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The Buddha was male, so was he an "alpha male"? It's a facetious question. Are Buddhas e.g. submissive and androgynous? I am asking because 'alpha male' is a recurring idea in Western culture right now, and I wondered what Buddhism and the imitation of Buddhas' character, has to say about that.

An answer claimed androgyny is "consistent with Buddhist philosophy".

No self may imply submissiveness, in some ways: not putting your own "me" and "mine" first.

'Alpha male' is strongly tied to the senses and wealth, status etc.. Which clearly Buddhas reject as mundane. So I was thinking "no"; but perhaps Buddhism offers a critique of 'macho'.

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    What is the basis of this question? What inspired this question? What gives you the impression that the Buddhas may be submissive and androgynous? Is it the paintings and/or idols of the Buddha? Or is it some statements from the suttas?
    – ruben2020
    Aug 10 '20 at 17:41
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    i'm sorry, what are you confused about @ruben2020 how is adding those details going to make for a more easily answered queston?
    – user2512
    Aug 10 '20 at 17:49
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    Well, from the suttas, I cannot imagine why anyone would think the Buddha was submissive and/or androgynous - so I am just wondering where that comes from. So, yes, it would help with answering the question.
    – ruben2020
    Aug 10 '20 at 17:52
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    good enough @ruben2020
    – user2512
    Aug 10 '20 at 17:58
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Please see the sutta quote below of AN 7.51.

The Buddha was neither alpha male, beta male, alpha female, beta female, androgynous, dominant or submissive (from a gender-identity perspective).

Rather, he was unbound and free of all such binding gender identity views.

He was not even self-identified as a human being - he was simply the Awakened One - also please see this answer.

From AN 7.51 (or numbered AN 7.48 here):

A woman focuses on her own femininity: her feminine moves, feminine appearance, feminine ways, feminine desires, feminine voice, and feminine adornment. She’s stimulated by this and takes pleasure in it. So she focuses on the masculinity of others: masculine moves, masculine appearance, masculine ways, masculine desires, masculine voice, and masculine adornment. She’s stimulated by this and takes pleasure in it. So she desires to bond with another. And she desires the pleasure and happiness that comes from such a bond. Sentient beings who are attached to their femininity are bound to men. This is how a woman does not transcend her femininity.

A man focuses on his own masculinity: his masculine moves, masculine appearance, masculine ways, masculine desires, masculine voice, and masculine adornment. He’s stimulated by this and takes pleasure in it. So he focuses on the femininity of others: feminine moves, feminine appearance, feminine ways, feminine desires, feminine voice, and feminine adornment. He’s stimulated by this and takes pleasure in it. So he desires to bond with another. And he desires the pleasure and happiness that comes from such a bond. Sentient beings who are attached to their masculinity are bound to women. This is how a man does not transcend his masculinity. This is how one is bound.

And how does one become unbound? A woman doesn’t focus on her own femininity: her feminine moves, feminine appearance, feminine ways, feminine desires, feminine voice, and feminine adornment. She isn’t stimulated by this and takes no pleasure in it. So she doesn’t focus on the masculinity of others: masculine moves, masculine appearance, masculine ways, masculine desires, masculine voice, and masculine adornment. She isn’t stimulated by this and takes no pleasure in it. So she doesn’t desire to bond with another. Nor does she desire the pleasure and happiness that comes from such a bond. Sentient beings who are not attached to their femininity are not bound to men. This is how a woman transcends her femininity.

A man doesn’t focus on his own masculinity: masculine moves, masculine appearance, masculine ways, masculine desires, masculine voice, and masculine adornment. He isn’t stimulated by this and takes no pleasure in it. So he doesn’t focus on the femininity of others: feminine moves, feminine appearance, feminine ways, feminine desires, feminine voice, and feminine adornment. He isn’t stimulated by this and takes no pleasure in it. So he doesn’t desire to bond with another. Nor does he desire the pleasure and happiness that comes from such a bond. Sentient beings who are not attached to their masculinity are not bound to women. This is how a man transcends his masculinity. This is how one is unbound. This is the exposition of the teaching on the bound and the unbound.”

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The traditional description of the Buddha's physical characteristics include "well retracted male organ" -- so perhaps "androgynous" in that sense.

