Monday, December 5, 2016

15th Sakyadhita International Conference Panel: Pema Khandro on Buddhist Identity & Self Esteem Without Self

Pema Khandro with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo at the 14th Sakyadhita International Conference.
Photo by Olivier Adam.

Becoming Vajrayogini: Buddhist Identity & Self Esteem Without Self

As Buddhism has crossed borders in the global context, contemporary Buddhist women have drawn heavily on positive female iconography from Tibet: becoming Vajrayogini, praying at the feet of White Tara or echoing the aspiration of Yeshe Tsogyal or other female heroines. What is the philosophical basis of this adaptation if any? While the availability of such positive iconography should not be mistaken as representative of female equality in Buddhist history, does it express a positive potential for how Buddhist philosophies can arise in the lives of western women today?

Buddhist philosophy does indeed explicitly accept the functional necessity of identity. It does also provide compelling models for constructing positive identity. This paper will provide an overview of these twin notions of non-self and robust identity in the major divisions of Buddhist philosophy in Indian Buddhist Philosophy - Abhidharma, Madhyamaka, Tatagathagarba theory. It will argue that these Buddhist philosophies do provide precedent for accepting the utility of identity and therefore provide an ample basis for the positive identity construction that led to Vajrayana ritual and meditational practices from which modern western women draw a "self-esteem without self."

Pema Khandro

Pema Khandro a Buddhist teacher and academic. She is a PhD candidate specializing in Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Virginia. She was ordained in the Nyingma lineage and is a lama, tulku and lineage holder. She is also the founder and director of the community of Buddhist Yogis, Ngakpa International. She is also the founder of Ngakpa House, which supports the education of children in the Himalayas. Through her academic, educational and humanitarian activities she works to highlight and sustain the understudied culture of Tibet’s yogis and yoginis.

Pema Khandro can be found online on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.

Learn More About the 15th Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women

The theme for the 2017 conference to be held at The University of Hong Kong is “Contemporary Buddhist Women: Contemplation, Cultural Exchange & Social Action.” This theme highlights the diversity of contemporary Buddhist women throughout the world.

For more information on the conference please visit the Sakyadhita International website and download a brochure.

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