Dharma in the 21st Century: “The Life of Tibetan Buddhist Nuns” Essay

Populating in the 21stcentury connotes a busy and modern life. a life that is influenced by philistinism. globalisation and modern engineering ; a life with barely any room for spiritualty. This is the sort of life that is common in the Western universe where everything is fast paced and worlds have moved from trusting on a greater being on to extremely trusting on appliances mundane.

We rely to a great extent on modern appliances to do life easier for us – from a simple dismay clock in the sleeping room to a high-octane microwave oven in the kitchen. from the multi-functional nomadic phone in our pockets to our Internet-connected computing machines everyplace. From populating based on faith. we now live based on engineering. We can non conceive of life with out modern engineering ; we need it to cook our nutrient. we need it to acquire to work. we need it to pass on ; we merely merely necessitate it. or so we think?

In this modern life of ours. we have become so captive with philistinism and engineering. We try to happen ways to do things easier for us through engineering but the more we use appliances. the more complicated life seems. and as it gets complicated we forget about our inner being. We have forgotten what it is like to populate merely and what it is like to be genuinely happy and be at peace without all the philistinism. This is life with modernisation but in topographic points where philistinism is non of import and spiritualty is extremely upheld. all that we know and live by in the 21stcentury is absurdness for them. Theirs is a life of simpleness. speculation and privacy ; a life of being one with nature and their Godhead ; a life of deriving wisdom and interior felicity. This is the life of Buddhism.

Buddhism is non merely a faith ; it is a doctrine and a manner of life ( White 1 ) . It is easy turning in the Western universe [ 1 ] . where some attempt to look for peace in their mundane modern pandemonium ( ibid ) . In the Orient. where Buddhism originated. modernisation and a western manner of life is easy act uponing the people due to economic grounds. such as in Thailand. but they still maintain in touch with their spiritualty. and monasteries where monastics and nuns live still abound.

In Tibet. Buddhism is their faith and political relations ; the Dalai Lama used to be both their spiritual and political leader ( Simhanada Home page ) . With China taking over their state 50 old ages ago. the Tibetan authorities is in exile [ 2 ] and the more than 6. 000 monasteries and nunneries in the Tibetan parts of U-Tsang. Doto and Domey were damaged and destroyed by the Chinese ( Office of Tibet 1 ) . The Tibetan people and the few Tibetan monastics and nuns in Tibet still seek religious counsel from the Dalai Lama in the North Eastern boundary lines of India.

With Tibetan monasteries built outside of Tibet after China’s invasion and with a few Tibetan monastics and nuns still populating in Tibet. it is of great involvement how Tibetan Buddhist monks. peculiarly the nuns. live like now and see the universe particularly with most of them in expatriate. with China as an economic tiger opinion over their land and with modernisation go oning all over the universe.

This paper will look into the lives of Tibetan Buddhist nuns in this present twenty-four hours and what has changed in their ways from the earlier times. A brief history of the Tibetan Buddhism will be given in order to understand the function of Tibetan nuns. Positions on the function of adult females in Buddhism will be given and extracts from the narratives of different Tibetan nuns will besides be shown in order to understand their belief and values system. and more significantly the status of their life today.

History of Tibetan Buddhism

By and large. Buddhism is a love of wisdom and it has three waies: ( 1 ) to take a moral life. ( 2 ) to be aware and cognizant of ideas and actions and ( 3 ) to develop wisdom and apprehension ( White 1 ) . It has four baronial truths which are ( 1 ) agony exists. ( 2 ) agony arises from fond regard to desires. ( 3 ) agony ceases when fond regard to want ceases and ( 4 ) freedom from enduring is possible by practising the octuple way. which is to hold the right position. idea. address. action. support. attempt. heedfulness. and contemplation ( Simhanada 1 ) .

Buddhism was introduced in Tibet by Buddhists in India in 173 CE and it was bit by bit assimilated. disseminated and integrated into the Tibetan manner of life due to the attempts of the spiritual male monarchs of the state ( Office of Tibet 1 ) . Tibetan Buddhism as described on the Simhanada Tibetan Buddhism page is as follows:

Tibetan Buddhism makes usage of a broad assortment of patterns. i. e. . the full range of Buddha’s instructions from the Hinayana. Mahayana and Vajrayan degrees. Tibetan Buddhism successfully preserved the Vajrayana tradition…it is based most straight on the position that visual aspects can be used and transformed in order to acknowledge one’s Buddha nature and the emptiness of the mind…emphasis on intense Calm-abiding and Insight Mediation is stressed. along with the gradual accretion of virtue and purifying of obstructions. Extensive survey of Bible. star divination. medical specialty. math and argument are common for Tibetan practicians. Meditation on enlightened deities…is a alone characteristic of the Vajrayana…it uses the technique of holding the practician place themselves with an enlightened divinity —in order to recognize the nature of enlightenment.

