There has been a lot in the Western press this week about 27 Tibetan nuns taking the Tibetan Buddhist Geshe exam. This is sort of equivalent to a Ph.D. Geshe is the name given to Buddhist teachers in the Gelug and Sakya traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. This is big news because up until now there had only been one nun who was allowed to become a Geshe, and that was a Western Nun, who I have had teachings from and she is an excellent teacher.
Now, before we get all excited and start thinking Tibetan Buddhism has been dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming, we should just slow down a little. I mentioned that this news was big in the Western press and that is the key to this story. In the West, Buddhists are excited that women are starting to get equal footing, but it actually isn’t quite like that.
I have had some very intense conversations this week that have disturbed me very much. Who were they with? Well, I am sure you can guess, Tibetan monks. Here are some of the points they raised:
- women are a lower class than men
- teaching them to become Geshe goes against Buddha and Buddhism
- women cannot become a Buddha
- they can never teach men
- no man would ever listen to them
- they are not as intelligent as men
- there has never been a women ruler of Tibet because men are better
These are just a few comments. Some were so bad I couldn’t write them here.
Why I am writing this is because I don’t want people in the West to get carried away. It is a huge move in the right direct, and one I totally applaud, but don’t think that the men are going to give up their money, power and privileges easily. Tibetan Buddhism is a boys club and will be until Dalai Lama has the courage to come back as a women, something he has mentioned on more than one occasion.
Let’s keep encouraging this type of change, but remember it is no good if it is only driven from the West. We have to try to change the hearts and minds of men who have ruled supreme for hundreds of years. I wish these 27 nuns all the best and I will be sitting in the front row when they give their first teachings.