Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate

Moderator: Tibetan Buddhism moderators

Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:59 pm

November 3rd 2013 http://www.dalailama.com/news/post/1025 ... te-session

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, India, 3 November 2013 - This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama met briefly with nuns from eight nunneries who for the last month have been taking part in the Jang-Gun-Chö, the Great Winter Debate, held this year at Dolma Ling Nunnery. He began:

“You've all been engaged in debate based on Dharmakirti's 'Commentary on Epistemology' (Pramanavarttika), What did you learn from each other?”

He said that there are reports that at one time in Tibet there was a tradition of nuns studying the classic Buddhist texts, which eventually lapsed. This has changed. He cited nuns from Kopan in Nepal last year defying the Tibetan joke about nuns being proud of having memorized the Samantabhadra prayer when they memorized not only Chandrakirti's 'Supplement to (Nagarjuna's) Treatise on the Middle Way' (Madhyamakavatara) and Maitreya's 'Ornament for Clear Realization' (Abhisamayalankara), but also Haribadra's commentary 'Clear Meaning' (Sputartha), which His Holiness admitted was even more than he had done.

As to how a revival of nuns studying the classic texts has come about, His Holiness referred to the description of Tibet as a Central Land. This does not have any bearing on its geographical location, but on the existence of a complete Sangha, the fourfold Buddhist community, monks, nuns and male and female laypeople holding vows.


Referring to the as yet unresolved question of instituting the bhikshuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition, His Holiness said:


Some people have complained about this, because a conclusion has not yet been reached. But this is not something that can be decided by me alone. The Buddha laid down rules and procedures that a single monk cannot decide to change. It requires a consensus within the monastic community. We have held meetings and discussions amongst ourselves and with other communities such as the excellent upholders of the Vinaya (monastic discipline) in the Pali tradition.


“In Tibet we follow the Mulasarvastivadin tradition of Vinaya established by Shantarakshita, a tradition that comes down from Rahula, the Buddha's own son. This is the tradition we have carefully preserved that differs only superficially from the Theravada Vinaya observed in the Pali Tradition. When Atisha came to Tibet, out of respect for the already established Mulasarvastivadin tradition, he said there was no point in his trying to propagate the Lokattaravada tradition that he followed himself.”

His Holiness stressed that observing Vinaya purely is of fundamental importance. The Mulasarvastivadin texts suggest that senior bhikshunis need to preside over a bhikshuni ordination and suggest that it is not proper for bhikshus alone to preside over such a ceremony. Therefore, if bhikshus alone were to conduct such a ceremony it is not clear that it would be flawless. This is the impasse which is yet to be answered. His Holiness mentioned a Chinese Vinaya Master, who is no longer alive, who advised that while doubts exist, efforts should be made to resolve them. What still needs to be decided is whether a bhikshuni ordination ceremony can be conducted according to the Mulasarvastivadin rite with or without the presence of senior bhikshunis.

Some people have criticized me, calling me a 'male chauvinist', because I am not exercising my alleged authority. But I cannot decide this on my own. However, what I can do is to encourage nuns to study the classic texts. Biologically there is no difference between the brains of men and women and the Buddha clearly gave equal rights to men and women. In tantra women are accorded special respect. And yet when it comes to Vinaya we have to follow tradition.”


His Holiness reiterated that nuns have an equal right to study, which is why almost 40 years ago he encouraged nuns to embark on the study of philosophy. They began at Geden Chöling and this has since become the norm in other nunneries.

I have witnessed nuns debating,” he said, “and they do very well. We have finally decided on holding Geshe-ma exams for nuns, which is a proper conclusion of their years of study. When we first discussed a Geshe-ma degree, some scholars expressed surprise, but we persisted. This is about education and the gaining of knowledge.

“In the past, masters like Gyen Pema Gyaltsen studied for 30 or 40 years before taking their Geshe exams. These days it generally takes about 20 years. I made a request that nuns be able to study the philosophical texts, you have done it and I'd like to thank you.”

