Books are life-changing.
I’m listening to an audiobook called The Pull of The Stars. The story plays out around a nurse working in a makeshift maternity/fever ward in a Dublin hospital close to the end of the First World War. Pregnant women sick with the black flu occupy the three beds in the room, often not for long before they die.
I have never had a child (in this lifetime) and I owe a debt of gratitude to the author, an Irish dream weaver called Emma Donoghue who lives in Canada. Her powerful descriptions of women giving birth are both horrifying and eye- and heart-opening.
It made me think. Shortly before my mother died, I arrived in England to support my sister and we drove straight to the hospital together. An unbidden thought came to my mind on seeing my mother lying prone in the hospital bed: “This woman gave birth to me.”
But I had no idea what that actually meant until I read this book. No wonder my spiritual mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, says we have a debt of gratitude towards our mothers. To say I have a new respect for all women who have given birth is a major understatement.
The other strong feeling that the book, a painstakingly researched historical novel, evokes in me is outrage at the way women have been subjugated to men.
My outrage increased exponentially when I decided to find out more about women and childrearing. I found more than I was looking for at PubMed Central® (PMC) a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature spanning several centuries of research.
Of course I’ve suffered discrimination or deprivation at times for being female. However the following words made my blood run cold. The bolding is mine.
“At the height of the Roman Empire, between 300 BC and 400 AD, written contracts were formed with wet nurses to feed abandoned infants. The infants were usually unwanted females thrown onto rubbish piles. The wealthy purchased the infant as an inexpensive slave for future use, and the wet nurses—who were slaves themselves—fed the infant for up to 3 years.”
What is it with our planet? Helpless babies trashed as rubbish for being female? Or as in India (I don’t know if this still happens; I hope not) being aborted for the same “fault?”
True Buddhism as taught by Nichiren Daishonin reveals that females and males are equally endowed with the potential to manifest Buddhahood. All life forms are precious, worthy of respect and interrelated.
So the sooner we women unite together and support each other the better off we’ll all be. Our voices have been silent for far too long.
“A Buddha is a person awakened to the reality of his or her being, and naturally, to the reality of all human life. That is the wisdom of the Buddha and the wisdom of the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra was clearly expounded for all human beings, to enable them to attain true independence. It does not discriminate in any sense between priests and lay practitioners, men and women, rich and poor, persons of high and low status, or young and old. It is entirely for all humanity.” ~ Daisaku Ikeda, The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, Volume I, p. 46-47
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash