Feminism and Buddhism
Updated: Feb 15
Public Talk: Feminism and Buddhism
- translations in Italian, Spanish and Hebrew available below
Bhikshuni Lozang Yönten
26 June 2019
Nagarjuna Center: Madrid, Spain
Transcribed and lightly edited: L. Yönten July 2019
Start by setting the motivation for this talk, that whether we have objections or insights, whether we have clarity or confusion – that all of this leads to the development of our potential. And that in particular, with the subject Feminism and Buddhism, that we think of ways to collaborate and to create harmony between the genders, between the generations and the cultures, and within our own selves.
And so [now] refuge and bodhichitta:
SANG GYÄ CHHÖ DANG TSHOG KYI CHHOG NAM LA
I go for refuge until I am enlightened
JANG CHHUB BAR DU DAG NI KYAB SU CHHI
To the Buddha, the Dharma, and Sangha
DAG GI CHÖ NYEN GYI PE SÖ NAM GYI
By the merits I create through listening to the Dharma,
DRO LA PHÄN CHHIR SANG GYÄ DRUB PAR SHOG (3x)
May I become a buddha to benefit all sentient beings. (3x)
And just connect deeply with your own refuge and positive motivation.
[pause for reflection]
Whatever your initial reasons were for coming, consciously upgrade them to the highest.
[pause for reflection]
Before we dig into the topic, I think it is useful to go back over what we already know. If we think about the traditional stories told in Buddhism – where do women pop up? What is their significance in the “big” story of the Buddha’s life? Also, what was the culture of the time and the atmosphere of the time? How do these stories then apply to us now in our own practice?
We start with the Buddha’s mother. We know that in Buddhism that the mother is really celebrated as kind of the highest example of worldly love. So we’ll revisit this idea of the mother archetype, but for now we just think about the Buddha’s mother.
You can approach the story of the Buddha becoming enlightened from a lot of different angles. From the Pāli tradition and from the Sanskrit tradition, the story is framed in slightly different ways - different traditions emphasize different components of the story. But I thought to just talk about the parts that we all kind of agree on as highlights.
So, before the Buddha was born his mother had dreams that he was coming. Which should say to us that she was probably a very realized being herself because she would have had a type of clairvoyance to be able to see who is this being that is now with her. Then the Buddha was born and shortly after, she died. Then his stepmother, who was also his Aunt, started to take care of him. These are the first two women we hear about.
There are lots of other parts to the story that involve lots of different men in lots of different roles, but so far in the story the women we hear about are mothers - powerful and significant figures, but framed in this way.
Then time goes by and the Buddha starts to grow up. At this time, he is still just Prince Siddhartha, or else he is already a Buddha pretending to be Prince Siddhartha, depending on your tradition - but regardless, he then shows the aspect of getting married.
And he gets married to Yoshodara with whom, it is said, he had many relationships over many past lives. So it was more than an arranged marriage, it was a marriage of love. We don’t know much more about their relationship. We don’t know how she felt about him leaving home, we don’t know how she felt about him leaving their child, we don’t know how she felt about him having many concubines – but we know that she existed: the archetypal “maiden” who became “mother.” She apparently maintained her connection with the Buddha well enough that after his enlightenment, she herself became a follower. Whatever anger she may or may not have had, she worked through it and regained her connection with him.
The story of the Buddha continues after his leaving home, those parts are known quite well in our circles. The next women we hear about is the girl who offers him rice porridge which is part of his great transformation from living austerities to moving into the “middle way” thinking.
Prior to meeting her he had lived these six or seven years of austerities of not eating or drinking – just being in strict meditation. He was maybe having one grain of rice a day and abiding by the very strict practices that he learned in the Hindu tradition. Strengthening his renunciation but also going a little too far.
There is a story of his transformation at that time where he realized that all of this deprivation was too much. The components of this really pivotal time are described in many in ways the folk story. The most common version of the story is that the Buddha hears two musicians talking to one another and teacher musician says to the student musician, “if you tune the strings too tightly, they will break. If you tune them too loosely, they won’t play.” And this is often spoken of as a key moment where the Buddha decided to shift his way of practicing.
