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Monday, April 20, 2015

History of Women in Buddhism - Indonesia: Part 5

The Mystery Story of Devi Kili Suci ~ the 11th Century Vanishing Crown Princess Bhikkhunī Hermit & Her Selomangleng Goa Cave


Ayyā Tathālokā Bhikkhunī

Image 1: Putrī Sanggramawijaya/
Devi Kili Suci
In this fifth post in our “History of Women in Buddhism - Indonesia” series, we skip over the Borobudur period ahead in time to the 11th century, to a time when royals’ renunciation of the throne for monastic life appears almost commonplace, and the Indonesian mountain hermitages and grottos are frequented by both male and female hermit ascetics of various faiths. Mantranāya/Vajrayāna Buddhism has been spreading in Java since at least the end of the seventh century and has grown strong. We explore the still-popular legendary story of one crown princess turned kili/wiksuni/bhikkhunī/mahāsiddhā, and visit the cave where she lived, practiced, and mysteriously vanished from corporeal existence.

Extracted from Ayyā Tathālokā’s paper “Light of the Kilis: Our Indonesian Bhikkhunī Ancestors,” this is the fifth part in our mini-series leading up to the 14th Sakyadhita Conference in Borobudur, Indonesia.

The Mystery Story of Devi Kili Suci ~ the 11th Century Vanishing Crown Princess Bhikkhunī Hermit & Her Selomangleng Goa Cave


Although records of Buddhist women renunciates become scarce in India after the 8th century, and rare in Sri Lanka after the 10th century, they continue to be found in 11th century Indonesia.

Image 2:The Pucangan aka
“Calcutta stone”inscription 
in Old Javanese and Sanskrit.
Born of a dynastic marriage between Bali and the Eastern Javanese Isyana Dynasty kingdom of Medang, Airlangga—“He Who Crosses the Waters,” was raised by the Queen Mother of Bali, and returned as a teenager to Java, where his wedding had been arranged. The “Calcutta Stone” inscription records that at age sixteen, on his wedding day, during the wedding itself, his mother’s brother the Medang king Dharmawamśa and his entire family were attacked by surprise and killed, the palace sacked and burned. Somehow he escaped unharmed. He spent several years in retreat at Vanagiri Forest Hermitage, and then emerged to make peace with Śrīvijāya and found a new Javanese kingdom named Kahuripan.

Airlangga married a Śrīvijāyan princess who had escaped to East Java after her father was taken prisoner and their kingdom raided by the Indian Cholas . According to the Baru inscription, he named her to the role of Parameśwari—Premier Queen Consort.

Monday, April 13, 2015

History of Women in Buddhism - Indonesia: Part 4

International Buddhist Networking, Bhikkhunīs and Women’s Leadership in the 5th-7th Century Indonesian South Seas 


Ayyā Tathālokā Bhikkhunī

This fourth post in our "History of Women in Buddhism" series examines the International Buddhist networks that became well established between India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China.  
This post specially coincides with Songkran/Saṃkrānti--the South and Southeast Asian Solar New Year in April, a time in which the sun appears to reach its zenith in the sky and maximum strength. We cover a time period when Buddhism rose in Indonesia, and International Buddhist networks and scholarship rose to a point of fluorescence. Powerful women leaders patronized Buddhist scholarship and the Bhikkhunī Sangha was widespread and well-established. 

Extracted from Ayyā Tathālokā’s paper “Light of the Kilis: Our Indonesian Bhikkhuni Ancestors,” it is the fourth part of the series leading up to the 14th Sakyadhita Conference in Borobudur, Indonesia. [Also: read about worthy historical places to visit, the ancient terminology, and the journey of an Indian nun ]

International Buddhist Networking, Bhikkhunīs and Women’s Leadership in the 5th-7th Century Indonesian South Seas 


Although it is extremely likely that both Buddhist teachings and monastics reached the Indonesian islands up to nearly 1000 years earlier given the active Maritime Silk Road and known Buddhist monastic travels along these routes by sea, it is not until the second to fifth centuries of the Common Era that we find visual evidence of this in the Indonesian statuary and archaeological remains which still exist today.

