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Week #10 Reading Reflection Assignment

Week #10 Reading Reflection Prompts

Assigned articles are the specific articles referenced in the Discussion Questions for Week #10 - use the Discussion Questions to guide your critical reading. Then write your responses to the Reading Reflection prompts below and post them in the “comments” link at the bottom of this posting. Due for full credit: March 26. “Grace period” (one point down) deadline: April 2.

* What are the most interesting things you learned about women’s experiences of Buddhism in this first section of the book?
* What questions or puzzles do you have reading about contemporary American women’s experiences of Buddhism?
* What similarities did you see in the issues and experiences women wrote about in these articles compared to the issues and experiences from Christian or Jewish backgrounds that we read about in the first two books?
* Which women’s issues or experiences in these articles seem unique to Buddhist traditions and practices?

Comments

* What are the most interesting things you learned about women’s experiences of Buddhism in this first section of the book?
There are a quite of few things that Marianne Dresser writes that brings to interest. One thing I must say of the book is that the book is easier to read than the previous books. She is not so much into condemning the other religious or denominational areas that surround her. She mostly has gender issues and talks of the past. Starting with the past she talks of how the women of the past were connected not only to each other but to the spirituality. Marianne talks of how the women would go and find a place that was not in the public’s eye. There is mention of how they would worship and commune. There was mention of the allowance of men into these ceremonies or faith. There was also mention of how the practice was not inspired by the women’s movement in the US. There is another thing that I like of the readings is that there is not the complaining of other issues like denomination or the problems with governments. Although Marianne did mention that males that are dominatate may complain but she said it was OK.

* What questions or puzzles do you have reading about contemporary American women’s experiences of Buddhism?
There are many questions that I have about this type of spirituality. My guess that I may have questions pop while learning more of the lifestyle. There is also the interest of wanting to learn more by reading but mostly by making a visit. When I find something new that I know nothing about I tend to want to learn more.

* What similarities did you see in the issues and experiences women wrote about in these articles compared to the issues and experiences from Christian or Jewish backgrounds that we read about in the first two books?
The thing that I see is that they are not so much into knocking others down as much as giving information of who they are. The writer placed in her writings of bringing back that which was left behind.

* Which women’s issues or experiences in these articles seem unique to Buddhist traditions and practices?
The one that I find unique is that there is a couple of things one is on the acceptance of men and how they handle themselves. Marianne mentions of a ritual for men to take and a point of acceptability. First the male must be accepted and then there is a ritual for him to do. Then there is an initiation for a male as well as females that they must do or take. Then they would be accepted. Outside of this I did not see many women’s issues that at least seen not to be issues. Mostly there was talk of the activities that took place.

I was surprised that Buddhism in its attitude towards women and their position in the religion and society are so close to Christianity and Judaism. It was interesting to learn about Vajrayana Buddhism which will be completely changed when women will take the dominating position. I was impressed how tempting the idea of women’s unit, their closeness, a way of teaching each other was described in the first chapter. Miranda Shaw very well describes the possibility of spiritual growth, improvement for a woman if the society wouldn’t be based only on men authority and power. “Glorify our femaleness, … , recognize the female body as a unique, complex, intricately attuned instrument for experiencing and embodying ultimate truth, ” sounds like an important task for every woman. I liked the words that Miranda uses in order to explain the feminist ideas against the men’s domination “close cooperation between men and women, … men to learn to honor the women” sound more appealing than the ‘war’ between patriarchal and matriarchal society. It seems so far that deities are involved in every religion, or it is better to say in every women’s movement. A big part of the first article is dedicated to women’s sexuality. The author illustrates it in a very respectful, pure and natural, not dirty way. It was interesting to read about the yoga experience, which wasn’t used before in our readings, at least not directly. It is not hard to notice that nowadays yoga is getting more and more popular in women society. The appreciation, honor, proud of our unique and beautiful woman’s body is expressed very nicely in the words “It [body] exists to serve her, as a vehicle of her pleasure, joy, knowledge, power, and spirituality.” Very strongly Miranda presents the importance, nature and beauty of dance in Buddhism. I was impressed by the definition of Tantra as “ongoing revision and reformulation,” this “disciple must surpass the master.” If to compare the full meaning of this expression to the experiences of women in Judaism and Christianity, we can notice a significant difference. Because in the last two the women can’t really master, practice, come up with new ways of religious view, while the Tantra encourages us to do so by mastering ourselves. The discussion about anger was impressive and definitely should be looked over by as many people as possible. The capability to control negative emotions is rear, but the ability to transform anger into positive emotions is even harder to find. The association of violence with anger from my point of view can be called a “confusion” just if a lot of people would practice “holy anger,” otherwise nowadays, unfortunately, it is an everyday circumstance of anger. In this article we can also catch some in common notes with Judaism and Christianity, that teaches us to be good to people and not to wish someone what you don’t want for yourself. It goes step in step with the Buddhism expression of converting anger in forgiveness and understanding. It was also very good highlighted in the article that anger makes us ugly. I can remember so many people who get angry and their faces are changing dramatically, not positively though. In the second part of reading we can also see the familiar voice of “Mother earth”. The expression of “karma” for women on page 57 made me smile; it can be definitely posted as an aphorism about women. It was interesting to know Buddha’s life story, which was completely new to me. The experience of a nun in Buddhism religious, her interrelationships with men’s possibilities, seniority and gender system had much in common with two other religions that we studied. I was kind of surprised of Buddhism view on a woman as” a lazy,… not responsible,… nothing but a woman” human. It sounded even worth than many other religions do. The ideas of Buddhism and its follower in America, its converts, its observers and kind of world that they have to live in was kind of obvious to me. I think it happens in every minor religion inside the nation with one obviously dominated believe. There is no question that a lot of sacrifices, sometimes disrespect, ignores have to be taken by religious people of minor religions.

