I am not Tibetan, however, my boyfriend is. He claims to be a Gelugpa monk. He dresses in monk’s robes and lives a monk’s life, but he is not a real monk. He has broken his vow not to lie about who he is. He also had sex with me and not quit monk. Now I am pregnant with his child.
He hasn’t been a monk for almost 8 years. No matter what I do or say, no one has helped me to confront him. I’ve reported him to his monastery, His Holiness’ office, and I’ve talked to the head of my boyfriend’s family in Tibet. I’ve asked for help from our mutual friends. I’ve talked to the Gelugpa sect’s main office.
Only three people have confronted my boyfriend, including myself. It has done no good; he refuses to quit.
When I’ve approached people for help, I get ‘nying jey, nying je.’ I speak Tibetan. I know what this means. After the nying jes, people then tell me to not make my boyfriend angry. From these useless words, I know I will not be helped. When I experience this, I feel that compassion is something that is only talked about at teachings and over cups of tea. This compassion is easy. It’s polite. It doesn’t cause upset. When I hear this compassion, I perceive it as apathy.
Compassion isn’t always easy. I know; I grew up being raped and molested by my father. When I was 16 years old I confronted him, reported him to the police, and to my mother. From these experiences, I realized that compassion means doing the right thing even though people can, and do, become intensely angry, even threatening violence.
Abusers and those who are doing harm to themselves and others don’t like being told that their behavior is unacceptable. These people want to get away with what they’ve been allowed to do. However, compassion, self-respect, and love demands that we confront someone in order to hold them responsible for their actions. It’s about demanding that people behave with integrity and respect toward others, themselves, and obey the rules of society that are there to protect us.
Another reason why monks, like my boyfriend, don’t see the need to quit is that Tibetan society is patriarchal. Men are in power; Buddhism is dominated by men. Women are still not treated as equals. Women birth the mighty Rinpoches, but are not respected nor listened to by the men in power and by other women who say nothing. Women are told to shut up unless they want to face social shaming.
This patriarchy is why Rinpoches, monks, and men can get away with sexual, physical, and psychological abuse and transgressions; the women are afraid to stand up demand change. The system is controlled by these men. Even if we report, we are not believed. This is apathy. Apathy is weak. It’s the do-nothing choice. Nothing will change if we don’t demand the change. People will be angry at us for demanding it, but we owe it to ourselves and our future generations to stand up and deal with the mess that is our lives, our society, our world.
*Name withheld by author’s request