Is Buddha male or female

What did you find out while visualizing aspects of the Buddha? For example, is Tara male or female? And you who meditate on the nature of the mind, have you seen whether the mind is masculine or feminine in nature? If you think about it, if you have sought the essence of the mind or the essence of the yidams, it is to be assumed that you have come to the conclusion that there is not much difference.

We make no distinction between what a man can do and what a woman can do. What is more important is what we can do as humans. The first step is not to develop arrogance because you are a man, nor because you are a woman. The teachings say that improper practice of the Dharma can cause rebirth in adverse circumstances. It is therefore important not to separate between the male and female Buddha-aspects. Otherwise we will never come to the ultimate understanding.

The masters of the past have taught on a very high level that the male mind is very direct whereas the female mind is more related to wisdom. If we look at this more closely, we see that it is good to have both aspects: on the one hand wisdom, on the other hand this direct attitude and both in harmony or parallel development. In order to develop wisdom, you need this attitude of directness. But if you only have this direct attitude without wisdom, it will not be of much use to you. If we are particularly influenced by one of these two aspects, it is therefore important to develop the other aspect and vice versa.

As soon as we embark on the path through refuge, we should be aware of the Buddha-nature in every being, whether male or female. We may wonder, then, why are there fewer female practitioners and teachers than there are men today? In western countries, I think there are more women on the way. At least I see more women; I don't know if that is because I am ... However, as far as the monastic aspect is concerned, there are few fully ordained nuns.

It is said that there are mainly three reasons why women have less practical results or less practice in higher spiritual practices: The first reason is attachment, which is more pronounced in women. The second reason is fear; Fear of being abandoned, of being alone, of being ignored. The third reason is jealousy. It may not be pleasant to hear, but that's the truth! In terms of my personal experiences with monks and nuns, I found those with nuns much more difficult, precisely because of these three reasons. This is not to say that men have no faults: but today we are mostly talking about women. If a woman is to practice deeply, she must overcome these three points.

For example, strong attachment to family members or one's own appearance - face, hairstyle, clothing - is a major obstacle. When our minds are clouded by strong attachment, the confusion grows stronger. It is a state where it becomes more and more difficult, even impossible, to know which direction to take. Half of the time that could be spent on fruitful practice then passes by wondering what decision to make.

The second aspect is fear. There are different types of it: the fear of losing something, the fear of not being able to work anymore, the fear of practicing alone, the fear of everything. But when we go the Dharma path, it is good to give up all that one has. And so, how can you still be afraid of loss?

If we are to achieve convincing results in our practice, we should cultivate good relationships, develop a broad understanding of the teachings, keep our vows, and avoid anything that may cause disharmony between members of the Sangha. What breaks all of this is jealousy. We meet them on both a low and a very high level. For example, who likes to sit low when everyone is on a throne?

As serious practicing Buddhists, we have read or heard the teaching that one should practice with humility. It is important to recognize whether we have understood this and whether we are living by it; especially as a woman. Many women ask me why they are not allowed to do this or that, why they do not have the right to sit in the same place as men. (Translator's note: refers to nuns and monks in the monastery) But, even if you were allowed to, would it change anything in your practice?

Many women also ask me a very specific question: Why can't women who have practiced, especially after retreating, give refuge? (Translator's note: This is the old Tibetan tradition and was changed by Shamar Rinpoche for the West) Think about it: will you develop spiritually by giving refuge or by your practice? No doubt it will be done through practice.

What is difficult to attain is of greater value to itself. In the Buddha's time, the vows of fully ordained nuns were difficult to come by, and some people think that this was not a good thing. But personally, I think it's great because it allowed the women who took the vows to be more aware of it: the difficulty of getting those vows added value.

The tradition of the vows of the fully ordained nuns has disappeared from the Tibetan tradition, and whether or not one is allowed to give refuge depends on how well one has developed through one's own practice. The most difficult obstacle to overcome in a practitioner's life is pride. Those who practice know that.

It is not easy to be a woman, and it is even more difficult to be a woman who practices Buddhism. I realized that. The life stories of women who have followed the spiritual path give us the opportunity to become more aware of what develops in us great strength and great courage. It helps us understand that the trials we face are far less than the trials practicing women have faced in the past. These biographies are not stories to be told when you go to bed, but something much deeper, something that shapes our existence. You probably know more stories like this than I do.

But the question most women ask is: can a woman attain full enlightenment at all? Of course this is possible! A woman who practices very well has the opportunity to attain full enlightenment. If we examine this question in the various schools, the Little Vehicle or the Vajrayana tradition, there have been different opinions on this for centuries. But at the absolute level, it is possible for a woman to attain full enlightenment. Still, there are many difficulties. If a woman wants to know the ultimate truth, it is first important that she leave behind the distinction between "masculine" and "feminine" in terms of visualizing the yidams, receiving teachings, or practicing for yourself. One cannot advance in one's spiritual development unless one overcomes this fixed concept of seeing oneself as a male or female aspect. ...

