Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eastern Buddhism meets 21st Century Buddhism

Ani Choying Drolma has done what she can in this situation
I have recently become disappointed by the lack of skillful Buddhist compassion shown to a Nepalese Buddhist Nun who was gang raped and now is facing ex-communication.
The twenty nine year old Buddhist nun from Nepal, was allegedly raped by five men on a bus in July of 2011. Following the horrendous attack, at least a dozen Eastern Buddhist organizations signed a statement that said she should no longer be a nun because she had lost her virginity.

This obvious travesty further exemplifies the current gap between Eastern and Western interpretations of the Buddhadharma, I am saddened that arcane social convention is overriding common sense and compassion in this case. Śakyamuni Buddha was a radical who did not follow the social mores of his day, he did not discriminate based upon Caste or Sex which did not make him popular with the local powers of his time. The point is that he was pushing the boundaries of what was and was not acceptable.

Buddha taught us “to do no harm.” It seems that this is another case of societal mores and conventions becoming more important to the Nepalese than Śakyamuni’s exhortation to put an end to suffering.

Compounding the stress of being raped to discover that your Sangha is willing to abandon their support of your original dedication for some external event totally outside of your control.  This is simple male misogynistic rhetoric, which dominates the current incarnation of Eastern Buddhism.  

The Nepal Buddhist Federation’s official stance on this matter is, “Such a thing never happened in the Buddha’s lifetime . . . So he did not leave instructions about how to deal with the situation.” This is mere pipelining to state this publically, it is the purest form of fundamental legalizism that destroys all religions in the end. It now seems that the federation has been strongly urged to reconsider their judgement following repeated complaints from the International Community. Their current stance is, "[The federation] will do everything in its power to help restore the dignity of the nun and continue to fight for justice," found recently on a statement from their website.

The nun was a member of the Karma Samtenling Monastery at Pharping in Nepal; and at the time she was in India expanding her Buddhist education.

Ani Choying Drolma, who has come to fame in the West as a Buddhist Nun who has received recent success in popularizing traditional Buddhist Chanting, spoke up immediately and came to the victim’s defense. She has offered her a place to live as well as helping with medical expenses.  “The most important thing is to treat her like a human being and then later we can look into the matter of whether she is still a nun," Drolma told news outlets.

Drolma, like others in the East, are not allowed to speak out against the hierarchy for fear of reprisals. These issues exist in Nepal, India, China, Korea and Japan and are deeply embedded in the cultures in which they prosper. It is easy for us in the West who are on the other side of our cultural revolution that took place in the 50’s and 60’s to perhaps sit in judgment of these actions. However, we also have Western Buddhist Organizations who wield power absolutely with little regard for compassion and understanding. I do not know what can be done about the overriding social mores that exist in the East, but let us not become too arrogant and assume our own shit does not stink. Think globally and act locally, compassion needs to be cultivated from our hearts moment after moment after moment.

The best outcome for this situation is that the Nun lives in a nurturing and supportive environment and gets the kind of counseling she needs to recover from her trauma and is allowed to get back to her life of service to others. Let us all hope that this is the outcome of this tragic event. In the mean time, let us take this as a wakeup call to connect deeper to manifesting compassion in our own lives.


Roy said...

Thank you for this post. Thanks for calling a spade a spade...

Imagine that in a land chock-a-block full of Rinpoche's, Tulkus, Lamas, and Nuns there has not been *one* to stand up and say the obvious - that this woman - if she still desires it - is still a Nun.

Even Ani-La's comment seems to indicate that there is room in her mind for discussion.

There is clear precedent in the Vinaya - should anyone in charge care to read it..

Hoping for a good outcome and manifesting more compassion in my own life will not help this Nun. If people relied solely on those two routes - the Nun would already be tossed aside.

If people really care what happens to her - they need to engage - write letters - post comments - contact prominent Nepali Buddhist teachers - contact Tibetan centers wherever they are and make them aware of this..

Todd D. Epp said...

Thank you for posting this. I find this overt sexism (and utter stupidity) in Buddhism incomprehensible.

Zen and Back Again said...

The situation is appalling. To me, this exemplifies everything that the Buddha would NOT do. The Nepalese sangha should be providing support and compassion. You hit the nail right on the head; it sounds extremely sexist.

Thanks for sharing.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

The link to the NBF website goes to a statement that (at least now) says that she is still a nun, and, further, that the NBF has never stated otherwise.

The statement refers to the victim over and over again in the present tense as a "nun".

The following are all direct quotes from the page linked to:

"Nepal Buddhist Federation has never said that she is
expelled from the nunnery."

"The members of the NBF personally met her and her
relatives in the hospital where her condition is still very unstable. NBF also met the authorities of the Karma Samtenling Nunnery at
Pharbing, which she left a year ago when she went to India to pursue further studies. She is not expelled from the nunnery."

"NBF in collaboration with our allied Association Tamang Lama Gedung Sangh and the concerned nunnery is taking steps to accommodate her back into the nunnery when she recovers and discharged from the hospital. NBF will do everything in its power to help restore the dignity of the nun and continue to fight for justice."

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Google has a "cached" version of the press release put out by the NBF dated July 19th, and this is the same as what the NBF is saying now on their website. In particular, that press release states unequivocally that the rape victim is still a nun and that the NBF is fully committed to the victim returning to the nunnery as soon as she is able to, and to restoring her dignity and to the "fight for justice." Here is a tinurl link to the cached page:

Roy said...

That post by the NBF was put up well after the storm of international outcry over Norbu Sherpa's opinions.

Good for them that they had a change of heart and have distanced themselves from their spokesman.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

There was no change by the NBF. The original "Times of India" article that started all of this is a transparent smear.

There is no evidence, whatsoever, that any official action was ever taken, or even considered, to expel the rape victim from the Sangha of nuns.

Why are some Buddhist so eager to believe such lies? Or maybe the only question is, why don't some Buddhists know how to READ.