There are many things that really intrest me on this subject. I have a friend who is Buddihsm so it was really educating to me so I would know more about my friend and her background. I thought a lot of the information that Dresser was telling us about was very intresting and helpful. She was saying that the women before were connected not only together because they were women, but because of their beliefes. They were connected because of what they believe in and their religion and faith. She was talking for a while of the gender issues between the males and females at the time, and how it affected her life. I agree with Dean when he was saying that men are dominate but Marianne Dresser did take it accepatable. I am not sure why she did not say anything about how the practice did affect the movment of the US. I think if we did find this out, it would be very interesing to see what was going on and what everyone was thinking at the time.

After reading this story and getting to know more on this religion and culture, I want to know more. I feel lucky that I have a friend who is from Japan who is Buddist. I want to know more on how they pray and what they believe in. I want to know how different it is compared to what I believe in and other religions. I think there could be a lot of differences and similarities here. I think it would be fun to go to the Buddist church or temple and just observe what they are doing and saying. I want to know how the religion even came to be more.

I think this book is a lot easier to read and for some reason I found it more appealing to read than the Christian and Jewish stories. I think in this book there is less contrast and that made it better for me to read. I think they had some of the same adventures in all of the stories. They all followed to do what they wanted because of their religion. They all were highly spiritual women in which their faith meant more than life to each other. I find it so powerful that women can be so powerful in what they believe. They will go above and beyond to defend what they believe in and their relgion.

I would also have to agree with Dean when he was saying how the men handle themselves. It was said that the males in order to be accepted they have to do a ritual. I think that is kind of interesting, because usually you would think that Goad accepts everyone wheather or not the ritual is done. Just like Christianity and Baptisim. If you arent baptized that doesn’t mean that God wont accept you. From what I know, God does want you to be baptized but that wont tell you if you are accepted or not. I would think that is the main issue that was in story that stuck out to me.

After reading this I am going to talk to my friend about what I read and see what she thinks and her views on the reading. It will be intresting to see what is similar and different.

I was surprised to see that Buddhist women have similar issues to what we have been reading about in previous books. I liked the perspectives on how to deal with issues that these women find troubling. I kept noticing a theme of integration and acknowledgment of the problem in order to properly work through it. Whether it is on the broad scale of society, as Kate O’Neill mentions in her essay about oppression and politics, or on a personal scale where she discusses how she dealt with the experience of being sexually assaulted (p 23). According to O’Neill, “mindfulness cuts through delusion (p 26).” By becoming aware and conscious of the problems, we can begin to cope with them and heal ourselves and our culture.