Image 1: Bronze Buddha from Western
Celebes in the Amaravati or 
Anuradhapura style, 2nd-5th century. 
Second to fifth century statuary bronze Buddha images have been discovered on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi (Celebes) which are considered to be of either Indian Amaravati or Sri Lankan Anuradhapura style.

These images further illustrate early Indonesian connections with South India and Sri Lanka, as mentioned earlier in the legendary story shared in the previous post here, “Bhikkhunī Manimekalai Travels to Java.” As known at a glance when looking at Maritime Silk Road maps, Indonesia had active maritime connections with South, Western and Northeastern India, Sri Lanka, China and Korea.

According to his memoirs, when the Chinese bhiksu pilgrim Fa-hsien (Fǎxiǎn, 法顯/法显) visited an island somewhere in the Indonesian archipelago when his ship was blown off course traveling between Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and China in the early fifth century, he was only able to see a few Buddhists, although there were some. It is not known surely which island he landed on, but thought perhaps to be somewhere on Jawa-dwipa—the big island of Java.  He may have missed an encounter with the 3rd to 5th century Javanese kingdom of Tarumanegara (Dharmanagara)[1] at Batujaya (east of Jakarta), where stupa-shaped structures and Buddhist votive tablets have been found.[2]

Monday, April 6, 2015

History of Women in Buddhism - Indonesia: Part 3

South Indian Bhikkhunī Manimekalai Travels to Java


Article author: Āyyā Tathālokā Bhikkhunī
Introduction to this segment: Tathālokā Bhikkhunī and Ādhimuttā Bhikkhunī 

Image 1: Manimekalai distributing food to the needy
with her magic bowl. In contemporary South Indian 
paintings, of which there are many as she continues 
to be a legendary folk hero, she is almost always 
depicted more in appearance like a modern Hindu 
sannyāsinī than a Buddhist monastic.
This third post in our "History of Women in Buddhism" series records the dramatic and inspiring life story of a Buddhist woman saint, Manimekalai, second century South India’s Buddhist Mother Theresa.[1] It examines marks of the status and the mobility of ancient South and Southeast Asian Buddhist women monastics, their environmental and social justice ethics, their rights of self-determination, relationship with politics, and how Buddhism was proactively compared with regards gender issues and women’s rights to other faiths, doctrines and religions of the period. 

This post especially coincides with the Sri Lankan Buddhist observance of Bak Poya on the full moon of April, the commemorative date of the Buddha’s visit to the Isle of Manipallavam aka Nagadipa, which figures so prominently in the life story of Manimekalai.  

Extracted from Ayyā Tathālokā’s paper “Light of the Kilis: Our Indonesian Bhikkhuni Ancestors,” it is part of the series leading up to the 14th Sakyadhita Conference in Borobudur, Indonesia. [Also: read the worthy historical places to visit and about the ancient terminology]

Part 3: South Indian Bhikkhuṇī Manimekalai Travels to Java


Image 2: Manimekalai book cover
Manimekalai (Maṇimēkalai, Tamil: மணிமேகலை), a highly-revered Tamil-Language Buddhist epic poem, is one of the five great epics of Tamil Literature, and the only one of the formerly-glorious collection of Tamil Buddhist writings of the period to survive.

The venerable Manimekalai’s life story was recorded and popularized between the second and third centuries CE.  From it, we recognize not only the international freedom of mobility of the early south Indian and island nations’ Buddhist bhikkhunīs (Skt: bhikṣuṇīs), but also the esteem which the greats among them held as leading monastic teachers, realized practitioners and saints.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

RAIN: Working With Difficulties

Tara Brach

About twelve years ago, a number of Buddhist teachers began to share a new mindfulness tool that offers in-the-trenches support for working with intense and difficult emotions. Called RAIN (an acronym for the four steps of the process), it can be accessed in almost any place or situation. It directs our attention in a clear, systematic way that cuts through confusion and stress. The steps give us somewhere to turn in a painful moment, and as we call on them more regularly, they strengthen our capacity to come home to our deepest truth. Like the clear sky and clean air after a cooling rain, this mindfulness practice brings a new openness and calm to our daily lives.