The faith spread because gurus from India were invited into Tibet to learn the Buddhist Bibles and interpret them for the people. The spiritual male monarch Tri Ralpachen introduced a edict that every monastic should be supported by seven families. and 1000s of temples were constructed in his clip. Unfortunately. the king’s replacement did non back up the Buddhist instructions and monastics were made to undress and fall in the ground forces ( ibid ) . Buddhism entered into a dark age but was revived after some clip when three monastics escaped the Domey part of Tibet and established cloistered line of descents in other parts of Tibet and finally revived it in cardinal Tibet ( Office of Tibet 1 ) .

In Western Tibet. the most vigorous resurgence of Buddhism was taking topographic point attention of Lha Lama Yeshe O . He helped distribute the philosophy through interlingual rendition. instruction and establishing of monasteries with the aid of the great transcriber Rinchen Zangpo and Legpai Sherab ( ibid ) . Lha Lhama besides composed the celebrated Buddhist trialA Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment. which set the form for all ranked way texts found in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition ( ibid ) .

Four schools of Tibetan Buddhism [ 3 ] were besides established from the patterns and the Buddhist gurus. These are theNyingma. Kagyu. Sakya. and Gelugpa. Nyingma literally means “old school” ( ibid ) that places a great trade of accent on speculation to accomplish virtue and wisdom ; Kagyu is theOral Lineagethat is concerned with the experiential dimension of speculation where there is resolved contemplation exercisings and brooding therapy to achieve psychic good wellness. Milarepa. an 11th century Tibetan mystic practiced this tradition and meditated for many old ages in caves prior to making enlightenment.

Sakya represents the scholarly tradition and means “gray earth” ( ibid ) . and the Gelugpa school translates into the “virtuous school” ( ibid ) where pedants are emphasize extremely and monastics are encouraged to accomplish the Geshe grade of the Doctor of Buddhist Philosophy where a pupil patterns lamrim or the waies [ 4 ] . Meditation is encouraged every bit good. like in all Buddhist patterns and development of compassion is an indispensable portion of the instructions of this school. which is besides the footing of Tibetan Buddhist schools.

The particular characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism are the position of the instructor or “Lama” . preoccupation with relationship between life and decease. of import function of rites and inductions. rich ocular symbolism. component of Bon. the earlier Tibetan religion. and mantras and speculation pattern ( BBC 1 ) .

Role of Women in Tibetan Buddhism

There are two sectors in the Tibetan community: the ballad people and the monks ( Chodron Home Page ) . The monks. which are the monastics or bhikshus and the nuns or bhikshunis. take to vow to a life of simpleness. “a life straight related to the saving and airing of the Dharma [ 5 ] to profit others” ( Chodron Home Page ) . Though adult females have been admitted by Buddha himself into his Order 1000s of old ages ago duetoforce per unit area that adult females had become nuns in the Jaina faith ( King 40 ) . adult females are belittled in the orders.

There are sutras or instructions that say “women could ne’er go Buddhas” ( SGI 1 ) . and for centuries this construct has persisted. It has been normally believed that adult females would hold to be reborn as work forces to achieve Buddha-hood ( ibid ) because there is “absolute penchant for a male body…no Buddhist in her right head desires a female body” ( Buddhist-Christian Studies 220 ) .

The book Himalayan Hermitess: The Life of a Tibetan Buddhist Nun ( Buddhist-Christian Studies 221 ) the writer wrote about the life of Orgyan Chokyi who is a Buddhist nun that had reached high degrees of apprehension by the terminal of her life. This was non common during her clip since she was populating in the late 17Thursdaycentury to the early 18Thursdaycentury. and during this clip adult females in Buddhism were truly inferior to the work forces. The book revealed and translated manuscripts of her life. and this was truly rare because manuscripts of nuns were non written by the bookmans during the early times since their narratives are thought to be non deserving entering ( Buddhist-Christian Studies 222 ) .

It is said that Orgyan Chokyi plaints to be a adult female and female metempsychosis in general. and she prays frequently that no being should be capable to a female metempsychosis ( ibid ) . This is clearly declarative of how sexist Buddhism was so. She became a important figure because of her life ordeals- she was born to parents who mistreated her because they wanted a boy and she would frequently cry and one twenty-four hours a monastic observed her and told her that if she studied the Dharma. she would shortly develop great compassion. Like other nuns she was required to make manual labour in the monastery and this was the clip she laments her gender.

