Monday, December 22, 2014

Ayya Jayati’s Bhikkhuni Ordination: A Personal Perspective

Ayya Jayati is a newly ordained bhikkhuni from Aloka Vihara. The Aloka Vihara nuns trained for many years as monastics at Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries in England before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009, where they established Aloka Vihara. They have a long-term vision to create a rural monastery for bhikkhunis and samaneris to develop and flourish. What follows is Ayya Jayati's story of her earlier monastic life and her recent bhikkhuni ordination.

Bhikkhuni and Bhikkhu Sangha
From a personal perspective bhikkhuni ordination was something which in my earlier monastic years I had not not even considered as a possibility. The monasteries in England provided a very good training in many ways and there was a strong community of committed nuns and monks living a life of renunciation. I felt very grateful to have found a place with teachings and a style of practice that provided me with the support I needed to live in a way so contrary to the culture I had been conditioned for and felt so clearly wasn't the way to peace or happiness. At that time I have to admit being unable to really take in the disparity between the genders. It did indeed seem to me like things were "good enough!" (an oft-used phrase in Amaravati for the practice of contentment) for the purposes of cultivating the path of Dhamma.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Right Speech, Right Silence

Ayya Medhanandi

Receiving dana
What makes us pacify and fawn on those we don’t respectonly to lose respect for ourselves? Or hold our peace when someone insults us or another? Are we intimidated into a silence that breaches our core principles lest we offend, draw criticism or anger? In life’s conflicted moments, how do we judge when it’s right to speak out?

There’s nothing golden about a silence that shrugs its shoulders because we’re too scared to say what we feel. We may dodge the vitriol aimed at us or – to our unspoken relief – at someone else, but each time we do so it may be at the cost of our own integrity.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Suggestion for Doing Long Retreat: Live according to the Vinaya

Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi

From March 2000 to June 2003, I undertook a 3-year, 3-month (and 3-day!) deity retreat, a traditional practice in Tibetan Buddhism. Five of us engaged in this retreat, although we lived and practiced individually and only met every few months for group practice, which we did in verbal silence, although there was a fair amount of note writing and made-up sign language on these occasions! Two of the retreatants were ordained, and three were lay people at the time (including myself).

Near the end of the retreat, we decided to meet to discuss our experiences, and compile a 3-year retreat manual. When we were preparing for the retreat, we referred to some journal and traditional retreat manuals that primarily discussed the rituals and logistics involved with undertaking such a retreat. However, we really had no information and no idea what to expect in terms of the spiritual, emotional, and psychological transformations we were sure were going to manifest for us and the optimal conditions to help bring these about. Thus after the retreat, we hoped that by compiling our thoughts, future long-term meditators would be able to benefit from our experience.

Monday, November 10, 2014

One at a Time

Venerable Lobsang Khando

Venerable Lobsang Khando after performing a Medicine Buddha puja at the Bhwasa Charity Medical Center, Nepal
Life is a mystery to us and if we examine our purpose, sometimes we are lucky enough to see clearly what our path is. Even luckier are those who get the opportunity to follow the path they have seen. I never believed in luck, but as you will see from my story, maybe I should change my mind.

When I was a little girl my family consisted of brothers, one sister and parents. It was pretty normal for the most part. My favorite color was red; even my rain boots and lunch box were red or reddish. Houses I drew and painted were yellow and red. I loved chanting rhymes as most children do but I would do it repeatedly as it made me feel better somehow. My favorite question was, “Why?” Okay, none of this is unusual. But when you piece it together, something of my past life karma was there, I think, speaking to me right from the start!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Shangpa Monlam in France 2014

Lama Palden Drolma

Kalu Rinpoche with his three year retreat grads who were in attendance
After driving through dense fog at 8 am, we arrived at Palden Shangpa La Boulaye, Kalu Rinpoche’s primary center in France. As the sun began to stream through the mist, a line of small stupas greeted us. Next we were welcomed by an impressive Bhutanese lhakhang (Tibetan for house of the gods – what they call temples). Before I could enter, I heard a voice say, “Kalu Rinpoche is calling you.” Turning around I saw Rinpoche striding towards me, and I hurried to greet him. After a warm embrace, he escorted me into the lhakhang to show off the altar he had arranged for the Monlam.

