[Note: The following article uses “Transgenders” as a gender designation for what is often named “Third Gender” in India, or “Transgender” in North America. My apologies if you find the term offensive. I’m using their term out of respect for the people involved in the project, although that doesn’t necessarily make it ‘right,’ and their terms may change over time. The term we use in Triratna is ‘gender diverse’ which could mean almost anybody, but that’s the whole point. Everybody is ‘gender diverse’.]
The first Buddhist meditation retreat for Transgender people in India was held in August 2021 at Bordharan – Hsuen Tsang Retreat Center, a Triratna retreat centre in a rural region southwest of Nagpur, Maharashtra, India. The retreat was funded by the People to People Society of Nagpur, and led by Triratna teachers Tejadhamma, Khumarjeev, and other members of Triratna . Fifteen transgender people attended the retreat, and many said that it was a beautiful experience, that they learned a lot and would like to continue their participation in Buddhist studies and meditation in the future.
I can’t express to you how incredibly momentous this event was, for transgender people in India, for Triratna, and for me personally. When I saw the video that they produced of highlights of the retreat, I was crying. I felt that Buddhism had finally accepted my transgender sisters and brothers in India. I hope this project will continue and reach transgender people all over South and Southeast Asia. I have made this project my focus for financial and social support.
It has always been assumed that Third Gender people of India are not interested in a spiritual life, or somehow lack the capacity. Many transgender women survive by prostitution and begging, so they are deemed as ‘not worthy’ of studying the Dhamma or engaging in spiritual practice. As they attest in this video, this is the first time transgender people were esteemed to be worthy and capable of practicing the Dhamma.
What I like most about Triratna’s approach is that they not only teach Dhamma and meditation to people, but they also provide basic literacy education, computer literacy, skills and job training. Many people graduate from Triratna India’s programs with the ability to obtain decent jobs and continue their education.
TRANSFORMING SELF AND WORLD. People to People Society are running projects for the upliftment of the underprivileged at Amravati, Bhandara, and Nagpur districts in India. We work in Education, Women Empowerment, Youths Development, Cultural and Health areas. At present projects are being run in urban slums and villages of Maharashtra in the Vidarbha Region. To donate to this organization, please go to their website: https://peopletopeople.org.in