Monday, March 2, 2009

Tenzin Palmo movie

Few people are true heroes to me; Tenzin Palmo is one. She is a Buddhist nun, born to a working class English family. She went to northern India, found her teacher, Khamtrul Rimpoche, lived six years as the only woman in a monastery. She was treated politely but never given the teachings and opportunities any lama was given. Then she went into the mountains and spent 12 years in a cave alone, meditating, buried alive by a blizzard [but dug herself out]. One day a policeman arrived to tell her she had overstayed her visa by three years and must leave within 72 hours.

She was faced then with a choice, to go back to retreat or to deal with the situation of other nuns and try to make changed in the heavy-handed patriarchal attitudes solidified by centuries of inequality. She chose the latter and decided to start a nunnery and to work on whatever front possible to acquire equality for women. She has worked to raise money while raising consciousnesses. she has built the nunnery. First a book was written that I found in a W.H. Smith Bookstore in Singapore Airport about five years ago. Now it has been made into movie with Tenzin Palmo walking and smiling, laughing and crying on screen. She is wonderful! She is SO alive and dedicated!! She is a hero if ever I've seen one.

The movie was at the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art this afternoon. On this snowy and very cold day the audience was small. I wish it could have been much larger. Paradoxically outside the screening room is an exhibition of photographs from Inner Mongolia showing life as it is for the nomads of the far western steppe. The photographer emphasizes women and notes in more than one caption that the women are the ones who do the hard work and maintain the way of life. Always the inequality!

2 comments:

Anne said...

I've read the book but not seen the movie (I'd love to!),you're right, a real hero!

I once had a neighbour who was a Buddhist nun in Thailand for several years before she had to leave due to similar visa problems. She said the nuns there were treated terribly, basically as servants to the monks.

I respect and admire Buddhism, but like every other major religion it has its weakness in the way it treats women. Fortunately that is changing, Tenzin Palmo has educated the Dalai Lama on the need for greater respect of women in Tibetan Buddhism.

June Calender said...

Anne, that's true as in a scene in the movie -- the DL is sympathetic but plays the "that's not my branch, and I have no power, I'm a simple monk." He stalls and does nothing. She continues the struggle. As we see in various Christian groups, progress is slow but it comes by bits and pieces.