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Buddhadharma : Winter 2010
41 winter 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly women to teach. Yet I know a lot of women who are autho- rized to teach but don’t because the situation is intimidating or they haven’t had enough practi- cal support. Buddhadharma: In the Tibetan tradition, where you have rinpoches and tulkus, it seems harder for women to get a foot- hold as senior teachers. Lama PaLden droLma: I’m not so sure. I’ve received nothing but support to move forward, but the level of realization is the major factor, and in the West we don’t yet have the levels of real- ization of people such as the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, or the Karmapa, or the Dalai Lama. rita Gross: Given that 99.9 percent of the people picked as tulkus and trained from an early age are boys, I think it is difficult for women to become senior teachers, and I’m not talking about Westerners, I’m talking about Tibetans. Christina FeLdman: In the Theravada tradition in the West there hasn’t been nearly as much interface between monastics and lay teachers. In a way, there’s been almost a parallel develop- ment but not a conjoined development, so lay teachers haven’t been shackled by the monastic tradition. Lay teachers and cen- ters have set off on their own journey, so to speak, without needing authorization from the monastic community. Buddhadharma: Clearly there’s been some progress for women. What are the main areas where women are still stuck—where we don’t have equal opportunity or support? Lama PaLden droLma: None of the gains we’ve made in the West are necessarily touching monks who’ve been educated in monasteries in Asia, and they need to be educated about that, so that’s one area that’s been kind of stuck. As Christina was saying, Insight Meditation Society, Spirit Rock, and Gaia House have separated themselves to some extent from the old-country tradition and just moved forward on their own. But in the Tibetan tradition, the situation has been much more mixed. Also, among certain women there’s still strong adherence to the patriarchy, in the sense of wanting to be daddy’s good girl. Some male teachers who’ve authorized women really have authorized them to be independent and supported them. But in other cases, women teachers are still expected to be under a male teacher and to behave in certain ways and do it the way daddy wants you to do it. Women need to be educated about the attitudes our male teachers have, and we need to examine how male-identified we are, or how intimidated we are, and we need discernment in terms of who we want to study with or work with. Sexuality is another area where women have given away their power or men have power- tripped them. For there to be equality, women need be edu- cated that they don’t have to sleep with a male teacher just because that teacher wants them to. We don’t need to give away our power in terms of our sexu- ality. This is still very much a sore spot for many teachers and students. GraCe sChireson: The train- ings that have been passed on to us have to do with training young men. When young men come into a monastic situation, because of the way their ego defenses work, they need to learn to harmonize and fit into the community and not to dominate with that sort of raw, inten- tional energy that young men have. But women, as Palden said, hide behind their ego defenses in different ways. They hide by pleasing others and ingratiating others, and so their training needs to be different. I don’t think this has been spe- cifically acknowledged and worked on as much as it can be. This fits hand-in-glove with the whole issue of women’s sexuality as pleasers—not taking our position as primary people but coming into our position through ingratiating, pleasing, seducing, or attracting others. This is an ego habit for many women, more so than it is for men. Men take their position differently, and I know in my Zen tradition it works on that kind of samurai spirit. Zen hasn’t developed the teach- ings to help women come forward as women. This is also one of the shadow sides of Western Buddhism’s intersection with the Asian tradition, because in our own cul- ture, Westerner to Westerner, we might recognize more readily the inappropriateness of certai n relationships. But because of the cultural overlay, people can be fooled and not see a sexual relationship between a teacher and student as an ethi- cal breach. They think that somehow it’s the roshi’s right or entitlement to have these kinds of relationships. (portraitsleft—right)PeterSchireSon,unknown,unknown,ellieStrand photo: a. JeSSe Jiryu daviS