As University of Portland prepares itself to welcome the Dalai Lama to its campus on May 9, 2013, I decided to brush up on my knowledge of him and place him into my Google search engine. What I discovered is not only fascinating, but demonstrates that gender issues are ripe and alive everywhere: the current Dalai Lama has stated that the next Dalai Lama may be female.
The Dalai Lama has claimed before that he is a feminist, saying, “I call myself a feminist. Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?” His openness to follow the trend showing now of women emerging into full participation and importance as teachers in Western Buddhism. He has even been quoted to be saying, “If a woman reveals herself as more useful, the lama could very well be reincarnated in this form.”
The notion of a Dalai Lama emerging as a woman should not be surprising; they have a strong and essential role as teachers and abbesses, who are female leaders of convents of female lamas if you happened to not know. With women already in positions of power and influence such as those, why not step ‘em up and find a female Dalai Lama?
Buddhist women also operate in other levels, showing their comprehensive influence on the religion. They operate in the kitchen, filling the essential role of providing food; they operate in the centers, driving away and organizing; they operate in the office, filling administrative roles, managing, and making significant decisions. But above all, the most important aspect is the knowledge that the Dalai Lama is supporting this necessity for women to rise to positions of power in Buddhism. Critics may say that his assertion that women possess an essential role is putting him in a savior role of passive women, but I disagree. He gives us all hope that male has the capacity to be an ally for women and acknowledge their importance.
In response, there has been pushback by the Chinese government who claim that they will be the ones to install the next head of Tibetan Buddhism as the Dalai Lama speaks out as strongly as ever about who will succeed him, going against the tradition of waiting until he is dead before monks seek the next Dalai Lama.
These findings make me wonder what’s next for our world and the capacity for this society to accept another woman assuming a position of power. It’ll be interesting to see for certain.