> And for a peek into the lives of the serfs under
> the old regime, this from historian Michael
> Parenti’s Friendly Feudalism is most telling:
> Young Tibetan boys were regularly taken from
> their peasant families and brought into the
> monasteries to be trained as monks. Once there,
> they were bonded for life. Tashì-Tsering, a monk,
> reports that it was common for peasant children to
> be sexually mistreated in the monasteries. He
> himself was a victim of repeated rape, beginning
> at age nine. The monastic estates also
> conscripted children for lifelong servitude as
> domestics, dance performers, and soldiers.
> Parenti’s well documented account of conditions
> of women under the Lama-regime will outrage any of
> the women students standing in line waiting for
> tickets to hear “His Holiness” expound on the
> rights of men and pleas to “free” his
> Not all Tibetan exiles are enamored of the old
> Shangri-La theocracy. Kim Lewis, who studied
> healing methods with a Buddhist monk in Berkeley,
> California, had occasion to talk at length with
> more than a dozen Tibetan women who lived in the
> monk’s building. When she asked how they felt
> about returning to their homeland, the sentiment
> was unanimously negative. At first, Lewis assumed
> that their reluctance had to do with the Chinese
> occupation, but they quickly informed her
> otherwise. They said they were extremely grateful
> “not to have to marry 4 or 5 men, be pregnant
> almost all the time,” or deal with sexually
> transmitted diseases contacted from a straying
> husband. The younger women “were delighted to be
> getting an education, wanted absolutely nothing to
> do with any religion, and wondered why Americans
> were so naïve [about Tibet].”
to point out the motes in the Dalai
> Lama’s adoring fans eyes is not to say we
> endorse the Chinese actions in Tibet 50 years ago.
> But by the same token, romanticizing the old
> misogynistic aristocratic theocracy of the old
> Tibet and ignoring the social and civil progress
> post-occupation, and blindly supporting the
> figurehead of the old regime, would be equally
> An energetic discussion here
> Friendly Feudalism
Corboy, I need to interject a cautionary note, here. Unfortunately, not all of Parenti's testimony is accurate or trustworthy. For example, Tashi Tsering wasn't a monk, he was given by his parents to a special troupe of boy dancers in the Dalai Lama's elite corps, in payment of a tax imposed by the Tibetan government. This took place later than age 9. He was never subjected to repeated rape in the monasteries. He never lived in a monastery. T. Tsering published a book on his experiences in Tibet and the West, which is available from Amazon. The discrepancy between T. Tsering's actual experiences as outlined in his auto-biography, and Parenti's writing was pointed out to Parenti, but he hasn't corrected his errors.
On the other hand, Tashi Tsering did end up living as a sort of male "consort" to a high-ranking government official in exchange for lessons in reading and writing, or valuable connections, or some such, I forget the details now. But there's no mention of that in Parenti's "history". Also, over time, Parenti has revised and added to the testimony of the Tibetan women that Kim Lewis worked with, as has suited his fancy. It's very unfortunate, because it means we can't rely on him as an accurate source of information in that regard. I do believe that most of what he writes is true; some of his portrayals of life in "old Tibet" are corroborated by other researchers, but here and there he gets a bit creative, which damages his overall credibility.
I will add one thing about life in what you referred to as Tibet's misogynistic society. Of course, in a society dominated by male monasticism oriented towards sexual tantra, there will be misogyny and abuses. Turrell Wylie, who founded the first Tibetan Buddhism department ever in a US university, said that when he brought a branch of the Sakya royal family to the US, including the abbott of one of the monasteries along with some of his monks, there was a near tragedy one day, when he was escorting one of the monks around the university where he taught. A female student got off the bus as they were walking nearby, and the monk suddenly took off running after her, saying she was a dakini (Tib.: khandroma), a goddess capable of bestowing Enlightenment if he could have sex with her. This is the belief of Tibetan monks of all stripes, and this one was ready to assault the girl right then and there, in broad daylight, in the middle of the sidewalk. Wylie had to run after him and stop him, and explain that he couldn't do that in the US, it was against the law, and he could go to jail. In Tibet, raping seemingly random women on the spot in public was a perfectly normal thing for monks to do. So after that, the professor had to explain to all the monks that customs and laws were very different in their new home, and that they would have to curtail some of their activities. This also included taking food and other items from stores without paying for them. They would have to get used to paying for things with cash.
In view of this, it's little wonder that there are so many problems of "misconduct" and even rape in Tibetan Buddhist groups in the US, Europe and Australia. Several students in one Kagyu (Tibetan) center in France filed rape charges a couple of years ago against one of the lamas there. This was a center belonging to the young reincarnation of Kalu Rinpoche, who fired all the monks there, when he found out about routine gross misconduct going on there. The monks had the gall to sue him, claiming he had no authority to fire them. In the end, the young Kalu Rinpoche won after a higher authority in the Kagyu order intervened. The young Kalu Rinpoche, as has been posted elsewhere on this forum, himself was routinely raped from age 12 to 15 in the monastery he was assigned to. The assaults stopped when he began his 3-year meditation retreat.
Anyone considering studying Tibetan Buddhism should exercise caution in choosing a sangha and a teacher.