I did not fully understand the religious practice of Buddhism. Coming from a Christian background, I am used to people gathering for a sermon taught from one book, strict guidelines for behavior, and a clear hierarchy of people to be accountable to for your behavior. Buddhism seems to be a very self guided spiritual journey. There are obviously teachers, but I did not get the impression that they preach, but are available to answer questions, and find solutions to conundrums. I can’t find the page number, but somewhere in this week’s reading, it was mentioned that in Buddhism, you can disregard teachings and information that you do not like. This is so contrary to Christianity. I don’t understand how Buddhists learn the practice when there seems to be such little guidance, and how do you do something that seems to be a state of mind?

There were so many similarities in these articles. The call for community building that Barrows talked about was common to William’s theology (discussed on p 174 in WTV). A clear commonality was the shared oppression of women. Each book contains numerous examples of ways that women are treated as second class citizens. One stunning example of this disparity is the special rules that are applied to nuns, such as “worse penalties for similar infarctions (p 59).” Another example of this is that nuns are always subordinate to monks, and an experienced nun will always have to bow in respect to even a novice monk. Just as Catholicism is reluctant to ordain women as priests, Buddhists are reluctant or forbidden to ordain women as lamas. I could go on and on with the similarities, as it is clear that Buddhism also has many patriarchal aspects. Buddhism does not acknowledge that gender makes a difference because, as stated in Tisdale’s article “Gender is just an illusion (p 14).”

Experiences that are unique to Buddhist traditions and practice are there, but they are just not as obvious as the similarities. I think that the issue of denying gender differences is unique to this religion. I don’t know of any other religion that says that gender is just a state of mind. As stated by O’Neill, “Buddhists…using silence as a cover-up (p 30).” It is hard to address a problem when the general understanding is that there is no problem, because the problem is imagined. I would find this very frustrating.

* What are the most interesting things you learned about women’s experiences of Buddhism in this first section of the book?
The most interesting thing for me was the hierarchy within Buddhism. I don’t know a lot about the religion as far as the beliefs and the organization. I knew that there were monks, but didn’t realize that there were also nuns like in Catholicism. I thought that it was particularly interesting that the nuns have to bow to all of the monks (p. 59), but that the monks never bow to a woman, no matter how long either has been in their role. It seemed so out of the norm for me as I’m not used to seeing women bow to men at all, let alone one who is technically inferior to them. I guess the thing that really struck me wasn’t that it happens, but that in this day and age women hadn’t stopped it. Especially with the Buddha entrusting his monks on his deathbed “to discard all minor rules, saying he knew they were able to discern the essence of Dharma.” (p.59) With the Buddha basically giving over the rights to his monks to decide what is best it really surprises me that women are still in such an inferior role to men and not being granted the same opportunities as men within the religion.

* What questions or puzzles do you have reading about contemporary American women’s experiences of Buddhism?
The question that is stuck with me is whether or not the women that practice Buddhism in it’s native areas are raising the same questions as Western women? Since this whole book is based on Contemporary Perspectives from the Western Frontier I want to know the viewpoints of the women that have grown up in a Buddhist environment. I wonder this because the viewpoints only from western women make me wonder if this is an oppression that is felt among women worldwide within Buddhism or if the oppression is a “western thing.” I guess I’m really wondering if, as westerners, we are actually looking for oppression or if what we are deeming to be oppression is actually being considered as oppression by others within the same roles?

* What similarities did you see in the issues and experiences women wrote about in these articles compared to the issues and experiences from Christian or Jewish backgrounds that we read about in the first two books?
The similarity that really caught me was that women aren’t allowed to hold higher roles in the church. Just like Christian and Jewish faith’s women aren’t allowed to move up and become a priest, in the Buddhist faith women aren’t allowed to move any higher than being a nun, regardless of how enlightened she may become.
The other thing that seemed to relate was that women are to be submissive to men. In the Christian and Jewish faith’s women are supposed to be submissive to their husbands and in Buddhism the women are to be submissive to the monks.

* Which women’s issues or experiences in these articles seem unique to Buddhist traditions and practices?
So far, I think one really unique experience is the bowing to the monks. Although, at the same time I can see this as a similarity in the Christian and Jewish religions on the submissive aspect, I have never seen a woman bow to a man, so I would have to argue that this is definitely unique to the Buddhist traditions.

