The Urban Dharma Newsletter... August 13, 2002


In This Issue:

1. New! Message Board and Forum
2. Opening a Citadel of Prayer
Bibliography: Women and the female in Buddhism
4. Book Review: Hidden Spring- A Buddhist Woman Confronts Cancer.
5. Temple/Center of the Week: Zen Center of Los Angeles



1. Message Board and Forum

* http://www.arborwood.com/forums/labuddhistcatholicdialogu/

The Los Angeles Buddhist- Catholic Dialogue has a new message board and forum which includes a Main topic section, a Buddhist topic section and a Catholic topic section. Anyone with an interest in Buddhism, Catholicism, or Dialogue can join. You need to login and get a user-name (any name you choose), and password. That's all there is to it. Check it out.


2. Opening a Citadel of Prayer

* Their order facing extinction, 11 Carmelite nuns end decades of solitude and go dot-com.

'The life we lead, it has to go on,' one says.


Times Staff Writer

August 3 2002

INDIANAPOLIS--Secluded in a fortress of stone, behind thick, high walls to block the world, the Sisters of Carmel of the Resurrection pray.

Their monastery bristles with battlements, commanding a hill. Inside, the 11 aging nuns walk polished halls in austere silence. Their retreat is a blankness of white walls without end, of oak doors shut tight. The only sound is the prayer bell chimes.

The Carmelites of Indianapolis do not teach or nurse or spread the faith, as other Roman Catholic sisters do. Private prayer is their vocation.

Theirs is not a formal supplication on bended knee. It is a meditation. They unfold their souls and they wait for words to come. The sisters pray as they sit in their rocking chairs, watching the birds peck seeds. They pray as they walk through the courtyard garden, a tangle of green.

They venture out of the monastery but rarely. It has been rarer still for them to invite outsiders in. The isolation has brought them joy. It has also brought them crisis.

The Carmelites have not welcomed a new member in a dozen years. Their average age is 70. Two sisters have died in the last few months and another is ill.

To ensure that the contemplative life they cherish will survive them, the nuns have taken a momentous decision. They have forsaken the seclusion that defined them.

They have not given up their two hours a day of private prayer, or their morning and evening silence. They still celebrate a daily Mass. They still make a modest living selling altar bread and prayer books. They still rotate the chores so each sister takes a turn with the laundry, the cooking and the yard work.

But the Carmelites of the Resurrection have opened up their fortress. It has been a startling journey. Nuns of such simplicity that they live on $1 a day have put their future in the hands of an ad agency famous for fast-food commercials. Sisters who were once so isolated they didn't know the Vietnam War had begun have requested advice from the security director for the NFL's Indianapolis Colts--who gave them all team T-shirts.

The Carmelites hired a part-time development director, Linda Hegeman, to represent them. She rounded up an advisory board of two dozen prominent citizens, each with a skill she thought might help the sisters navigate a world they had long since left behind.

The advisors--most but not all Catholics--included a software designer, a public relations specialist, an administrator from the local Catholic college and a former city police chief, now working security for the Colts. The group is eclectic, but effective: Meeting every month or two, its members pushed the nuns to move beyond their original vision of a promotional brochure to consider a punchy online campaign that had them posting their private prayers on the Internet.

Timid at first, the sisters prayed over each suggestion--and ended up taking most of them, with gusto. They now consider their advisors as friends, hosting pizza parties for the board inside the monastery.

"It has been a stretch," Sister Joanne Dewald says.

In the arched hallways of the monastery they helped build, the sisters with hearing aids and white hair are determined to keep stretching. They have discovered unexpected joy in engaging the world. Their revolution has enriched their faith. It has also brought them hope for a future. Nearly halfway through a five-year outreach plan, the Carmelites are speaking with several young women who might be interested in joining.

"The vocation is so dear to us," says Sister Rachel Salute, 76. "To see it dying out.... " She stops. She has been a Carmelite nun since 1953.

"You would go to such extremes," she says, "to prevent your community from dying."

