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.

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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?’.