After being a novitiate. she received speculation instructions form the maestro of the monastery and a senior nun ; she was made to make Tibetan unwritten traditions and travel on pilgrim’s journeies to sacred sites of Tibetan Buddhism. Despite these. she was still made to make manual labour for more old ages but she was filled with joy and she wrote vocals about this. Subsequently on. she changed her attitude about female metempsychosis and writes that “a woman’s organic structure is a land for samsara” ( Buddhist-Christian Studies 223 ) .

In her decease. she clearly defied what was believed so: that enlightenment can non be achieved in a female organic structure ( ibid ) ; her speculation maestro told her that she did non necessitate to make more speculations because she had “fully protected her vows and commitments” ( ibid ) . This meant entire enlightenment and she laid the way for Buddhist nuns to accomplish Buddha-hood as good and to name for equality from society.

Some besides say that adult females enter the nunneries because they can non wait for a adult male to marry them. they are excessively old to get married or they are orphans or widows ( King 41 ) . This shouldn’t be so since Buddhism calls for equality as seen in theLotus Sutra. which is besides called the instruction of non-discrimination. reveals that “there is no difference between work forces and adult females in footings of their capacity to achieve Buddha-hood” ( Soka Gakkai International [ SGI ] 1 ) . Guru Rinpoche. who taught theDharmain Tibet. even had a chief adherent that was a adult female called Lady Yeshe Tsogyal ( Simhanada 1 ) .

In these early old ages of Buddhism. it was recorded that “women engaged in erudite arguments with the Buddha himself” ( King 40 ) and that there is a recording of more than 500 poetries in theTherigathacreated by Buddhist nuns in the ancient Pali Canon ( ibid ) . This shows that they are every bit capable as the monastics. Nuns have been seen as inferior due to traditions manner before Buddhism came and due to the inflictions of patriarchal and male chauvinist values in societies where Buddhism flourished ( Shih 1 ) .

For a adult female to go nun agencies release. nevertheless. they are bound by regulations “over and above those followed by monastic [ 6 ] ” ( King 40 ) . These regulations may hold been developed at a ulterior clip to curtail women’s freedom or to merely show the bing societal lower status of adult females ( ibid ) . Though she additions some freedom. a nun receives small acknowledgment of her position from society since “rituals performed by monastics are considered more efficacious and meritable than those performed by nuns” and the contributions given to monastics are greater because it is considered to bring forth more virtue for the giver than when given to a nun” ( Buddhist-Christian Studies 220 ) .

Education for nuns was besides rather limited because they had to make manual labour or housekeeping to gain money for their supplies or to construct their cells ; therefore. chances for them to execute their spiritual patterns were limited ( ibid ) . Even if the nuns have completed the needed figure of mantra recitations. they have to name on a monastic to execute the?re pujaor burnt-book offering to execute it on their behalf ( ibid ) .

The Dalai Lama says that “all Buddhist nuns have a alone function to play in the development of Buddhism where the cosmopolitan rule of the equality of all human existences takes precedence” ( Chodron Home Page ) . Other Tibetan spiritual leaders have besides stated publically in a faith international Congress that “men and adult females have an equal capacity for enlightenment” ( Buddhist-Christian Studies 221 ) . therefore wipe outing the traditional beliefs that nuns are of inferior position to monastics and that a adult female must be reincarnated as a adult male to accomplish enlightenment. And even if the prognostication that the Dharma will discontinue to be after 500 old ages of acknowledging adult females into the Buddhist order. since it has already been 2. 500 old ages ( Fitz-Gerald 1 ) . some diehards are still ignoring this thought because nuns are turn outing themselves to be more capable than what traditional norms have been ordering for old ages.

Tibetan Buddhist Nuns Today

In the recent decennaries. equal intervention of nuns with monastics are being called for and with conferences being held annually for Buddhists and other religions. the force per unit area is great. Buddhism was non inherently sexist. but with the male domination in India where the Tibetan Buddhism came from. it merely came to be because of the civilization at that clip ( Fitz-Gerald 1 ) . And this civilization is altering in the 21stcentury. The Venerable Chodron ( Home Page ) says that in these times. Buddhist nun have three degrees of ordination: sramanerika or novitiate. siksamana or provisional. and bhikshuni or full.

The bhikshuni. for the Tibetans. means that it is already possible for them to achieve the geshe or Doctorate grade. some are already taking the Vinaya category [ 7 ] which entails that the first coevals of geshe-mas nuns will be produced and will gain them the grade equal to the monastics ( ibid ) . Before 1953. the highest rank that a nun could achieve was even lower than the lowest rank of the monastics ( Shih 1 ) . The Dalai Lama even made a statement about this subject. stating that “This is the 21stCentury. Everywhere we are speaking about equality…Basically Buddhism needs equality…the cardinal thing is the Restoration of the bhikshuni vow” ( ibid ) .