I have now taught RAIN to thousands of students, clients, and mental health professionals, adapting and expanding it into the version you’ll find in this chapter. I’ve also made it a core practice in my own life. Here are the four steps of RAIN presented in the way I’ve found most helpful:

R   Recognize what is happening
A  Allow life to be just as it is
I   Investigate inner experience with kindness
N  Non-Identification.

RAIN directly de-conditions the habitual ways in which you resist your moment-to-moment experience. It doesn’t matter whether you resist “what is” by lashing out in anger, by having a cigarette, or by getting immersed in obsessive thinking. Your attempt to control the life within and around you actually cuts you off from your own heart and from this living world. RAIN begins to undo these unconscious patterns as soon as we take the first step.

Monday, March 23, 2015

History of Women in Buddhism - Indonesia: 2

Indonesian Bhikkhuṇīs & Women Ascetics: A Historical Introduction & Survey of Terminology


Article by Tathālokā Bhikkhunī  
Intro by Ādhimuttā Bhikkhunī

This second part of History of Women in Buddhism series, leading up to the 14th Sakyadhita Conference in Borobudur, is an extract from Ayyā Tathālokā’s paper “Light of the Kilis: Our Indonesian Bhikkhuni Ancestors.” It provides an overview of the Indonesian terminology and a brief historical overview. It explores something of what is known of the ancient Buddhist women monastics and ascetics of the Indonesian archipelago through the travelogues, local oral traditions, dedicatory inscriptions, monuments and statuary that remains of them within their cultural and historical context."

Wikunis and Kilis: A Summary of Indonesian Terminology for Women Ascetics, Teachers & Sages

Wikuni in Bahasa[1] is the Indic-origin Indonesian word for bhikkhunī in Pali and bhikṣuṇī in Sanskrit. The male form of the word is wiku,[2] a bhikkhu/bhikṣu. However, this word also appears in our Indonesian texts as in Indic texts,[3] to be used both for male monastic ascetics as well as for both male and female monastic ascetics collectively.  Wikuni is contemporarily translated into Indonesian Bahasa as pendeta Budha (a “Buddhist pandit”), which is, in turn, translated into English as “Buddhist pastor” or “preacher.”

Photo 1: Bhikkhuṇīs engraved in stone
Old Indonesian languages and texts are rich with words describing such religious women ascetics. The word kili might be best known among them.  Words are often doubled to form plurals in Indonesian Bahasa, so kilis are also known as kili-kilis. Some scholars say that kili is a purely and originally Indonesian word.

Others speculate that it may be related to the Indic giri, which means “mountain,” and is also used as an nominative appellation in Sanskrit for ascetics in India. Mountains, mountainous rock formations and caves have a very long history of being held sacred to Indonesians, and in indigenous gender cosmology, the mountain is female. Kilis are most often associated with retreat to ascetic hermitages in the mountains, so often that they are regularly called female hermits or hermitesses.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Does Mindfulness Make You More Compassionate?

Shauna Shapiro

I attended my first meditation retreat in Thailand seventeen years ago. When I arrived, I didn’t know very much about mindfulness and I certainly didn’t speak any Thai.

At the monastery, I vaguely understood the teachings of the beautiful Thai monk who instructed me to pay attention to the breath coming in and out of my nostrils. It sounded easy enough. So I sat down and attempted to pay attention, sixteen hours a day, and very quickly I had my first big realization: I was not in control of my mind.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fear About the World: Confusing Compassion with Despair

Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron

There’s a lot going on in the news these days, which can lead thoughtful people to reflect on the state of the world. Generally, however, we don’t know how to do this in a skillful way. For many of us, reflecting on the state of the world creates a state of distress, and our minds get tight and fearful.

Within that fear there is a lot of “I-grasping,” which we sometimes confuse with compassion. We think, “When I look at the world, and see so much suffering I feel compassion for people.” But in fact, we’re miserable, feeling a sense of despair, fear, depression, and so on. That isn’t genuine compassion. Not recognizing this, some people get afraid of feeling compassion, thinking that it only makes us feel awful. This is a dangerous thought because it can lead us to closing our hearts to others.