Rinpoche put his heart, time and love into this first ever Shangpa Monlam. A Monlam is a prayer, and a large Monlam like this one is where the lamas and attendees make many prayers for all beings’ benefit, which of course includes praying that all beings receive what they need and desire and live in harmony and peace. He had placed nametags for the lamas of his centers and sat the senior lamas in a row together— from East and West, male and female, with all the other lamas and three year retreat grads in rows behind. All the other dharma practitioners sat on the sides and in back. The large lhakhang holds 500 people or so.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Discovering Buddhism in Bangladesh

Stav Zotalis 

Stav and her father.
My journey to Buddhism has been a surprising one. I was born into a Greek Orthodox migrant family 48 years ago. Although I was born in Sydney, Australia, it felt like living in a Greek village. I spoke Greek at home, most of my friends were Greek, I attended Greek school (after regular English school) , went to Greek Orthodox Sunday school, did Greek dancing, ate Greek food, had Greek dreams (marriage to a Greek professional, 2 children, well-paid job and a two-storey house in a respectable suburb). The Greek Orthodox priest played a central role in my life, although his influence was more moral and social than spiritual. He christened me, set up the Greek school that I went to, and was there for important events such as Christmas, Easter, my two sisters’ weddings to Greek professionals, and, very sadly, at the burial of my beloved father when I was 29.

The love and support my father gave me is one of the greatest treasures I have received during this lifetime. He was an extraordinary man. He was born into poverty and deprivation in 1939, which was exacerbated when his father was murdered in 1946, by men from his village and after witnessing the rape of his eldest daughter, my dad’s 19-year-old sister. My father didn’t demonstrate the bitterness and rage that often results from a tragedy like this. He was a gentle, generous, simple, good-humored and wonderful man. In fact, he had a lot of the great qualities of the Buddha – phenomenal love and generosity. He also believed in karma, right speech, right action, and embodied kindness and love.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Times, They are A’Changin'

Venerable Damchö Diana Finnegan 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama delivering the keynote speech during the Inaugural Ceremony of
"A Meeting of Diverse Spiritual Traditions in India" in New Delhi, India on September 20, 2014.
Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

On September 20, 2014, during the first roundtable discussion of a interreligious conference entitled, "A Meeting of Diverse Spiritual Traditions in India - Promoting Human Values and Inter-Religious Harmony," held in Delhi, India, H. H. Dalai Lama spoke in favor of revising a rule stipulating that nuns should sit behind monks, even if the nuns are fully ordained Bhikshunis and the monks are novices. The Meeting of Diverse Spiritual Traditions of India, which was convened by His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself, spanned two days, including plenaries on “Inter-Religious Understanding and Human Values” and on “Environment, Education, and Society.”

Monday, September 15, 2014

Going Home

Anja Tanhane

“Going home is like turning down the volume, so I can hear myself again.”
 Steve Jampijinpa, from the documentary Milpirri, Winds of Change 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Follow Me

Stephanie Mohan




over there.

This empty being

seen whole.

Labelled name and form.

Predisposed by karma.

Not knowing past cause

Suffering now.

Not known, not seen, not here, not there.

Not this, not that.

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.

Read More 

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.

Monday, June 9, 2014

An Intimate Death

Leila Bazzani

Time of death: 9:21 a.m. on January 19, 2014, just two months shy of her sixty-ninth birthday. My mother raised two beautiful children, was a wife to one of the sweetest, most gentle men I’ve ever known, and an honest, good-hearted friend to many. She lived many lives in her sixty-eight years and traveled far, both inside and out. And, she also had a hard life—one filled with many lonely days and unfulfilled dreams. It’s good to be honest about people, both living and dead.

I believe her dis-ease started as a very young girl, when her mother died in a maternity ward in Glouster, Massachusetts where she grew up. She told me that no one in her family came to her and told her what had happened, that she had to figure many things out on her own back then. So she mourned her loss best she could, as best as a five-year-old knows how with no guidance or explanation.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Letting Go: A Reflection by Ajahn Candasirī

Ajahn Candasirī

Walking up to Dunruchan Stone, Perthshire,
Life is uncertain. It was this reflection that led the young prince, Siddhartha Gotama, to leave the apparent security of his family and the palace where he had grown up to search for a more reliable state of security and inner peace. However, many people may feel that what he discovered during his search is even more shocking. He had surrendered his position, relationships, and material comfort and made enormous efforts to subdue the energy of desire, all in an effort to find peace of mind—only to discover that very mind was not really ‘his’ at all! When, after those six years of strenuous effort, he reached that understanding, he was left with a state of unshakeable peace. He no longer had anything to worry about or to protect. There was no longer any reason to think of himself as a separate person with a ‘personality’ that needed to be maintained at all costs. He was free.

