Raped Buddhist nun's lost virginity might mean she no longer can serve

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 9 2011 10:10 a.m. MDT

Buddhist nuns march at Shwedagon Pagoda during a protest against the military government in Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007.

Associated Press

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KATHMANDU — A Buddhist nun raped by five men on a bus is facing ostracism from her religious life.

"The religious dictum requires a nun to be virgin. So, it will be difficult to take her back," the president of Nepal, Tamang Ghedung Kumar Yonjan, said in an article in the Nepal Republic Media. "But we will lobby for her reinstatement as it is a unique incident."

An article in GreaterKashmir.com explained that some "orthodox Buddhist organizations" condemned the attack, but said "she had lost her religion as she had lost her celibacy." This led to an outcry, the article continued, that included other Buddhists "citing incidents from the Buddhist scriptures to show how the Buddha absolved a nun of blame after she was drugged and raped by a monk."

However, Norbu Sherpa, an official of Nepal Buddhist Federation, told the Times of India, "Such a thing never happened in the Buddha's lifetime. … So he did not leave instructions about how to deal with the situation. Buddhists all over the world adhere to what he had laid down: that a person can no longer be considered ordained in case of having a physical relationship. It's applicable to both men and women."

When pressed by the Times of India, Sherpa expressed regret about the attack, but said, "A vessel that is damaged once can no longer be used to keep water. … Buddhism all over the world says this. Even the Dalai Lama says you can't be a monk or nun after marriage."

One of Nepal's most popular singers, a 40-year-old Buddist nun named Choying Drolma has come to the stigmatized nun's defense. The Times of India reported that Drolma "offered her a new home at Arya Tara, the school run by the Nuns' Welfare Foundation. Choying founded the non-profit organization with the money earned through her singing to provide education to Buddhist nuns — anis — who mostly remain neglected while monks have greater access to education."

"She is still a nun at heart and she didn't lose her virginity willingly," Drolma told the Nepal Republic Media. "I will consult our gurus and maybe she would be taken back after some sort of cleansing rituals."

"This could have happened to anybody," Drolma told The Independent. "Right now, the most important thing is to treat her like a human being and then later we can look into the matter of whether she is still a nun."

The involvement of Drolma will "help wash off the stigma attached to the poor nun," Nepal24Hours.com said.

The Times of India reported that Choying helped pay for medical expenses for the nun and is working to keep the five alleged attackers in jail until the trial.

"When the trial starts, the attackers will get lawyers who will try to pin the blame on the victim," she said in The Times of India. "It will be an ugly thing and my primary concern is how she will deal with it emotionally."

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com, TWITTER: www.twitter.com/degroote

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