Monday, April 14, 2014

Encountering the Nuns of Zanskar

Dominique Butet
Photography by Olivier Adam
To view the original French version of this article (with photos) click here.

Zanskar, situated at the extreme northwest of India in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is an isolated valley above 13,000 feet. It’s one of the most elevated areas to be populated in the Himalayas. There, in the heat of the summer on paths of wind and dust, it is not unusual to come across lively undulations of red fabric, capped by orange hats of felt—so go the nuns! Many nunneries have been established there, perched high over the valley.

Today, Zanskar has ten nunneries, nine of which belong to the Gelugpa order. Some, such as Karsha and Dorje Dzong, are close to Padum, the capital, while others such as Pishu are much more isolated. Some house up to twenty nuns, while others house barely seven or eight. Some have a school, others do not—or not yet. In the winter, when all pipelines freeze, the nuns have to travel far down to the river to fetch water, breaking the ice and then ascending again quickly to find refuge in rooms where the ceilings have so little insulation that snow and cold seep in. But it’s the profound isolation that one needs to survive, an isolation that only long rituals can transcend. Nonetheless, all have the uncompromising will to exist and flourish, mingling religious fervor with an incredible sense of collective life where all ages cohabit, from nine to over eighty-four!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Terror Within

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

As a girl of ten years, satin ribbons in my hair, and wearing a freshly starched dress, I had a special seat in church each Sunday next to my father, Lawrence Manuel Jr. With my younger sister and mother on the other side, I sat close to him, appreciating our special relationship around the word of God. On Saturday evenings, in the rush of Los Angeles where I was born and raised, I would read my father his weekly Sunday school lesson. As I read, he would make symbols of his own in the margins that represented the sounds of the words. He did this because he was illiterate. A sharecropper's son born in 1898 in Opelousas, Louisiana, he spoke mostly Creole, making his English difficult to understand. Even though he couldn’t read, he didn’t let that get in the way of his participation in Sunday school. With the symbols he had developed, he would “read” a portion of each lesson out loud to a class of older black men. I would never have been brave enough to pull off such a thing. But my father was a talented and courageous man; raised in the backwoods, he learned to do whatever was necessary to survive. He was what I called “fearless,” and, as I sat next to him at church, I prayed to be fearless just like him.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Builder of Bridges: An Interview with Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies

I'll start with an obvious question, Taraniya: How did you get into all this?
As far back as I can remember I was interested in what we now call the spiritual path. It took many forms in my early years, but I can tell you what led to my interest in Buddhism and how I first got exposed to it.

Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I had been interested in facilitating change through political, social, and economic systems. I wanted to work in fields that served people in a positive way. In my early thirties I even went back to school for a master’s degree in public administration and soon thereafter went to work for the governor’s science advisor in North Carolina. I had always been interested in science and technology, and this position offered a natural blend of science and public policy. Through this office and another agency, which was a spin-off of our office, I worked to promote biotechnology as a new technology for North Carolina.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Call for Papers: 14th Sakyadhita International Conference


14th Sakyadhita International

Conference on Buddhist Women

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

June 2330, 2015


"Compassion and Social Justice"

Buddhist women have made many contributions to the spiritual and social lives of their communities. Nevertheless, Buddhist women are frequently excluded from the processes that shape their communities, such as negotiations among governments, scholars, religious leaders, and social structures. Decision makers and social justice movements may be unfamiliar with Buddhist women's contributions, while Buddhist women may remain disconnected from the larger issues that affect their daily lives. The 14th Sakyadhita Conference will be an opportunity to dialogue about creating better connections and to explore how compassion and spiritual development can help shape a more just and peaceful world.

Proposals are being accepted for panel presentations and workshops on these topics (listed here) related to women and Buddhism.
  • Proposals (250500 words in length) should be submitted by April 15, 2014. 
  • Notification of acceptance will be sent by May 15, 2014. 
  • Final papers (2,500 words maximum) are due by June 15, 2014, for translation into various languages. 

Proposals should include sender's name, institutional affiliation, and contact information. All proposals and papers must be the original, unpublished work of the presenters.

For more information visit this link.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sangha is a Verb: Cultivating Relational Practices to Foster Inclusiveness

Sebene Selassie

Recently, there has been interest and discussion—and some controversy—in US convert sanghas about diversity in our communities. Many of these sanghas are largely white and middle- to upper-middle class and acknowledge an aspiration to be more diverse, but how to actualize this in towns and cities where racial, economic, and cultural segregation prevails is a challenge. The hope for our communities to reflect the richness of our country and our world is part of a noble attempt to fully embody loving-kindness. And as the dharma develops within our multicultural society, we have the opportunity—even the obligation—to understand and transform the separations that persist across these relative identities.

To live an awakened life in a community would mean to meet others without clinging to our conditioned way of being with or knowing others. Yet, what I have witnessed in my own journey is that as practitioners we may awaken to the fact that many of our perceptions and volitions are unwholesome, conditioned, subtle, and profound, but often we can be almost entirely unawake to the separateness and delusion we hold in regard to those we unconsciously experience as “other.”(1)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Awakening Buddhist Women, Now

Karma Lekshe Tsomo

Opening ceremony at the 13th Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women

What a difference a year makes! Never before in world history has there been a Buddhist women’s blog and now there is one! As of today, 33,831 unique visitors have visited the Awakening Buddhist Women blog. Who would have guessed that Buddhist women could create such a stir? Not only are the numbers impressive, but also the diversity of the blog posts—their writers, their readers, and their content is remarkable. With a wide spectrum of topics, perspectives, and cultures written by women of widely varied backgrounds—scholars, practitioners, scholar/practitioners, activists, artists, mothers, and nuns—the Awakening Buddhist Women blog has become one of the most exciting contemporary phenomena in transnational Buddhism.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Inexistence of the “Selfie”

Jenna Vondrasek

Jenna Vondrasek in Big Sur, California
her favorite place in the world

The self-portrait, once regarded as a representational work of art, has evolved into a groundbreaking new concept: the selfie. It became largely popular with the introduction of smartphone technology. Taking a selfie involves flipping the camera around and snapping a picture of yourself—often in a specific and flattering manner. With the number of selfies growing quickly and occupying social media such as Facebook and Instagram, one must question the reasons for such a craze. The underlying significance of a selfie communicates self-recognition and identity but also vanity and self-obsession.