Appreciating the possibility for each one of us to find and know this for ourselves interests me greatly and glimpsing it—albeit fleetingly—is what keeps me walking this path. External happenings can be sudden, disturbing, and dramatic; they can be tragic and confusing. They also provide a stark reminder, and can help us to realise the fragility of ‘our world’; they can be an encouragement to keep inclining towards that state of inner stability. The questions arise: ‘But how on earth do we do it?’, ‘How can we experience that state for ourselves?’.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sit Boo-Boo, Sit

Sakula Mary Reinard

Photo by Jennagu
One of the things I noticed (like so many of us) when first attempting meditation was the constant rambling of my mind. I was shocked and dismayed at how a simple thought, feeling, or sensation could waft through my mind and without hesitation tantalize my attention over hill and dale, and I wondered could this mind be trained to sit still and relax?

I have been practicing meditation since 1996, eighteen years. During my first year of practice (I don’t recall who the teacher was at the time), I followed a guided meditation that used an image I still employ today. This image worked then because it encouraged a firm, yet gentle attitude that countered my usual judgmental mind. It works for me still because my training is not complete. I will train in this way . . .

Monday, May 19, 2014

Women’s Contributions to Buddhism

Nona Sarana Olivia

Birth of the Buddha, Pakistan (Gandhara) second century A.D.

The Sati Journal is a publication of the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies. The center supports the study of Buddhist teachings with a perspective that balances scholarly inquiry with serious meditation practice. Believing that study and practice work together to deepen one’s practice and aid in awakening, the Sati Center's goal is to help participants explore original Buddhist texts and appreciate the richness of the tradition and lineage.

In the fall of 2011, I was delighted when Gil Fronsdal and Jeff Hardin asked me to be the guest editor for an issue devoted to women in Buddhism. Below is an excerpt from my introduction to this issue. In choosing writings, I decided to approach the topic of women in Buddhism through the lens of three overlapping themes: early Buddhist scholars, symbolic representations of gender, and inspiring contemporary leaders. This issue contains essays by Rita Gross, Noa Ronkin, Dawn Neal, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Ajahn Amaro, and Analayo Bhikkhu.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Buddha’s Middle Way to Knowledge: Bridging Science & Spirituality

Susmita Barua
All scientific knowledge is provisional. Everything that science “knows,” even the most mundane facts and long-established theories, is subject to reexamination as new information comes in.
Scientific American editorial, December 2002
Much of our contemporary schooling is dominated by the Western materialist scientific worldview. The worldview sets the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual, group, or society. It encompasses the entirety of society’s knowledge and point of view including natural philosophy, Dhamma, ethics, and code of behavior. Worldview develops within the context of language, culture, and commerce. It conditions the general mindset, mental models, perception, and volitional habits of human beings.

It is significant that the ancient path discovered by Buddha that set the Wheel of Dhamma in motion is called the Middle Way. This way of moderation and wisdom is the Noble Eightfold Path: “Avoiding both these extremes [of self-indulgence and self-denial, and everything exists and nothing exists], the Middle Way realized by the Tathagata—producing vision, producing knowledge—leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding.”(1) This blog post advocates the view that the Middle Way can be rediscovered today as a way to knowledge that may bridge the gaps in the worldviews of material science and spiritual science.

Monday, May 5, 2014

How We Show Up: Storytelling, Movement Building, and the First Noble Truth

Mushim Ikeda

The Community Engagement Project founded by Yemi Olu is trying to make a difference in the world by reaching out to people. Here they are collecting stories outside the Chinatown Metro in DC.
Photo by Victoria Pickering.

