Dalai Lama Successor…

Could  Be a Woman?

By Rashida Wallace

The dinner menu from a political fundraiser in Sydney, Australia recently went viral after many discovered the name of one of the entrées was the “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail: small breasts, huge thighs, and a big red box.”

Dalai Lama

It seems that this menu item was referring to Australian leader and Prime Minister Julia Gillard. This “joke” sparked a huge debate about the existence of sexism in Australia and, more precisely, Australian politics. Many had their own opinion about this issue including monk and spiritual leader Tenzin Gyatso, also known as the Dalia Lama, who actually took the women’s side in the debate.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

As with many prominent leadership positions, a woman has never been considered to become a Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. The current (14th) Dalai Lama, 78 year old Tenzin Gyatso, has made statements that lead some to believe that he would actually welcome the notion of  his successor being a woman.

According to Gyatso, “The world is in the midst of a moral crisis of inequality and requires compassionate leaders—particularly female leaders.” At an Australian press conference, he went on to say, “Women are better equipped to lead the modern world.”

The idea of a female being his successor is certainly not a new concept.  In 2008, when asked by a college student about a woman someday being the Dalai Lama successor, his answer was an enthusiastic, “It’s possible!”





Gyatso’s statements, while provocative, are less revolutionary than one may think.  While it is true that male candidates have held the position of Dalai Lama for centuries, modern Buddhist women are beginning to play a more prominent role in the faith as their numbers are growing among the ranks of  high lamas and teachers. Gyatso also stated, “If the circumstances are such that a female Dalai Lama is more useful then, automatically, a female Dalai Lama will come.”

 As he concluded his reasoning as to why a woman may be an appropriate successor to him, he related personal illustrations from his own family history, stating, “On a few occasions I got some beatings…my mother was so wonderfully compassionate.”

Dalai Lama Teaching Room/Evan Osherow

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