Sexism in Buddhism

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Sexism in Buddhism

Postby Minjeay » Tue Dec 10, 2013 11:50 am

Indrajala wrote:Actually, again to draw parallels with Theravada, western bhikkhus are often highly regarded in Asia and generous devotion is expressed towards them. The western masters of Pali and meditation alike get equal status.


Actually, as I mentioned before, my body is female. How many Theravadins would bow down before me?

... So, sorry, I don't know your position concerning this, but for me Theravada is no option. Would also not be an option if my own body was male and I would see my sisters treated with disrespect, in any way, just because of their outer appearances.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby rory » Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:19 am

I walked into various Tibetan centers at the age of 17 and walked right out again, as Minejeay says most there have replaced Christian worship with Buddhism, venerating lamas, getting into all the fun rituals, and material stuff. Because it's just so much fun and cool :thinking:

Really even I at a young age realized I was meditating at a wealthy Zen center because it was visually beautiful and catered to Western notions of aesthetics, I took myself away from there and wound up at a Jodo Shinshu church with a linoleum floor. It did me a world of good. I'd say it was the best example of democratic organization too: Jodo Shinshu churches have been in the US and Canada a long time. I think that's a healthy model to look to.

What I find deeply funny is the Western male love & devotion for his ever wise Asian teacher-mentor, which probably comes of viewing the "Karate Kid" too many times or watching kung fu flicks. You'll very rarely find a guy here in this forum who'll critique and say it's a bunch of bushwah the polliticting, sexism, culty ways, cause they love it! Ven. Indrajala you're just cutting into their fun and you will never get the luv being just a mere regular guy from their neighborhood. Canadians sadly aren't exotic.
Minejeay, prostrations are spiritually uselful, I've done them whilst chanting mantras when I attended Tendai gyo, (never to a teacher), try a Japanese tradition, they still have hierarchies and are sexist but better than just about all the other traditions for women. I have a friend who's a Tendai priest in Germany, intellectual and German, if you like I'll give you his link.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:36 am

You do the many excellent teachers of our tradition a broad disservice with your generalizations. It would be like me lumping all of Nichiren Buddhism in with Soka Gakkai.

This kind of talk is merely sectarian posturing as you said yourself you walked in and walked right out- so you have no deep or meaningful experience of the tradition. You assertion about TB males made me laugh because it shows huge and incorrect assumptions on your part- 70% of those who attend centres of the Tibetan tradition are female. I have traveled broadly to centres in Europe and Canada, I know this to be the case.

You make caustic remarks about practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism but you don't see us going to the Pure Land or Zen forum simply to condescend or put down those traditions and their institutions.

Those of us who have seriously studied Tibetan Buddhism in India know the amount of hardship and determination required to complete the philosophical and meditative training the tradition demands.

The nuns of the Gelug tradition with the new Geshe degree, and of the Drukpa Kagyu with the help of Ven. Tenzin Palmo are becoming lineage holders of great stature and will do great things for Buddhism in the West. Please investigate deeply before making such blanket statements.

Indrajala is actually tougher than he first appears, he can handle tough arguments here and I think even secretly likes it.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby rory » Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:48 am

Your tradition when it finally loses it's overtones of exotic excitement, (the Dalai Lama is no longer fashionable nor is Tibet) will have adapt to the West to survive; so far the most viable model seems to me an outside observor that of Norbu's Dzogchen. Large amounts of non-Asians are not going to support monasteries, monks, nuns etc and frankly the 2nd and 3rd gen Western Asians won't either. Women are at the bottom of the heap in Asian traditions; which has nothing to do with the Buddha's teachings but solely due to culture, there is no democracy due to culture.... I find deep value in Buddhism, the philosophy and the practices I've learned in Japanese Vajrayana and Tendai and from the excellent scholarship that abounds but the exterior is so much tiresome cultural crap that is dispiriting. I wish it were gone...
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:54 am

To dismiss the Dalai Lama as fashionable or unfashionable is unfortunate. He has done great service to Buddhism as a whole through his travels and teachings in the Western world, and can perfectly speak to Western audiences, including highly trained scientists. If you actually read his deeper philosophical teachings you would see they go way beyond fashion, what he offers is a tremendous challenge to raise the level of Buddhist scholarship and understanding, as well as challenge assertions made by Buddhist texts in light of scientific discoveries.

In short, don't make ill-informed critiques about a tradition you know nothing about. I know nothing of Zen and Pure Land, for example, so I know that any put downs I might make in the forums are likely a result of simply assumptions based on image and my own preferences. So I choose not to denigrate other traditions.

Informed criticism is useful, sectarian posturing not so much.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Minjeay » Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:08 am

JKhedrup wrote:You assertion about TB males made me laugh because it shows huge and incorrect assumptions on your part- 70% of those who attend centres of the Tibetan tradition are female. I have traveled broadly to centres in Europe and Canada, I know this to be the case.