Yesterday we spoke of attachment, fear, and jealousy. Some people think they are deeply affected by two of these emotions and not at all by the third emotion. Or, conversely, that one emotion affects you particularly, but not the other two. It's very good if you don't have any of them. We need to focus our attention on the unexplored areas of our situation and the emotions that cloud us most. When jealousy is very strong within us, but attachment less strong, then it is important to work with jealousy. If we are not affected by one or the other emotion, but very attached, then it is important to work with that emotion. In any case, it would be honest to admit that one is always caught up in one emotion or another. It's easy to think you're a compassionate person, but it's important to see that this is actually not entirely true.

Today we are in an era where a certain development is much more natural and faster than in the past, especially in western countries, where technology and science have made advances that bring great material relief with them. But this external development cannot lead to a state of real happiness and stability unless our focus is on the internal aspect, namely knowing ourselves. If an individual is only looking outside, that search will never end. That is why it is always preferable to go back to the cause, to get to know yourself. Only from there is it possible to develop fully.

The materialistic search never ends. The more you devote yourself to it, the more it demands. Because of past life veils and obscurations, and worldly distractions that keep catching us, we become more and more attached to external phenomena until we finally think that we are unable to truly engage in meditation practice. We think that we cannot concentrate precisely and completely. However, if we look at our daily activities, we find that we devote a lot of time to certain activities. For example, we spend an average of 45 minutes putting on make-up and are fully concentrated: Don't make a line too long here, don't apply one color too heavily there, red here, blue, yellow there and finally green. If we only put half of that effort into the visualization, it would be excellent!

I think the most important thing in a woman's life seems to be what others see about her. Whether you go to the city or to the center to meditate, whatever: The main concern of women is: "How do I look? What do others see in me?" The next thought is then: "What is the difference between my neighbor and me? Which is the best, the most beautiful?" These thoughts are a sign of attachment. There are several varieties of it and this form, which has to do with material stimuli, is the easiest to overcome.

The following concerns people who are already practicing and have a lot of experience, and especially the nuns. A nun's first thought is: I belong to that particularly rare group of people who are fortunate enough to be able to do without many things. A certain severity arises in the spirit, a certain pride; we turn away from everything outside, and in our development there is no longer any openness or compassion towards the outside. Serious practice as a nun may be a good thing when internal development and practice complement each other well; otherwise one finds oneself in a situation where one is neither in one nor in the other world: neither really turned away from the outside nor really in the process of inner development. With regard to disturbing feelings, of course, all worldly activities are negative; there is definitely something that one has to do without. But to look at the outer world with criticism is a mistake as long as one does not really understand what this outer world actually is.

If you are a serious practitioner, then be yourself and open your mind to a wide, great life in such a way that you observe what is good and what is bad and decide what is good for you and for others Benefit is.

On the other hand, excessive attachment to the spiritual teacher, teachings, practice, and even enlightenment itself can develop. This is a cause of further trouble. It is important in our situation to use our intellect, our brain and our spirit well as human beings, because that is our specialty compared to other forms of existence. We have the mind that enables us to distinguish between what is positive and what is negative. It is important to make use of this in order to finally come to the right center through discrimination, where one no longer falls into "everything is good" or "everything is bad". Lay practitioners should be able to see the fine line between responsibility and attachment. Whoever wears the robes should also see the line between devotion and attachment.

We should all practice in accordance with these principles. It is also important not to practice self-centeredly, but to let the mind dwell in a wide, open state. In this regard, women have a great capacity.

I have assumed that you are familiar with the life stories of the great saints. Many of these biographies have been translated equally well into English and French, and during the two to three weeks I was here I had the opportunity to get my hands on them. But several people told me that they did not know these stories.

It seems that we are in a strange time: one has the impression that there are many people waiting for someone to come and teach them. When we look at the stories of the wise women of the past, as well as the stories of the great sages like Naropa and Milarepa, we find that they did not wait for someone to come to give them the teachings. They went looking for teachers and often only received extremely brief teachings. To do this, they had to face great difficulties and suffer great pain. We are really very lucky that we don't have to do this, but can just wait for the teachings to come to us.

In the past, overcoming obstacles meant leaving behind any thought of happiness. It meant giving up your body, speech, and mind completely without even thinking about yourself - for your entire life. Nowadays, overcoming obstacles means not going on vacation or going to a concert on Sunday to go to the center. The ancient biographies can be of great help in comparing our situation with the lives of previous masters.