I understand "alpha" as being a social adjective -- there are alpha males and alpha females -- and the Buddha was "alpha" in that sense i.e. socially: a leader, able to dominate (confidently and indisputably lead or teach) any assembly (of people) and any individual, with kings too (and gods) being respectful.

I think it's rude and missing the point to be asking about people's genitals, but since you ask.

You mentioned in a comment,

please be aware that 'alpha male' derives from animal behaviour, and the need for access to women's bodies / physical intimidation over other males. so you side with the 'macho' buddha

I don't think that's how the term "alpha" is applied to human beings -- some alpha humans might be faithfully married or celibate -- IMO it's just a matter of being recognised as socially superior or second to none.

For example here's a quote from a sutta, MN 12:

Sariputta, the Tathagata has these ten Tathagata's powers, possessing which he claims the herd-leader's place, roars his lion's roar in the assemblies, and sets rolling the Wheel of Brahma. What are the ten?

To answer some of the details in your question, I think it's that the Dhamma (the Buddha's doctrine) is seen as being "best" -- that's why and on the subject of which the Buddha dominates an assembly -- the Buddha is described as "an unsurpassed teacher of Gods and men" but the Buddha himself reveres the Dhamma, see Reference request for "the Buddha takes the Dhamma as his superior"

You might see the Buddha as "submissive", e.g. not flaring up when insulted -- see SN 7.2 -- I wouldn't call that submissive though, I see it as self-controlled, heedful (keeping your eye on the prize), and skilfully cooperative:

You live for the good of both
— your own, the other's —
when, knowing the other's provoked,
you mindfully grow calm.

There's a fair bit of doctrine about not arguing with each other, and about how arguments (including arguments about the Dhamma) might be associated with conceit.

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  • thanks for anwer, chris... not sure enlightenment is a "prize" hmm
    – user2512
    Aug 11 '20 at 21:59
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    "eye on the prize" is an idiom (perhaps an Americanism) -- like "keep your eye on the ball", or "don't lose sight of the goal", more generally "don't get distracted" (in this context, getting involved with or overwhelmed by someone else's anger or misbehaviour).
    – ChrisW
    Aug 11 '20 at 22:08
  • over literal of me then
    – user2512
    Aug 11 '20 at 22:10
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No self may imply submissiveness, in some ways: not putting your own "me" and "mine" first.

'Alpha male' is strongly tied to the senses and wealth, status etc.. Which clearly Buddhas reject as mundane.

I think you got the definition of "Alpha male" wrong by associating it with putting "me" and "mine" first. In dire situations like that scene in the Titanic when it starts sinking, a coward is always the guy who puts himself first, and he'd have no problem with kicking and pushing women and young children aside to secure a spot on a life boat, Or when a defensive position under heavy attack from the enemy, the coward always runs first while the alpha male stays and fight. It'd take the tremendous courage of an alpha male to be the first guy to enter and the last guy to leave in dire situations. Similarly, real Buddhist asceticism is certainly not for the faint of heart, and so in that regard, we can say the Buddha was THE alpha male among all alpha males, for He was the one who defeated Mara and his armies of lust, hatred, and ignorance; while we all more or less are still slaves bowing down to his power!

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Not all Buddhist agree on many, many things

There are martial descriptions of Buddha — he is the Jina, the conqueror. See John Powers’ A Bull of a Man that discusses the imagery of Buddha’s masculinity. Julius Evola, the Italian fascist, wrote a book, The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts, which highlights passages that make Buddha sound macho, comparable to Nietzsche’s Ubermensch as it was understood at that time.

As is well known, the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara = Guanyin morphs into a female in E Asia. There are passages in some Buddhist texts that dismiss difference between male and female, and others that emphasize that only a male can become a Buddha, regardless of how many female lives he may have had in the past.

For what it's worth, I think the bodhisattva vows are counter to the macho need to play to win, to lead others rather than assist their self power, etc.. ymmv, maybe dependent on whether you see the Buddha responding to others according to need, as I do, or capacity

the lion's roar will appear. He will use the power he achieved in deep meditation to benefit countless beings

but this doesn't preclude courage, or skill.

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  • If Answerer would know if the cited texts or excerpts are freely viewable online and could include where such might be found would be good, and perhaps similar sources regarding Kuanyin/Guanyin, and also connected painting & statuary styles. Thank you.
    – M H
    Aug 10 '20 at 19:57

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