Around this time then a girl appears: out of nowhere, out of a village, who knows? And she offers him this porridge, which is the first nourishing and substantial food that he has had for many years. And then he starts to gather his strength for his final meditations that lead to enlightenment.
So in the traditional story of the Buddha that you hear at Dharma Centers, these are the four women that you hear about. If you dig deeply, you can find more, but normally they are all you hear about.
And, of course, the Buddha’s stepmother is very important to us because she became the first nun. And there was a lot of arguments and discussions about whether or not women should be allowed to be nuns. Most of those arguments were culturally relevant at the time [for example]: it was a dangerous time to be a woman travelling alone, it was even more controversial than now not to have a family.
So the Buddha’s stepmother, his Aunt, was a very brave and inspirational woman to make this bold request. Through the discussion they had while deciding whether or not to ordain women, the Buddha finally said that men and women are equal and that their potential for enlightenment is equal.
This is something that happened during the Buddha’s actual, historical, life. The Buddha was incredibly progressive, that he not only said that the caste system is nonsense, also sexism is nonsense. So he discussed economics and racism and gender, far more freely than most teachers of his time.
Despite this being a universally accepted version of the story, many cultures that Buddhism entered into forget this part. There are many cultures within Buddhism that do believe that it is better to be a man - some of this is fed by a misunderstanding of certain aspects of Sutras. There are a three Sutras that we recite in our tradition a lot, that could lead you to this misunderstanding.
It is common for us to recite The Golden Light Sutra, The Diamond Cutter Sutra and The Long Life Sutra“Tse Dö,” but many other Sutras say a similar thing which is: “through the power of reciting this Sutra, may I never be reborn as a woman.” Which, if you’re reciting along this beautiful Sutra and come to this sentence might make you go, “Ack!” For many women, it can make them disillusioned about Buddhism and for some men it can give them an excuse to disrespect women. But the point of these statements is not what we think it is.
The commentary of these Sutras is that we are talking about conducive conditions for practice. Due the restrictions of culture, it’s difficult to be a woman. Historically there were fewer opportunities for education. Historically the physical aspects of being a woman were more difficult than they are now – for example pregnancy and the care of children. We know that theoretically bearing and having children is very good practice - that it is an amazing opportunity to develop compassion etc., anyone who has children or looks after children know that they are very distracting - you have lots of opportunities to practice but few opportunities to study. So, to say that you never want to be reborn as a woman means, “I want conducive circumstances for study and practice.” It is understood that the various difficulties to do with the reproductive system [can be] also hard for study. That to travel alone as a woman, even now, can be quite dangerous.
Which is not to say that there is any problem with being a woman. The problem has always been the attitude of certain types of men, towards women. A culture that strengths those negative attitudes towards women, hurts men also. But it’s important to know the cultural context and what the audience was at the time that these Sutras we spoken.
When we read these texts, we need to always need to remember the cultural context and that all teachings need to be interpreted – except those on emptiness. Every single teaching, besides those on emptiness, is provisional. Which means it needs to be filtered through the logic and wisdom of the time. It’s important that we have objectivity with all of the teachings and to always marry them up with our own life experience and logic. We need to also always come back to the core teachings as well. The foundation of all practice is ethics.
Ethics means non-harmfulness. So if practices are harmful, they are not ethical. Certain restrictions that might have protected women in the past, now can be seen as limiting, even harmful. It’s important that the Dharma is in alignment with the social morals of the time.
Which means that we need to keep the debate alive and not let traditions become routines that we don’t examine. But also, not to throw away traditions – because there might be a deeper meaning that we’ve missed.
Then when we get into Tibetan Buddhism, there is even more to navigate. Because now we are getting into the system that we’re in right now. If we’re looking at the objective Buddha’s story from a distance, it’s just interesting. But now we’re coming home to our home school of thought and we need to look at our altar. What is the percentage of female figures to male? [There were approx. 2% at the Center where this talk was given – similar to most altars at Tibetan Buddhist Centers]
All of which is culturally relevant, historically relevant, and still a little problematic. Because now we are having photos and not just Thangkas, and still the photos are mostly men…all men.