In the last article, by Rita Gross, she talked about not only balancing work and family time, but also balancing those with community time. She referenced making sure that one has time for friendships as well as time for family. This definitely seemed unique to Buddhism. Although a lot of churches that I have been to have had things like women’s prayer group and stuff like that, they never really seemed to be a bonding time to foster friendships. I have not experienced a church that actually put a focus on making time for friendships as well as time for your family, so that really seemed unique to me.

* What are the most interesting things you learned about women’s experiences of Buddhism in this first section of the book?
There are many things that I have learned about the women’s experience of Buddhism in this first section of the book. First of all I would like to say "Western woman Buddhism’s experience" not generalized women’s experience of Buddhism because I don’t think that Tibetan woman Buddhism’s experience regarding sexism in religion is different. I do agree many points that the way male treating women in the name of their religions are same as other religion for an example Christianity. One of the other interesting thing that Sakkie Jiko Tisdake talked about Form, Emptiness; Emptiness, form on pg 13, which conflicting that male is superior than female in Buddhism because in this topic it says that male and female form does not exist, “gender is illusion”.

* What questions or puzzles do you have reading about contemporary American women’s experiences of Buddhism?
After reading some parts of this book about contemporary American women’s experience of Buddhism, the questions that rise in my mind is that the experiences of these writers are really reliable to get assume what Buddhism really is? Because Kate Wheeler stated that one of the Burmese’s Abbot says bad things about women which is totally against the Buddhism religion on pg 62. Especially Abbot who supposedly a religious teacher who teaches the ordinary human being to treat everyone same even animals, insects, and mammals.

* What similarities did you see in the issues and experiences women wrote about in these articles compared to the issues and experiences from Christian or Jewish backgrounds that we read about in the first two books?
As I have mentioned above that Buddhism in its approach towards women, in society, and their status in the religion are same as other religion like Christianity or Judaism. I wonder sometimes who wrote those scriptures that say that woman is substandard in religion. In Buddhism, born as a woman is karma and it is harder to achieve status of enlightenment as compared to man. Unlike other religion, Buddhism has female goddess as this book talked about tantric.

* Which women’s issues or experiences in these articles seem unique to Buddhist traditions and practices? The unique experience to Buddhist traditions and practice is that they are very strict about keeping their own race and ethnicity to themselves. Jan Willis claimed that in 1980s, the Buddhist centers in the United States have not welcome toward people of color, but now more color of people practice in Buddhism. In my opinion, I think Tibetan Buddhism are not very open to outsiders, it is just one of the characteristics being a Tibetan. Parents teach their children not to trust strangers when they are young and should not talk right away.

The most interesting thing I learned was the role the ancient yoginis/Dakinis had in shaping Buddhism (4). I had never heard of this group of “ideal female tantrics.” The way Shaw described them sounded like they were the epitome of feminism, wild, wise, erotic and free of the constraints of all things patriarchal. Reading about them helps me understand why feminists like Wheeler might tolerate the struggle of remaining devout within a sexist hierarchy (57). Like Jewish and Christian feminists who find comfort within the patriarchal structure of the church by turning to feminine images, like those of Mary, or by reading between the lines and divining evidence of women’s contributions to scripture, feminist Buddhists refuse to turn their back on the institution, instead choosing to work from within to transform it. They are armed with the knowledge that Buddhism was never meant to be a static religion, but instead it was meant to evolve, reminding the leaders that even Buddha himself was working within a very patriarchal framework but left the dying decree that minor laws could be changed as society evolved (sorry, I can’t find the page where this was discussed) .

Also interesting was the discussion of the experience of traumatic body memories during mediation (23) and how gender identity cannot be disregarded because the issues of physical bodies, violence and economic factors shape the psychological development of women and men, and informs the Buddhist practice (28). The need to “acknowledge and honor women’s relational orientation in approaches to Buddhist practices” harkens back to the very first chapter of WomenSpirit Rising where it was discussed that “the natural biological drives of women and men have shaped religion in such a way that it works to assuage the anxieties of men but not of women, and in fact worsens the anxieties of women by encouraging her to suppress her desire for personal growth (WomanSpirit Rising 39).” It’s not that the goal of transcending gender is not valid, it’s that the journey must take into account one’s experiences in the body of a man or woman. I would agree with Tisdale’s criticism that “it is just as contrived to refuse to attend to conditions as it is to live completely in them” (16).

