I like taking online personality tests for fun. Last night, I took another one. It is a test for the “alpha male” personality. I was surprised that the test result says I am definitely an “alpha male.” I am a Wall Street guy who turned into a Zen teacher. I thought I have been taking a low profile, especially in recent years. After my Wall Street career was lost due to the collapse of Enron, I became a teacher, then a substitute-teacher. I can often be found in an elementary classroom. And kids love me. How “alpha male” can I be?
Most of us in the modern society understand what the “divine feminine” means. But most of us have no idea what the polar opposite — the “divine masculine” — means. Mass media tend to make fun of the men, as if male bashing is a fair game, but not female-bashing. On TV, we can see this clearly in the cartoon portrayal of the Family Guy and Homer Simpson. Gone are the days when the man of the house is portrayed as a role model. Does anybody still remember John Walton in “The Waltons”? He is the rock of the family. Unfortunately, a standup guy like John Walton is nowhere to be found today on TV.
In traditional values, there is such a thing as the “3 P’s” of manhood — to procreate, to protect and to provide. As someone who grew up in Hong Kong, I have been brought up with such understanding of what it means to be a man. Ever since I was young, I have been told that it is not easy being a man. Manhood has many responsibilities. The main duties of a man is to provide for the family and to protect the weak. It is a sad turn of events that “manhood” is used to mean some very different things today. To me, womanizing and “pussy-grabbing” are characteristics of a “small person.” These are the traits of an inferior man by Confucian standards.
A Chinese Buddhist or a Confucian would have a clear vision of the “divine masculine.” Buddhism, in particular, uses many masculine images of Buddha and the Buddhist practitioner. I attended dharma talks when I was a teenager. In the beginning of each talk, we started by singing the Three Treasure Song (三寶歌). In the lyrics of this song, there is this line: “Great compassion, great wisdom and great masculine power, such is the way of Lord Buddha”(大悲大智大雄力，南無佛陀耶！). This should not be a big surprise. India is a patriarchal society. But Buddhist masculinity is not associated with the negative traits that belong to toxic masculinity. Rather, it consists of an abundance of compassion, wisdom and energy. In addition, the speech of Buddha is associated with the “lion’s roar.” The lion is the king of all beasts. The idea is that Buddha’s words are so powerful that it overcomes all evil forces.
I think the traditional Chinese society provides a good balance between the masculine and the feminine. When I was about to graduate from high school and go abroad for college, I asked my art teacher about the essence of Chinese culture. He told me that there are two pillars of Chinese culture — Confucianism and Taoism. Confucianism is the masculine principle. It is about leadership, governing the state, scholarship, morality, personal sacrifices, etc. Taoism, on the other hand, is the feminine principle. It is about silence, nurturing the soul, leisure, poetry, spirituality and the arts. A good society needs both. A Confucian has tremendous concern for society’s well-being and the people’s livelihood. He wants to become a good leader and lead by example. A Taoist, on the other hand, is a poet and an artist. He shows us the beautiful side of leisure and silence.
Incidentally, Chinese kung fu and Japanese martial arts make good use of both the masculine principle and the feminine principle. Yielding, for example, is a key tactic in judo. Judo literally means “the way of gentleness.” Western boxing, on the other hand, seems to emphasize only the masculine principle. Here too we see a big difference between East and West.
I certainly think that we need a reminder for the existence of the Divine Masculine. Let us honor both the masculine principle and the feminine principle. That will rectify the current imbalance.