Gender and Enlightenment

In certain circles, often among Western students of Tibetan Buddhism, an ancient and chauvinist (Hinayana) prejudice still reigns according to which men are thought to be more suited to attain enlightenment than women (see Hinayana).

Many a devoted female student, so I know from personal communications, has to face such comments during discussions about teachings and practice - ending up feeling frustrated and going home with a tiny seed of either doubt or resentment; counter-productive both.

Those who propagate such trash, for whatever personal reason of their own, reveal themselves not only as immature in a general sense (living, as we do, beyond 2001), but they also show complete ignorance of the very essence of Mahayana - the Boddhisattva ideal - and Vajrayana; namely that the seed of Buddha-hood is present in every human being.

Pretending to practice Vajrayana, desiring to learn the innermost secrets of the "Highest Yoga Tantra", dreaming of Anu Yoga initiations - their minds and hearts are more suited to the most simple of teachings the Buddha gave 2,500 years ago to more or less illiterate Indian peasants; which is why they are called "the lesser vehicle".

The following statement by Padmasambhava, given here in two varying translations, not only makes clear what the position of Vajrayana is on this matter, it even shows - not surprisingly - that women may have a slight advantage. Both these quotes are from two different versions of the biography of Yeshe Tsogyal, and are part of a speech given to her by Padmasambhava himself.

Tarthang Tulku, after quoting the above text in his foreword (page xxiii), adds the following comment:

The female energy is especially respected in Padmasambhava's lineage, having a special place in the enlightened transmission - for it could be said that all of Padmasambhava's teachings come to us through Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal.