In recent days #MeToo has been talk of the town in India. I do not intend to hurt sentiments of the affected girls. In fact in my social circles whenever such discussions came I supported the girl’s story. Yet, when I am writing this post, I know there has to be a balanced approach, when I vehemently supported them there were always questions – why now? why so late? etc etc. So, here is a story that happens in the life of The Buddha.
During the time of the Buddha, there was a similar incident. Though, I am not trying to justify or deny harassment cases in of Me Too as fake or if the cases / stories are coming out to malign people unnecessarily. In fact, the Bollywood is notorious for such incidents (casting couch) etc, however, someone has spoken openly about it after a long time. In fact, there were cases of journalists (read Vinod Dua) and when a Tehlka founder-editor (read Tarun Tejpal) was accused by a girl – of the age of his daughter – about molestation. Long and short journalism is not sacred either. In fact in the recent times the way journalism is getting exposed – be it Radia tapes or AugustaWestland news for cash cases – is shaking faith in print / other media itself.
There was a CD that came in public for a very short duration wherein a very prominent politician had sex in his parliament (a sacred place for democracy in India) building room. The reason for the quid pro quo was to become a judge in a high-court in India. The woman lawyer compromised for becoming a judge. Off late a news is making rounds that Chief Justice of India (CJI) harassed his staffer some time. Another politician – died recently – was dragged in court for DNA test to prove he is the biological father of an adult – recently that son of the politician died.
In essence many systems where power plays a key role are not clean – be it limelight based Bollywood or fancy journalism or being a politician or judiciary. In another such power system is spirituality and religion, a bishop in an Indian church is accused of raping nuns. The result? Nuns are in question not the bishop! Even though the nuns have come out in open! This is not just one case in isolation, there were many such harassment cases, only few were / are reported.
As the case is with Churches, the power center in olden days in India used to be the spiritual teachers. The Buddha was also accused of raping a women. What happened there may not be the case in general with above mentioned cases of recent times. Let me narrate this story from the book – Old Path White clouds.
Story from Old path white clouds
During the time of the Buddha, his teachings were becoming powerful. There was a big challenge to the establishment of that time. So some people conspired to falsely accuse the Buddha of sleeping with a woman and making her pregnant. They found an attractive, young woman and told her that the Buddha had caused a rapid decline in the faith of their ancestors by luring many young men to become his disciples. Anxious to protect her faith, she agreed to the plan.
Every day she went to Jetavana dressed in a beautiful sari and carrying a fresh bouquet of flowers. She did not arrive in time for the Dharma talks, but waited outside the Dharma hall as people left to return home. At first, whenever anyone asked her where she was going or what she was doing, she only smiled. After several days, she answered coyly, “I’m going where I’m going.” After several weeks of such vague comments, she began to answer, “I’m going to visit Monk Gautama.” And finally, she was heard to exclaim, “Sleeping at Jetavana is delightful!”
Such words burned the ears of many people. Some laypeople began to feel doubts and suspicions, but no one said anything. One day, when she came to one of the Buddha’s Dharma talks. Her belly was noticeably round. In the middle of the Buddha’s discourse, she stood up and loudly said, “Teacher Gautama! You speak eloquently about the Dharma. You are held in high esteem. But you care nothing for this poor woman made pregnant by you. The child I carry is your own. Are you going to take responsibility for your own child?”
A wave of shock passed through the community. Everyone looked up at the Buddha. The Buddha only smiled calmly and replied, “Miss, only you and I can know whether or not your claims are true.”
The Buddha’s calm smile made this woman feel uneasy, but she retorted, “That’s right, only you and I know whether my claims are true.”
The community could no longer suppress their astonishment. Several people stood up in anger, the woman suddenly felt afraid the people would beat her. She looked for a way to escape, but in her panic, she ran into a post and stumbled. As she strained to stand back up, a large round block of wood fell from where it was tied onto her abdomen, and landed on her foot. She cried out in pain and grabbed her crushed toes. Her stomach was now perfectly flat.
A sigh of relief rose from the crowd. Several people began laughing and others derided the woman. Bhikkhunis stood up and gently assisted this woman out of the hall. When the two women were gone, the Buddha resumed his Dharma talk as if nothing had happened.
The life in current times is not that easy to prove innocence or guilt. Court cases are long drawn and at times the one with influence wins. Many girls / women will be facing defamation suits in the battle of right vs wrong. Many cases may be correct however the point is – how to prove the allegations?
The intentions of this post is not to support or oppose the accused or complainant. Because there may be prima-facie the cases such as Megha Sharma where girl seems to be the culprit.
The point is every generation faces such moral bankruptcy. Some end up on the side of one gender some on the other. This is an opportunity to sensitize everyone that what is inappropriate in discussions, the same must be avoided in actions too.
It is incorrect to ask woman to hide from head to toe, not go out alone, how to dress or they invite rape if wear small cloths! We must teach the boys to respect girl. I believe that only spirituality and practices taught by Indic religion Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism can help our societies. In particular Brahmacharya (celibacy), Aparigraha (non-possession).