prajna-paramita, who represents the deepest wisdom that emerges from intuitive knowing (Thanissara)
One may debate the finer meanings of consciousness, pure consciousness, knowing etc. But one point is clear:
The decision to assign pure consciousness to masculinity is arbitrary.
The risks of using polarity as couple advice
With this theoretical background, it is obvious why Deida gives highly dubious if not dangerous advice to couples, in particular to women.
He translates spiritual concepts, arbitrarily chosen, and then maps them to psychological traits and relationship coaching.
One of those pieces of advice can be abbreviated as "don't bother him with your [feminine] emotions - he will feel disturbed in his [masculine] emptiness". Or, in his words:
"Your demand to share his energy [feelings] with you is like pure abuse" (in "What do men feel`?")
What?? Well, it makes sense if you truly believe that "truly masculine men don't feel but rest in emptiness", and that furthermore, please don't bother them.
More such examples in my blog post reviewing his relationship counseling.
Further, this kind of polarity mythology has been ridiculously simplified with some of his adepts.
A (really bad) example of the "appearance" view in original Tibetan Buddhism
To give justice to Deida: even in practical Tibetan Bhuddism you would find views, that exemplify the thought that the female is mostly about appearance.
For example, when it comes to the required features of the ideal male yogi and his female consort. The following text is from the massive "The Precious Treasury of the Expanse and Awakened Awareness" (p 294 f).
The worthy male adept is characterised as:
"His mind is very sharp....
His mind is very clear...
His mind is very strong...
His mind is unchangeable...
His mind is stable and undistracted
His mind is unobstructed
The "best quality" worthy female consort is characterised as:
"has long eyes
her teeth are white and without gaps
her forehead is a great expanse
she talks sparingly
her mind is very open and bright
her head is quite big but neither too small but the right size
her hair is neither too thick nor too thin
her limbs and nails are long
her proportions are just right