Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Tibetan Woman as a Nun

I resolve to update more regularly. So it isn't Losar yet, won't be until February 25, but it'll be good practice.

Today finished editing "Status of Tibetan Nuns in Exile" for the Tibetan Women's Association. Tenky asked me to do this since, she said, "u enjoy working with nuns and reading about nuns" - which makes me sound like I have a weird nun fetish. This because I told her that while I was at my cousin's wedding reception at Soaltee Hotel (in Kathmandu!) I spent some time chatting with the novice nuns from the local nunnery. A very young nun, 14 perhaps, newly out of Tibet, went red, covered her face with her hands and would not talk to me because I have short hair and she was convinced I was a boy. Later, another nun asked me which nunnery I was from. Perhaps I need to rethink this boy's haircut and learn the lesson that Samson taught.

So anyway, nuns. I am interested in nuns and have always gotten along well with most because Dolmaling Nunnery/School of Dialectics was my home for three years and a half years, and so see past the red robes and the monastic mystique. Basically I edited TWA's report on nuns because I wanted to read it.

Although the report and the data compiled presents no new finding or bright idea, it was very interesting reading and I think it's going to be a good and helpful thing, a great thing, to have these actual statistics. So there are 1651 nuns in exile, and about 342 nuns form the survey's raw pool. So a pretty good percentage. There's a positive correlation between the number of nuns who are political prisoners in Drapchi and the number of escapee nuns in exile the following year, while it may be predictable it's still exciting to see the graph. Another exciting -and really, entirely dramatic- point is that 80% of the nuns said they would study for the Geshe Degree if they could. Yeah, 80%. Yeah, the Geshe Degree, the PhD. of Tibetan Buddhism. Well, perhaps the nuns ticked that box because they knew that right now, they can't even if they wanted to, since they are not allowed.

You see, only people who are fully ordained can sit for the Geshe Exam. And the reason that brilliant nuns can't sit for this exam is because -wait for it, it's good: nuns aren't fully ordained, they can't become Bikshunis because the Bikshuni lineage died out a long time ago. Seriously people, is that your excuse? Surely there are loopholes. True, I conceive of bizarre scenarios in which a nun would get a sex change, become a monk and then become a Geshe. But no, seriously, there must be other ways the Bikshuni lineage can be revived.

After all these women already get shafted as Tibetans nationals (by the Chinese government) and as Tibetan women (by Tibetan men). They do not need to be shafted -by the monks- as Tibetan nuns!

We have established that a mother's son with the necessary wisdom may win the Ganden Throne, but what about a mother's daughter?

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