In this modern universe. adult females are disputing the male-dominated societal constructions and “Buddhists need non merely to digest such alteration. but to actively back up it both within the general societal construction and within Buddhism itself. Not merely is alteration along feminist lines non incompatible with the instructions of the Buddha. it will be necessary for the continued flourishing of the Dharma” ( Fitz-Gerald 1 ) since the figure of monastics is diminishing while the figure of nuns is increasing ( Chodron Home Page ) .

Besides though times are altering and the Buddhist nuns are deriving regard. their cloistered life is more hard now than it was earlier ; as Shih ( 1 ) provinces. “Monasteries are by no agencies harborages for those who seek easy lives. Therefore. there would be no ground for one to take on the challenges of such a life with much more adversity unless it were for the interest of spiritual chase. ” Women no longer want to go nuns merely because they are widowed. orphaned. abandoned or could non be wed. they enter for religious and spiritual intents. therefore they should derive the regard of everyone.

The entree adult females now have to instruction has brought them the privation for enlightenment. In a research conducted by Arai ( Shih 1 ) . in the yesteryear for 40 old ages. the mean age of nuns come ining in the order was 16 ; they were either raised in a temple or entered it because of their parents petitions. Recently. nevertheless. the age of nuns come ining the nunneries has risen to 43 and are individual or married. and have decidedly had more life experiences that those who were come ining the nunneries in the 1950s ( ibid ) . This suggests that nuns are more competent now and are doing a more witting and mature determination to perpetrate themselves to the faith and to the life of privacy ; they are more capable of carry throughing their societal functions and duties ( ibid ) .

Aside from gaining equal regard and intervention with monastics. nuns are confronting a bigger job which all of Tibet is sing. and that is the business of China in their land. Tsultrim Doma. a Buddhist nun in Tibet. says “The Chinese want our land. but they don’t want the Tibetan people. The adult females in our small town were called to be sterilized. one by one. Those who refused must pay a all right. They have no money. so they have no choice” ( Vincanne 77 ) . Tibetans are sing a cultural and physical race murder ; the Chinese are coercing Tibetan adult females. even nuns. to get married and Chinese subjects and bear their kids. Tibetan adult females are forced to abort their babes merely to cut down the Tibetan population ( ibid ) .

The Chinese are tormenting the nuns and monastics because they are the carriers of Tibetan civilization. which is to a great extent rooted in faith ; the monastics and nuns are the suspects of political criminalism in Lhasa ( Vincanne 80 ) . Hundreds of nunneries and monasteries have moved out of Tibet since the Chinese business and into the states of India. Thailand. Nepal. Australia and others. Though Chinese are besides Buddhists. they are oppressing the Tibetan Buddhists and they are faced with the challenge of reclamation and reformulation ( Shih 1 ) non merely with their ways in handling the Buddhist nuns but with their endurance. A Tibetan nun said that “the strength of our devotedness frightens them” ( Vincanne 81 ) since it is their devotedness and faith that may emancipate them.

Their Buddhist belief in peace and release from enduring is seasonably with what they are sing. and together with their belief in karma. this enables them to digest their tortures [ 8 ] and fight a instead peaceable conflict for release than the Chinese government’s pick of utilizing heavy weapon and blood shed. The values of tolerance. interior transmutation and enlightenment besides enable the Tibetan Buddhists to be patient with what China has been making. nevertheless. with the recent intelligence of public violences being broken out in China by the Tibetans. where monks are accused of heading it. we do non cognize until when the Tibetan Buddhists- monastics. nuns and laic people. can digest the unfairnesss of China.


Buddhism was introduced in Tibet by the Indians in Tibetan in 123 CE and it replaced the mysterious faith of Tibetans which was Bon. This mysterious faith. nevertheless shaped the beliefs of the Tibetan Buddhists and made them slightly different from other Buddhist religious orders. Their specific characteristics are their distinguishable belief in life and decease. of import function of rites and inductions. rich ocular symbolism. component of Bon. the earlier Tibetan religion. and mantras and speculation pattern.

The Buddhist nuns have gone a long manner from being admitted into the order by Buddha 2. 500 old ages ago and merely achieving a rank that is lower than that of the lowest rank for monastics. to being ordained as a bhikshuni or a full nun and leting the possibility of gaining a geshe-ma or doctorate grade for them that will do them peers with monastics. Though they are confronting resistance from traditional lay-persons and monks. the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist religious orders are on their side. naming that now is the clip for equality and that Buddha-hood can be achieved by both adult male and adult female. This is so because it was believed that adult females can non accomplish enlightenment. merely work forces can accomplish Buddha-hood and adult females must be reincarnated to make so.