He clarified that the Buddha's teaching comprises realization as well as knowledge, so it is important to follow a course of practice as well as a course of study. This is how the Dharma is preserved. Study is necessary to achieve understanding and practice is necessary to achieve realization. Practice can only take place on the basis of understanding. His Holiness talked about people he has met who said they were Buddhists, who said that to be a Buddhist you have to take refuge in the Buddha, but who could not say what the Buddha is.

He said that many of us aspire to become a Buddha, but if we do not understand the path, we cannot reach the goal. We may have Buddha nature, but we need to understand emptiness to realize it. We may be full of negative emotions to start with, but we can free ourselves of them. Where there is knowledge there is no place for blind faith. We cannot practise the Dharma on the basis of faith alone. We need not only knowledge, but understanding too.

We study the Three Collections of Scripture to learn about the three trainings in ethics, concentration and wisdom. Once we have studied we need to gain experience through practice. It's not enough to say I've read or I've heard that it's good if you practise the Three Trainings. You need to be able to teach on the basis of your own experience. Because of our emphasis on study, people can get carried away by debate without giving much thought to practice. This is why I have requested the monasteries to establish places where monks can go into retreat. If we study the Perfection of Wisdom texts we'll find in them exhortations to engage in practice.

“The Dharma is at a critical juncture. You might think that it would be good to spend the rest of your life as a hermit, but we also need qualified people to teach others. Once you complete your studies we need some of you nuns to teach. Until now you have relied on monks to teach you, but in future it will be very important that there are also nuns to teach nuns. More than that, we also need nuns to teach in our secular schools. In the past, because they had not studied themselves, parents were unable to teach their children the Dharma. Therefore, I request you, after your studies consider going into retreat, and after that resolve to teach others. That's all - thank you.”

His Holiness posed for photographs with groups of nuns and with all of them together before returning to his residence.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2281
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate

Postby plwk » Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:28 pm

I believe the OP's article is a kind of a reproduction of HHDL's response back then here: A Summary Report of the 2007 International Congress on the Women's Role in the Sangha: Bhikshuni Vinaya and Ordination Lineages (Look for responses by HHDL)

Related to the article, I found this excerpt interesting...
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... ation.html
Although there is evidence that there were still bhikshunis in northern India as late as the twelfth century CE, no Mulasarvastivada bhikshunis accompanied Shakyashribhadra to Tibet. Thus, the Mulasarvastivada bhikshuni ordination lineage was never transmitted in conjunction with any of the three Mulasarvastivada bhikshu ordination lines in Tibet.

In the centuries that have followed Shakyashribhadra’s visit, at least one attempt was made to establish the Mulasarvastivada bhikshuni ordination in Tibet, but it was unsuccessful. In the early fifteenth-century CE, the Sakya master Shakya-chogden (Sha-kya mchog-ldan) convened a single sangha Mulasarvastivada bhikshuni ordination specifically for his mother. Another contemporary Sakya master, Gorampa (Go-ram-pa bSod-nams seng-ge), however, strongly criticized the validity of this ordination and, subsequently, it was discontinued.

And if this Geshe Lharampa is correct, why the delay?
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... art_3.html
Geshe Lharampa Bhikshu Rinchen Ngudrup, Drolmaling Institute Nunnery, Dharamsala, India
“The Flawless Ordination of Bhikshunis by a Bhikshu Only Sangha”
Buddha stated in The Minor Vinaya Precepts (‘ Dul-ba lung phran-tshegs, Skt. Vinayagamakshudraka) that upasika, shramanerika, shikshamana, and brahmacharya ordinations are to be given in sequence by bhikshunis. However, according to The Summer Retreat Instructions, Buddha said that if a shramanerika or shikshamana requests the bhikshus to give her full ordination, then the bhikshus should take proper leave of their summer retreat for seven days and confer the ordination.

