Talk Categories Tibetan Culture | Talk Locations McGill University

Women in Contemporary Tibetan Buddhism

Khenpo Sodargye analyzed the role of women and their valuable contributions in the history of Tibet and the situation of male and female practitioners in the three Vehicles of Buddhism. Khenpo also emphasized that Larung Buddhist Academy implements the practice of gender equality in terms of education and management in line with principle of Buddhism. Furthermore, Khenpo cited key women figures from past until now who were highly accomplished women practitioners and great women such as Machig Labdron, Yeshe Tsogyal, Mother Theresa and to Aung San Suu Kyi of present time. Many interesting quotations from Buddhist scriptures and current affairs were also used to support Khenpo’s views.

Speech by Khenpo Sodargye

"Men are like Mountains and Women are like Water"

Excerpt 1: Honorific title “Jo-Mo”

There were ordained women since the time of Tibetan King Trisong Detsen. They were venerated by the Tibetans and were called as “Jo-Mo”, a very honorific title people used to call the King’s mother or sisters. “Jo-Mo” is a highly respected title which carries the meaning of reverent or holy lady. Since then, Tibetans generally addressed a female ordained person as “Jo-Mo”.

Excerpt 2: Root Downfall of Denigrating Women

While different levels of Vajrayana Buddhism, such as outer and inner Vajrayana, cover different teachings, they all include the fourteen root vows a practitioner must observe when taking up the path of Vajrayana. Among of them, one is not to denigrate women and this is a special respect given to women.

Excerpt 3: “Men are like Mountains and Women are like Water”

Even from the worldly perspective, men and women have their own characteristics. People often say that, “Men are like mountains whereas women are like water.” This means men are more resourceful, tactical, productive in some broad and macro aspect. They have an aptitude for planning. Women, on the other hand, are more gentle and peaceful, meaning that they bring more love, compassion and care to people. These are the characteristics of men and women. Together they are as integral and necessary to the healthy functioning of our world as is yin and yang.

Excerpt 4: Prophesy of Male and Female Practitioners in the Future

In the Sutra of Total Annihilation of the Dharma, it is written that in future, women will diligently perform meritorious deeds while men will succumb to indolence and arrogance. Men, having no faith, will not study the wisdom of the Dharma and will look down upon practitioners as feces and dirt. So, from this, we may speculate that females are in possession of a special power when practicing Dharma.

Except 5: Keep the Big Picture in Mind

In many Buddhist scriptures where the pure lands are described there is no mention of women. Some people conclude from this that Buddhism unfairly discriminates against them. But in some pure lands like Padmasambhava’s, there are more Dakinis—female embodiments of enlightened energy—than men, who are limited to only a few highly enlightened individuals. So when we describe Buddhism we should broaden our outlook and refer to both the old and new scriptures. With complete understanding we will see the big picture.

"Men are like Mountains and Women are like Water"

People often say that, “Men are like mountains whereas women are like water.” This means men are more resourceful, tactical, productive in some broad and macro aspect. They have an aptitude for planning. Women, on the other hand, are more gentle and peaceful, meaning that they bring more love, compassion and care to people.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

In many Buddhist scriptures where the pure lands are described there is no mention of women. Some people conclude from this that Buddhism unfairly discriminates against them. But in some pure lands like Padmasambhava’s, there are more Dakinis—female embodiments of enlightened energy—than men, who are limited to only a few highly enlightened individuals. With complete understanding we will see the big picture.

Question & Answer Session

“Outer beauty is just a visual projection of the senses. Only inner beauty will bring a sense of warmth and happiness. I think everyone, especially women, should pursue inner perfection which is the most beautiful of all things. After all, our life is multidimensional, not one dimensional and flat, and because of this, we need multidimensional beauty.”

McGill University