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Are Women the Future of Buddhism?

The wife of my teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Khandro Tseyang (also known as the Sakyong Wangmo), just gave birth to their second daughter, Jetsun Yudra. Here is the first public photo of the couple with their new daughter. So this is pretty wonderful for them and anyone involved in the Shambhala community. May all be basically awesome for them, and may Jetsun Yudra feel welcome and at home on Earth.

Interestingly enough, the Shambhala lineage is a family lineage, and the Sakyong now finds himself in a family of women. Friends of mine are speculating that there’s a very good chance that the next head of our Shambhala tradition, founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, will be a woman. There’s no certainty, but this seems highly likely. This male, progressively educated in the post-modern feminist era, would certainly be very happy to have a woman in charge someday in the not too distant future.

Many of my friends and students complain that the Western (and Eastern) Buddhist world is far too male-dominated, especially since the majority of students in America are women. We all want to feel empowered in this world. Some people feel that they really need to seek out a female teacher in order to feel comfortable deepening their path.

However, reflecting on my own path, the majority (maybe even two-thirds) of my own dharma teachers and mentors have been women. Outside of my studies with the Sakyong, my path has actually been decidedly female-dominated. I wonder if perhaps the chance to study Buddhism with women is actually far more prevalent than we believe? Certainly this has been my personal (anecdotal) experience.

Beyond any feminist victory for Buddhism, I am taking the news of the growth of the Shambhala family as an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of family in my own life.

May the Sakyong’s family be healthy and happy, and may we all work hard to heal whatever wounds we can in the lives of our own families.

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One of the essentials

Good luck

Women Gurus

Thanks, Ethan, for this post. It's delightful seeing a picture of this happy and beautiful family and to discuss an important topic like women in Buddhism.

I have to agree with Ms.Thompson on this one. It's rather ironic that we are having this conversation in the wake of the recent election of the new Catholic Pope who is, of course, an older, celibate man. Like you, Ethan, many Catholics have had women as religion teachers but it will be a remarkable day when their lineage holder, i.e., the Pope, is a woman.

There is obviously more to being a guru and lineage holder than teaching, though that it is a large and important part of it. Holding a lineage is powerful beyond words; for a woman to do so is no small thing.

That's exactly the point I was making

That with both of the Sakyong's childen now being daughters, the new lineage holder of Shambhala will possibly (likely) be a woman, and that's a big deal.

I don't know enough about catholicism to comment on the pope. Although I do hope he has a strong understanding of interdependence. :)


"Some people feel that they really need to seek out a female teacher in order to feel comfortable deepening their path."

I wouldn't say it's about comfort, but about a way of knowing. "comfort" makes it sound like people want a softer cushion so they seek out a female teacher. it's not something superficial; it's deep. it's the difference between knowing the words and knowing the meaning.
for me anyway.

women teachers

shambhala has done an excellent job as far as having female teachers.. all of them, however, defer to the sakyong as the ultimate authority, as in the case in any Tibetan lineage. until there are females as the lineage holder and guru who empowers others, the authority is not equal. i hope that one of the sakyong's daughters will take that place. i wonder if they will have to be recognized as a reincarnated lama, which is pretty rare for females -- partly because no one looks among girl children.

roshi joan halifax notes that she is the 82nd lineage holder in her line, and the first female. and that took a lot of bravery.

may jetsun yudro's birth be auspicious and of benefit to all beings of all genders.


This was crossposted on ethannichtern.com but...

...all the comments got wiped out in a purge mistake. Nuts! Hope some discussion can happen here.

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