[At the Center where this talk was given – similar to most altars at Tibetan Buddhist Centers]
Then we look around and ask, what is the percentage of people coming to Dharma Centers? In the west, in the last fifty years? Mostly women. It’s an important conversation to have gently and kindly, but to have. Because of course our teachers were educated mostly in the monastic system - and the monastic system is completely sexist. It is ok to say that, we should say that. More often. Loudly. Which is not to say that our beautiful Geshes are not well educated – they are! But they are the most educated because they are given the most opportunities. Does that make sense?
So if you’re used to only seeing men in power, it starts to just get into your head as normal. And if they are always Tibetan it also gets into your head a certain way. We may see a strange thing, where there could be a white [or other non-Himalayan] Geshe, and we think that they are not as special as the Asian ones. Same education but less magic [laughter]. And also, they speak the same language as you so that’s boring.
We need to acknowledge our strange form of bias in Buddhism, while at the same time recognizing that because this system has existed in Tibet and India for so many more years than here, there might be more numbers of profound teachers of those races than ours. But we need to be careful to break our association which assumes that Tibetan equals holy. If you live in Dharamsala for a little while, you will break this spell.
When you’re in Tibetan Buddhism, especially in the beginning, it’s easy to think that Tibetans themselves are a special, mystical race of people - somehow inherently more ethical and more kind, because a lot of them are very ethical and kind. There is a huge benefit to a culture being imbued with Buddhism for so many centuries. But that doesn’t mean that they have studied, practiced or even understand Buddhism.
Tibetan culture’s ethical frame has components that we should look up to and also, there are aspects of our culture that they could really learn from - like gender equality. It’s important that we have this conversation kindly, but that we have it.
And it is important that the genders within “Buddhist thought” speak to one another kindly. But we must speak to each other. Men in Buddhism need to tell us what it is like to be surrounded by so many women. We need to hear how it is to live in a Buddhist way in a very uncompassionate world - how difficult it can be to start modelling compassionate ideals in a “macho” culture. Or how difficult it must be to fight against male socialization.
Because, for example, there might be a class of fifty people and only five of them are men, but a far greater percentage of men than women are asking questions. Even one man in a class can dominate the whole class because society has encouraged them to use their voice and to feel confident in their opinions and to argue without shame.
Of course lots of men have good questions in Dharma classes but they might not notice they are the only one talking. Men might not know that if there were no men in the class, the dynamic would shift or that women’s internalized sexism relaxes when we are just “with the girls.” So it’s no one’s fault, it is how society has been built.
We are only “men,” and “women” merely labeled by the mind. We have all been any kind of gender or gender expression countless times. Over-identification with any part of identity is exaggeration. It is a symptom of grasping at inherent existence. We need to hold that understanding together with our worldly experience of our gender. If we hear ourselves saying things like, “ugh, men are just like that…” we need to add, “…merely labeled by the mind.” Or, “…not from their own side…” for example.
I think that playing with these ideas can very enriching to our practice. But there is still is the problem or the opportunity that we are still under the umbrella of Tibetan culture – which is very old-fashioned. Which is also is full of rich, fully fledged ideas related to Dharma - powerful practices and powerful philosophy but often absent of even a basic understanding of biology or a basic understanding of history. We need to break the spell of thinking that they [Tibetans and other Himalayan cultures] are magic. Buddhism is amazing. Tibetan culture has preserved it beautifully and we are grateful to them.
But the combination of this ancient tradition and the modern world is becoming more and more problematic. The hierarchical structure of Tibetan Buddhism is becoming more and more corrupt. We have amazing teachers like His Holiness the Dalai Lama who have perfect ethics, but we shouldn’t assume all Lamas are like that. We have to always keep our common sense and take each individual as they come. Assessing them with a really open mind, with respect for their education and maybe their vows, and also watching the human being in the center of all of that. Do they practice what they speak?
Because anyone speaking the Dharma will sound profound because the Dharma is profound. But you could have a well-educated, charismatic leader with terrible ethics. The Tibetan way of practicing Buddhism has some cultish1 tendencies. So we need to stay both open-minded and skeptical.
It is good to be really ready to accept these beautiful teachings, to apply them as personal advice, but to not jump in to a Guru-Disciple relationship with anyone just because of their name.
