Monday, August 15, 2011 at 01:00PM
Right now in in 21st century Nepal, it is actually considered debatable as to whether or not a Buddhist nun raped by five men on a bus should be allowed to return to her monastic life or not.
"The religious dictum requires a nun to be virgin. So, it will be difficult to take her back," the president of Nepal, Tamang Ghedung Kumar Yonjan, said in an article in the Nepal Republic Media. "But we will lobby for her reinstatement as it is a unique incident."
That’s mighty nice of them to consider, don’t you think? Pardon me while I take a moment to wipe from my face all of that compassion oozing out of them.
However, Norbu Sherpa, an official of Nepal Buddhist Federation, told the Times of India, "Such a thing never happened in the Buddha's lifetime. … So he did not leave instructions about how to deal with the situation. Buddhists all over the world adhere to what he had laid down: that a person can no longer be considered ordained in case of having a physical relationship. It's applicable to both men and women."
I wonder if Norbu Sherpa knows how to wipe his ass since I don’t think the Buddha ever left specific instructions on how to do that?
When pressed by the Times of India, Sherpa expressed regret about the attack, but said, "A vessel that is damaged once can no longer be used to keep water. … Buddhism all over the world says this. Even the Dalai Lama says you can't be a monk or nun after marriage."
While this particular situation seems limited to a faraway culture, it really does reveal a larger dilemma that many of us struggle with when it comes to how we can live our lives in a way that is consistent with Buddhist principles.
It’s understandable that many of us crave simple, black and white answers to our life situation which is in reality is one big gray area. There’s never always one “right” way to respond to a given situation, and any attempts at approaching this world in such a narrow way can only lead to more suffering for ourselves and other people.
The Buddha left some ethical guidelines, a prescription for happiness for us in the form of the Eightfold Path. Like the ingredients for a cake, there is room for substitution and variance so long as the spirit of the path remains intact.
There are also many, many rules he came up with for his monastics based on situations that would arise and needed to be remedied. Many years later these rules were written down in the Vinaya Pitaka (at least as well as people could remember them) and now there are some who try to rigidly apply them to people today.
For example, the Overseas Bishop of the Taego Order here in the West tells gay people, straight females, and handicapped people that they cannot be monks as per Vinaya rules which is a lie and distortion of those rules. Interestingly, this order is already in violation of the Vinaya by allowing their straight male monks to live non-celibate lives and be married. It is very clearly written in the Vinaya that a monk must be celibate.
Early in my Buddhist studies I thought that this kind of cherry-picking with regard to rules of moral conduct was limited to certain Christian traditions but unfortunately, it goes on in Buddhist circles as well, even here in this country.
Buddhism is unique in that it encourages us to engage this world and our minds with a personal, experiential approach. Following a rigid set of rules written in a very different cultural context some 2,500 years ago and blindly following what some alleged authorities say is in direct conflict with what the Buddha taught.
May all beings learn to exercise true wisdom and compassion so that people like this young nun no longer have to suffer due to a narrow view of the Buddhist path.