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Is There Still a Glass Ceiling on Enlightenment?

An Interview with Jetsunma Tenzin PalmoIt is the close of the final day of her last teaching tour before retirement, and the legendary Buddhist nun Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, in the maroon robes of her calling, is taking questions from the floor. Until this point, it has been a fairly uneventful — if luminous — lecture on “transforming the mind.” Then a tousled, torn–T-shirted youth in the back raises his hand and shouts, “I heard women cannot become enlightened!”Tenzin Palmo blinks in a state of mild shock. “Is that a question?” she asks.“It’s my brother’s question,” he sidesteps, presciently, as the 66-year-old nun palms a large glass water bottle and makes to hurl it at him. “Can you maybe say something about it?”“What exactly is it male bodies have that female bodies do not?” she raises an eyebrow and asks, pausing, so that everybody can catch up. “And can you tell me, what exactly is it that’s so essential and incredible about that particular male organ?” The young man can only laugh then, as Tenzin Palmo duly explains with great wit, insight, and precision the obstacles women face when walking a spiri …

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