Monday, March 23, 2015

History of Women in Buddhism - Indonesia: 2

Indonesian Bhikkhuṇīs & Women Ascetics: A Historical Introduction & Survey of Terminology

Article by Tathālokā Bhikkhuṇī  
Intro by Ādhimuttā Bhikkhuṇī

This second part of History of Women in Buddhism series, leading up to the 14th Sakyadhita Conference in Borobudur, is an extract from Ayyā Tathālokā’s paper “Light of the Kilis: Our Indonesian Bhikkhuni Ancestors.” It provides an overview of the Indonesian terminology and a brief historical overview. It explores something of what is known of the ancient Buddhist women monastics and ascetics of the Indonesian archipelago through the travelogues, local oral traditions, dedicatory inscriptions, monuments and statuary that remains of them within their cultural and historical context."

Wikunis and Kilis: A Summary of Indonesian Terminology for Women Ascetics, Teachers & Sages

Wikuni in Bahasa[1] is the Indic-origin Indonesian word for bhikkhuṇī in Pali and bhikṣuṇī in Sanskrit. The male form of the word is wiku,[2] a bhikkhu/bhikṣu. However, this word also appears in our Indonesian texts as in Indic texts,[3] to be used both for male monastic ascetics as well as for both male and female monastic ascetics collectively.  Wikuni is contemporarily translated into Indonesian Bahasa as pendeta Budha (a “Buddhist pandit”), which is, in turn, translated into English as “Buddhist pastor” or “preacher.”

Photo 1: Bhikkhuṇīs engraved in stone
Old Indonesian languages and texts are rich with words describing such religious women ascetics. The word kili might be best known among them.  Words are often doubled to form plurals in Indonesian Bahasa, so kilis are also known as kili-kilis. Some scholars say that kili is a purely and originally Indonesian word.

Others speculate that it may be related to the Indic giri, which means “mountain,” and is also used as an nominative appellation in Sanskrit for ascetics in India. Mountains, mountainous rock formations and caves have a very long history of being held sacred to Indonesians, and in indigenous gender cosmology, the mountain is female. Kilis are most often associated with retreat to ascetic hermitages in the mountains, so often that they are regularly called female hermits or hermitesses.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Does Mindfulness Make You More Compassionate?

Shauna Shapiro

I attended my first meditation retreat in Thailand seventeen years ago. When I arrived, I didn’t know very much about mindfulness and I certainly didn’t speak any Thai.

At the monastery, I vaguely understood the teachings of the beautiful Thai monk who instructed me to pay attention to the breath coming in and out of my nostrils. It sounded easy enough. So I sat down and attempted to pay attention, sixteen hours a day, and very quickly I had my first big realization: I was not in control of my mind.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fear About the World: Confusing Compassion with Despair

Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron

There’s a lot going on in the news these days, which can lead thoughtful people to reflect on the state of the world. Generally, however, we don’t know how to do this in a skillful way. For many of us, reflecting on the state of the world creates a state of distress, and our minds get tight and fearful.

Within that fear there is a lot of “I-grasping,” which we sometimes confuse with compassion. We think, “When I look at the world, and see so much suffering I feel compassion for people.” But in fact, we’re miserable, feeling a sense of despair, fear, depression, and so on. That isn’t genuine compassion. Not recognizing this, some people get afraid of feeling compassion, thinking that it only makes us feel awful. This is a dangerous thought because it can lead us to closing our hearts to others.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Art of Devotion

A review of Tendrel—An Exhibition by Artists Who Are Inspired by the Lifework of Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

Harsha Menon

Tendrel Opening at Tibet House

On 15th street in Manhattan a woman stands stooped over a circular mirror on the ground. She places flower petals around the mirror; a mandala is taking shape on the floor of the Tibet House gallery. Chrysanne Stathacos is building a rose mandala as part of the art exhibition, Tendrel Interconnections.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bhikkhuni Nirodha on Ordaining and Renunciation: A Nun’s Journey

Interview by Eng Chin Ho
Buddhist Fellowship of Singapore

Question: Venerable Nirodha, please tell us about your background and what led you to take the Buddhist path?
I was born in Austria in 1945 and arrived in Australia age twenty. I married and divorced, and had no children. I enjoyed lots of travel, a relatively good life, but there slowly arose an increased awareness of no end of wanting and getting.

On a health retreat sometime in the late 1970s, feeling bored, trying to decide whether to play tennis or a card game of bridge, a sudden deep moment of stillness arose, a sense of giving up the endless choices and mental activity. From within that depth a clear question arose in my mind: Do I want to continue with this shallow, easy way of life, or do I want to look for the truth? Without hesitation there came the strong desperate answer and determination that I must look for the truth; even more, I wanted to become the truth.

Monday, February 9, 2015

History of Women in Buddhism - Indonesia: Introduction

Twelve Javanese Sites Worthy of Interest: Monuments & Sites Related to Women in Buddhism & Bhikkhuṇīs

Historical Site Article Extracts: Tathālokā Bhikkhuṇī, 
Maps: Ānandajoti Bhikkhu, 
Introduction: Ādhimuttā Bhikkhuṇī and all, 
Layout: Ānagarikā Michelle 

Buddhist monastics and lay community members from around the world are preparing to travel to Indonesia for the 14th Sakyadhita Conference at Yogyakarta. For those interested in Buddhist women's history and the history of the ancient Bhikkhuṇī/Bhikṣuṇī Sangha in Indonesia, we thought to make information available about some of the historical (and her-storical) sites worth visiting.

This will enrich the experience of Conference participants in Indonesia providing invaluable opportunities for both intellectual learning and onsite experiential learning, as well as give means for those who cannot travel to learn and grow in knowledge and benefit together from afar.

In the months leading up to the 14th Sakyadhita Conference in Borobudur in June, from March thru May, we plan to publish a series of blog posts extracted from Ayyā Tathālokā's "Light of the Kilis: Our Ancient Bhikkhuṇī Ancestors" paper, researched and prepared for the Sakyadhita-Borobudur Conference. These extract posts will provide more in-depth discussion of various aspects of the History of Women in Buddhism in Indonesia, many with relationship to the historical sites highlighted here. One final site, Borobudur and its vicinity, will be covered and presented upon during the Conference itself, as the Conference will visit the Borobudur monument. At the time of the Conference, we hope to offer a complete downloadable pdf guide to the history and art of the Indonesian Buddhist women's historical sites presented in this series.

The map and information here offer a brief introduction to a few of the places on Java that we thought would be of greatest interest to know about beforehand, and potentially have the chance to plan to visit.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tara Is Dancing in Arunachala Pradesh

Prema Dasara

At the Sakyadhita conference in Bihar India last year, we had the wonderful experience of sharing some of our Tara Dances with women from all over the world. Several months later I received an email from a young woman, Paki Tsering Droima, who lives in a remote village in northeast India. 

She wrote:

With immense love and respect to Prema Tara and the Tara Dhatu Dancing Group! I'm Paki Tsering Droima from Arunachala Pradesh, north-east India. In January 2013, I got the chance to leave my village for the first time in my life, and to attend the Sakyadhita International Conference in Vaishali, India with one of my friends who is a nun.

I'm an ordinary and inexperienced village girl, so I don’t know how to express how delighted I felt learning about and seeing you!! I never imagined the lovely dearest Goddess Tara would be manifested in such a beautiful real way. I haven't got the chance to know more about you and your wonderful work, but that short spiritual encounter had a deep impression on my soul. My English is poor, but I hope you can feel my gratitude! Spiritually we are connected for always.