As a younger feminist I experienced Tibetan Buddhist organizations as a roller coaster ride. Although deeply called to the dharma, I found myself infuriated over what appeared then to be hopelessly entrenched discrimination towards women. I signed up for a three-week retreat to study Kum Nye Yoga, a wonderful Tibetan form developed by Tarthang Tulku, founder of the Nyingma Institute. Our retreat was interrupted halfway through when the Lama requested that everyone in the organization come up to Oddiyan (the retreat center they were developing in northern California near Sea Ranch) and help with completion of the stupa that was being built there. It was urgent that the stupa be finished in time for fire ceremonies to be performed on an auspicious date, the next Full Moon. Retreat participants were invited to come as well, and we happily consented to join the community for this exciting event.
The minute we arrived at the retreat center, all the men in our small group were sent down to the stupa to join in the construction work, while the women were sent to the kitchen to cook and clean.