Dharamshala: In an interaction with Tibetan community, particularly students in Bangalore last week, His Holiness the Dalai Lama responded to a question on the possibility of high reincarnate female lamas in Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
The Tibetan spiritual leader made clear in his assertion that there have been many highly realised female lamas in Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He cited examples of Samdhing Dorje Phagmo in the 15th century and Shugseb Jetsun Kusho (1852–1953).
“When I was young, there was a highly realised Tibetan female lama in Tibet called Shugseb Jetsun Kusho. Also, the first and most famous lineage to be held by women was Samding Dorje Phagmo. Samding Dorje Phagmo was among the highest ranking reincarnate lamas at the time. It is an incarnation tradition which has existed for seven hundred years; a lineage almost as old as that of the Karmapa. Similarly, there have been Tibetan yoginis (Neljormas) like Jetsun Kusho. However male lamas have outnumbered female.
He asked the audience to remember that Buddha has given equal rights for monks and nuns take ordination. “Therefore, according to Vinaya, I can make efforts to revive that practice but I can’t take authoritative decisions. What I can do is encourage Geshema scholarship in nunneries. As a result, last year over 20 nuns, after pursuing a rigorous program of study, were awarded the Geshema degree.”
His Holiness maintained that there is a slight semblance of male chauvinism in religious leadership and that lama institutions are remnants of the feudal system that needs to go.
“With the devolution of my political authority in 2011, I have not only retired from political responsibility but I have happily, voluntarily and proudly ceased four-century-old tradition of Dalai Lama institution as both temporal and spiritual head. Because these are remnants of the feudal system. This is not unique to Tibetan, many religious traditions have feudalistic semblance,” His Holiness said.
Briefly touching upon the idea of a female Dalai Lama, His Holiness remarked, “Once during an interview in Paris, a female editor asked me about the prospects of a female Dalai Lama. I replied that there will surely be a female Dalai Lama if the circumstances are such that a female form is more beneficial. If a female reincarnation helps to serve dharma and humanity then why not.”