Monday, October 19, 2015

Finding My Way

Jessica Morey

When all of our lives are so similar and yet so different, where can we look for guidance? As Jessica Morey has learned—and what she now teaches to teenagers—the best guidance is discovered in ourselves.

The eighth grade was no picnic. Like a lot of 14-year-olds, I felt isolated and confused. Where to go in life? And the combination of pulling away from my parents and dealing with my peers didn’t help. Were my friends rapping with the same stuff I was? How could I know? I could barely name it for myself.

My mom made a proposal: “You and your brother should try a mindfulness retreat.” If I hadn’t seen over the years how she herself seemed different after her occasional retreats at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS)—when she came home, her eyes seemed filled with what I could only describe as joy—I never would have agreed.

But my brother and I did agree. So we headed off to IMS, full of skepticism and with a promise that if we didn’t like it, mom would come get us.

It was strange when we arrived. Everyone seemed a little too nice. But our fellow teenagers seemed pretty normal, so we both decided to give it a go.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Great Theris

by Roshi Joan Halifax

The Theris, or First Nuns, have long been a mystery to Buddhist women. They stand like a lovely mountain range covered in mist, not visible but their presence is felt. As Buddhism has met the modern world, more and more women are practicing. So also are women taking great responsibility as the heads of monasteries, as Dharma teachers and scholars. And many of us wish to know and express our gratitude to our women ancestors.

Photo 1: Artist Mayumi Oda with Upaya's
Mahapajapati Statue
It is in our generation that more is being learned about the women who joined the Buddha’s Sangha 2500 years ago. Their presence in early Buddhism created a revolution in social values that only now is beginning to come to fruition in our modern cultures.

I am a Western woman, a Dharma teacher, and the founder and abbot of a monastery in the United States. I went to Thailand in February 2002, to attend the Aryavinaya meeting inspired by the Thai social activist Sulak Shivaraksa. Prior to my journey to Thailand, I had learned about a brave woman and scholar who had been recently ordained as a Samaneri (novice nun) by Bhikkshunis in Sri Lanka. Her name was Samaneri Dhammananda. This was the first such ordination of a woman in Thailand in 1000 years as the nun’s line had died out a millenium ago. I asked one of the conference coordinators if I could possibly stay with the Samaneri after the meeting. I wanted to meet this courageous person, to practice with her friends, and learn more about her journey.