Females as attendents, yes. As supporters, yes. As persons who make decisions, give empowerments and teachings - largely NO, as far as I know.

I agree that sectarianism generally won't help here.

@rory: Thanks, but I'm not the guy for groups and all this stuff. Actually I use to get kicked out of them if I speak honestly and am not interested in lying, and staying away from such bad influences is better than wasting time in getting hurt and afterwards first having to heal yourself before you can go on with the real stuff.

Informed criticism is useful

Is it? So are you personally going to change anything or do you just want to be politically correct in writing this?
Do you think anybody will honestly put away their superstition and blind belief and start to critically think about what's going on, just because someone dares to speak about problems? Not really, right. If elections would change anything they were forbidden, weren't they?
In the end of course it's "not a good service" to the bigger thing to speak about unconvenient things, is it?
Shitty politics.

So I guess that's it towards this topic from my side.

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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:56 am

I was talking about the generalization of male TB practitioners and the Karate Kid mentality. The Tibetan males in positions of authority is another issue.

In short, of course informed criticism makes a difference. Tibetan monks and nuns are neither foolish or stupid, to dismiss them as sheep through your insinuations is a little bit on the insulting side. Why do you think we now have women Geshes? Why are there women in charge of the nunneries? Because people asked for change.

Please don't make these broad categorizations about Tibetans, and blind belief. The level of scholarship and debate necessary in the great instiutions requires a high degree of doubt and critical thinking.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
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A straw floats on the surface of water,
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby rory » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:59 am

Hmm, J. Khedrup I'm insulting foolish Westerners for making the Dalai Lama fashionable, the entire concept of 'fashionable Buddhism' believing any and everything and their uncritical Orientalism you'll find this across traditions, especially the martial arts guys and it doesn't matter if they do kung fu, taekwondo, Thai kickboxing, Japanese karate....

What non-Western Buddhists do is their own business.

So you ignore my point about the pervasive:

1. Sexism
2. Lack of democracy
3. Ethnocentrism
4. Poltics

That this isn't a part of Shakyamuni's teachings but came with various Asian cultures and what we as Westerners are doing about it when we import these sects and participate in them.

I also mentioned 2 positive traditions:
1. Jodo Shinshu - democratic, Westernized
2. Dzogchen Community - future model?, lay-oriented, non-monastic

you didn't engage with either of these. Maybe because you support the status quo,

You merely set up a straw dog, talking about my insulting TIbetan Buddhism. As for sectarianism I actually said this at the end:

I find deep value in Buddhism, the philosophy and the practices I've learned in Japanese Vajrayana and Tendai and from the excellent scholarship that abounds but the exterior is so much tiresome cultural crap that is dispiriting. I wish it were gone...

I castigated the cultural crap that comes with the tradition I practice in. I've also criticized Ven. Huifeng and Chinese Buddhism for doing the same thing. I find it worse than sad when Westerners just perpetuate this.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Tom » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:37 am

rory wrote:What I find deeply funny is the Western male love & devotion for his ever wise Asian teacher-mentor, which probably comes of viewing the "Karate Kid" too many times or watching kung fu flicks.


If someone is unable to distinguish between what goes on in Tibetan Buddhism and what they have seen in a "karate kid" movie that does not mean that the two are equivalent, but rather it speaks to that person's ignorance, and probably that they have watched the "karate kid" way too many times!
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby smcj » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:57 am

Tom wrote:
rory wrote:What I find deeply funny is the Western male love & devotion for his ever wise Asian teacher-mentor, which probably comes of viewing the "Karate Kid" too many times or watching kung fu flicks.


If someone is unable to distinguish between what goes on in Tibetan Buddhism and what they have seen in a "karate kid" movie that does not mean that the two are equivalent, but rather it speaks to that person's ignorance, and probably that they have watched the "karate kid" way too many times!

Funny you guys should mention it, since I definitely have the "wax on/wax off" idea about Dharma is general, and TB in particular.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Lindama » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:02 am

hmmm, I don't know much. can anyone respond to Rory's observations for the generations to come. So far, no response has been made. I have to stop and wonder, but I don't have the gestalt of it.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:14 am

1. Sexism
2. Lack of democracy
3. Ethnocentrism
4. Poltics


I didn't ignore these at all, in fact I spoke about how the women having the Geshe degree came due to changes demanded by many within the TB community, including Westerners. Thinks of the Tibetan Nuns' project of Elisabeth Napper (http://tnp.org/) for example. I also mentioned Sravasti Abbey (sravasti.org) and its Dharmagupta bhikshuni ordination as an example of a community still connected with the "Tibetan establishment" but functioning according to Western and feminist aspirations. I mentioned Gampo Abbey (gampoabbey.org) in Nova Scotia under Ven. Pema Chodron.