This second passage can be understood to imply that, in such a situation, the bhikshus may confer the bhikshuni ordination even as a single sangha ceremony if no bhikshunis exist to complete a dual sangha. This is supported by Gunaprabha’s statement in The Vinaya Root Sutra that bhikshus may confer the brahmacharya ordination. Since brahmacharya ordination must be followed on the same day by bhikshuni ordination, it follows that the bhikshus may also give bhikshuni ordination by the single sangha method.

Further, Differentiations within the Bhikshuni Vinaya (dGe-slong-ma’i ‘dul-ba rnam-par ‘byed-pa, Skt. Bhiksunivinayavibhanga) states that if a qualified woman wishes to become a bhikshuni and the sangha does not ordain her, the bhikshus incur a fault. Thus, single sangha ordination is permitted by scripture for re-establishing the Mulasarvastivada bhikshuni ordination and, in following this method, the ordaining bhikshus do not incur even a minor infraction.

And this interesting comment... stop calling them 'Anilas'?
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... art_3.html
“From Anila to Gelongma – Naming, Language, and Gender Equality”
The Correct Naming Movement in Taiwan has been working to educate people to stop using derogatory manners of address for nuns, as well as for minority groups, and to use more respectful ones instead. The use of derogatory names for certain groups within a society is a form of “ symbolic violence.”
Thus, among the aims of this movement, efforts have been made to educate the public and the media to replace the Chinese term nigu, meaning “auntie,” with biqiuni, the correct term for a bhikkhuni.
These efforts have received support not only from the Chinese Buddhist Bhikkhuni Association, but also from various Taiwanese bhikkhu associations as well.
The protests of this movement have been quite successful.
It is time that a similar movement takes place within the Tibetan community to replace the derogatory term for nuns, anila, with chöla and gelongma.

And the Upper and Lower Vinaya?
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... ation.html
The Mulasarvastivada bhikshu ordination lineage from Shantarakshita was almost lost with King Langdarma’s repression of Buddhism at the end of the ninth or beginning of the tenth century CE. Three surviving Mulasarvastivada bhikshus, with the help of two Chinese Dharmagupta bhikshus, revitalized this bhikshu ordination lineage with the ordination of Gongpa-rabsel (dGongs-pa rab-gsal) in Eastern Tibet. No similar procedure involving Dharmagupta bhikshunis, however, was followed for establishing the Mulasarvastivada bhikshuni ordination at that time through a mixed lineage dual sangha.

Gongpa-rabsel’s line of Mulasarvastivada bhikshu ordination was brought back to Central Tibet and became known as the “Lower Tibet Vinaya” (sMad-‘dul) tradition.
In Western Tibet, however, King Yeshey-wo (Ye-shes ‘od), at the end of the tenth-century CE, turned to India to establish, or perhaps re-establish, the Mulasarvastivada bhikshu ordination in his kingdom. Thus, he invited to Guge in Western Tibet the East Indian Pandit Dharmapala and several of his disciples to establish the second Mulasarvastivada bhikshu ordination line. This line became known as the “Upper Tibet Vinaya” (sTod-‘dul) tradition.

Messy history and development huh?
plwk
 
Posts: 2641
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:41 am

Re: Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:34 pm

When has the development of women's opportunities not been messy?

I wonder why you taking such a negative tact when it is clear there is positive change happening.

On the practical level, the Geshe degree means far more prestige in the Tibetan tradition than the bhikshuni ordination.

Of course, I support the establishment of a bhikshuni lineage within Tibetan Buddhism. But I think that the opportunity of these complete study programs is an even more important consideration.

Do not forget that even in the largest Chinese Buddhist organizations, though there are bhikshunis, during dharma functions they still put monks in the key positions and nuns do not perform certain roles. This is very clear at many temples during the Land and Sea dharma functions and sometimes the Yogachara Flaming Mouth Ritual, when monks are often shipped in from elsewhere if the temple is usually staffed by nuns. Similarly, several of Taiwan's flagship monasteries are supporters of bhikshuni ordination but have rules barring women from the position of abbot.

There is a time to rejoice, and a time to point out faults. Personally I think this is a time to rejoice- but of course that doesn't mean there isn't still more to be done.

