The movie is interesting but not fabulously so, and it's flawed by the wimpiness of Gesar Mukpo's position. Throughout, the film seems like it's being critical of the tulku system, but then at the end Mukpo backs off from that and says how proud he is to be part of such a great thing. Mukpo interviews and eats dinner with one of his teachers, Bhutanese lama (and tulku) Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, whose spunkiness and no-bullshit attitude I was taken by, so I looked him up. I found out that he's very popular, a sort of a rock star Buddhist, and he worked as a consultant on Little Buddha. Last night, Friday, I printed out "Distortion," an article I found on his website, and took it to bed with me. Sitting up, sucking on my sublingual melatonin, when I got to the following passage about women and sex, my eyes practically popped out of their sockets:
The notion of sexual equality is quite new in the West, and because of this there is a certain rigid and fanatic adherence to the specific way it should be practiced. In vajrayana Buddhism, on the other hand, there is a tremendous appreciation of the female, as well as a strong emphasis on the equality of all beings. This might not, however, be apparent to someone who cannot see beyond a contemporary Western framework. As a result, when Western women have sexual relationships with Tibetan lamas, some might be frustrated when their culturally conditioned expectations are not met.I think if a woman's going to fuck away her notions of gender equality, she should at least enjoy the sex! I spent a lot of time this summer researching sexual, substance abuse, and financial scandals of spiritual teachers—not just Buddhists; I had Christian cult leaders and some so out there I wouldn't know what to call them. I wrote a piece about all the scandals I found, focusing on the language that followers use to rationalize the "bad" behavior of their teachers. (The buddhist criticized this piece for not appreciating the "beauty" of belief.) I read many excuses for spiritual teachers having sex with students (it makes the student get enlightened faster, did you know that?)—and I read many horribly abusive practices, rapes, druggings, humiliations, knowingly passing on HIV, etc.—and reading this material I felt depressed and creeped out, but nothing I read pissed me off the way Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's promotion here of psychological abuse does.
If anyone thinks they could have a pleasing and equal lover in a Rinpoche, they couldn't be more incorrect. Certain Rinpoches, those known as great teachers, would by definition be the ultimate bad partner, from ego's point of view. If one approaches such great masters with the intention of being gratified and wishing for a relationship of sharing, mutual enjoyment etc., then not only from ego's point of view, but even from a mundane point of view, such people would be a bad choice. They probably will not bring you flowers or invite you out for candlelit dinners.
A consensual SM relationship is one thing, there's an integrity in that—but the glorification of a sexual relationship between student and teacher—a power inequality minefield in the best of circumstances—that dismisses the student's desire for something as basic as "mutual enjoyment"—this is really fucked. Accusing her of being attached to "ego" when a woman owns her desires or stands up for herself—yes, I'm starting to get plugged into my rage with the buddhist, his patronizing attitude, which he totally denied, his attempts to call all the shots, and when I stood my ground, his hurling Buddhist terminology at me and withholding affection. But I'm out of that situation now—let's reduce this to a cliché—no use crying over spilt milk (an idiom I don't quite understand for it is easy to imagine scenarios in which spilt milk would, indeed, be something to cry over). About so called sexual equality, Rinpoche writes, "To expect a yogin or yogini, who is aspiring to go beyond the chauvinism of the confused mind, to worry about sexual rights issues seems absurd in the context of such a vast view." A guy in authority declaring an issue so vast it takes priority over women's rights—sound familiar? I have a copy of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's What Makes You Not a Buddhist (which the buddhist told me about, of course). Would any of you gals out there like to come over for a book burning?