For me, there’s an often missing and crucial piece of the puzzle in socially engaged Buddhist dialogues, both in person and especially in online dialogues where we express our views. I’m feeling strongly these days that there’s a seemingly invisible suffering caused by linearity and disembodiedness in online activist forums, and I’m wondering what organizing strategies and movement-building methods can address this. How can we see, hear, and feel one another more clearly as we try to figure out how to set in motion systemic changes in complex, global systems of power and domination? How is it that we show up to and for one another when we express our views? Is there time and space and support for spirals of storytelling and sharing?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lay Contemplatives Living Almost as Monastics in the Middle of Active Urban Life

Tuere Sala

Left to right: Ruby Phillips, Devin Berry, Joan Lohman and Jenn Biehn

In traditional Buddhism, a “contemplative” is someone who leaves lay life to become a monastic. They are wanderers who leave the householder’s life[i] to take up a homeless spiritual life[ii]. The monastic community lives noticeably different from the lay community, and yet there is such a symbiotic relationship between the two that one could not survive without the other.

In the West, however, Theravadin Buddhism remains primarily a lay-oriented practice, primarily operating out of storefront dharma centers and short/long-term retreat centers[iii].

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mindful Eating, One Mouthful at a Time

Judith Toy

Photo by Jamain
It takes some practice. Mindful eating feels forced at first, although you have to admit that the food tastes better than it ever has, as you lay your fork aside and chew each mouthful thirty times or so, or until the food is “mooshy,” thinking of what you are chewing, naming it—say, green beans.

You imagine the bean as once a seed buried in warm soil, then the coiling stem and leaves, then a tiny, four-fingered orchid-like flower, or a five-star white-petaled bloom with a yellow center, depending on the variety of bean. You summon up a mental image of the sun shining on the flower, how it turns its small face to the light, peeks from out of its own lush greenery. Then the slow and miraculous transformation from flower to a tiny white legume that turns green as it swells and grows in the warm sunlight and quenching rain. In this bean, the cosmos.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Encountering the Nuns of Zanskar

Dominique Butet
Photography by Olivier Adam
To view the original French version of this article (with photos) click here.

Zanskar, situated at the extreme northwest of India in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is an isolated valley above 13,000 feet. It’s one of the most elevated areas to be populated in the Himalayas. There, in the heat of the summer on paths of wind and dust, it is not unusual to come across lively undulations of red fabric, capped by orange hats of felt—so go the nuns! Many nunneries have been established there, perched high over the valley.

Today, Zanskar has ten nunneries, nine of which belong to the Gelugpa order. Some, such as Karsha and Dorje Dzong, are close to Padum, the capital, while others such as Pishu are much more isolated. Some house up to twenty nuns, while others house barely seven or eight. Some have a school, others do not—or not yet. In the winter, when all pipelines freeze, the nuns have to travel far down to the river to fetch water, breaking the ice and then ascending again quickly to find refuge in rooms where the ceilings have so little insulation that snow and cold seep in. But it’s the profound isolation that one needs to survive, an isolation that only long rituals can transcend. Nonetheless, all have the uncompromising will to exist and flourish, mingling religious fervor with an incredible sense of collective life where all ages cohabit, from nine to over eighty-four!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Terror Within

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

As a girl of ten years, satin ribbons in my hair, and wearing a freshly starched dress, I had a special seat in church each Sunday next to my father, Lawrence Manuel Jr. With my younger sister and mother on the other side, I sat close to him, appreciating our special relationship around the word of God. On Saturday evenings, in the rush of Los Angeles where I was born and raised, I would read my father his weekly Sunday school lesson. As I read, he would make symbols of his own in the margins that represented the sounds of the words. He did this because he was illiterate. A sharecropper's son born in 1898 in Opelousas, Louisiana, he spoke mostly Creole, making his English difficult to understand. Even though he couldn’t read, he didn’t let that get in the way of his participation in Sunday school. With the symbols he had developed, he would “read” a portion of each lesson out loud to a class of older black men. I would never have been brave enough to pull off such a thing. But my father was a talented and courageous man; raised in the backwoods, he learned to do whatever was necessary to survive. He was what I called “fearless,” and, as I sat next to him at church, I prayed to be fearless just like him.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Builder of Bridges: An Interview with Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies

I'll start with an obvious question, Taraniya: How did you get into all this?
As far back as I can remember I was interested in what we now call the spiritual path. It took many forms in my early years, but I can tell you what led to my interest in Buddhism and how I first got exposed to it.

Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I had been interested in facilitating change through political, social, and economic systems. I wanted to work in fields that served people in a positive way. In my early thirties I even went back to school for a master’s degree in public administration and soon thereafter went to work for the governor’s science advisor in North Carolina. I had always been interested in science and technology, and this position offered a natural blend of science and public policy. Through this office and another agency, which was a spin-off of our office, I worked to promote biotechnology as a new technology for North Carolina.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Call for Papers: 14th Sakyadhita International Conference


14th Sakyadhita International

Conference on Buddhist Women

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

June 2330, 2015


"Compassion and Social Justice"

Buddhist women have made many contributions to the spiritual and social lives of their communities. Nevertheless, Buddhist women are frequently excluded from the processes that shape their communities, such as negotiations among governments, scholars, religious leaders, and social structures. Decision makers and social justice movements may be unfamiliar with Buddhist women's contributions, while Buddhist women may remain disconnected from the larger issues that affect their daily lives. The 14th Sakyadhita Conference will be an opportunity to dialogue about creating better connections and to explore how compassion and spiritual development can help shape a more just and peaceful world.

Proposals are being accepted for panel presentations and workshops on these topics (listed here) related to women and Buddhism.
  • Proposals (250500 words in length) should be submitted by April 15, 2014. 
  • Notification of acceptance will be sent by May 15, 2014. 
  • Final papers (2,500 words maximum) are due by June 15, 2014, for translation into various languages. 

Proposals should include sender's name, institutional affiliation, and contact information. All proposals and papers must be the original, unpublished work of the presenters.

For more information visit this link.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sangha is a Verb: Cultivating Relational Practices to Foster Inclusiveness

Sebene Selassie

Recently, there has been interest and discussion—and some controversy—in US convert sanghas about diversity in our communities. Many of these sanghas are largely white and middle- to upper-middle class and acknowledge an aspiration to be more diverse, but how to actualize this in towns and cities where racial, economic, and cultural segregation prevails is a challenge. The hope for our communities to reflect the richness of our country and our world is part of a noble attempt to fully embody loving-kindness. And as the dharma develops within our multicultural society, we have the opportunity—even the obligation—to understand and transform the separations that persist across these relative identities.

To live an awakened life in a community would mean to meet others without clinging to our conditioned way of being with or knowing others. Yet, what I have witnessed in my own journey is that as practitioners we may awaken to the fact that many of our perceptions and volitions are unwholesome, conditioned, subtle, and profound, but often we can be almost entirely unawake to the separateness and delusion we hold in regard to those we unconsciously experience as “other.”(1)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Awakening Buddhist Women, Now

Karma Lekshe Tsomo

Opening ceremony at the 13th Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women

What a difference a year makes! Never before in world history has there been a Buddhist women’s blog and now there is one! As of today, 33,831 unique visitors have visited the Awakening Buddhist Women blog. Who would have guessed that Buddhist women could create such a stir? Not only are the numbers impressive, but also the diversity of the blog posts—their writers, their readers, and their content is remarkable. With a wide spectrum of topics, perspectives, and cultures written by women of widely varied backgrounds—scholars, practitioners, scholar/practitioners, activists, artists, mothers, and nuns—the Awakening Buddhist Women blog has become one of the most exciting contemporary phenomena in transnational Buddhism.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Inexistence of the “Selfie”

Jenna Vondrasek

Jenna Vondrasek in Big Sur, California
her favorite place in the world

The self-portrait, once regarded as a representational work of art, has evolved into a groundbreaking new concept: the selfie. It became largely popular with the introduction of smartphone technology. Taking a selfie involves flipping the camera around and snapping a picture of yourself—often in a specific and flattering manner. With the number of selfies growing quickly and occupying social media such as Facebook and Instagram, one must question the reasons for such a craze. The underlying significance of a selfie communicates self-recognition and identity but also vanity and self-obsession.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Studying Nuns’ Ordination: How Monastics in the Academy Can Make a Difference in the Real World