Personally I was encouraged to take full ordination and also it was required for a temple I was staying in. Otherwise, in the Mahayana traditions (whether Tibetan,Korean, Chinese or Vietnamese) as well as many modern Theravada temples, many of the minor precepts are not followed anyways. It seems more important for people to have a solid basis in the complete philosophy of Buddhism than to go through an ordination ritual with minor rules that are not really followed. (To be fair, within Chinese Buddhism the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is an exception to this).

In the future I hope that this full ordination is available to all who seek it. But with this geshe degree for women, women will be able to fill teaching positions, train other nuns, travel abroad more frequently and take on the role of "kalyanamitra" or even guru. The impact of this should not be underestimated.
Last edited by JKhedrup on Tue Nov 12, 2013 6:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2281
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:35 pm

And if this Geshe Lharampa is correct, why the delay?


Well that is simple, Vinaya requires consensus and there are some closed minded people in positions of power (unfortunately). HH Dalai Lama and Karmapa support this, but on the practical level the consent of VInaya scholars and abbots of the major monasteries is required.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2281
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:37 pm

believe the OP's article is a kind of a reproduction of HHDL's response back then here


Incorrect. It was a talk given to nuns after their great debate closing ceremonies on November 3rd 2013. The article you posted is from 2007 at the latest. Please read the article carefully, they are not similar at all. The comments on what you posted were mostly about the bhikshuni issue, whereas what I posted was about study of the classic texts. Two different issues- connected with the status of women but rather different considerations.

The Correct Naming Movement in Taiwan has been working to educate people to stop using derogatory manners of address for nuns, as well as for minority groups, and to use more respectful ones instead.


Yes if respect is shown to monks equal respect should be shown to nuns.

In the West, though, I prefer the clergy to use their first names (first of their ordination names if they like). Frankly, the clunky titles venerable and reverend create divisions and are not good approximations of similar Asian terms for monastics.

Modern society is increasingly democratic. I am a monk, but a translator rather than a teacher. I don't expect people to take me as an authority figure- I prefer to relate to them as fellow human beings which is why I go by Khedrup, even though the well meaning publicity dept. puts Ven. before my name because those are the organizational guidelines.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2281
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate

Postby plwk » Tue Nov 12, 2013 6:36 pm

I wonder why you taking such a negative tact when it is clear there is positive change happening.
There is nothing negative here, take a look at what HHDL said back then: Further research will be useful so that one day we shall be able to remedy Shantarakshita’s failure. As one individual, however, I lack the power to decide this issue. That would not be in accord with the Vinaya procedures. I have only the power to initiate research. If I were a Buddha, I could decide; but that is not the case. I am not a Buddha. I can act as a dictator regarding some issues, but not regarding matters of Vinaya.Although I may wish for this to happen, it requires the consensus of the senior monks. Some of them have offered strong resistance.

And now: Referring to the as yet unresolved question of instituting the bhikshuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition, His Holiness said:
'Some people have complained about this, because a conclusion has not yet been reached. But this is not something that can be decided by me alone. The Buddha laid down rules and procedures that a single monk cannot decide to change. It requires a consensus within the monastic community. We have held meetings and discussions amongst ourselves and with other communities such as the excellent upholders of the Vinaya (monastic discipline) in the Pali tradition.'
Some people have criticized me, calling me a 'male chauvinist', because I am not exercising my alleged authority. But I cannot decide this on my own. However, what I can do is to encourage nuns to study the classic texts. Biologically there is no difference between the brains of men and women and the Buddha clearly gave equal rights to men and women. In tantra women are accorded special respect. And yet when it comes to Vinaya we have to follow tradition.”

