Monday, August 18, 2014

In Scarred Chinese Tibetan City, Devotion to Sanctity of Life

Andrew Jacobs,
New York Times

A Tibetan woman in Yushu, China, used a spoon and plastic bucket to rescue tiny shrimp stuck in mud along the shore of the Batang River. Credit Gilles Sabrie, New York Times

YUSHU, China — With a set of chopsticks in her hands and a Tibetan prayer spilling from her lips, Gelazomo, a 32-year-old yak herder, hunched over the rocky banks of the river that cuts through this city and hunted for the quarry that she hoped would bring salvation.

Every few minutes, she would tease out a tiny river shrimp that had become stranded in the mud, and then dropping it into a bucket of water. Beside her, dozens of other Tibetans toiled in the noonday sun, among them small children and old people who, from afar, appeared to be panning for gold.

“Buddha has taught us that treating others with love and compassion is the right thing to do, no matter how tiny that life is,” she explained, as the newly revived crustaceans darted through the water of her bucket.

Buddhists are encouraged to demonstrate a reverence for all sentient beings; some believers spurn meat while others buy animals destined for slaughter and then set them free. Here in Yushu, a largely Tibetan city where more than 3,000 people died in an earthquake four years ago, the faithful have been flocking to the Batang River to rescue a minuscule aquatic crustacean that would hardly seem deserving of such attention.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

The Bhikkhuni Revolution: Religious Feminism in Thai Buddhism

By Tanaporn Pichitsakulchai

Brisbane, June 15th 2014 (Alochonaa): As the vast majority of Thai society is Theravada Buddhist, religion in Thailand is undoubtedly instrumental to Thai identity and daily life. Within the religious sphere, Thai women have traditionally been confined to the roles of lay people and Mae chi (Buddhist nun) in the Thai Buddhist context. Outside of Buddhism, traditionally women are limited by their role as wife and mother. In recent decades there has been an attempt to revive the Bhikkhuni (female monk) ordination within Thai Theravada Buddhism, although vehemently opposed by the Thai Sangha and wider religious community.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Celebrating a Life Well Lived: In Memory of Dhamma Sister Mettapanna Nancy Gil

All conditioned things are impermanent,
arising and passing away;
when this rising and passing also ceases,
this then, is the bliss of perfect peace.

May 24, 2014

Dear Friends,

I haven't written to you for a long time now it seems. For those of you whom I haven't seen recently, I hope the transition of springtime into summer is finding you well, the path unfolding where you are, beautifully, in the way that is just right for you.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Interviewing Buddhist Women: Lama Willa Miller

Harsha Menon

Lama Willa leads a retreat at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge.

Lama Willa Miller is a Tibetan Buddhist lama and scholar living and teaching in New England, USA. She is the founder of the Natural Dharma Fellowship nonprofit and Wonderwell Mountain Refuge, a Buddhist retreat center in Springfield, New Hampshire. Under the direction of her teachers Kalu Rinpoche and Lama Norlha Rinpoche, she completed two three-year intensive retreats and is the author of three books. Harsha Menon sat down to talk with Lama Willa on a cold winter day in January.

Over cups of tea, they discussed the role of women in the Dharma and how this is an auspicious time as a result of emerging opportunities. For example, recently in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition women have, for the first time, been able to study toward the degree of Geshe-ma, a rigorous monastic training, equivalent to a PhD in Buddhist philosophy. This degree was previously only available to Buddhist monks. This, along with a worldwide engagement of initiatives and interests in development for Buddhist women, gives Lama Willa a sense of hope:
My hope is we will look back on this . . . block of fifty years and say that was the time when things changed and truly there became a situation of equal opportunity for women in Buddhism.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Interested in Writing for Us?

The Awakening Buddhist Women Blog is looking for new authors, with stories, articles, interviews, or photo essays related to women and Buddhism. If you are interested in submitting your work for consideration please visit the contact us page for more information.

~*~*~ We will be posting every two weeks until we can build up our collection of posts. Please share this post, and help us recruit new talent! ~*~*~

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dipa Ma: An Extraordinary Female Buddhist Master in the Twentieth Century

Venerable BD Dipananda

Rarely does a story about another person contain so much heart. After reading Dipa Ma, you feel you have actually met her—and you will never forget her.
—Paul Hawken, co-author of Natural Capitalism

Dipa Ma

It was in India, years ago, that I heard her name: “Dipa Ma.” I had no idea who she was, but even the name sounded motherly. Apparently, she was a prominent female Buddhist master in Asia and around the world, but I was still studying and didn’t have time to learn more about her.

As karma would have it, just some weeks ago I picked up a book in the library of Wang Fat Ching She temple. It was by Amy Schmidt and titled, Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master. I read it several times and also revisited an interview with Dipa Ma called “Enlightenment in this Lifetime: Meetings With a Remarkable Woman” published by Tricycle in 2004. The interview was hosted by Jack Engler and took place in Calcutta in 1977. Delving deeper, I phoned Venerable Shilananda, one of my masters in Bangladesh, and asked about Dipa Ma. I was astonished when he told me that she was born in my neighboring village, Padua, in Chittagong. I never met this woman and she has long gone. But her proximity to my home and heart led me to feel that I actually met her, and that I will never forget her.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Theravada Buddhism and MDG 3: Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in Theravada Buddhism

The following paper was written by Ajahn Brahm to inspire Buddhists to contribute towards the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, particularly the third goal, "Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women."

Ajahn Brahm explains that the Lord Buddha gave female monastics a central place in the Dhamma, and they have been making extraordinary contributions to Dhamma, as well as to the welfare of all people. Despite some opposing arguments, the history of Buddhism, Buddhist principles, and the Vinaya have given no logical base to reject the legality of  current Theravada bhikkhuni ordination. Ajahn Brahm encourages monastic members and lay followers to look at the facts on this matter. He urges the religious leaders, particularly Theravada Buddhist leaders, to lead by example, starting with their own religious traditions so they can genuinely inspire Buddhist followers to work towards gender equality and a better world.

The paper was to be presented at the International Committee for the United Nations Day of Vesak on May 8, 2014 that celebrates the theme “Buddhist Perspectives towards Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.” However, it was banned by the organizers shortly before the presentation without much explanation and has since drawn strong response from Buddhists around the world.

 *   *   *   *
Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in Theravada Buddhism

by Ajahn Brahm

Ajahn Brahm
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery Alabama, an African-American woman refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. That simple act of defiance for the cause of social justice became one of the most important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movements in the USA. That woman was Rosa Parks. The United States Congress called her “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”. December 1 is commemorated in the US states of California and Ohio as “Rosa Parks Day”. Rosa Parks became a Buddhist before she passed away in 2005 aged 92. One can speculate that this female icon against discrimination chose Buddhism because it is well suited to advancing social justice issues.

In this paper, I will discuss how Buddhism may advance the particular social justice issue of Millennium Development Goal Number 3: Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. I will focus on the need for Theravada Buddhism’s current male leadership to clearly demonstrate its own commitment to MDG 3 through acceptance of the bhikkhuni ordination. Only then can it use its considerable influence to make our world more fair, one where people are judged on their character and not on their gender.