The Role of Women in Tibetan Buddhism Essay

4445 Words 18 Pages
The Role of Women in Tibetan Buddhism

“In Tantric Buddhism, we are dealing with a misogynist, destructive, masculine philosophy and religion which is hostile to life – i.e. the precise opposite of that for which it is trustingly and magnanimously welcomed in the figure of the Dalai Lama.”[1] Within Tibetan Buddhism, there is an inherent contradiction regarding the status of women. Although in many aspects women are seen and treated as inferior to men, several of the ancient and fundamental values of Tibetan Buddhism, and more specifically Tantric Buddhism, emphasize equality of the sexes, universal compassion, and most importantly the significant and essential role of the woman. Tibetan Buddhist nuns have been trying to
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This portrays an early form of sexism, and a highly negative attitude toward the woman, showing that fundamental female qualities such as pregnancy and childbirth are irrelevant and not things to be highly valued. In the Buddha legend and during his life in general, the Buddha showed several contradictions concerning the status of women. He was said to be “torn between the culture and social system, and the conviction that women are as capable as men.”[3] Firstly, Maya, the name of his mother, means illusion in Sanskrit. However, in ancient Indian beliefs from which Tibetan Buddhism emerged, Maya was the name of the most powerful goddess who represented all material things in the universe. The Buddha also believed that the woman’s body was something impure and dirty, which then manifested itself into impure and evil personality characteristics. “The female’s defects – greed, hate, delusion, and other defilements – are greater than the male’s…Because I wish to be freed from the impurities of the woman’s body, I will acquire the beautiful and fresh body of a man.”[4] Women were believed to have uncontrolled sexuality, which was greatly frowned upon by men. The Buddha comments that “it were better that your sex enter the mouth of a poisonous snake than that it enter a woman.”[5] This rather harsh statement about male disgust toward sexual intercourse with women is the foundation of one of the biggest contradictions found in Tibetan Buddhism. Not only did