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It is hard to fathom how prejudice continues against women leaders in spirituality and religion. When I read today that the Church of England has approved women bishops, I was shocked to learn that this was not already the case. It would be laughable if not so pathetic.
Women priests, sybils, wise women, ministers, and other leaders have existed throughout recorded history, and no doubt before. I came across this interesting site, which provides some arguments on behalf of women priests in the Western European tradition:
The following are some wise words from Dr. Pratap, founder and director of the SKY Foundation in Philadelphia, Pa., USA. Dr. Pratap has been my teacher for 20 years.
It may take a long time to tune an instrument. But it must be in tune before the practice can begin.
Sin is anything that comes between you and God.
The secret of Yoga is revealed only when you focus.
Make yourself great, don't make others low.
Living your practice is more important than instruction.
Nutrition is not only food. TV and computer obsession can wipe out nutrition.
Keep your critics near. Without soap and water, they will wash you.
Yoga is an open secret.
Once you are eager to learn, you'll find someone to teach you.
The main part of Yoga is discipline. The first part of discipline is to be aware. But don't be neurotic about it. It has to be natural.
What is God in Yoga? God is non-ego consciousness.
Cruelty from the heart is worse than from the hand.
Silence is louder than speech.
You have everything. What is outside, is inside. If you know the one, you can know the other. The Yoga system is made so you can easily go inside. You have an inner light, but it is covered. Yoga helps you uncover this light and see your true nature, which is Divine. But there must be preparation so you can handle it. It is very important for yoga student to prepare themselves for practice. Listen to yourself. Whatever your background, use it in your favor. Whatever your religion, call on that Deity.
When you really practice, Love will happen.
It can be painful to be close to a teacher. Like fire.
Do the practices for a long time, with respect. It will open to you.
God is like electricity; you are like a device. Charge yourself!
While women have made headway in many professions and occupations, there are still some disciplines that are slow to open their doors to female practitioners.
Until recently, religion and spirituality have dragged their heels in accepting women into the highest levels of practice and leadership. It is with great joy and enthusiasm that I welcome Christina Barea (Li Xin), the first woman in Western Daoism to be ordained a priest.
An excellent interview by editor Solala Towler appears in the Winter 2014 edition of the journal, The Empty Vessel. In this interview, Barea describes her spiritual journey and current vocation as head priest of the Blue Mountain Monastery. The interview begins on page 24 of the attached PDF. Congratulations, Rev. Li Xin, and thank you for opening a door to one of the world's great spiritual and holistic health traditions.
Daoist Priest Christina Barea (Li Xin)
The Dalai Lama, one of the great spiritual leaders of our time, probably would not have the influence and widespread respect he has earned without the help of his public relations staff. I am sure that millions of people who subscribe to his tweets and Facebook posts think he just wakes up every morning with these gems of wisdom pouring from his tongue. As a former speechwriter and public relations person for various leaders myself, I assure you this is not the case.
So today, I wish to celebrate not only the teachings of the Dalai Lama but also the wisdom of his public relations staff, who craft his basic ideas (culled from Vajrayana Buddhism) into memorable soundbites which inspire and motivate us to be better, kinder people. Here is a wonderful example from today's Twitter feed. And remember: do not underestimate the value of good PR and writing staff!
"We need to strengthen such inner values as contentment, patience and tolerance, as well as compassion for others."
It's not surprising that some religious leaders specialize in intolerance. They actively discriminate against women, gays, and other marginalized peoples within their tradition, preserving and protecting a strong exclusionary power base .
Just as patriotism can be the refuge of a scoundrel, these leaders have a positive facade to hide behind. It's called helping the poor. Helping the poor is a key principle of any great religion worth its salt. But it also makes a convenient smokescreen for bigoted leaders to hide behind.
When a new religious leader proclaims, "I am here to help the poor!" we all cheer and are less likely to pay attention to the backward-looking bigotry that will characterize his reign.
What we need are religious leaders who will aver energetic commitment to all people: the poor, women, the LGBT community, to the environment which sustains us, and to the living creatures with whom we share this planet. We do not need leaders who hide behind the poor so they can continue to discriminate against the majority of humankind.
When religious leaders start talking about the poor, be sure to check the backstory: they are usually talking less about the poor than they are about the agendas they wish to pursue without public notice.