Monday, February 13, 2017

15th Sakyadhita International Conference Panel: Translation as Contemplative Practice with Annie Bien

The Mahāyāna sūtra titled, The Prophecy of the Daughter Candrottarā, tells the story of the merchant Vimalakīrti’s daughter, Candrottarā, a young woman striving on the path to enlightenment. Instead of crying when she takes birth, she sings verses about the nature of birth. Pure in body and deed, beautiful to behold and without desires, she is drawn to the Buddha’s voice. The men of the city of Vaiśalī want to marry her, threaten Vimalakīrti, and terrify him. She remains unafraid, calming her father through her understanding of karma. She comforts both parents by agreeing to choose a husband, but asks to meet the Buddha first. On her way, the Buddha’s disciples appear, questioning her. Candrottarā debates with them that sexual identity ultimately has no relevance for attaining enlightenment. The Buddha, listens and is delighted. He prophesies her future enlightenment. Elated, she transforms into a young man to continue her enlightened activities in the world.

What are the implications about this transformation for us today? Is this a misogynistic stance against women? Is it an inability to accept those who have sexual transformations as part of our society? Could it be a mirror into seeing just how willing we are to open any aspect of our minds? How does the mind of enlightenment cross the gender boundary even if, by definition of being human, our physical bodies must have a gender?

This paper will examine how Candrottarā reveals that warmhearted, intelligent, and respectful behavior towards others benefits everyone. It is a classic yet modern story still applicable now. When we get caught in our secondary level storylines, Candrottarā shows us how to bring kindness into our hearts and daily lives.

Annie Bien

Annie Bien
Annie Bien is a writer and a translator of Tibetan Buddhist texts for 84000. She received a seed commission from the Soho Theatre Company in London, and has published poetry and prose in literary journals and a poetry collection, Plateau Migration. Annie has a new poetry book, Under the Shadow of Stars, available later this year from Kelsay Books.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Learn More About the 15th Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women

The theme for the 2017 conference to be held at The University of Hong Kong is “Contemporary Buddhist Women: Contemplation, Cultural Exchange & Social Action.” This theme highlights the diversity of contemporary Buddhist women throughout the world.

For more information on the conference please visit the Sakyadhita International website and download a brochure.

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