Dalai Lama on feminism

Dalai Lama on feminism

We who believe in reincarnation usually want some inkling of what we did before. Where did I live?  Who did I love?  Often we “feel” things about ourselves that are not necessarily inherited from ancestors. Young children surprise us with information they’ve never been taught. 

Even His Holiness admits his curiosity. He says, “I don’t recall my experiences in my previous lives. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I did yesterday. As a Buddhist, you know, I accept and believe in the theory of rebirth. So there is no question that in my previous lives, there were definitely many lives as women. And in future lives also, it is not certain whether I will be reborn with a female body or a male body or some other form of body. I don’t know. The most important thing in Buddhism is no discrimination. The ultimate aim is the same for men and women. In the capacity to achieve nirvana, or Buddhahood, there are no differences.”

According to published reports, today there are many female reincarnated lamas who are spiritual leaders. Some travel around the world and give teachings. For instance, in Spain last year about a hundred people came out on a cold winter night in the small city of Albacete to listen to such a Tibetan nun give teachings on compassion.

Her words were soothing to the men and women who had gathered in the auditorium to be taught by her. I felt uplifted in her down-to-earth presence. But once there was a dearth of such female practitioners.

The King of Tibet explains, “There is a true feminist movement in Buddhism that relates to the bodhisattva Tara. Following her cultivation of Bodhichitta, the bodhisattva’s motivation, she looked upon the situation of those striving toward full awakening and she felt that there were too few people who attained buddhahood as women. 

So she vowed, ‘I have developed Bodhichitta as a woman. For all of my lifetimes along the path I vow to be born as a woman, and in my final lifetime when I attain Buddhahood, then, too, I will be a woman.’ This is true feminism.” Though in Tibetan society women and men are considered equal, within the monastic system there was differentiation.

“So, from the perspective of the highest dimension of Buddhist practice, The Highest Yoga Tantra, there is no distinction (between male and female), Tenzin Gyatso reminds us.

He states, “Even in that final life in which you attain Buddhahood, there is no difference whether you are male or female. In this system, there are more concerns about females than about males. For example, there are a number of root downfalls in the context of The Highest Yoga Tantric practice.  One of these root downfalls is for a male to abuse or to look down upon a female. If a man does that, it is disastrous. There is no comparable downfall for a woman looking down on a man. So we men are jealous.”