If we hear the word, “Geshe,” we should think, “well-educated.” Which doesn’t mean that they have qualities. They might! Often they do. But it is not a guarantee.
If we hear the word, “Rinpoche,” know that this tag comes from many different places. Sometimes it is because this is a realized being who had been recognized, as a realized being. Sometimes that “recognition,” has been purchased – for example by a wealthy family with a good reputation. Sometimes the tag, “Rinpoche” is given after a lifetime of positive work. Sometimes it is an honorary title given after someone has been the abbot of a big monastery. But if we hear, “Rinpoche,” we shouldn’t necessarily assume “trustworthy.” Be open and skeptical.
There was a time in my life where I thought, “I can’t say things like this in public! People will lose trust in Tibetan Buddhism! What if they realize the organizations are built of ordinary people and like every single organized religion, there is bureaucracy and corruption?! That we do the best we can but our afflictions are also there?!” But I’m not afraid of saying this openly anymore because I realize that Buddhism is strong enough to cope with the truth. The wisdom of Buddhism is strong enough to withstand scrutiny…
We can ask deep and critical questions of people in leadership and people in power. The Dharma is not going to fall apart because a few people have a bad motivation. In fact, it could actually model to the world a new way of having religion. One that is transparent and honest – but it has to start with us. When we see people in leadership making a mistake – it is ok to say that. We’re not going to be struck down by lightening.
There also can be very beautiful, realized, beings who also make mistakes. Enlightenment doesn’t happen in one second out of nowhere – it is a process. There are a lot of people with education and qualities who still behave in a way that needs to be discussed.
The problem with the monastic model is that the two2 genders don’t [traditionally] see each other very often. Therefore, it’s easy for you to lose empathy for the other gender, because they are not in your life. If the power and authority has always lived with men who don’t know any women, it’s a problem. It’s really remarkable how many of these men do have empathy for women, despite not knowing any.
The fact remains that there is a lot of confusion about the two genders. I’ve had very educated, “Lharmapa” Geshes, the most educated you can get, who have very shyly and humbly have asked me questions about a woman’s reproductive cycle. Things that, in lay society, any male over fifteen understands.
This is just important background knowledge – that a lot of these beautiful and remarkable monks that we know, their last memories of living with women were when they were children. So, then women are seen [by monks] as “mothers” or “maidens/virgins,” and that their framework is all around their role within a family. Not their work or their hobbies or their way of thinking; or their successes and failures; of their brilliance and their weaknesses etc. We [women] are either their mother or their sister – and that can be problematic.
So…. Feminism is important in Buddhism.
Especially if feminism is defined as: the genders are equal and everyone should have an equal right to all positions within this religion.
We need to talk about it more often while still remembering equanimity3 and emptiness4. What do you think about that? What questions do you have?
I would like you to explain, to get more deeply into for example, recommendations for equality. Either for men or for women, because of the roles that we have normally in society or in groups that obviously can been reproduced in [dharma] centers, what kind of simple things that we can apply so that we can be conscious of the way we relate to the other gender.
What kind of recommendations or tips that you would like to focus on in this type or relation in Centers for example?
I think that it is a really important question. I think the first thing we can do is change how we speak about visiting teachers. Not to advertise “holiness.” Let people earn their [title of/reputation for] holiness.
You could say, for example, “the Dalai Lama is an educated and kind leader.” Then when you meet him, it’s obvious that he is holy. It’s obvious he is worthy of prostration. But it is so common to sort of force people to into branding them as “holy” before they have had that shown for themselves.
I think that we need to talk in dharma centers more like they talk in universities, “come see this teacher because they teach well on this _____topic and are educated in this _____way.” They might have this title, “the 5th,” this or “the 7th,” that or “the 14th,” blah blah blah… and there can be an interesting link on your website to what that all means. But all of our mental continuums’ have existed from beginningless time and we have all been amazing leaders and terrible tyrants and everything in between - countless times. It could be that “the 7th,” or “the 12th,” of that is in fact a realized being but we actually cannot take another person’s measure.
We don’t know who is holy and who isn’t. We don’t have clairvoyance. The one on the throne might be the least realized and the crazy homeless man we passed on the way in is actually the Buddha. So we try to learn something from everyone and just have this openness that is in a “student,” mindset.
