Macho Buddhism: Gender and Sexualities in the Diamond Way

In: Religion and Gender
Burkhard Scherer
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Western Tibetan Buddhist movements have been described as bourgeois and puritanical in previous scholarship. In contrast, Ole Nydahl’s convert lay Karma Kagyu Buddhist movement, the Diamond Way, has drawn attention for its apparently hedonistic style. This article addresses the wider issues of continuity and change during the transition of Tibetan Buddhism from Asia to the West. It analyses views on and performances of gender, sexual ethics and sexualities both diachronically through textual-historical source and discourse analysis and synchronically through qualitative ethnography. In this way the article demonstrates how the approaches of contemporary gender and sexualities studies can serve as a way to question the Diamond Way Buddhism’s location in the ‘tradition vs modernity’ debate. Nydahl’s pre-modern gender stereotyping, the hetero-machismo of the Diamond Way and the mildly homophobic tone and content of Nydahl’s teaching are interpreted in light of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist sexual ethics and traditional Tibetan cultural attitudes on sexualities. By excavating the emic genealogy of Nydahl’s teachings, the article suggests that Nydahl’s and the Diamond Way’s view on and performance of gender and sexualities are consistent with his propagation of convert Buddhist neo-orthodoxy.

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