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Gender Dynamics: Conversations on Gender & Sexuality in the Three Yanas of Buddhism

Explore this recorded Shambhala Online course at your own pace.

Donations are welcome!

Buddhism has a long history of engaging the topic of gender and sexuality in ways that were innovative and inclusive for their times and also androcentric (male centered) in nature. We can both learn from Buddhist teachings and recognize certain limitations with respect to gender configurations in sanghas, past and present. Topics include: the liberation stories of Buddhist women at different times and places across Asia, the deconstruction of gender binaries and striking representations of gender fluidity in Mahayana literature, the feminine principle and sexual ethics. In order to create a community that strives to foster safety for all its members, we could learn more about what Buddhism has to say on these topics and what contemporary conversations can contribute. This will allow us to have more informed discussions about gender dynamics and harm prevention in Shambhala and co-create the ground for positive change.


Components to this course:

Talks on Gender & Sexuality in the Three Yanas of Buddhism – A series of 30 minute pre-recorded talks (three per yana) by Professor Holly Gayley will provide an overview of gender and sexuality in Buddhist history, sharing stories and exploring shifts in view and practice across the three yanas or “vehicles” of Buddhism.

● Video Library of Key Concepts in Gender & Intersectionality – Guest Presenters will give 5-10 minute presentations on key concepts to help forge a shared understanding and vocabulary for discussions about gender dynamics and its intersections with other forms of social identity.


Gender dynamics are the ever-shifting norms and practices around gender and sexuality. The term dynamics points to the ways that gender is cultural and relational, learned through socialization and enacted in everyday interactions—through performing or resisting gender roles and sexual norms. As a result, cultural ideas about these change over time and across each generation. Gender is also dynamic to the extent that it intersects with other forms of social identity, including race, class, and sexual orientation. These dynamics play out in institutional patterns and interpersonal relationships in ways that range from affirming and positive, on the one hand, to harmful and damaging on the other. In order to promote cultural change and harm prevention in Shambhala, our community could understand more about gender dynamics. Please join us for this three-month journey of dharma exploration and community conversations.


About the Teacher

Holly Gayley is a scholar and translator of Buddhist literature in contemporary Tibet and Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research areas include gender and sexuality in Buddhist tantra, ethical reform in contemporary Tibet, and theorizing translation, both literary and cultural, in the transmission of Buddhist teachings to North America. Her most recent book is Inseparable Across Lifetimes: The Lives and Love Letters of Namtrul Rinpoche and Khandro Tāre Lhamo, and her new edited volume, Voices from Larung Gar: Shaping Tibetan Buddhism for the Twenty-First Century, is coming out in April 2021. For two decades, she has regularly led meditation workshops and retreats and serves as a senior teacher in the Shambhala tradition.

Guest Presenters include:

Claudia Arnau
Agness Au
Drew Bromfield
Dave Garton 
Dhi Good
Sara Lewis
Charlene Leung
Loden Nyima
Jane Perlstein
Jeff Scott
Judith Simmer-Brown
Aarti Tejuja
The Facilitator for the course will be Tara Templin, Director of Community Care and Conduct.


Image: Eight Auspicious Symbols from the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, courtesy of Himalaya Art Resources #50808

2024-04-12 18:12:24