One struggle that I think is unique to Buddhist practice is the focus on self as a means to feeling interconnected. While there’s plenty of meditative practice in other religions, I don’t think there’s such an emphasis on enhancing compassion and interconnectedness through practices of creating laser-sharp self-awareness and also a letting go of self. While it’s meant to foster compassion for all life, I can see how, practiced improperly, there’s a risk of fencing off one’s own sanctuary as a means of winning peace (168), instead of using self-understanding as a means of understanding others (41).

At this time, I’m more excited to read more of the essays rather than work out any questions I have about American women’s experiences in Buddhism. I would like to read more about someone who grew up in a very religious, as in Catholic or Jewish, household and turned to Buddhism and hear what beliefs she had to let go of, or how she reconciled her upbringing with what may be viewed as idolatrous beliefs and how her family treated her. I have a friend who grew up in a fundamental Christian household. She is now heavy into yoga and recently took a trip to India. While she rejects her fundamental Christian upbringing, her first urge when she returned to the US was to go to a Christian bookstore and find a statue of Mary. Somehow her trip to India allowed her to feel more whole, and her statement on religions was "It's all the same." I could tell this was a very meaningful statement for her, despite its simplicity. So, again, I'd like to read more on people's experiences in conversion.

Some of the more interesting female experiences of this week’s readings on Buddhism ranged from the idea of “Divine Pride” and how each woman has “a sacred…essence” and with the acknowledgement of this “a source of liberating energy, wisdom, and power” is realized and reflected in an “indestructible” self-esteem (p. 7) to Marilyn Senf’s discussion of her “lifelong struggle for approval, recognition, and acceptance…[and] how routinely [she] discounted and betrayed [her] own understanding, [while] harming [herself] in the process (75).

One question I have relates to the belief that being ‘woman’ (or reborn as such) is the result of or proclamation that one was unable to attain “enlightenment” and thus must continue to repeat life as a female until able to do so—so my question is—are you kidding me? May be I’m reading this incorrectly, but if not, I just wonder how women within the tradition come to reconcile this concept.

There were certainly many similarities between the issues facing Buddhist women and those of other faith traditions; such as the lack of female “enlightened” images and veneration, blatant male bias, subordination of women in rituals, as well as race discrimination.

The most unique issue with Buddhism is the fact that they don’t worship a God or deity—it’s non-theistic in its beliefs. Another unique issue facing women in the Buddhist tradition appears to be centered around the concept of “renunciation”—the need to let go of personal misconceptions about reality and the attachment to it in order to obtain “enlightenment”. This seems to be a form of detachment, both emotional and physical, which (I think) is absent from the practice of Christianity and Judaism. However, it does seem to be somewhat similar to the priesthood in Catholicism. In any event, its an interesting tradition with some compelling features that deserve a closer look…

I find it interesting that these Buddhist women brought up some of the same issues and experiences that the Christian and Jewish women who we read about in the first two books had. For example, throughout these religions, the issue of women’s equality continues to arise. The scriptures all seem to hold patriarchal tones and conveniently leave women out. In her article titled “Sounds of Silence”, Kate O’Neill states on page 20 about women being left out of Buddhism, “The only record we have of the women who co-created Buddhism are the songs of enlightenment of the first Buddhist nuns. Then there is silence for hundreds of years”. Women are portrayed and believed to be the weaker sex in each of the religions we’ve read about. I found it disturbing, although not at all surprising, how Kate Wheeler experienced such sexism from the monk who was her leader. Page 62 tells of Wheeler’s experience: after hearing that ‘She’s nothing but a woman’, Kate asks, “Why do monks disparage women?” First the “abbot replied that this did not occur, since monks perceive no men and women, only impersonal body elements and mind…He went on in praise: more females lived in the divine realms, since women are more ethical than men. Women got enlightened more easily, because we suffer more, thus easily renouncing the world”. However, the abbot also believed that ‘women are lazy’ and ‘hate responsibility’. This puzzles me about Buddhism. How is it that men and women are believed to be no different, but at the same time, women are looked down on? To me, this seems unique to Buddhist traditions because in Christianity, for example, women and men are perceived as different and not one in the same. This is interesting about Buddhism because women are not supposed to revel in their womanhood. Tisdale states on page 15, “It is, I’m told, ‘un-Buddhist’ of me to revel in female company, for its femaleness. Femaleness and maleness are simply social constructs to be let go, to let go”. Another common issue that arises in the three religions read about is the issue of anger. Barrows talks about how women are supposed to suppress our anger and be these pleasant people all of the time. This holds true for the previously discussed religions as well. “In our culture, in which it has been customary to brush aside the source and content of women’s anger and to focus instead on the inappropriateness of our expression of it…can we afford to let our Buddhist practices become one more means of repression?” (56) I find it interesting that women in these three different religions have very similar concerns.

