To Be A Buddhist Nun
New York Premiere of "In the Shadow of Buddha"
Wednesday September 14, 2011 @ 7:00 PM
Member Price: $10.80
In enlightened thought there is no male or female.
In enlightened speech there is no near and far.
- Tibetan proverb
In the Shadow of Buddha, a compelling and exquisitely shot film by Heather Kessinger, takes us to the seldom seen world of Tibetan Buddhist nuns and refugees in Ladakh, a region in northernmost India.
These women challenge thousands of years of history by believing that a woman can be educated and that being born a female is not a punishment of past deeds. Through their voices - humorous, wistful, insightful - we explore the paradox of being a woman within Tibetan Buddhism: a fundamental spiritual equality does not
There will be a pre-program tour on Female Emanations with RMA Guide Juliet Gumbs beginning at 6:00pm.
With a post-screening discussion with the filmmaker and Prof. Kim Gutschow, author of Being a Buddhist Nun: The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004. Winner: Sharon Stephens Book Prize, American Ethnological Society.
Kim Gutschow is Professor, Institute of Anthropology and Center for Modern Indian Studies, at Göttingen University& Lecturer in Religion and Anthropology/Sociology, Williams College.
Most nuns in the film proclaim themselves "weak" and "stupid," professing their wish to be reborn as males. Young girls in this part of the world grow up believing that they have done something wrong in their previous lives to be burdened with the body of a woman. The word for "woman" in Tibetan translates to "lower birth." The intimate stories of these nuns, told in their own voice without narration, articulate the inherent contradiction between cultural assumptions emphasizing that incarnation in a male body is necessary to attain enlightenment, and the underlying Buddhist belief that truth is ultimately empty, free of concept or category, and genderless.
In a culture that still believes it is bad luck to have a daughter, the opportunities and self- respect of women, both lay and monastic, are increasing. In the Shadow of Buddha is a human story, a feminist story, and a story of equality shown through the unexpected lens of Buddhist nuns.