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The Importance of Following a Noble Path over a Narrow One

Right now in in 21st century Nepal, it is actually considered debatable as to whether or not a Buddhist nun raped by five men on a bus should be allowed to return to her monastic life or not. 

"The religious dictum requires a nun to be virgin. So, it will be difficult to take her back," the president of Nepal, Tamang Ghedung Kumar Yonjan, said in an article in the Nepal Republic Media. "But we will lobby for her reinstatement as it is a unique incident."

That’s mighty nice of them to consider, don’t you think? Pardon me while I take a moment to wipe from my face all of that compassion oozing out of them. 

However, Norbu Sherpa, an official of Nepal Buddhist Federation, told the Times of India, "Such a thing never happened in the Buddha's lifetime. … So he did not leave instructions about how to deal with the situation. Buddhists all over the world adhere to what he had laid down: that a person can no longer be considered ordained in case of having a physical relationship. It's applicable to both men and women."

I wonder if Norbu Sherpa knows how to wipe his ass since I don’t think the Buddha ever left specific instructions on how to do that?

When pressed by the Times of India, Sherpa expressed regret about the attack, but said, "A vessel that is damaged once can no longer be used to keep water. … Buddhism all over the world says this. Even the Dalai Lama says you can't be a monk or nun after marriage."

While this particular situation seems limited to a faraway culture, it really does reveal a larger dilemma that many of us struggle with when it comes to how we can live our lives in a way that is consistent with Buddhist principles.

It’s understandable that many of us crave simple, black and white answers to our life situation which in reality is one big gray area. There’s never always one “right” way to respond to a given situation, and any attempts at approaching this world in such a narrow way can only lead to more suffering for ourselves and other people.

The Buddha left some ethical guidelines, a prescription for happiness for us in the form of the Eightfold Path. Like the ingredients for a cake, there is room for substitution and variance so long as the spirit of the path remains intact.

There are also many, many rules he came up with for his monastics based on situations that would arise and needed to be remedied. Many years later these rules were written down in the Vinaya Pitaka (at least as well as people could remember them) and now there are some who try to rigidly apply them to people today.

For example, the Overseas Bishop of the Taego Order here in the West tells gay people, straight females, and handicapped people that they cannot be monks as per Vinaya rules which is a lie and distortion of those rules. Interestingly, this order is already in violation of the Vinaya by allowing their straight male monks to live non-celibate lives and be married. It is very clearly written in the Vinaya that a monk must be celibate.

Early in my Buddhist studies I thought that this kind of cherry-picking with regard to rules of moral conduct was limited to certain Christian traditions but unfortunately, it goes on in Buddhist circles as well, even here in this country.

Buddhism is unique in that it encourages us to engage this world and our minds with a personal, experiential approach. Following a rigid set of rules written in a very different cultural context some 2,500 years ago and blindly following what some alleged authorities say is in direct conflict with what the Buddha taught.

May all beings learn to exercise true wisdom and compassion so that people like this young nun no longer have to suffer due to a narrow view of the Buddhist path.

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Women Helping Women

The attacked nun is now living at Arya Tara, the school which was founded by Ani Choying Drolma, the Buddhist nun, international singer, and women's rights advocate.  Choying Drolma paid for the nun's medical bills and also setup a fund for her future.  Choying is now lobbying politicians, police officials and rights organisations to ensure that the five men arrested for the attack are not set free.


Nepal's National Women's Commission (NWC) and other NGOs, escorted her to the nuns' school in Pharping. 

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2011/08/nepals-singing-nun-comes-to-shunned-sisters-rescue.php#ixzz1VE282hXc

For Realz

I was a monk myself, and that is utter nonsense. Certain conditions must be met for the transgression of a vow to be worthy of being disrobed.

To quote Thrangu Rinpoche:

"In accordance with the Buddha’s teachings, if we follow the precepts of not stealing, not killing, not having sexual intercourse, and not lying, then one’s life becomes harmonious and “cool” from this discipline.

With each of these four precepts there must be four factors or conditions met before the precept is actually broken. These are: basis, motivation, action, and final results. If we take the precept of not stealing, the “basis” is something that belongs to another person that is useful to him. If one takes something worthless like a needle and thread from someone, that is not very negative. The second factor is “motivation.” If one has impure motivation and knows that these things belong to another and wants to steal them, then that constitutes stealing. If, however, one does not have the motivation to steal, such as taking another’s belongings by mistake or taking them from a friend knowing that the friend would have no objection, then that is not a negative action. The third factor is “action.” Merely having the intention of stealing itself is does not lead to negative karma. But following up the intention with the act of stealing is a definite negative action. The fourth factor is the “final result.” If, for example, one has the intention of stealing another’s belonging and one becomes so ill that one can not actually take the possession, then that is not a negative action leading to negative karma.

For those who are ordained and have taken the vows, the basis for the precept of not killing is the human being. However, for those who are not fully ordained but who have taken the precepts, the basis is whatever has a mind (Tib. sem). The second factor of motivation, is very important. For example, while cultivating crops, we may unintentionally kill many insects and worms. Or we may throw a stone from the top of a hill which may fall and accidentally kill some animal. The third factor is “action.” Even if we have the intention to kill a human being or a sentient being as long as the action is not executed, the precept is not broken. The fourth factor is “final result.” Even if we have the motivation to kill someone and one goes through the action of killing, but the human being doesn’t die, then there is no negative action of killing.

The Buddha himself said that all four factors must be present together to constitute a negative karmic act. So if the four factors are present while relating to a particular precept, then that precept is broken, but if the four factors are not present together, then the precept is unbroken."


great piece. I so agree with what you say, and I am so happy that a male person said it and that you said it in exactly the words you used.

the beauty of buddhism is that it asks you to figure out when and how the rules apply, not to blindly obey them.

when the buddha said that no one is more deserving of your love and affection than you, yourself, are, he meant that no one is less deserving of it either.

I did my talk on right speech, and the buddha said that if you tell a lie without knowing that it is false speech, without intending to, there's no karmic consequence. for me, it follows that a woman who did not have the intention to have sex but who is forced to against her will bears no karmic consequence and is still completely pure, so letting virgin nuns be in contact with her isn't a problem.

thanks Nancy

I bet if Norbu Sherpa were ever raped, or if it had been a male monk this happened to, he'd have a very different opinion on this.


The "Rules"

This is an excellent article. I was initially drawn to Buddhism because I loved the invitation to discover the truth for yourself through deep investigation, rather than relying on some authority figure to dictate that truth.

In my mind, if a particular "rule," (I prefer the word "suggestion") is put into place, it should have some basis in reality, or, some overall purpose. I find these rules pertaining to "virginity" completely ridiculous, since they don't seem to serve any purpose at all, and aren't based on current reality, but are simply an adherence to some ancient "authority," namely, old male monks. http://searchingforsukha.blogspot.com/

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