Monday, November 16, 2015

Wonderwell Mountain Refuge—A Flowering of Buddhism in America

Harsha Menon 

Wonderwell Mountain Refuge. Photo by Wonderwell Mountain Refuge

As I arrive at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge for a weekend stay, it is immediately evident that while Wonderwell is a place of meditation, it is also a place of great activity—from the people working in the rock garden to those cooking in the kitchen, each person is working with a strong sense of purpose. I feel that everyone is truly invested in his or her work, clearly stemming from a sense of ownership and belonging. . . .

Located in the small rural town of Springfield, New Hampshire, Wonderwell was established by the Natural Dharma Fellowship, an organization of Buddhist practitioners from across New England “dedicated to the joy of awakening.” Founded by Lama Willa Miller, a Dharma teacher for many years, and rooted in her own Buddhist training, the Natural Dharma Fellowship focuses on the transmission of the Tibetan traditions of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. A not-for-profit organization, it consists of local practice groups as well as intensive retreat and student and teacher training.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Announcement: Lopon Dr. Rita Gross


It is with sadness that we relay the news that world-renowned feminist-Buddhist scholar and practitioner Rita M. Gross passed from this life on Nov. 11, 2015 at her home in hospice care. She had a severe stroke in late October, but did not appear to suffer. Lopon Rita asked that her ashes be sprinkled into the Lotus Pond at Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche's retreat center in central Virginia, Lotus Garden.

Dear Friends,

Rita M. Gross
Today we have been notified with the sad news that Rita Gross has suffered a life-changing stroke. Please hold Rita, and all who are close to her, in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

The contributions that Rita has made are impossible to underestimate. As an academic, Dharma teacher, advocate and community builder, Rita has touched many lives with her work. Rita is one of six senior teachers at Lotus Garden who were appointed by Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche. Rita has also been a senior teacher in the Shambhala tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Rita's Buddhist teachings have been non-sectarian and she has taught for both Zen and Vipassana centers in addition to her work in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She has been a founder and leader in the field of feminist studies in religion and has done groundbreaking work on women in Buddhism. In addition, she has focused on the theology of religious diversity and interreligious exchange, and has offered a variety of solo or co-taught workshops on this topic for seminaries and religious institutions. Rita helped to build the Society for Buddhist Christian Studies and co-edited their journal for more than a decade.

Rita’s approach has been a rare combination of academic and Dharmic perspectives. Her warm, humorous, and very clear teachings have reached thousands of highly appreciative students.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The First Bhikkhuni Ordination at Koh Yo, Thailand

By Venerable Varadhamma Bhikkhu

On Saturday, November 29, 2014 there was a higher ordination for bhikkhunis for the first time at Koh Yo in Songkhla Province, as well as the going forth of another 47 samaneris. Conducting ordinations for females to go forth as samaneris is one of the periodic Dhamma activities at “Tipaya Sathan Dhamma Bhikkhuni Arama.”

This, however, is not the first Bhikkhuni Ordination in Thailand. The first Bhikkhuni Ordination in Thailand took place in about 1928 when the two daughters of Mr. Narin Bhasit took samaneri ordination. His two daughters Jongdee and Sara were 13 and 18 years old respectively at the time of their going forth. After a period of two years, once Sara was fully 20 years old, she took higher ordination as a bhikkhuni. This happened 82 years ago. Nor was the ordination at Koh Yoh the second bhikkhuni ordination in Thailand. In recent times there have been a number of bhikkhuni ordinations held in Thailand, however they were not publicized.

This higher ordination can be considered to be the first ‘formal’ bhikkhuni ordination. Provincial officials were invited to take part in the event so that they could be aware of what was going on in the area under their responsibility. These included the officials from the Buddhist Office of Songkhla, the Provincial Governor of Songkhla, members of the Office for the Management of the Provinces on the Southern Border, represented by Suphanat Sirantavineti, and the Vice Governor of Naratiwat Province, who came to open the event. A letter was sent to inform the Prime Minister of Thailand of the event, which received a letter of thanks in return. Furthermore, a letter was sent to Phra Thep, the Crown Princess of Thailand to ask for her blessing in this event. We, likewise, received a letter from the Royal Office. Therefore, this was not a ‘secret’ ordination, but rather it was formal and openly publicized.