Some say that though Buddhism teaches equality. the patriarchal society in which Buddhism spread into has caused such inequality among work forces and adult females. therefore doing the lives of Buddhist nuns much harder than their monastic opposite numbers. Womans come ining the nunneries today are much older than the adult females who were come ining in the 1950s ; from the mean age of 16 it has risen to 43 in the past 40 and more old ages. demoing that adult females have a more witting determination to perpetrate themselves to the Dharma and the spiritual life and casting the impression that they are come ining it because of deficiency of pick.

In this clip and age. were equality is being called for in all sectors of society Buddhists are being pressured and as said the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist Leaders are back uping the Buddhist nuns. Besides. another challenge is faced by the Tibetan Nuns and that is they are forced to be disrobed and be sterilized. that is marry into a Chinese national and give birth to a Chinese kid. The nuns. together with the monastics are the ultimate symbol of Tibetan civilization since their civilization is profoundly rooted in faith. therefore they are the 1s tortured by the Chinese government’s cleaning of Tibetan from their people.

As one Tibetan nun said. the Chinese merely want their land and non the people that is why they are being physically and culturally erased. Because of the Chinese business many nunneries in Tibet have been destroyed by the Chinese and the nunneries have moved out together with the government-in-exile of Tibet into India and other states. Their belief in enduring. peace and karma allows them to digest the anguishs they are having from the Chinese that are busying their land. Tibetan nuns are non merely contending for their equality they are besides the voice. together with the monastics and the Dalai Lama that is naming for a peaceable battle for the release of their land.

Plants Cited

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Buddhist Christian Studies Book Review.8 October 2006. Hawai’i: University of Hawaii Press. 2 April 2008 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. jstor. org & gt ;

King. Ursula. “World Religions. Women and Education” .Comparative Education. Particular Number ( 10 ) : Sexual activity Differences in Education.23. 10. ( 1987 ) : 35-49. 31 March 2008 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. jstor. org & gt ;

Tibet Website. 10 November 1997. The Government of Tibet in Exile Family of Sites. 3 April 2008 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. Tibet. com & gt ; .

Shi. Juo-hsueh. “Buddhist Nuns from a Modern Perspective” and Fitz-Gerald. Kerry. “Buddhism Needs Feminism. ”Sakyaditha Newsletter.3. 2 ( 2002 ) . 2 April 2008 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. sakyadhita. org/NewsLetters/3-2. htm # ModernNuns & gt ; .

Soka Gakkai International. “Enlightenment of Women. ”SGI Quarterly Magazine.( April 2000 ) . 2 April 2008 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. sgiquarterly. org/english/Features/quarterly/0004/buddhism. ht & gt ; .

Simhanada Family of Sites. 2006. Simhanada Buddhists. 2 April 2008 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. simhas. org/ & gt ; .

Venerable Thubten Chodron’s Web Site. ( n. d. ) Ven. Thubten Chodron. 2 April 2008 from & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. thubtenchodron. org & gt ; .

Vincanne. Adams. “Suffering the Winds of Lhasa: Politicized Bodies. Human Rights. Cultural Difference. and Humanism in Tibet. ”Medical Anthropology Quarterly. 12. 1. ( 1998 ) : 74-102. 31 March 2008 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. jstor. org & gt ;

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[ 1 ] See on-line articles and publications of Buddha Dharma Education Association [ BDEA ] for more information on Buddhism in Western states.

[ 2 ] Refer to the official web page of the Tibetan Government in Exile: hypertext transfer protocol: //www. Tibet. com

[ 3 ] The Tibetan Buddhist Canon discusses this more extensively and can be found at the BDEA Web page. every bit good as in the eSSortment Web page.

[ 4 ] 3 Principles of the Path is the ( 1 ) purpose leave cyclic being. ( 2 ) bring forth the purpose to liberate all animate existences and 93 ) correct position of emptiness ( Simhanada 1 )

[ 5 ] Dharma refers to the Buddhist instructions or the way to truth and enlightenment.

[ 6 ] A nun is capable to eight BASICs regulations while a monastic is merely to follow four ; when to the full ordained a nun must detect 311 day-to-day regulations and the monastic merely 227 ( King 40 )

[ 7 ] Vinaya category is the last category taken prior to taking the geshe test and is required for the geshe grade.

[ 8 ] Refer to Vincanne’s article of Suffering the Winds of Lhasa for elaborate histories