Is the path of development to enlightenment the same for men and women?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If you look at the whole path, women have an easier start because most of the teachers today are men. But it doesn’t necessarily have to stay that way in the future. Today women can fall in love with the teacher, and by being completely focused on him they can absorb a lot and develop very quickly. In contrast, men first have to test each other. There is always a certain amount of rivalry involved. That’s why it is a bit more difficult for men in the beginning. Women also have an advantage because of their gentle and giving nature, while men often show aggression and have to protect others.

But at some point, some very subtle attachments remain more strongly in women—maybe to a man, a child, the family, etc. That’s why the man, who always stays a bit playful like a child, gets through more easily at the end, because he can let go better.

The woman comes to things more with her totality and richness, in a holistic way. And the man bumps up against something and reaches a new dimension, getting through that way. That is why men and women complement each other so well. When there is a good relationship between a man and a woman, the woman can soften the man with her devotion and openness so that he won’t be so stiff and competitive. And in the end, the man can show the woman a few things: “Look! We can do it like this or like that” and so on. And again we see that men and women work better together. Neither is better, but rather together they round each other out and function in a more meaningful way.

There are many ways of learning from each other and developing. When a man meets a woman, she can be his lover, or mother (she shows him the world), or daughter (he protects her), or sister (she helps him progress). When a woman meets a man, it works the other way around. The man is her lover, or father (he takes care of her and protects her), or brother (he shows her how things are), or son (she can do something for him and live out her protective feelings). This range of possible relationships contains a tremendous opportunity to complement each other, a huge field of power and joy that cultivates growth. We just have to find it.

I’m very proud that my male and my female students are developing equally well. Today we also have as many female as male Diamond Way teachers. If they stick with it, we will have many female buddhas.

And actually, it is true that mind in itself has no gender. Only in the moment it connects with a body does it take on certain qualities, a certain type of energy. But as soon as the body is gone, everyone’s mind is clear light—then there is no difference at all.

Can you say something about the female lamas of our lineage?

Lama Ole’s answer:

We have many women in the Karma Kagyu lineage, and we even have entirely female transmissions. The Chöd lineage of Machig Labdrön is mainly a female lineage—she had this inspiration. The Nyungne transmission, the fasting meditation, was also developed and passed on by a woman. We also have several secret transmission lineages with union tantras that are held by women.

You said before that wisdom is regarded as a female quality and activity as a male one. But that doesn’t mean that women are basically passive, does it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

No. Of course there are women who look delicate but run a whole company, and men who can carry two pianos but are very shy at the same time.

On the outer level, we are more or less either a man or a woman. Also on the secret level. But on the inner level you might come into the world with a certain imprint due to karma or habits. On the inner level, a lady might have a rather male character and man a rather female one.

Basically it’s just a matter of learning as much as possible from each other. We should develop wisdom as well as activity to their fruition, and understand that they lie within each of us. The man brings in one third of the possibilities of mind, the woman brings in another third, and the last third arises from the tension between the two—from their union. Being with people and close to them is in itself an experience of growth. It’s essential to complement each other, because all cultures that suppress the female element never come to rest. They are always fighting.

I developed most of my wisdom from women because I have a very male character. That’s why women were always my best teachers. There are also women who are very feminine and learn best with a man. Then they feel complete. And finally, there are people who are well mixed. They have both masculine and feminine qualities in equal parts and therefore don’t feel the need for the other. If they want to keep the freedom of having a partner, they become yogis, if not, they become monks or nuns.

Check out how you are put together psychologically, emotionally, and physiologically, because that is the basis from which you can work with yourself.

Are there any females among the 1,000 Buddhas that are predicted for our era?

Lama Ole’s answer:

No. To begin a dharma period and to drive something forward, you need broad shoulders. Once the dharma is in place, the ladies come in. But during the first phases when there is a broad push, one doesn’t send in a lady—that doesn’t work. If it did, she’d learn to fight so well that she wouldn’t be a lady anymore, and that would be a pity, wouldn’t it?

Could you please clearly explain the five wisdoms as female qualities?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I see women as bearers of the five wisdoms because I almost always learn them from women.

Very often, when it’s necessary to understand something, suddenly a woman is able to describe the situation as it really is. She then does or says something, maybe unconsciously, that in one moment presents the entire situation as a totality. This is possible because she picks up on things holistically rather than through concepts and ideas. That’s why she can show things as they are. Women can do that especially well when they are calm and not changing with the activities around them.

Women are also more democratic—you can see that, for example, with children. A woman dealing with children has much more discriminating wisdom. She can see what each child has or is able to do. Men would rather set up a concept and then go through with it stubbornly, while women often see more details and work with them. Another aspect of discriminating wisdom becomes obvious when decisions have to be made. There women are often very cool and clear.

And then there is the wisdom of experience. Who teaches the children? Who helps them develop? Who keeps the culture of a country alive? Who carries all this on? It works through the mothers. They are who pass on culture to the next generations. The men flutter to and fro, while the women bring in experience. This is also true when it comes to intuition; one sees that in many cases.

Why are there so few women in Buddhist institutions?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The women just don’t want it so much. They don’t care as much about high positions in a hierarchical system. Women would rather work in circles than in pyramids, and they don’t enjoy power struggles as much as men do. As long as you don’t disturb a woman and her family, she is peaceful. But when a man hears about someone in the next valley who says he’s the strongest, he will cross a high mountain to check him out.

Then, when a family is started, the women usually spend more time with the children because this is more important to them than advancing in any institution. But as soon as they have more time, they start to open up to the outside again. Then they have unbeatable new experience and tremendous maturity, and they become very good teachers.

In our lineage, women have as much say as men do. We work on the level of fun and friendship. Among my own students—also among those I send out to teach and lead the centers—there are just as many women as men. But it seems that fewer women than men want to drop out of their personal life completely and devote themselves one hundred percent to something beyond personal. Most of them want something for themselves: a family or a man. But we have smart and able women who are quite good at combining the dharma on the one hand with some private life and family on the other.

Are men and women considered equal in Buddhism?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In Tibetan Buddhism, yes. But there are three different levels in Buddhism:

1) In Theravada Buddhism, the male principle is considered to be higher than the female. It is said that on the last step to enlightenment one must take rebirth as a man. Women are seen more as dangerous distractions for the monks.

2) In Mahayana Buddhism, it is said that the male mind is stronger. But even here men and women are more or less on the same level.

3) And in Diamond Way Buddhism, the male and female principles are equally important. Male or female alone is too little. The point is that we learn from each other, that we complement each other. On the inner level, the female is wisdom and the male is activity. And on the secret level, the female is space and the male bliss. In Diamond Way Buddhism, one can’t say “better” or “worse.” It is a matter of realizing both and bringing both together.

That’s why on the highest level of enlightenment, the Maha-Annuttara Yoga Tantra, there are only male and female buddhas in union.