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Women and
gender justice

Women and gender justice / Presentation

Buddhist

Photo by Olivier Adam

Buddhist

The inward journey

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo laughing with monks and nuns in the Dongyu Gatsal Ling convent she founded in Himachal Pradesh, India.

This is a time that calls for extreme restrain. In a world of outright aggression and violence they can be no winners. To respond to violence with counter-violence only throws oil on the fire.

Tenzin Palmo

A Buddhist nun reflects

Put together by the Editors

King Kosala was deeply upset when he heard that his wife had given birth to a baby girl. He had wanted a boy. To comfort the sad King, the Buddha said:

'A female child, O Lord of men, may prove
Even a better offspring than a male.
For she may grow up wise and virtuous,
Her husband's mother reverencing, true wife,
The boy that she may bear may do great deeds,
And rule great realms, yes, such a son
Of noble wife becomes his country's guide.' – Samyutta Nikaya

The Buddha himself was born as a woman in many of his previous births. Buddhism has two broad schools: Theravada literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" and Mahayana, literally the "Great Vehicle." But Mahayana itself is divided between the traditional Mahayana teachings, and the Vajrayana teachings, which have more rituals and have tantric influences. Theravada is found in South Asia and Southeast Asia; traditional Mahayana, basically in East Asia and Vajrayana in Tibet, Bhutan and Mongolia.

Tenzin Palmo, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, reflected: “The Buddhist view says that since the very beginning, we are all utterly pure and utterly perfect. Our original mind is like the sky – it is vast, it has no center and no limits. The Mind is infinitely vast. It is not “me” and it is not “mine”. It is what interconnects us with all beings – this is our true nature. Unfortunately, right now our genuine nature has got a little bit obscured by very thick clouds and we are identifying with the clouds; we are not identifying with the deep, blue, eternal sky. And because we are identifying with the clouds, we have very limited ideas of who we, and others, really are. If we take the point of view that from the very beginning, we have always been utterly perfect but somehow confusion arose and covered up our true nature, then there is no question of being unworthy. The potential is always there, if only we can see it. Every single one of us possesses that potential, that Buddha potential, that potential for enlightenment. So where is the question of it being a meaningless world? Once we understand that the inner potential is always there as the very basis and ground of our being, then this question of having a good heart makes sense. Because what we are doing is reflecting our essential nature through kindness, through compassion and through understanding. It’s not that we are trying to develop something we don’t already have.”

“People are not happy with themselves, they are not at peace with themselves. They don’t like themselves. Now, if we don’t like ourselves, then the fact is, we are always going to have problems with others. 2500 years ago, when the Buddha talked about the practice of loving-kindness, he said there were two ways in which one radiated loving-kindness to all beings everywhere. Firstly, we could send out thoughts of love in all directions – the north, the south, the east and the west, up, down and everywhere. We just radiate loving-kindness to all the beings in the world. Or we could start with people we like – our family or our partners, our children – and then extend that to people we feel indifferent towards, and then to people we dislike and finally out further to all beings everywhere. But before we start doing all that, the Buddha said that we begin by radiating loving-kindness to ourselves. We start by thinking, “May I be well and happy. May I be peaceful and at my ease.” Do you understand? If we do not first feel that sense of kindness towards ourselves, how are we ever really going to be kind to others?”

Tenzin Palmo, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, spent 13 years in the Himalayas seeking enlightenment in a secluded cave at an altitude of 13,000 feet. She continues to support and guide Buddhist nuns in Himachal Pradesh, India.

This is a time that calls for extreme restrain. In a world of outright aggression and violence they can be no winners. To respond to violence with counter-violence only throws oil on the fire.

Tenzin Palmo