Feminism in Buddhism

Posted on October 11, 2013 by


Karma Lekshe Tsomo
(Photo copyright: Gayle M. Landes)

Patricia Zenn grew up not practicing Buddhism; she even is a Religion Studies professor at the University of San Diego.  While growing up, she was teased about her last name sounding Buddhist; she discovered that in fact there was lineage of Buddhism practiced in her family.  A couple decades later, Patricia was ordained into the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and was given the Tibetan name Karma Lekshe Tsomo, as a Buddhist nun.  While traveling in the east, Lekshe recognized that the conditions for Buddhist nuns were terrible.  She then started a movement to help Himalayan nuns gain access to education, but her idea was rejected by society.  Women have almost always been looked down upon, therefore being at a disadvantage to their male counterparts.  The women nuns Lekshe surveyed, had the most diminished health in their group, and lower educational standards than others.  To help improve the statistics of the women, Lekshe developed supports to help fund and raise awareness about the life and cost of health in Tibet.  This helped Lekshe become a great advocate for the education of Tibetan nuns, which helped her become president of Sakyahita (international association of Buddhist women), and Jamyang Foundation (non-profit organization dedicated to the education of Himalayan women).  Sakyadhita is not a well-known organization although they have visited many countries presenting different movements that promote and give access to Buddhist women to advance their education and reach their full ordination.

Lekshe’s organizations would not be needed if Buddhism women were not victims of feminism.  Gender imbalance has created Buddhist women not to have a voice in eastern Buddhist institutions.  There are nothing against women having high authoritative positions of leadership, but Buddhist women are unable to because they are not fully educated to do so, and are not properly trained.  Women are living in a predominantly male-ruled world, especially in the east where the caste system instills men being of higher power than women.  The caste system and ruling family dynasties are part to blame in the declination of Buddhism in India.  Buddhism numbers in India began diminishing during the White Hun invasion around the time of the Pala dynasty while the Muslim conquest was happening in India. The White Hun invasion introduced their own religions into India, and suppressed the Buddhism and presumably the Buddhist people.  I can see how it was difficult for Buddhist people had a difficult spreading and sharing the teachings of Buddhism if their rulers did not have strong roots in the religion.

Buddha taught the women should be obedient and respectful to their husbands, therefore creating a feministic view of women within the Buddhist religion.  Gender issues are what Lekshe is trying to abolish through her movement creating women to be more involved in society.  Lekshe believes that the opportunities for women will change and feminism will not be a factor in the eastern world one day; and I believe the same.

I think that Lekshe is doing a great thing in giving Buddhist women an opportunity to gain acknowledgement in their community.  It is a worthy idea to help with the issue of sexism in the area, because if sexism were not an issue, the declination of Buddhism would not be happening so drastically.  Women would be able to help teach and share the word of the Buddha, creating for followers for a dying religion in the spot it started.

Lekshe noted that women Buddhist are becoming more active in society, but are being challenged.  She believes that the women becoming more educated of what Buddhism is and them knowing more will help them in teaching others what Buddhism is and about healthcare, many further lives could be improved.

Health is a main concern among women, and in general in many areas in the east.  The people have no clean water, no health care, and a very limited diet.  Lekshe’s organizations are helping villages and other areas gain access to living a healthier lifestyle than they currently have.  Education for children, females in particular is something Lekshe also hopes to improve.  An example of how females are endangered in the area is that the boys are able to walk to a school in a different town or village with little threat, while if girls are to do the same, they are likely to be raped.

The author, Michaela Haas, does a satisfactory job at giving factual information about feminism in the east.  Because she based her article on the information given by Lekshe, I was swayed towards feeling sorry for female Buddhist in the east, and feeling disgusted by the history of Buddhism to ever let society get this way.  At the end of the article, I was feeling hopeful for the women Lekshe is helping.


Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michaela-haas/daughters-of-the-buddha-discuss-how-buddhist-women-can-achieve-equality_b_2421834.html

Posted in: Buddhism