Tea House

Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends

Tag: feminism

Sakyadhita in Hong Kong: Confluences and Reunions

From 22-28 June, The University of Hong Kong hosted the largest ever event to do with Buddhist women in the city. This could only have been done through Sakyadhita, whose tireless volunteers worked in tandem with our friends at the Centre of Buddhist Studies to bring an impressively diverse and intellectually enriching symposium about Buddhist women’s interests in this busy metropolis, which despite its prosperity and fast-paced life cries out for spiritual ideas and possibilities. It was, of course, also a delight for attendees to reunite with academics, meditators, and Venerables who have been regulars at previous biannual conferences over the decades.

Nuns at the Big Buddha, Hong Kong. Photo by Olivier Adam

Throughout its history, Sakyadhita’s conferences have been held mostly in Asia, and most of these Asian countries, save for some pockets of liberal or progressive thought, are “traditional” – very strictly patriarchal, non-egalitarian, and socially conservative. The Buddhist establishment in some of these countries might be indifferent or even antagonistic to the idea of women assuming higher positions of authority in the Buddhist religion, and this includes bhikkhuni ordination.

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A Conversation with Tenzin Palmo on Nuns and Challenging Sexism

In this extended discussion recorded on the spot by Sónia Gomes, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo discusses important but often uncomfortable gender issues in Vajrayana, including the need to challenge engrained cultural sexism in monasteries and the plight of ordained Western women, who more often than not have no institutional, psychological, or moral support after becoming nuns.

 

Embodied Women

What does it mean to be a woman in the Buddhist tradition? To me, even a question as important as bhikkhuni ordination in the Theravada and Vajrayana schools is not as basic as the question of “the woman” in Buddhism. Nor am I convinced that gender is inconsequential to conventional Buddhist life just because gender is illusory at the ultimate level. Our society is gendered and we operate on gender as much as we use conventional illusions like “I” or “you.”

I’m not so much reflecting on the activist side of things, important though that is in winning more equitable circumstances for women. What I wonder more is how do women, as the Other in a mostly androcentric world, manoeuvre as embodied beings in the Buddhist world of monasteries, temples, charitable organizations, and university institutes?

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