I am trying to see if there are any monumental changes other than the important issue of empowering the women with access to higher studies..
On the practical level, the Geshe degree means far more prestige in the Tibetan tradition than the bhikshuni ordination.
Of course, I support the establishment of a bhikshuni lineage within Tibetan Buddhism. But I think that the opportunity of these complete study programs is an even more important consideration.
I have a tendency to think that both are equally important after such a long lapse and the sooner the better that both gets resolved but yes, traditionalists can be a damper at times...
Do not forget that even in the largest Chinese Buddhist organizations, though there are bhikshunis, during dharma functions they still put monks in the key positions and nuns do not perform certain functions. Similarly, several of Taiwan's flagship monasteries are supporters of bhikshuni ordination but have rules barring women from the position of abbot.
Say what you like, anytime, the Chinese Bhiksunis (more so for the Taiwanese ones) enjoy a far greater respect and mileage in many areas than their counterparts in the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist worlds for a long time but yes, there's still the patriarchy system thingy that needs to be worked on. If it wasn't for the kindness of the Chinese Dharmaguptaka Tradition, the Bhikkhuni/Bhiksuni lineage outside of it would not have seen much daylight anyways... My own experience tells me that I have encountered and known more nuns than monks over the years and most of them are found in the Chinese Tradition, even my 1st refuge master and preceptor for the panca sila was a Chief Abbess...
There is a time to rejoice, and a time to point out faults. Personally I think this is a time to rejoice- but of course that doesn't mean there isn't still more to be done.
Well, put it that way, better something than nothing I guess.
Personally I was encouraged to take full ordination and also it was required for a temple I was staying in. Otherwise, in the Mahayana traditions (whether Tibetan,Korean, Chinese or Vietnamese) as well as many modern Theravada temples, many of the minor precepts are not followed anyways. It seems more important for people to have a solid basis in the complete philosophy of Buddhism than to go through an ordination ritual with minor rules that are not really followed. (To be fair, within Chinese Buddhism the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is an exception to this).
There's also the less known Haicheng Sangha but it brings much chagrin to me to know that the Lord back then kept referring to Dharma & Vinaya and even assured the Elder Ananda on these two being the guiding beacons after the Mahaparinirvana and today, the latter is somewhat being allowed to take some kind of a backseat. I can't remember who was it who made a statement like 'put your money where your mouth is' in your own thread on monastics in the west but since the day I took up refuge, yes, that's where my money and support has been going to as well: supporting the monastics of whichever stripe of Vinaya lineage. I see it as my personal obligation as an upasaka to do so.
In the future I hope that this full ordination is available to all who seek it. But with this geshe degree for women, women will be able to fill teaching positions, train other nuns, travel abroad more frequently and take on the role of "kalyanamitra" or even guru. The impact of this should not be underestimated.
I am not sure if in the eyes of the laity, would there more respect and understanding for women with geshe degree versus men who do? Perhaps, the tradition also needs to work on re-educating on the perception of some of the laity that female geshes are lesser than their male counterparts... kinda like how some quarters harbour a belief that dana to monks are better than nuns thingy?
plwk
 
Posts: 2641
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:41 am

Re: Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:16 pm

I actually think in the Western centres the female geshes may give the male geshes a run for their money. Especially since the majority of Buddhist practitioners in the West (at least in Vajrayana) are women.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2281
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Dalai Lama Addresses Nuns After the Great Winter Debate

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:21 pm

but it brings much chagrin to me to know that the Lord back then kept referring to Dharma & Vinaya and even assured the Elder Ananda on these two being the guiding beacons after the Mahaparinirvana and today, the latter is somewhat being allowed to take some kind of a backseat


You'll get no argument from me on this point. But for really meticulous guarding of the precepts, lay support is required. For example, if I was not allowed to store food overnight I would not be able to cook for either of our Geshes and would have to have a layperson come to do this. If no one was around it might be disturbing someone at their job to take their lunch break to drive out here and cook!

Similarly, if I didn't handle money I would not be able to take the train with the geshe to the branch groups where he teaches, or organize the Indian trips to get his papers renewed etc. Similarly, I would not be able to buy the dictionaries etc. that I need to do my job.

But in an ideal situation it would be fantastic if there were secure enough institutions to allow mass monasticism to return to tighter Vinaya discipline. Some of the rules are just as relevant as ever (others, arguably less so).
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2281
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India


Return to Gelug

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests

>