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Men's Liberation? Women's Liberation? Gay Liberation? How Free Do We Really Want to Be?


Introduction to this issue
by Andrew Cohen
 

Introduction to this issue

When I started teaching in India in 1986, I had no notion whatsoever of the relationship between enlightenment and gender. At that time, it was all ridiculously simple. There is only one Self—realize it and be free. When I then went to Europe, within a very short time a community of seekers gathered around me, and the next thing I knew, I had 150 men and women on my hands. "This wasn't what I had in mind," I thought to myself, recalling the prophetic words my teacher had told me six months earlier: "I want you to accept responsibility for the work." That was nearly fourteen years ago, and in the time that has passed since then, I have learned more about the radical implications of the enlightenment experience than I could have ever imagined when it all began back in India in what now seems like another life.

It's one thing to have an enlightenment experience, a flash of penetrating depth and dazzling euphoria that momentarily reveals the truth of the utter insignificance of the personal in the face of that primordial reality. But it's another thing altogether to interpret its implications for our humanity. In those moments, the insignificance of any notion of a separate sense of self is totally obvious. So what happens when a large group of men and women who have all known this experience come together? Well, that's what I've spent the last fourteen years finding out! Making sense out of the spiritual experience becomes imperative when one endeavors to live it. And when a large group of adults who have indeed tasted that divine mystery come together and endeavor to live its nondual truth as their own very human lives, what is revealed never ceases to amaze. Oh the agony and the ecstasy of the spiritual life!

This issue of WIE is called "Men's Liberation? Women's Liberation? Gay Liberation? How Free Do We Really Want to Be?" Many of the questions that have inspired this issue have come directly from my experience of daring men and women from different walks of life and different sexual orientations to embody the enlightened vision as themselves. And to dare to embody the enlightened vision invariably means: confrontation with the ego.

As all true seekers eventually discover, the ego takes up permanent residence in any part of our psyche that we allow it to. Even the smallest attachment to any dimension of that which we could call the "personal self" automatically will result in some form of distortion in the human personality. Precisely because gender identification (and its inseparable relationship with some form of sexual orientation) plays such a significant role in the construction of ego, it is vitally important for the true seeker to become aware of his or her investment in gender identity. Our deep attachment to gender as identity almost always creates a painful and self-distorting self-consciousness. For the true seeker, this fact must beg the question, "How would I be if my experience of gender was free from self-consciousness?"

Sincere contemplation and meditation will reveal the potentially enlightening truth that the very thought "I am a . . . " almost always refers to that which keeps us separate from each other and from the universe in which we find ourselves. In fact, from the perspective of enlightenment, any attachment to a personal notion of self/identity instantly creates the experience of duality and separation.

So . . . what would our experience of ourselves and each other be like if we surrendered our ego-driven attachment to gender/sexual identification in the pursuit of a truly enlightened human life? This was the point of departure for our fascinating adventure into the world of gender that has become this issue of WIE.

 

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This article is from
Our Gender Issue