I talked about how the extensive full-time study programs of the FPMT (http://fpmt.org/education/programs/masters-program/)are producing Western- trained qualified teachers and the teaching positions at the various centres are increasingly being filled by Westerners (with about a half/half balance between monastic and lay) rather than Tibetan Geshes. There are also other interesting programs that can trained qualified teachers in a university setting in the West, such as Naropa University (naropa.edu). And retreat facilities such as Samye Ling in Scotland (http://www.samyeling.org/), which have produced Western retreat lamas such as the resident teacher at their large London branch, Nun Gelongma Zangmo (http://www.london.samye.org/about-us/te ... ma-zangmo/)

I can only assume that you didn't read those responses, or your opinions are so entrenched that even if I do put the time into formulating responses and giving examples they won't be considered. Perhaps you should not base your opinions completely on an hour long encounter you had as a 17 year old at a centre that was running when Buddhism was just first coming to the West.

I also responded to your broad generalization here:

What I find deeply funny is the Western male love & devotion for his ever wise Asian teacher-mentor, which probably comes of viewing the "Karate Kid" too many times or watching kung fu flicks.


By stating the obvious, that the vast majority of Westerners who approach Tibetan Buddhism (according to a research paper I read 70%) with its emphasis on the teacher-mentor are women. The people who attend courses at all the Western centres I've translated in reflect the fact that it is mostly women.


I also mentioned 2 positive traditions:
1. Jodo Shinshu - democratic, Westernized
2. Dzogchen Community - future model?, lay-oriented, non-monastic


Here you reveal your preference for non-monastic traditions, which is fine. I would dare say it is probably a preference of a majority of people who post here. But my experience of Jodo Shinshu in Canada is rather different than yours- it is overwhelmingly Japanese. Yes, there are pews in the Buddha Hall and Christian style hymns (which will appeal to some), but I think this may have more to do with the racism Japanese Canadians suffered in the WW2 period and the pressure to appear more "Western" it would be an interesting discussion.

I don't think for most Westerners interested in Buddhism the Jodo Shinshu will offer broad appeal- and we can see that this is the case- despite good financial support and a lay orientation it is not as popular as TB, Theravada or the various Zen Schools. Personally, I think this is due to the emphasis on "other-power" and the fact it is pretty close to the theistic upbringing than many Western Buddhists seek to distance themselves from, but I will not comment further as I mentioned my knowledge of Pure Land theology, especially Japanese Pure Land is pretty limited.

In terms of DC I agree the lay approach is attractive and ChNN is a fine teacher, I have enjoyed listening to him online and reading his books. However it remains to be seen how the DC will fare once he passes on (indeed this holds true for FPMT and Lama Zopa as well). While I appreciate more resources go to Western branches, the model of leadership itself is connected to the tulku institution and the the lama is Tibetan and the present successor candidate half Tibetan, so I don't really know how revolutionary the leadership style is. The teaching style is definitely something fresh.

In the future Rory, please read my previous posts in the thread before making the assertion I didn't respond to your points. I actually did elsewhere if you go back a page or so, I just didn't repost everything to respond to the questions since I had already provided answers in thread. But now I have :namaste:
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:34 am

Tom wrote:
rory wrote:What I find deeply funny is the Western male love & devotion for his ever wise Asian teacher-mentor, which probably comes of viewing the "Karate Kid" too many times or watching kung fu flicks.


If someone is unable to distinguish between what goes on in Tibetan Buddhism and what they have seen in a "karate kid" movie that does not mean that the two are equivalent, but rather it speaks to that person's ignorance, and probably that they have watched the "karate kid" way too many times!

Excuse me if I am wrong, I lost track of the karate kid thing at about the fifth sequel, but the last karate kid was black and the previous one was a young woman.
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One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby rory » Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:22 am

I don't practice Pure Land exclusively anymore, I balance devotion to Avalokitesvara with study of Avatamsaka philosophy and chanting the Mantra of Light but I can say that it's powerful and really was the first and only practice that began working for me. I absolutely had no faith or belief in Amitabha but if you have a will and put your back into it, it can develop and then meditation, sutra study, vajrayana practices yield results. The nice thing is it doesn't cost anything and you can do it anywhere.
Ani Choying Drolma has a very nice rendition of the Nilakantha Dharani (Great Compassion Mantra)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgTeKYHjrpY
and this one by Imee Ooi has the Sanskrit romanization so you can chant along, a great learning video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-gWBj21lpM

