Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Gyalwang Karmapa Teaches on Bodhichitta &
Discusses Bhikshuni Ordination Plans

His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa during the Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering.

January 15, 2016 -Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar India 

During the second day of the Third Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, the Gyalwang Karmapa continued his teaching on Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation, describing the causes for arousing bodhichitta. He also discussed the issue of the nun’s ordination, indicating that although he had hoped to initiate the process of giving Bhikshuni ordination this year, it had to be postponed for a variety of reasons.

The teaching today was focused on the four causes of arousing bodhichitta presented in the Levels of the Bodhisattva by Asanga. The first cause of arousing bodhichitta is seeing or hearing of the powers of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Karmapa explained that for this reason, studying the life stories of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past is important.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Earning a Degree: Tibetan Nuns Break Through Barriers

Rio Helmi

Délek Dölma left her home in Kham in Tibet's eastern regions at the age of 20. Ordained but illiterate, she yearned to study Buddhism in a more profound way. Délek Wangmo was 16, also ordained, could barely read but was equally determined to deepen her knowledge and understanding of Buddhism. In traditional Tibetan society, when it comes to opportunity to study, nuns are at the bottom end of the priority list. Painfully aware of the fact that in Tibet they hardly stood a chance of studying, much less achieving a scholastic degree, they resolved to escape to India to pursue their dream within the Tibetan community in exile.

They also resolved to generate the "merit" -- which in Buddhist terms refers to the expansive power of the mind generated by virtuous acts -- for this bold undertaking in a uniquely Tibetan way. They journeyed from Lithang to Lhasa by doing full-length prostrations the whole way. To get an idea of what that entails: with your mind focused on the Buddha first you do a full-length prostration flat on the ground, with arms out, then stand up, and then move to the mark where the tips of your fingers touched the ground. And then you start again. Repeat for as many times as it takes to cover 1,475 kilometers. It took them a year and a half.

A philosophy class at Dolma Ling nunnery, via Rio Helmi
It would seem the merit they generated helped: once in India they were soon taken under the wing of the Tibetan Nun's Project created by the Tibetan Women's Association to provide education for nuns. By 1993 they were both were inscribed in a long-term study program, the first of its kind. In 2005 the Dolma Ling nunnery, spearheaded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama's sister-in-law Rinchen Khando, opened its doors. To date over 200 nuns have joined the two in this nunnery.

Reflections from the 14th Sakyadhita International Conference: Nurturing the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha

Munissara Bhikkhuni

Photo 1: The Stage at the 14th Sakyadhita Conference

At a Sakyadhita conference, you are in the company of a lot of “firsts” in Buddhism. You might find yourself sharing a meal with one of the first bhikkhunis ordained in the Theravada tradition in Thailand or Indonesia or Vietnam. Or sitting on a bus next to one of the first Western women ordained in the Tibetan or Korean tradition decades ago when such a thing was a real rarity. Or having tea with one of the first scholars to document the life and work of this or that under-studied, eminent woman in Buddhist history. Indeed, amazing, pioneering women (and men) from various Buddhist traditions were present in force at the 14th Sakyadhita International Conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from 23–30 June this year, which was attended by over 1,000 monastic and lay participants from 40 countries.

The latest in a series of conferences organized every two years since 1987 by the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women, this year’s conference was themed “Compassion and Social Justice.” One of the most important social justice issues in Buddhism’s own backyard, of course, is the lack of equal opportunity for ordination and Buddhist education for women. Although many other important matters were discussed at the conference, this article will report on this topic, and particularly the situation of Theravada nuns, while drawing on experiences shared by other traditions.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Interview with Tina Rasmussen

By Non-Duality Magazine

Tina Rasmussen learned to meditate at the age of thirteen and has been meditating for more than thirty years. In 2003, after many years of spiritual practice in non-dual and Buddhist traditions, she completed a yearlong silent solo retreat during which an awakening to true nature occurred. In 2005, she was ordained as a Theravada Buddhist nun by Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma, who later authorized her to teach. She is the co-author of Practicing the Jhanas (with teaching partner and husband Stephen Snyder), published in 2009 by Shambhala.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Conversation with Tenzin Palmo: Nuns, Laywomen, and the Future

Interview by Raymond Lam

Buddhistdoor Global released a video interview with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (official) On October 19, 2015 during her teaching tour in Hong Kong.