Start our relationships with teachers based on their education and advertise based on their education. Let their qualities reveal themselves naturally. Let people make relationships with them in their own time without rushing.
It is very common in dharma centers to hear, “Tantra is so rare, death is coming, therefore take the empowerment now!” Which is true. And. If you don’t really know who you are taking the empowerment from – it gets problematic.
Because from a distance, anyone can be seem to be profound but can that profundity last over years and years of scrutiny? How will your mind cope if you find out they embezzle money or have affairs with women? Will you become so disillusioned that you throw away the dharma all together?
It’s important to have urgency in the sense that yes, death is coming. So that means that we need to make mental habits that we want to keep forever. Which means to try to practice something every day that is of benefit. This is the legacy that we leave to our future self. This is the style that we bring out in the people around us or inspire in other people around us.
We really don’t want to continue the habit of: being inspired, then being disillusioned, and then running away.
It’s so tempting to get swept up in inspiration – it is so nice to be inspired. Then sometimes we jump into a Guru-Disciple relationship because we like that feeling. When that feeling actually came from us – not from them. If we had enough openness we could feel that all the time – the mind of the Buddha is everywhere or the Dharmakaya mind of all the buddhas is all pervasive.
If you choose one, individual, human being as your gateway to that – then when that gateway closes, your connection to the Dharmakaya closes. Yet in the beginning, those gateways are very useful. We just have to be very wise with ourselves and not give in to peer pressure. Not to get swept up in the crowd thinking that because everyone else is excited so you should be excited. You might be skeptical. So be skeptical. Because a dharma practice is built by small, incremental, disciplined steps.
Yet its more common to have a giant leap and then fall back. If we’re lucky we take a giant leap, then fall back, then build [with a strong foundation]. But we really don’t want to encourage that in the people around us or in our dharma centers. We want to encourage a gradual, sustainable and wise approach. This is a type of spiritual maturity.
So, my recommendation is to change the conversation about teachers. Their qualities will advertise themselves. Their connections to students will develop naturally. But if we are making propaganda or kind of forcing things before they are ready, then they will fall apart – and eventually you will find a teacher who will fail you.
They might fail you in terms of their ethics – which is the hardest. But they also might just die – and then what is your practice without them? Or they might not listen to you when you really have a crisis or they might seem to favor some students over others. If you are putting all your reliance on an individual, you are disempowering yourself.
The main relationship with the guru is an internal conversation. And then what happens in a classroom setting: hearing what they say to the general audience as personal advice for you. This is healthier. Because they are not our father, or our therapist, or our life coach, or our partner – they are the teacher. So be a good student. Then the lessons you learn are yours, they have integrated with your own wisdom, and then no one can take them away from you – even if the guru turns out to be a fraud.
We come back to our basic teaching which is, “what is the real refuge?” The real refuge is Truth Paths and True Cessations which, colloquially, we could say is our own internal development. That’s what will protect us from suffering. You could have any number of doctors over the years but your health is your own. Does it make sense and help?
There are two men now [laughter]!
The ones that come are usually the ones that don’t need to come [laughter]. But they are welcome.
It’s similar to the conversation we had around race. We are all nice kind people who try not to be racist. But if a person of color tells us that we’re being racist, we need to listen – even though “we’re a good person.” They may or may not be overreacting or misunderstanding us but history gives them permission to call us on it. We need to have enough humility to listen that we might be wrong.
Similar to conversation around race is the conversation around gender. Women need to listen to what it’s like to be a man and men need to listen to what it’s like to be a woman. We need to love each other enough to collaborate and to trust each other enough to actually say and hear the things that are painful. And to forgive each for how we have been raised. Does it make sense? Other questions or comments.
I find it very important to talk about it. Very important for the women themselves to wake up because sometimes women don’t realize this.
Yes, we can be our own worst enemy.
If you’re used to the only power you have is the power you’ve gotten from men, then to say, “I will take my own power,” is really frightening. What would that even look like?
