Mischievous Blonde

The Dalai Lama is in trouble again. This time, in an interview from his home in India, commenting on the controversy over whether he will reincarnate or not, he sparked another controversy by saying if he does come back it might be as a “mischievous blonde woman.” But, he added, “then her face must be very attractive” or “nobody pay much attention”.

Historically speaking, some blondes have been too mischievous.
Historically speaking, some blondes have been too mischievous.

Some folks have jumped on this and now he being labeled a sexist.

Two things people should know about the Dalai Lama: A) his command of the English language is not that great, and B) he has a sense of humor.

B is good, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and he tries to inject some lightheartedness into what can often be a dry subject, namely Buddhism. However, because of A, his words sometimes come out wrong and he is misunderstood.

Here is what I think happened: A) he was trying to make a joke and he muddled it up, or B) he was trying to make a sly commentary on the sad fact that women are still judged by their appearance and he muddled it up.

But this is what almost everyone is missing: for the Dalai Lama to suggest that he could reincarnate as a woman period is a very radical statement. That’s because the traditional teachings of Buddhism say a woman can never be enlightened. So, if the next Dalai Lama were a woman that would more or less tear that idea to sheds.

Gender inequality is still a problem in Buddhism and instead of nitpicking perhaps we should be commending the Dalai Lama for striking a blow against sexism.

Some of the things written about women in Buddhist literature are rather ugly. They are objects of scorn, their bodies are unclean, they are evil and to be avoided, etc. There are positive things said about women, too; however, the negative remarks stand out as rather large blemishes. The Dalai Lama addressed this issue in 1997 during his teachings on Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland at UCLA. He was discussing a section of the text known as the “Twenty Verses” and here is an excerpt from my transcript of the teachings:

In the 20 verses [from The Precious Garland] I would like to warn you about a passage that reads “may all women be reborn as males.” [Laugher.] When you read that passage it is important to bear in mind the culture and the context that those kind of sentiments are being expressed. If we are to take that literally and that aspiration comes into realization, then it’s going to be rather silly, because if the entire world is going to be populated by men then that means the human species is going to end at some point. [Laugher.] There’s going to be no possibility of procreation. [Laugher.] So, the point is that if one feels that in the form of a female existence one can make a great contribution, be more effective and be of greater service, then reverse the thought and pray that all men be born as females! [Laugher and applause.]

In the Buddhist scriptures, there is another type of sentiment that I have reflected on: when you read the Buddhist scriptures that deal with altruism and compassion, there is always a reference to sentient beings as mother sentient beings, never as father sentient beings. This suggests that within the Buddhist tradition, women are seen as the symbol of compassion and affectionate perfection. It is very rare that a man is the symbol of affection. Women, in the form of mothers, are also the embodiment of kindness.”


11 thoughts on “Mischievous Blonde

  1. I disagree. The Dalai Lama has been traveling the globe for decades on his fundraising tours. So, if you are to say his English isn’t great and he can’t express himself correctly — then it goes to also say that we should believe little of what he says during his public talks. Don’t see how you can have it both ways here.

    There is little to ‘mess up’ with the words: Woman (only one meaning here); Blonde (ditto); Mischievous (that’s a big word for someone who doesn’t speak / understand English well).

    Let’s not try and cover up the Dalai Lama’s faux pas by trying to explain it away as a profundity.

    1. Thanks, Diane, for sharing your opinion. I must say though that I don’t follow your logic that because his English is deficient this means we should not believe what he says. Would you say the same thing about Einstein?

      I don’t know if you have ever heard the Dalai Lama speak in person, so I hope I am not telling you something you already know, but during the public talks I have attended, he usually starts off in English but at some point, usually during Q & A, he ends up relying on a translator. When he gives Buddhist teachings, he never tries to speak in English. The teachings are too in depth, so he speaks in Tibetan and it is translated.

      I have not seen the entire remark. It was supposed to be an interview with the Sunday Times but I have not been able to find the whole interview. So, some context is missing. Whatever it was, however intended, I do think he should offer an apology. That seems to be the proper thing to do in the aftermath of a faux pas, but I haven’t seen one.

  2. obviously he is trying to be funny. Reincarnation is a loaded , heavy topic. Dalai Lama is known to lighten up his buddhist teachings, when ever he gets a chance.

    Now, Can Dalai Lama joke about “mischievous blonde women” ? well, why not. “mischievous blonde woman” will find that funny, or interesting at the least. 🙂 . Unless you are a “mischievous” blonde woman , i see now reason why you (or any) would get offended.

    He is probably not up-to-date on the political correctness of the modern world…probably still living 80s western world.

    Regarding “Some of the things written about women in Buddhist literature are rather ugly. They are objects of scorn, their bodies are unclean, they are evil and to be avoided, etc”

    Most of those writings are in the context of handling sexual desires or lust. I do not see any where women are called “evil” , independently of a context.

    Compared to religions/cutlures of those times , this is not as bad as it look…please see
    Women in Buddhism , lot of research in the link.

    1. You’re right, the remarks against women are within the context of sexual desire. That doesn’t make them each easier to stomach, though.

      1. I believe those comments are not really about woman, the person.

        Usually when men see a women (her body), their minds immediately (often without control) associate beauty, love, “answer to everything” kind of feelings. This is well recognized by those trying to conquer this aspect (“man’s curse”). All those writings are “tools” to help one see the “other side” of this “lust equation”.

        They were never about woman as a being.

        There is reason these are dealth with at all. It is because majority of the audience (for those writings) were men, AND men cannot become buddha if they cannot control themselves. Sexual desires rank at the very top in the list of “forces”, that hinder one’s progress.

  3. Have a look at most TARA – I think the great HHH might actually have been giving us a very maternal wakeup call. Ha. As a former blond woman (it’s gray now) I learned to use my face and hair and attitude to get others to pay attention. Oh yes, the men did look. And, just imagine how shocked they were to hear me speak about the unending compassion of the great Bodhisattva! Ancient Zen masters once hit their students with sticks to wake them. How much more pleasant to be hit with the smile of a good looking blond woman! And, let’s not forget that it is said that everyone has been (and will again be) our mother. Why not have The Dalai Lama return as a woman? He’s certainly been one before. Maybe the next time he just wants to be a little better looking and have a little more fun!? After all he’s done for others in this life it seems only fair. Doesn’t it?

  4. The outside world is the reflection of our “mind”. The meaning of Dalai Lama’s speech is always up to the audiences, weather it is full of “love” or “lust”, it depends on how the audiences perceived in their mind, not up to him. Haven or Hell is a state of mind, it is all up to you, not any of the outside factors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.