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.

After snapping out of this experience, life went on but with a subtle shift in direction. I did not return to my childhood strong Christian roots, but remained open. One day in 1979 on a short visit to Sydney, my friend invited me to meet her Buddhist teacher, Anagarika Munindra-Ji, at an open- house gathering. My other plans for the day got canceled, so on a whim, I went. When I was introduced to the teacher, as a greeting he said, “What are you doing?”. For the first time, I understood on a deeper level and thought, yes, I am doing nothing with my life. I answered, “I am doing nothing”.

An hour or two later, when it was announced that in a few days this teacher would give a nine-day meditation retreat in a forest monastery outside of Sydney, I knew I had to go. The retreat would be at Wat Buddha Dhamma, co-led with Venerable Ayya Khema and Venerable Khantipalo. When I told my friend, she was aghast. She cried out, “You know nothing about Buddhism! You can hardly even spell the word ‘Buddha’!”  She had studied extensively before starting her path.

Yet I went to the retreat, where I followed instructions and felt at home with the Buddha’s teachings. My quest for the truth had brought me to the Dhamma. From then on, I gratefully and happily participated in Buddhist activities as much as possible, first in Australia, then Sri Lanka, USA, Burma, and Thailand, and now back in Australia.

Question: Venerable, please describe your feelings and thoughts when you received ordination as a nun.
For me, ordination was not just one experience, but three. First was the anagarika ceremony in 2001: undertaking eight precepts, shaving the head, and putting on white robes. There, my ordinary householder life ended. Next was the ten-precept nun ordination in 2003: gaining brown robes and relinquishing all money and assets, to the shock of my friends and family. Since considerable assets were involved, even the bank rang up to make sure I was of sound mind. My loved ones had slowly adjusted to my new direction in life, yet were still stunned that I carried out the final step, leaving everything behind as this implied that the world had nothing to offer, ever, it made a big impact upon them. Both of these ordinations were profound experiences for me. But the deepest one occurred in 2009 at my higher ceremony as a bhikkhuni.

The male and female Maha-Sangha turned out in full force, even more than the needed number. Their full support was evident. From my heart I said these words: To end all suffering, to realize Nibbana, please raise me up out of compassion. That is, may they raise me into sangha status. And they did, in Pali, reciting the same phrases that the Buddha used.

An indescribable unique experience happened during my ordination of linking up, as though being received into the pure sangha realm, with all the sangha blessings. From that day on, I gratefully enjoy the complete lifestyle that the Buddha compassionately gave his ordained disciples, which is the greatest support for the mind’s development.

Question: What does it mean to renounce? You mentioned in your talks that there are two levels of renunciation—external and internal. Please elaborate.
External renunciation is quite easy, once you start to see the burden of owning anything, and see that you don’t own it in the first place. “Owning” means in control, permanence. But are you really in control? Please contemplate this. If you see the truth you may end up saying thank you to those who take away from you these burdensome possessions.

Personally, I was also struck by the question, “What good is it to sit on a pile of gold, and no one to give it to?” As someone used to say, “I prefer to give with a warm hand rather than with a cold one!”

Because of our so-ingrained sense of self, we are constantly seeking and being and being reconfirmed in the world on the appearance level, desperately trying to find a place of security in an inherently unstable, unsatisfactory existence. We then finally cling to our so-called inner world, the domain of ideas, perceptions, and so on, before realizing the dissolving of inner and outer mind-made boundaries. Realizing more and more that ALL phenomena, whether we call it in or outside—or simply everything experienced—have three things in common: unsatisfactoriness, unstableness, and we cannot claim ownership. The algebra of life experiences brings one to a simple equation: Samsara is movement; stillness is Nibbana.

Question: Please give us an idea of what life is like in a monastery. What is your daily routine like?
Every monastery strikes some balance between group activities, work, and time for quiet reflection and meditation. The emphasis depends upon the priorities and circumstances of each monastery. The workload, for example, may be shared among a few residents or many, with or without helping hands from volunteers. The community’s highest priority may be meditation, or teaching the Dhamma, or offering ceremonies, or guiding those who are newly ordained, or building infrastructure may be the priority at times.

