I have never felt that there is any difference between females and males. Being Buddhist disciples we all know that wisdom, courage and compassion, all these wonderful qualities, are inherently owned by all sentient beings. The only difference may be in the expression and demonstration of these qualities.
When I think of all the women I know, different races, ages, and nationalities, among these I include many of you that I have been in touch with, when I think of you all, especially Himalayan women, my heart is full of peace and humility. I see the qualities of tenderness, humility, gentleness, and delicacy. Also the qualities of great perseverance, self-sacrifice, and forbearance. Thereby, I have realized that perhaps these qualities are the embodiment of wisdom and courage in women. Even though this is so, I also see that you are faced with the difficulties of living conditions, the prejudice of society, less opportunities for education and fewer resources. Indeed this is a visible and obvious reality. However, today the purpose of this gathering is not to feel sorry for ourselves or bemoan social conditions because the real difficulties do not come from external pre-defined roles imposed on us, the real difficulty we face comes from how we view ourselves In other words it is how we identify with the idea of society and impose that on ourselves. That is our ultimate limitation.
So today we are here under the guidance of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa and at his initiative, with the support of the sangha, and we begin the first Kagyu female monastic winter debate. However, I feel that such a special first is not only for the sake of debate or listening to the teaching, nor because it was commanded by His Holiness, but also this first is for us to fundamentally transform the ideas held by the whole of society and the ideas and understanding which we hold of ourselves.
In 1994 when I first finished shedra education, and decided to continue my studies in Tibetan Buddhism, when I brought this up, the preceptor of my ordination and many of our senior monks and nuns told me that if I went there I would experience hardship because, since olden times, the female in Tibetan Buddhism has no social status or opportunities. Only a few women were able to succeed. At that time I disagreed and I felt confident that I would be one of the few. But when I got into the Tibetan Buddhist community, I’m sorry to say, I discovered what they said is true.
But today I witness this debating event completely dedicated to the female sangha which makes me feel hope, even though this is only a beginning and we still have a long way to go. I anticipate that under the guidance and concern of His Holiness, and with everyone’s wholehearted diligence, one day in the debate gathering, the Khenpos and Geshes sitting in the front row will be you.