The most interesting thing to me so far is Tantric Buddhism. That women are the teachers, men can learn from women, and the student becomes the master. The student then “reinvents it” according to how they understand it. How affirming this piece of Buddhism has been and is of women. How it helps women to stand in their own power no matter the situation. The second most interesting thing is on page 3 of Miranda Shaw’s essay ‘Wild, Wise, Passionate: Dakinis in America.’ How women practicing Buddhism in America will and have been taking over leadership roles in Buddhism.
I see women who value their relationships with their friends, family, and children and cherish their female friendships. I see women giving back to their communities. From working with women and children who have been battered to working with veterans of war. Some of the authors talked about the value of Buddhism in helping people heal from anger and violence. I have been very fortunate, through my job, to meet a Vietnam veteran who is a practicing Buddhist. He is the face I saw when I read that women have in Buddhism have been helping veterans of the Iraq (The first one according to one of the readings.) war. Makes sense to me once you take a second to think about it. Soldiers are both victims and perpetrators. I also see women very concerned about the environment and all living creation not just humans. I see women wanting to bridge the differences in religion / theology to a common ground so we can work together no matter the issue. So we can hopefully be friends. That’s what I see.
I think there is more of a focus on meditation. Being at peace with one’s self and then you’ll be at peace with the world. I think Buddhists explain things, like meditation in an easy to understand language with simple concrete steps to follow. I really appreciate this where meditation is concerned. Starting out very simply, like ten minutes everyday or every other day and gradually working up to an hour. I used this as an example. It's something I appreciate from the readings.

Before this reading my exposure to Buddhism was very limited, I had done some reading about practices and beliefs but nothing from a women’s perspective. Shaw’s essay paints a picture of a society of wild women who are not lead by the limits set for them by an outside hierarchal system. The feeling of community she describes as these women create ritual and share in their experience of life and the search for the ultimate reality is inspiring.
Barrows essay about using the energy of anger for transformation was the most interesting of the essays. I had never looked at anger as a tool for change. I was limited in my perspective at looking at it as a flaw in my character and maybe it still is but now I see it as part of my whole being and can start to use anger as a means to change from within. From what she writes Buddhism seems to embrace the whole person and use meditation to reflect on the whole flaws and all and change from within.
Kate Wheelers essay really makes me wonder why she even practices Buddhism when she seems to have real problems with it. I would like to know more about Buddhism and family relations, because Buddhism at least from these reading seems very self oriented.

Wheelers experience seems to echo the past readings and the struggle women have had with their role in religion. Lori Pierce seems to bring up some really good points that I think everyone that is involved in an evangelical type of religion. Rather than asking how we are being inclusive, what makes us exclusive? This really hit home to me, as I think about my future and what I want to do.

the most interesting things that i learned about Bhoddist Women, is the amount of communal activities that they had. it looked to me that they had a lot get togethers and supported each other both spitritually and otherwise. An interesting statement in pg6 about discovering each other as they honor each other. They seemed to be a tight knit group and that is important. Another thing that i saw is that they found things and ways to support each other as women, teaching each other and being guides to each other that is very amazing.

the one question that puzzles me is if the women in the native countries share the same experience as their conterparts in the western world. Do they have the same struggles, the same fights, are they as knit.

the one thing that came out in these readings is that these women looked like they had a lot of support for each other and lifted each other up. There was limited negative experinces with each other, they served as guides for each other. It was amazing in the first pages that the experience you get is that instead of struggling with men, these women found time with each other as women to worship, be religious and share experiences.

The one experience that i think seemed unique to only Bhuddist traditions is the fact that they see gender as just a state. They feel that if the walls of men and women are opened up, then there will not be specil references like tomboys or sissies. People will not be referred using their gender but maybe who they are, that is a way to go.pg30.