Monday, December 28, 2015

Earning a Degree: Tibetan Nuns Break Through Barriers

Rio Helmi

Délek Dölma left her home in Kham in Tibet's eastern regions at the age of 20. Ordained but illiterate, she yearned to study Buddhism in a more profound way. Délek Wangmo was 16, also ordained, could barely read but was equally determined to deepen her knowledge and understanding of Buddhism. In traditional Tibetan society, when it comes to opportunity to study, nuns are at the bottom end of the priority list. Painfully aware of the fact that in Tibet they hardly stood a chance of studying, much less achieving a scholastic degree, they resolved to escape to India to pursue their dream within the Tibetan community in exile.

They also resolved to generate the "merit" -- which in Buddhist terms refers to the expansive power of the mind generated by virtuous acts -- for this bold undertaking in a uniquely Tibetan way. They journeyed from Lithang to Lhasa by doing full-length prostrations the whole way. To get an idea of what that entails: with your mind focused on the Buddha first you do a full-length prostration flat on the ground, with arms out, then stand up, and then move to the mark where the tips of your fingers touched the ground. And then you start again. Repeat for as many times as it takes to cover 1,475 kilometers. It took them a year and a half.

A philosophy class at Dolma Ling nunnery, via Rio Helmi
It would seem the merit they generated helped: once in India they were soon taken under the wing of the Tibetan Nun's Project created by the Tibetan Women's Association to provide education for nuns. By 1993 they were both were inscribed in a long-term study program, the first of its kind. In 2005 the Dolma Ling nunnery, spearheaded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama's sister-in-law Rinchen Khando, opened its doors. To date over 200 nuns have joined the two in this nunnery.

Reflections from the 14th Sakyadhita International Conference: Nurturing the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha

Munissara Bhikkhuni

Photo 1: The Stage at the 14th Sakyadhita Conference

At a Sakyadhita conference, you are in the company of a lot of “firsts” in Buddhism. You might find yourself sharing a meal with one of the first bhikkhunis ordained in the Theravada tradition in Thailand or Indonesia or Vietnam. Or sitting on a bus next to one of the first Western women ordained in the Tibetan or Korean tradition decades ago when such a thing was a real rarity. Or having tea with one of the first scholars to document the life and work of this or that under-studied, eminent woman in Buddhist history. Indeed, amazing, pioneering women (and men) from various Buddhist traditions were present in force at the 14th Sakyadhita International Conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from 23–30 June this year, which was attended by over 1,000 monastic and lay participants from 40 countries.

The latest in a series of conferences organized every two years since 1987 by the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women, this year’s conference was themed “Compassion and Social Justice.” One of the most important social justice issues in Buddhism’s own backyard, of course, is the lack of equal opportunity for ordination and Buddhist education for women. Although many other important matters were discussed at the conference, this article will report on this topic, and particularly the situation of Theravada nuns, while drawing on experiences shared by other traditions.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Interview with Tina Rasmussen

By Non-Duality Magazine

Tina Rasmussen learned to meditate at the age of thirteen and has been meditating for more than thirty years. In 2003, after many years of spiritual practice in non-dual and Buddhist traditions, she completed a yearlong silent solo retreat during which an awakening to true nature occurred. In 2005, she was ordained as a Theravada Buddhist nun by Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma, who later authorized her to teach. She is the co-author of Practicing the Jhanas (with teaching partner and husband Stephen Snyder), published in 2009 by Shambhala.