This is also something that can also be different generation to generation, culture to culture. If I talk to [ethnically] Tibetan nuns, it’s a very different conversation because their resources are dependent on the [male] monastery because that’s where the money goes. Their teachings are dependent on the men because that’s who have the knowledge. So to say to each other, “Let’s do it by ourselves!” is very scary. For centuries, they never have. They’ve never been allowed to. When they start to, other women might pull them down.
What kind of things could you tell them?
Maybe its good to go back to debate structure. Better to ask questions than to give advice. “Would your life be better if______?” “Is it logical that________?” Try to find ways to wake up their own wisdom and to somehow lead by example.
Now we do have Tibetan women who are Geshemas and the conversation around full ordination is getting more strength – due to the influence of Western women who say, “You deserve more than this. Your life is not to be the servant of monks. Your life is not to have all of the sacrifices of a monastic life without any of the benefits.” Because that often is the case, they are the servants of the monastery. It’s not right.
The fact that you are here and talking about that is very important and its never done.
And these roles can be reproduced in Western Centers as well.
Student 3: You end up having a lot of men, not always the case, but who expect women to get the roles like cleaning and preparing food, etc.
Student 2: It’s very important that we talk about the Western context too.
Absolutely. And to feel brave to educate these “holy” beings about things that are true in modern life. To realize that a good Lama loves a debate. A good Lama loves education. Don’t be scared, they like it! If they don’t like it, that says something about them.
So gently, respectfully, but more direct communication. More explicit, direct communication. Because it’s difficult to have a hard conversation before you get angry. We usually wait until we’re angry to have the “big” conversation. As soon as you’re yelling, even if it’s it quiet and polite “yelling,” people become defensive and stop listening. We have to speak from our heart to each other.
There is also a time for strength in saying, “This and this behavior is unacceptable.” For example, misuse of donations is unacceptable. Having sex with [and attempting to have sex with] students is unacceptable. Etc. We need to say that boldly and strongly but without anger.
When we see these things happen we say, “Thank you for these [past] teachings and stop doing that [unethical behavior].” Many things can be true at once. Someone can be an amazing teacher with terrible behavior. When the mind becomes small, it forgets that. When we get tight and scared, we forget that. Then we think, “because they’re a good teacher, they can’t possibly have bad behavior.” Or, “because they have bad behavior, they can’t possibly be a good teacher.”
There are certain Woody Allen movies I really like but I think he’s probably quite bad with women [see link at the end for details]. Many things can be true at once. If we are looking for perfection in samsara, we will always fail.
We need have a really wide and flexible mind that can hold many truths at once. That knows that people are more than their behavior and are still responsible for their behavior.
It’s our job to hold them accountable for their behavior otherwise we repeat the mistakes of the Catholic Church or any other organization that has become corrupt because of power.
Sometimes it is not so … maybe I prefer to talk to you about it in private…
It’s difficult. You get into Guru Devotion mixed with Guru Yoga and…
When we get into Tantra it’s even more complicated. Yep. And that is worth saying.
If we’re going to talk about Guru Yoga, I’m going to need more water. [laughter]
(for more on Guru Yoga and practical, modern applications see: https://youtu.be/Xo2gRCWIGyk)
All of this conversation I guess I should say, our thoughts before making the link [formal connection] with a teacher, which is why we have to be so careful.
Everything I have said up until now is how you should think before you make a relationship with a teacher.
After you have made a commitment to a teacher, you are still allowed to argue with them. But you have to argue with a different mindset. It’s different than accepting breaches of ethics. But [in that case, where you have already made the relationship] you have to add some nuance or subtlety to the way you are viewing it.
They say that traditionally it is good to wait twelve years before making these kinds of connections with a teacher. Some people don’t wait twelve minutes or twelve hours. Its normal because it’s an atmosphere that most Dharma Centers promote. It often works out well – some people meet His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] and then the next day take Kalachakra empowerment and it transforms their life and everything opens up and it’s a beautiful awakening. But everyone is not His Holiness.
We have to hold our common sense. The Guru-Disciple relationship is deeper than marriage, its deeper than parent and child, and if it breaks – it shatters you worse than the worst divorce.
So sure, sometimes arranged marriages work but we are not entering into an arranged marriage, we have self-determination. We need to really examine the teacher. After a certain point you can’t really know if they have qualities or not – but you can observe their ethics and you can observe their effect on your mind.