Raymond Lam

Raymond Lam (left) with Tam Po Shek, a Chinese musician and calligrapher
In some Buddhist communities, increasing prestige is accorded to those who earn a degree in Buddhist studies. Monks and nuns who obtain a PhD in their field of research (and their numbers are growing) are particularly celebrated. Academic study is an extraordinary socio-economic shift in the Buddhist world, especially since the very idea of Buddhology is a recent phenomenon no older than the 1800s (when Indology and oriental studies became popular in universities). For Ven. Analayo from the Numata Center of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg, scholars will always have a duty to make academic information more accessible to the wider public. If this basic calling can be fulfilled, the benefits of an intellectually rigorous approach to Buddhism will be vast.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Zen and the Real World

Kanja Odland Roshi

No one can guarantee anything when it comes to Zen practice. Well, I can almost guarantee that if you do zazen (the meditation that is the foundation of Zen), you will get pain in the legs sometimes and it’s quite likely that you will feel tired when you do it in the early mornings; that you will have moments of discouragement and moments of ease and joy. There are many things that are quite probable, but luckily, there is nothing that is certain other than this: if it is a practice that resonates with you, in doing it you cannot escape and your mind seeks unification with everything else. Your whole being moves into the territory of non-separation, and there’s an absolute attraction towards experiencing reality as it is. To quote the cybernetic race in Star Trek called the Borg, "Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated." Some people say that the whole idea of “oneness” is either a romantic New Age idea or something that is so natural that we don’t need to do anything other than just be.

Isn’t it better to use the time doing something that produces useful results in the real world instead of wasting time in meditation? "Go and help people in the real world," some people might say. Or, "Don’t just sit there
do something!" But in Zen we find a different approach. My first Zen teacher, Philip Kapleau, had a baseball cap that said, "Don’t just do somethingsit there!"

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Road Less Traveled: A Nun Who Carved Out Her Own Niche in the Slums of India

Ayya Yeshe Bodhicitta

Ayya Yeshe

I discovered Buddhism whilst in India at the age of seventeen on the hippie trail in search of the meaning of life. My father died when I was fourteen, sending me into a deep depression. I left home at fifteen, thinking there must be more to life than paying off a house for the rest of my life.

I fell in love with Tibetan Buddhism as it thoroughly intellectually convinced me of the truth of life. The truths of the Dharma were experiential and for the first time in my life I found a deep, heart-opening happiness. After doing “meditation on the kindness of the mother,” it was clear to me that practicing for awakening and working for the benefit of all beings is the point of life, and that all other things—possessions and power—were superfluous. I saw how sophisticated my own society was, yet how little happiness we possessed, so time-poor and lost in a net of our own complexity and consumerism. I also knew from experience how wonderful and yet ultimately unstable relationships could be.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Interviewing Buddhist Women: Miskaman Rujavichai

Brooke Schedneck

Miskaman Rujavichai at Wat Pa Baan Taad

Miskaman Rujavichai is a disciple of the well-known Thai monk, the late Luang Ta Maha Boowa [1] (1913–2011). Since 1982 she has lived at the temple he founded, Wat Pa Baan Taad [Baan Taad Forest Monastery], where he was abbot for many years. I met Miskaman while doing research for my dissertation on international meditation communities in Thailand. At the monastery an international group would meet once a week with English-speaking monks who were giving Dhamma talks. Miskaman was one of the friendly faces in this group who helped the international guests. I kept a research website called Wandering Dhamma for my findings, and Miskaman kept in touch by commenting on the site and emailing me when new developments in the international group at Wat Pa Baan Taad developed. I asked Miskaman to tell me more about her memories of Luang Ta Maha Boowa and how she came to live at that temple. At first she did not want to reveal this information, telling me of other women she considered better practitioners. I convinced her however, that her story was interesting for Sakyadhita blog readers.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Business Beneath the Patch Robe

by Ryūmon Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín Sensei

Today I went on an early afternoon walk on a road called Cemetery. It’s a not a very long road—a quarter of a mile long. If you are heading north, it veers to the right, downhill off South Road, the main road cutting through the center of town. Cemetery then comes to an end and meets South Road, from which it veered, once again, four-tenths of a mile up, like an outward-curved parenthesis, or a smile. In this small and very rural New England town—no street lights, no post office, one of eighteen dry towns in the Commonwealth—where I have lived for the past four years, it is common to find roads like this.