In this interview, Jetsunma speaks openly about the issues that non-Himalayan female monastics (nuns) face after ordination, the difficulties lay women face when they seek a Dharma center or monastery for an extended retreat, and the His Holiness the Dalai Lama's recent comments on the possibility of the next Dalai Lama being female.

For more information on the Alliance of Non-Himalayan Nuns please visit their website: www.nonhimalayannunsalliance.com/

"The Alliance of Non Himalayan Nuns (ANHN) is an international, non-sectarian organization founded in 2014 committed to supporting women ordained as Tibetan Buddhist nuns from outside traditional Tibetan Buddhist regions. ANHN is open to all and seeks to advance all existing organisations and communities committed to supporting these nuns."

Raymond Lam

Raymond is Senior Correspondent and Editorial Writer for the website Buddhistdoor International. He is also an archivist of the Awakening Buddhist Women Resource Library. His major interests are Silk Road studies, world history, art and philosophy, journalism, Christian theology, and Mahayana Buddhism. You can contact Raymond Lam at raymond@buddhistdoor.com 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wonderwell Mountain Refuge—A Flowering of Buddhism in America

Harsha Menon 

Wonderwell Mountain Refuge. Photo by Wonderwell Mountain Refuge

As I arrive at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge for a weekend stay, it is immediately evident that while Wonderwell is a place of meditation, it is also a place of great activity—from the people working in the rock garden to those cooking in the kitchen, each person is working with a strong sense of purpose. I feel that everyone is truly invested in his or her work, clearly stemming from a sense of ownership and belonging. . . .

Located in the small rural town of Springfield, New Hampshire, Wonderwell was established by the Natural Dharma Fellowship, an organization of Buddhist practitioners from across New England “dedicated to the joy of awakening.” Founded by Lama Willa Miller, a Dharma teacher for many years, and rooted in her own Buddhist training, the Natural Dharma Fellowship focuses on the transmission of the Tibetan traditions of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. A not-for-profit organization, it consists of local practice groups as well as intensive retreat and student and teacher training.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Announcement: Lopon Dr. Rita Gross


It is with sadness that we relay the news that world-renowned feminist-Buddhist scholar and practitioner Rita M. Gross passed from this life on Nov. 11, 2015 at her home in hospice care. She had a severe stroke in late October, but did not appear to suffer. Lopon Rita asked that her ashes be sprinkled into the Lotus Pond at Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche's retreat center in central Virginia, Lotus Garden.

Dear Friends,

Rita M. Gross
Today we have been notified with the sad news that Rita Gross has suffered a life-changing stroke. Please hold Rita, and all who are close to her, in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

The contributions that Rita has made are impossible to underestimate. As an academic, Dharma teacher, advocate and community builder, Rita has touched many lives with her work. Rita is one of six senior teachers at Lotus Garden who were appointed by Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche. Rita has also been a senior teacher in the Shambhala tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Rita's Buddhist teachings have been non-sectarian and she has taught for both Zen and Vipassana centers in addition to her work in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She has been a founder and leader in the field of feminist studies in religion and has done groundbreaking work on women in Buddhism. In addition, she has focused on the theology of religious diversity and interreligious exchange, and has offered a variety of solo or co-taught workshops on this topic for seminaries and religious institutions. Rita helped to build the Society for Buddhist Christian Studies and co-edited their journal for more than a decade.

Rita’s approach has been a rare combination of academic and Dharmic perspectives. Her warm, humorous, and very clear teachings have reached thousands of highly appreciative students.