At Dhammasara we presently focus on developing the community, particularly guiding newly ordained members, while also teaching the Dhamma. Also a high priority is meditation time and retreat time for our community members, therefore we allow time for that. Right now we must also focus on developing infrastructure to give our quickly growing community a place to reside. Depending on donations received, the building phase may be long or short.

Thank you Venerable Nirodha for sharing your story.
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!

This interview with Venerable Nirodha from the Dhammasera Monastery in western Australia was conducted by Eng Chin Ho of the Buddhist Fellowship organization in Singapore. This article is reprinted with the kind permission of Bhikkhuni  Nirodha and the Buddhist Fellowship. This article is originally published at http://newlotus.buddhistdoor.com/en/news/d/24397

For additional information, please visit: 

Photo credit:
All photos: The Buddhist Fellowship and Bhikkhuni Nirodha

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.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Overcoming Doubt Through Direct Experience

by Shaila Catherine

Do you ever find yourself denying—or perhaps just doubting—the reality of experiences you have not yourself had?

In the Middle Length Discourses, there is a parable of a person born blind who could not see dark or light forms, colored forms, or the stars, sun, or moon, and so he says: “I do not know these. I do not see these. Therefore, these do not exist.”

This blind person denies what is outside his particular experience. This tendency—to doubt what has not yet been experienced—is relatively common in the Western Dhamma scene. For instance, I have heard people discount the potential for the stability of jhāna—maintaining that it is impossible to master such stable states of concentration in today's world. I have also heard people express doubt in the possibility of liberation from greed, hatred, and ignorance.

Some people, though interested in the Dhamma, have come to think full awakening itself is nearly impossible in today’s world.

But just because we have reviewed our circle of friends and found it devoid of enlightened beings doesn’t mean we should give up hope that awakening can happen to people like us.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Interview with Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

by Olivia Clementine

Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel is a student, teacher, and practitioner in the Longchen Nyingtik lineage. She has studied under the direction of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, her teacher and husband. She is also an author and a mother, as well as the retreat master at Longchen Jigme Samten Ling retreat center in Colorado. Her knowledge and wisdom come out of her thirty years of personal study and practice and her schooling in both anthropology and Buddhism.

I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to be ignited with inspiration from Elizabeth. Finding Elizabeth’s teachings and hearing her point of view, especially from a Western female practitioner, has been very helpful in my own journey.What I appreciate most about Elizabeth’s presence and offerings is her impeccability, her devotion, and curiousity. Thank you Elizabeth for continually offering your insight and knowledge so big heartedly. Let us begin . . .

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ayya Jayati’s Bhikkhuni Ordination: A Personal Perspective

Ayya Jayati is a newly ordained bhikkhuni from Aloka Vihara. The Aloka Vihara nuns trained for many years as monastics at Amaravati and Chithurst monasteries in England before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009, where they established Aloka Vihara. They have a long-term vision to create a rural monastery for bhikkhunis and samaneris to develop and flourish. What follows is Ayya Jayati's story of her earlier monastic life and her recent bhikkhuni ordination.

Bhikkhuni and Bhikkhu Sangha
From a personal perspective bhikkhuni ordination was something which in my earlier monastic years I had not not even considered as a possibility. The monasteries in England provided a very good training in many ways and there was a strong community of committed nuns and monks living a life of renunciation. I felt very grateful to have found a place with teachings and a style of practice that provided me with the support I needed to live in a way so contrary to the culture I had been conditioned for and felt so clearly wasn't the way to peace or happiness. At that time I have to admit being unable to really take in the disparity between the genders. It did indeed seem to me like things were "good enough!" (an oft-used phrase in Amaravati for the practice of contentment) for the purposes of cultivating the path of Dhamma.