J.Khedrup, I appreciate your replying. I guess we will have to agree to disagree, as when you point out that women are obtaining the geshe, to me that's like women getting a Ph.d but never being appointed Chair of the Department. Or if women make up the vast amount of worshippers in TB that says nothing about sexism, the vast amount of worshippers in Catholicism are women. I agree with you about DC it's dependent on a tulku and who knows what will happen. Well we can discuss this in the future. Ironically the passivity I see here from the TB practitioners, (the take the teachings and run types) does not bode well for the support of the structure. As cranky as I am about things, I've been an active organizer and supporter via $, time, spreading the teachings, of the sects with which I was involved.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:35 am

.Khedrup, I appreciate your replying. I guess we will have to agree to disagree, as when you point out that women are obtaining the geshe, to me that's like women getting a Ph.d but never being appointed Chair of the Department


But I went to the trouble of posting all those links to websites because the women are serving as the organizational equivalent of "Chair of the Department", especially in the Western centres.

Ven. Thubten Chodron and Gelongma Zangmo both run their organizations, and are the main teachers. Gelongma Zangmo occupies a higher seat in some of the puja pictures than some senior Tibetan monks. That is a big deal because height of seat indicates rank.

Anyways, people are invested in their opinions so there isn't much more I can do. I am not saying that there isn't a problem, just that things are changing. If we don't recognize and encourage that change, we actually are not helping the situation- we're just complaining. Ven. Thubten Chodron and Gelongma Zangmo trained, took action, and now have important roles. That is the way to go about challenging the status quo.
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
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Stewart » Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:55 am

JKhedrup wrote:
.Khedrup, I appreciate your replying. I guess we will have to agree to disagree, as when you point out that women are obtaining the geshe, to me that's like women getting a Ph.d but never being appointed Chair of the Department


But I went to the trouble of posting all those links to websites because the women are serving as the organizational equivalent of "Chair of the Department", especially in the Western centres.

Ven. Thubten Chodron and Gelongma Zangmo both run their organizations, and are the main teachers. Gelongma Zangmo occupies a higher seat in some of the puja pictures than some senior Tibetan monks. That is a big deal because height of seat indicates rank.

Anyways, people are invested in their opinions so there isn't much more I can do. I am not saying that there isn't a problem, just that things are changing. If we don't recognize and encourage that change, we actually are not helping the situation- we're just complaining. Ven. Thubten Chodron and Gelongma Zangmo trained, took action, and now have important roles. That is the way to go about challenging the status quo.


Hi JK,

To be accurate Gelongma (Lama) Zangmo runs the London Branch of Kagyu Samye Ling, there are 2 other female Lamas appointed to run various branches of KSL, Lama Rinchen Palmo, who splits her time between the Brussels centre and the womens 3 year retreat on Holy island in Scotland and Lama Tsondru, who co-runs the Barcelona centre with Lama Jinpa Gyamtso. All of the above mentioned have completed 12 years + in retreat, and were personally chosen and appointed as Lamas by Akong Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, who believe that completing 1 or more retreat does not automatically qualify one as a teacher or Lama.

LYR is the boss though, he oversees the major decisions of the centres. AR and LYR believe that these Lamas display the qualities needed to be in charge of large centres and having students of there own. I must say I know them well, especially Lama Zangmo and Lama Rinchen, and they are a fine example of practitioners and teachers.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:01 am

Didn't Akong Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe also personally fund several of their nuns to participate in the Bhikshuni ordination organized by Fo Guang Shan in Bodh Gaya so many years ago? It seems they did a lot to empower women to take on key administrative and teachings responsibilities at the centres.
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
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Stewart » Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:24 pm

Hi JK.

Yes they did, there are several Gelongmas at Samye Ling and the associated centres, Ani Lhamo, LYR's seceatary is a Gelongma. Gelongma Kunzang, Zangmo, Tsondru and a couple of others.

Also there are many Getsulmas, in fact there are more nuns than monks at Samye Ling. LYR, and the late AR, are very proud of this.

Also Tsoknyi Rinpoche was impressed by this when he visited Scotland in September, as you know he has somewhere in the region of 3000 nuns under his wing. In fact he told me that Akong Rinpoche funded the whole of the nuns accom. at Gebchak through Rokpa, something AR was very humble about.
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Re: Sexism in Buddhism

Postby Seishin » Wed Dec 18, 2013 11:15 am

I have split this topic from the Tulku Thread viewtopic.php?f=66&t=14900 as I believe 'Sexism in Buddhism' is an important topic that needs to be addressed. This will most likely be a heated debate so I'd like everyone to take time to read the Terms of Service viewtopic.php?f=109&t=12768&view=unread#unread before posting.

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Re: Sexism in Buddhism

Postby smcj » Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:05 pm

In Kagyuland Lama Norlha's place in upstate N.Y. is run almost entirely by women. Men are a minority. Plus L.N. supports nunneries in Tibet. I goes he got an education about the potential of women when he came to the U.S.
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