Friday, August 28, 2015

Golden Ribbons in the Tree of Life

I first heard about the 14th Sakyadhita Conference from a friend at Buddha Prabha Vihara, my local Buddhist temple. I was asked to help recruit 100 volunteers. At that time, I thought it would be very complicated to prepare for such a large international conference. I was not brave enough to reject this assignment, but I also wasn’t confident that I could recruit 100 people. Luckily, I had my parents to consult! They told me it’s never wrong to try . . . so I decided to do it.

Just like my other volunteer experiences, I learned how to manage my time well, juggling my studies and my duties as a volunteer. But this time I got more! Although we received six weeks of training beforehand, I think the real training happened during the conference. We certainly ran into problems again and again, but none were insurmountable. I learned how to serve participants and the Bhikkhuni Sangha from all over the world wholeheartedly, and I also made many friends from different cultural and religious backgrounds. Especially, I want to thank Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo and our volunteer coordinators for their advice, which helped me become confident to serve the participants more sincerely.

Each and every single moment during the Sakyadhita conference is like a gold ribbon tied to one of the branches of my tree of life, and I'll never put it down.

The warmth will always be in my heart.

Pricella, Yogyakarta

Monday, August 24, 2015

White Robes, Saffron Dreams: A Look at Gender Inequality in Thai Buddhism

Hilary Cadigan 
June 6, 2014

One of the most distinct illustrations of gender inequality in Thailand is found in its most entrenched institution: religion. In her fascinating new documentary, White Robes, Saffron Dreams, acclaimed filmmaker Teena Amrit Gill explores the discriminatory treatment of women within Thai Buddhism, a topic that has gone largely unexamined in the past.

One of the Buddhist nuns depicted in the film.

The 43-minute documentary, which was released last year and is currently on the festival circuit, follows the story of a Buddhist monk and a Mae Chi (Buddhist nun), and explores the sharp difference in opportunities for males versus females in Thailand, a country that is 95% Buddhist.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Buddhist Reflections on Healing, Letting Go and How Suffering Can Lead to Freedom

Ayya Yeshe Bodhicitta

Letting go is a big theme in Buddhism. It has also been a big theme in my own life. Change and the need to let go are issues we don’t mind hearing about in the context of other people’s lives, but one we don’t really like taking place in our own. But the fact is, sooner or later we all have to accept change, whether we want it or not.

Change, cycles of life and death, creation, expansion and decline are as natural as the seasons. Change can also be a liberating thing, and without it, life would be stale. Change is not always negative. It means we can grow and learn and expand. It means unpleasant situations can transform into more positive situations, but it can also mean we suffer. We can all appreciate the beauty and tempests of nature. We enjoy the blossoming flowers in spring and the new life that emerges from the earth, bringing renewal. We can also enjoy the graceful surrender of autumn as leaves fall and dark comes earlier. Life would be very dull if nothing ever changed. But being born, things must also die. Meeting, they must part and reaching their highest arch, they must also decline. This is a natural law. Somehow because we live separate from nature and mostly in our heads, we have lost sight of this natural law. We hide from old age, try to create permanent security and try to insulate ourselves from anything nasty that could disturb our comfort too much.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Excerpt from Time to Stand Up

Excerpt from "Time to Stand Up"
An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth
The Buddha’s Life and Message through Feminine Eyes

North Atlantic Books
Berkeley, California 2015

Most scholars agree that what is recorded as the Buddha’s story—from conversations committed to memory for four hundred[1] years after his death before they were written down—is subject to interpretation.[2]  The men who recorded his teaching, while offering an extraordinary and vital service, did so with a natural bias for the worldview they inhabited, where women’s perspectives were largely invisible. In this book, I aim to bring a feminine view to a tradition that became one of the most androcentric in the world; Buddhism has been recorded almost entirely from a male perspective. I want to do this because the enlightenment narratives in contemporary Buddhist-inspired movements are deeply informed by a hierarchical, patriarchal, and often misogynist Buddhist monasticism.

Image 1: Before boarding the Climate Train, September 15, 2014, Oakland-Berkerly, CA. Ayya Santacitta and Ayya Santussika with poster made by her granddaughter.
In a very general, broad brushstroke, at the heart of androcentric Buddhism there tends to be a psychological bias toward nihilism. This is a life-denying and somewhat aloof disregard for the world, in which personal salvation and the transcendent are held as primary, and engaged compassionate action, while valued in rhetoric and as an ideal, doesn’t necessarily translate into a sharing of resources or support for the impoverished or marginalized. Followers of Buddhist traditions are just as prone as others to accumulating wealth and landed property for themselves, while displaying insensitivity to issues of economic equity and social justice around them. As we face a burning world that needs proactive and effective response, we have to evolve beyond our tendency toward introversion and narcissism as Dharma practitioners—which is often justified by a cynical ethos that sees the world as samsara[3] (illusory and bound to suffering), and therefore not overly worthy of redemption.