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Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly Fall 2019

Buddhadharma offers in-depth teachings that reflect the wealth and range of Buddhist traditions, expert book reviews, and first-rate reporting on stories of special interest to Buddhists. It’s a precious resource for readers who want to deepen their understanding of Buddhist practice and philosophy.

Shambhala Sun Foundation
2 Issues

in this issue

4 min

PEMA KHANDRO RINPOCHE is a lineage holder in the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as one of the few Westerners recognized and enthroned as a tulku. She founded the nonprofit organization Ngakpa International, residential meditation centers in Virginia and California, and a new retreat center, Dakini Mountain, near Lake Tahoe. She is completing a doctorate specializing in Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Virginia. NARAYAN HELEN LIEBENSON has been a teacher at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center since its founding in 1985, as well as a longtime guiding teacher at Insight Meditation Society, where, for thirty-five years, she has taught the annual women’s retreat with Christina Feldman. She is the author of The Magnanimous Heart: Compassion and Love, Loss and Grief, Joy and Liberation, published by Wisdom earlier…

1 min
about the art

FOR THIS women’s issue of Buddhadharma, we set out to feature as many women’s voices as possible. In the forum, “Hear Our Voices” (page 40), you’ll find photos of one hundred teachers from across traditions. Many faces are missing—in 2019, there are more women teachers than we could possibly include—but we hope you’ll find some faces you know, or hope to get to know someday. Your own teacher might be on those pages—maybe you just haven’t met her yet. Italian artist MICHELA MARTELLO (page 114) creates collages, murals, and sculptures that often combine and repurpose found elements such as fabric, paper, and even human hair. Once an illustrator of children’s books, much of her work now subverts Buddhist imagery to explore questions around feminism, femininity, and womanhood. In describing her process, visual…

3 min
the path we walk as women

THE BUDDHIST COMMUNITY has always consisted of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, in that order, largely in deference to the social and cultural structures and conditions of the tradition’s birth. However, the question of women’s place and standing within Buddhism has, throughout its 2,600-year history, remained problematic and contentious. As Buddhist traditions have moved into Western geographic spaces, more attention has been focused on the issue of women, and various strategies and attempts to correct the historical record have been offered. Women are rediscovering and reasserting their place in Buddhism in a variety of ways. For example, the number of women who now head dharma centers, particularly in the West, is striking. Powerful books addressing the role and history of women in Buddhism have opened our eyes and helped women raise…

7 min
ask the teachers

LA SARMIENTO: When I think of the traditional loving-kindness phrases I was taught early in my practice, this immediately comes to mind: May all beings be happy.May all beings be peaceful.May all beings be free from suffering.May all beings awaken and be free. As a genderqueer person, hearing those words, I could finally feel a sense of belonging in a world that would rather deny my civil rights, my relationships, and my existence. I once considered ordaining as a monastic. But when I discovered that in Myanmar novice monks wore white robes and the women wore bubblegum pink robes, and there was no possibility of wearing the sherbet-swirl robe that would most represent me, that sense of external belonging faded away. For me to feel a sense of liberation was to claim internally…

5 min
so this is what it’s like to be free: poems from the therigatha

The Therigatha (“Verses of the Elder Nuns”), a collection of poems attributed to early female disciples of the Buddha, is the first known anthology of women’s literature. It is also thought to be the only canonical text of any major religion attributed to women and focusing on women’s religious experiences. The collection is both a celebration of women’s personal experiences of complete freedom, or nibbana, and a testimonial of what we now know as the third noble truth, the truth of the possibility of liberation—the end of suffering. As such, these verses have inspired Buddhist practitioners for over two millennia. Whereas elsewhere in the Pali canon women are sometimes dismissed as incapable, the women portrayed in the Therigatha are depicted as dedicated practitioners, meeting adversity with courage and defeating temptations with…

6 min
reclaiming the sacred feminine

AS A YOUNG NUN, one day I was distractedly flipping through a series of small cards that depicted, in the artistic style of a Thai temple, the trajectory of the Buddha’s life. In the middle of the pack there was a picture of the emaciated Siddhartha, then him receiving milk rice from Sujata, then enlightened under the bodhi tree, peaceful, with a radiant halo. What leapt out to me was this: the Buddha only reached enlightenment by going through the portal of the feminine, or more broadly speaking, the sacred feminine. Generally, the term “sacred feminine” is not part of Buddhist lexicon. The place of the feminine, and of women, in Buddhism is indelibly marked by historic ambivalence. And while there are realized women, dedicated scholars, nuns, teachers, and practitioners, their…