You can research them. That also means that when there is a Lama who behaves badly, it needs to be said. Then people can make that relationship with “all” the information.
For example, Sogyal “Rinpoche,” is not one of my teachers but I loved book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, I thought it was beautiful and inspiring. When I found out about his misbehavior I was really heartbroken. Also, I was really glad that I had never taken an empowerment with him because his problematic appearances would not sit well with my mind.
We never know what is behind the curtain but we should look for the curtain and see if we can peak behind it if possible. Someone like His Holiness has been in the public eye his whole life. If there had been something scandalous, we would know by now. Also, when you are with him, you can feel his integrity. But still have to check for yourself, do you trust him? Even if he is a perfect teacher, he might not be the perfect teacher for you.
We shouldn’t force it, just because someone is qualified either. We also don’t want to be so skeptical that we never commit to anything either. Again and again in Buddhism, it is your responsibility – your path is your responsibility. The teacher is just facilitating a process that is yours to decide to do or not do.
More? Argument? Addition?
Ok? So tell everyone. Ok. Keep digging even more deeply and more deeply with the same idea.
Student 2: Thank you.
Then we just dedicate all this mental energy: may all of this merit go to actualizing our fullest potential, and in this way may we be of greatest benefit to all living beings.
JANG CHHUB SEM CHHOG RIN PO CHHE
May the supreme jewel bodhichitta
MA KYE PA NAM KYE GYUR CHIG
That has not arisen, arise and grow;
KYE WA NYAM PA ME PA YANG
And may that which has arisen not diminish
GONG NÄ GONG DU PHEL WAR SHOG
But increase more and more.
Long Life Prayer for His Holiness the Dalai Lama
GANG RI RA WÄ KOR WÄI ZHING KHAM DIR
In the land encircled by snow mountains
PHÄN DANG DE WA MA LÜ JUNG WÄI NÄ
You are the source of all happiness and good;
CHÄN RÄ ZIG WANG TÄN DZIN GYA TSHO YI
All-powerful Chenrezig, Tenzin Gyatso,
ZHAB PÄ SI THÄI BAR DU TÄN GYUR CHIG
Please remain until samsara ends.
End of teaching and transcription.
1 “cultish” in that devotion to an individual guru is heavily promoted while the practice of thorough, long-term investigation of a teacher before committing to them – which was recommended by the Buddha, is less practiced. A lot of blind faith devotion exists in the cultures that have historically held Buddhism, despite the mandate of the Four Reliances laid down by the historical buddha, Shakyamuni, himself:
O bhikshus and wise men, just as a goldsmith would test his gold by burning, cutting, and rubbing it, so you must examine my words and only then accept them, not merely out of reverence for me.
– Ghanavyuha sutra (Sutra of Dense Array)
1. Reliance on the teachings and not the teacher
2. Reliance on the meaning and not on the words that express it
3. Reliance on the definitive meaning and not the provisional meaning
4. Reliance on the transcendent wisdom of deep experience and not only on intellectual knowledge
2 “two” in terms of the oversimplified but commonly labeled binary biological anatomy. Not referring to or negating any gender identity or expression or with any disrespect or lack of acknowledgement meant for people who are: transgendered, gender fluid, gender neutral or people who are intersex.
3 “equanimity” in the sense of unbiased goodwill towards all beings regardless of the label we attribute to them. Not the feeling of equanimity which is a sense of neutrality or applied equanimity which is the antidote to over-application in the list of eight antidotes to the five faults we go through when practicing calm abiding meditation.
4 “emptiness” in the sense of the absence of inherent existence – the correct view that all phenomena (including people) are empty of inherent existence because of dependently arising. Not nihilism.
On Woody Allen: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/movies/woody-allen-mia-farrow-dylan-farrow-a-timeline.html
Cover image photo: Lozang Yönten, Painting by Losang Gendun (1 of the 12 murals at Mahamudra Centre for Universal Unity, New Zealand depicting the 12 Deeds of a Buddha).
for more on Gurus and managing misconduct: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo2gRCWIGyk
For the class audio with Spanish Translation:
For this same article in Italian:
For this same article in Hebrew: