Bhiksuni Karuna Dharma has been a pioneer in the Buddhist community in Southern California since 1969, when she began studying with Dr. Thich Thien-an, founder of the first Vietnamese Buddhist temple in the United States. She took refuge in 1973 and bhiksuni precepts in 1976. She earned a BA in English from UCLA, two masters degrees in Secondary Education and Comparative Religion, and a doctorate (DDh 1979). Following Bhiksu Dr. Thien-an's passing in 1980, Bhiksuni Karuna became the abbess of the International Buddhist Meditation Center in Los Angeles. With Bhiksuni Prabhasa Dharma, she became a pioneer in ecumenical Buddhist dialogue.
In 1987 Bhiksuni Karuna Dharma attended the first Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women in Bodhgaya, India, where she presented a paper, "Nuns of Vietnam," that was later published in Sakyadhita: Daughters of the Buddha. After that conference, she took the initiative to register Sakyadhita as a nonprofit organization in the state of California. At the seventh Sakyadhita Conference in Taiwan in 2002, she presented a paper entitled "Bridging the Gap with Interreligious Dialogue" that was published in Bridging Worlds: Buddhist Women’s Voices Across Generations. At the eighth Sakyadhita Conference in Seoul in 2004, she presented a paper, "Buddhist Women’s Contributions in the West,” which was published in Out of the Shadows: Socially Engaged Buddhist Women. As abbess of the International Buddhist Meditation Center in Los Angeles, she has conducted ordinations for fifty nuns and served the Buddhist community in countless ways. Her story is told in Lenore Friedman's book, Meetings with Remarkable Women: Buddhist Teachers in America.
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