The town is a “right-to-farm community and there is a right-to-farm bylaw in effect,” says the notice from the town’s Collector of Taxes. I never thought myself a farmer, coming from a lineage of maids, bread makers, cooks, union factory workers, construction laborers, gas station attendants, corner store owners, seamstresses, and beauticians. Yet, living here I experience a deep joy and contentment that the three vegetable beds, six by three feet, and the small herb garden my partner and I put in each spring is part of a greater constellation of human beings who have honored, cared for, and worked the earth going back thousands of years, not just an urban fad.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Reflections of a Forest Nun

Ayya Anandabodhi

Photo: Bellah via Compfight cc

In Western culture we are conditioned from an early age to think of ourselves as a separate, individual person, unique and different from the rest. There is of course some truth in this, but along with our uniqueness and individuality comes our total interconnectedness with all beings and everything on this planet. It’s a big leap.

Each time we take a breath, we are sharing that breath with every other life form that breathes! While we are breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide during the day, trees and other plants are breathing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen. It’s a beautiful symbiosis, but as long as we take ourselves to be the only ones who are truly relevant, we disrupt that balance. Having cut down so many trees on this beautiful planet for short-term gain, we find ourselves not only losing the majesty and diversity a forest can provide, but we are finding ourselves in doubt as to whether there will be any air left to breathe.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Reminder: E-learning course on Bhikkhuni/Bhikshuni ordination

Mark your Calendars! Universität Hamburg's Numata Center for Buddhist Studies and the Women in Buddhism Study Initiative have announced an e-learning cour­se on Per­spec­ti­ves on Bhikk­hu­ni Or­di­na­ti­on, Summer Semes­ter, 2014.

Registration begins February 1, 2014

The cour­se in­tends to of­fer sound aca­de­mic re­se­arch on the le­gal qu­es­ti­ons, ba­sed on a study of the re­le­vant Vina­ya mate­rial, fol­lo­wed by an up­da­ted re­gio­nal sur­vey on the cur­rent si­tua­ti­on of nuns in the Thera­va­da and Mu­lasar­vas­ti­va­da tra­di­ti­ons.

Please visit this link for more information on the course. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mindfulness in Modern Buddhism: New Approaches and Meanings

Tamara Ditrich

Photo: AlicePopkorn via Compfight cc
Mindfulness (sati in Pāli; smṛti in Sanskrit) meditation is one of the main methods of meditation which plays a prominent role in many traditional and modern Buddhist meditation practices. The recent expansion of Buddhist meditative techniques across the world has facilitated the introduction of mindfulness into a variety of new environments, in its traditional as well as in new roles: as a path to spiritual liberation and enlightenment, as a therapeutic tool, as a relaxation technique in wellness industries etc.

Although modern Buddhism has, at least to some extent, retained its ethical and soteriological aspects in the practice of mindfulness, there is an increasing emphasis on its psychotherapeutic function. This article explores the new interpretations of mindfulness that have developed in the last few decades in radical ways of practice, which are unprecedented in the history of Buddhism.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Staying Buoyant Amidst Suffering

Jacqueline Kramer

Typhoons destroying cities and killing thousands in the Philippines, complete devastation in the already beleaguered Haiti, thousands of men, women, and children fleeing their homes in Syria, children enslaved as soldiers and prostitutes in the Sudan—there has been widespread suffering somewhere in the world—holocausts, land grabs, rape, and natural disasters—since the beginning of time. But we humans have not been exposed to the suffering of others outside of our communities to the extent that we are today. Were our human hearts designed to hold the vast, constant awareness of suffering offered up each day in our media-connected world? What’s a person with a human-sized heart to do? We don’t want to shut our heart down. Even if that were possible, hearts seem to seep through the cracks in our control systems. If we shut out the pain, we also shut out the joy. A closed heart is impervious to feeling. Still, we don’t want to become overwhelmed by sadness. We’re of no use to ourselves or others when we’re paralyzed by sorrow.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Gift of the Sacred Feminine

Santacitta Bhikkhuni

Feminine and masculine principles are indivisible in each of us.

The interaction of these two forces makes up life as we know it and we all carry both of these energies in our bodies. Generally, a female body has more feminine energy and a male body more masculine energy, but this is not always the case and varies from person to person. However, if these masculine and feminine energies are not balanced—when one dominates at the expense of the other—disharmony and disease are the result.