Hello, I wanted to give a gist or an overview of a conversation I had this week. Someone brought up Francis Bennett to me. I don’t know who Francis is, but there was a short video snippet, and they asked, “Is Francis awake or not?” I couldn’t tell. Watching a video or reading a book doesn’t allow us to determine if someone is enlightened or not. We can only see what people do and hear what they say, but we don’t know the inner workings of someone else. We don’t know if they experience inner peace and silence of mind. So, it’s best not to bother trying to determine if someone else is enlightened.
However, what made this question interesting was that the questioner mentioned that Francis Bennett, who talks about non-duality and spiritual awakening, was born a man but had a sex-change and is now living as a woman. The questioner was implying that being transgender or transsexual proves that Francis is not awake or enlightened. I disagreed with that notion. Being transgender or transsexual does not bar someone from enlightenment or awakening. I posed a question back to the questioner: “What is male and female?” They didn’t quite grasp my point.
Male and female are designations for the biology of the body, as well as identifications in the mind related to sexuality and attraction. In the context of non-duality, it doesn’t really matter. I wanted to make it clear in a video that being transgender, transsexual, homosexual, or any LGBTQ variation does not automatically prove that someone is not enlightened. It doesn’t bar them from awakening. It is a ridiculous claim because, ultimately, in the realm of non-duality, when you realize the self, silence, or however you want to label it, you realize that you are not male or female. You are not the body. You could even say you are everything and nothing, but in any case, gender is ultimately irrelevant. What you are transcends gender.
I don’t see gender as a proof for or against enlightenment. In the past, during Buddha’s time, there were discussions about whether women could become enlightened. Some teachings suggested that only men could reach enlightenment. Buddha refuted that notion and said that being a woman does not bar one from enlightenment. Women can awaken too. In this day and age, it needs to be emphasized that regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification, it doesn’t bar anyone from awakening or enlightenment. It doesn’t prove that someone is not enlightened or awakened. To claim otherwise is a strong attachment to the body and identification, and it’s something to be aware of.