When we try to physically imitate the great Masters and pretend to be like them, our thoughts are very different. Deep down we always strive for our own happiness, our own spiritual development, whereas none of the great masters thought so. After the three-year retreat, some people come up with the idea of ​​comparing themselves to these Masters; the men compare themselves to Milarepa and the women to Machig Lapdrön. This first fills the mind with joy and then creates a certain pride. But time goes by and after ten or fifteen years you find yourself in a situation where you realize that something is missing and you wonder why. You then have the tendency to look outwards. Of course, and that's a good thing, there are people who are on the right track, who turn their attention to themselves, and find that there has been a mistake in their way of thinking. But most of the time people who get to this point think that the teachings they received were not the highest, or that something was wrong with the spiritual teacher.

In the beginning, of course, comes the transmission of the blessings of the teachings from the teacher. But the subsequent personal development towards enlightenment depends on oneself, one's own behavior, one's own practice and the way in which our minds grasp the profundity of the teachings. Have you ever heard someone attain enlightenment without making any particular effort, without making serious efforts along the way? I've never heard of anything like this. Nobody will come from outside and bring us enlightenment. Spiritual development depends on nothing but yourself. And to do it there is the way, the Dharma. It is up to you to choose the path that best suits you.

A story of a wise woman goes back in time, before Buddhism spread to Tibet and other countries. There was a princess in India who was famous throughout the kingdom for her beauty. Everyone in the country loved and respected her. However, when she was around 20 years old, she developed leprosy. The same people who had previously shown her great love and respect suddenly avoided her. It turned out that people had not valued their inner being, only their external appearance. So she decided to leave the palace and live alone; she became a nun.Because of the suffering she had experienced, she renounced all worldly activities, devoted herself exclusively to meditation, and showed great devotion to Chenresig. Despite all the suffering that had happened to her, she did not complain about others and devoted herself solely to purifying her negative karma and inner development. Then one day Chenresig appeared to her in its 1000-armed form. She received all the instructions for the practice of Nyung-Ne and then diligently practiced this fasting meditation ritual. This extremely effective ritual, which dissolves all previous negative actions, was given to us through this great yogini, the fully ordained nun named Gelongma Palmo.

Another story is about Marpa the translator at the time. He wanted to transfer all his teachings to his son Dharma Dode. But since he died prematurely, he could only teach him the teaching of the transfer of consciousness in another body, which only works if this body died recently and is still a little warm. Since there was no such body in his vicinity, Dharma Dode could only transfer his consciousness into the body of a dove. The great saint and yogi Milarepa was present. (Translator's note: The following part is missing in the French translation: The pigeon flew to India, where Dharma Dode transferred his consciousness into the body of a boy who had just died, who was then called Tipupa; "Tipu" means dove. Tipupa became a pupil of Naropa and later Milarepa's disciple Rechungpa came to India to receive teachings from Tipupa.) On this occasion Rechungpa received the prophecy that in seven days he would face death. Rechungpa was very concerned. He asked his teacher if there was no way of averting this obstacle to his life. Tipupa replied that there was only one person, a woman, who could do something to prevent death from occurring within that time.

Rechungpa went to her and asked her if the prophecy was true. She said yes and gave him instructions on Amitayus, the "Buddha of Long Life". She gave him the appropriate initiation, and this practice is still practiced to this day, particularly in the Kagyu lineage. The practice of "Long Life Buddha" came to us through this woman named Machig Drubpä Gyalmo. It is for this reason that when one receives initiation, this story is told.

In these stories of women or the masters of the past, none of them ever alluded to being Kagyupa, Nyingmapa, Sakyapa, or Gelugpa. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary for any serious Dharma practitioner not to have a sectarian point of view, and in that regard not to emphasize the fact that one is a man or a woman. You are currently in a situation where you are receiving teachings and it is important to be as open as possible as it is because of this wide range of choices that you can find the one that best suits you.

Another story tells of the life of a woman who was born a princess, then took nuns' vows, became fully engaged in the practice, and attained complete enlightenment. She reached the tenth bodhisattva level and made wishes that she would continue to manifest in a woman's body for the best of all beings. It was about Tara, who never said that she was manifesting for the Kagyus or for the Nyingmapas. People came up to me and said that White Tara was more like Nyingma and Green Tara was more like Kagyu. I don't see how they can make such a difference. Those who practice the Dharma are not allowed to develop such sectarian views. They are the source of the greatest obstacles in practice.

In connection with yidams like Chenresig, Dorje Sempa, Dorje Chang, etc., we have to learn to recognize their essence. One should try to see whether compassion, wisdom, purification, the unity of wisdom and compassion are more feminine or masculine in nature. The same in terms of positive and negative, in terms of meritorious and non-meritorious. There is no difference: it is one and the same thing, male or female. So it is important not to develop flawed mindsets.

When a spiritual master gives teachings, he does not always think of himself as a man or a woman. Nor do people who receive teachings always have to think, "I am a man" or "I am a woman". It's about leaving the outside world behind and then turning to practice.


With permission from Dhagpo Kagyu Ling.
Translation & editing: M. Descamps and D. Göbel.