January 7, 2014

Tibetan Wisdom with a Feminine Twist.

Photo by Lisa Tully

“The world will be saved by the Western woman.”

~ The Dalai Lama

In the world of Tibetan Buddhism, if you dig deep, you will find a belief that women are considered to be a lesser rebirth. In other words the only way to truly attain liberation or enlightenment is in a man’s body.

Gautama Buddha or Siddhartha, who is the founder of Buddhism, strongly resisted his aunt becoming his first nun. Some say this was due to the fact that he believed the monks would just have the nuns running around after them doing their cooking and cleaning.

And if we consider this particular Buddha was alive circa 600BC or maybe even earlier, he definitely had a point wouldn’t you agree?

However I feel the later belief of women being a lesser rebirth was a man-made confusion, which evolved after Buddha’s initial timely concerns.

And things have come a long way for women now especially in the West. We have a lot more freedom although there is still work to be done. And I believe that is why the Dalai Lama said what he said about us.

For we are not any better than our Eastern sisters, we simply have more freedom and can therefore have more influence.

We are all equal.

The masculine & the feminine are like day and night. We need both. And we have been without that for so long and it manifests in how badly we treat our mother earth.

But knowing all this I couldn’t sit with this seemingly patriarchal belief in Tibetan Buddhism so I set off on a mission to find a female master to explore this with. I came across an incredible Western woman living in India, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.

Originally from East London she now runs a nunnery where she is totally devoted to reviving the female yogini in Tibetan Buddhism. On top of that her personal goal is to become the first enlightened female master whom upon death returns back to earth to help everyone else achieve the same. This is what is known as a Bodhisattva.

As luck would have it or rather the magic of India willed it, I managed to get a one-hour private audience with her to explore my burning question around women in Buddhism.

Her response was that even in a group of women, some things that work for one, don’t necessarily work for another. That there are no specific methods that suit just the feminine or the masculine and it is my job to check what works for me as an individual, in everything that I am taught.

Those words brought me great peace.

For ultimately, whether we are in a female body or a male body, we have free will. We have discernment. We can sense if something is right or wrong for us and hopefully have the courage to enact upon that despite what may be going on around us.

And if we embrace that, each and everyone of us, men and women, brother and sister, husband and wife, we might…we just might get to save our feminine planet before she is all but destroyed. For after all, the microcosm has the power to affect the macrocosm right?

Om Tara Toh Tara Ture Soha.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Lisa Tully

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