"The life we lead, it has to go on," says Sister Ruth Ann Boyle--at age 45 the youngest by two decades. "Just as much as the work of teachers or nurses needs to go on, the life of prayers must go on."

"It's a calling. It's a service," Sister Joanne says. As a girl, she dismissed the Carmelites as "loony." Now 72, she's the monastery prioress--and she is convinced that when women give their lives to prayer, their devotion can help heal the world. "It's hard to explain this life. It doesn't make much sense," she says. "But you're drawn to it."

Sister Joanne first suggested several years ago that the nuns consider reaching out to young women who might feel that same mysterious call.

The concept was not novel. As the number of nuns in the United States has plunged--from 180,000 in 1965 to fewer than 74,000 today--many orders have tried marketing. Dominican nuns in Michigan ran a commercial on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" with the tagline: "Life is Short. Eternity Isn't." The Sisters of Mercy in New York advertise in bus shelters, asking: "Do You Have a Call Waiting?"

For the Carmelites, though, self-promotion did not come easy.

Like other cloistered sisters--there are at most 4,000 in the U.S.--the Carmelites of Indianapolis live sparingly, eating but one cooked meal a day and sleeping in barren cells with barely enough room for a bed, a desk and a chair.

For decades, they were so sequestered that neighbors had no idea whether nuns or monks lived behind the imposing turrets. The nuns could not leave the monastery, even to visit a dying parent. Relatives could visit just one hour a month, talking to the sisters through an iron grate so thick, even fingertips could not touch.

The nuns' main interaction with outsiders took place through the "turn," a wooden cabinet set on a turntable at the front door of the monastery. Visitors would place messages or packages in the cabinet. A veiled sister on the other side of the wall would spin it, wordlessly, to her. Sometimes, to the nuns' discomfort, Catholic parents seeking a blessing would place a baby in the cabinet. The sister inside would offer a hasty prayer, then whisk the newborn back.

That extreme isolation began to ease in the late 1960s, when the Second Vatican Council called for reforming church life and its rituals.

The nuns started shopping for groceries instead of having them delivered. They ordered their first newspaper subscription. They even began opening their morning Mass to local Catholics; on weekdays, a dozen visitors might gather with them behind the blue glass doors of the chapel.

Even now, however, the nuns keep their forays to the outside world brisk: They buy groceries at Sam's Club (or pick up Subway sandwiches as a treat) and then promptly return. They don't stop to chat. They don't go out for fun. They shun what they call "clutter"--any interaction that distracts them from prayer. Sister Joanne still turns down invitations to address young women at the Catholic college down the street.

So it was a remarkable leap when--at the suggestion of their development director--the sisters invited half a dozen executives from the ad agency Young & Laramore to the monastery two years ago to discuss marketing.

They met in the reading room, the only space in the cloister that has been decorated--with a crystal wind chime, a black-and-white ink drawing of a mountainous landscape, a straight-backed couch with thin pillows. The sisters gather there in a circle to pray aloud each morning. They were uneasy letting strangers in.

The executives were a bit uneasy, too. They expected the sisters might be slightly dotty from their self-imposed exile. Instead, they found them witty, incisive, even irreverent.

In their younger years, in full black habits, the nuns drove bulldozers, dug postholes and hammered roof beams to build the monastery. Now, in sandals and sundresses from Goodwill, they drink diet Mountain Dew and wrestle pillows from their black Labrador retriever, Lucy. They watch documentaries on ancient Greece. Also, "Karate Kid II."

They write prayer books with inclusive language (referring to God as "you" instead of "master"). They joke about their years of suffering in virtual quarantine. They even mock their own devotion to two hours a day of private prayer.

"What am I thinking about? I'm thinking I see a leak in the roof over there. I'm thinking, why has this stock gone from $95 to $2," says Sister Betty Meluch, 70, laughing.

After an hour with the sisters, Paul Knapp, president of Young & Laramore, was captivated. He volunteered at once to take on--free--the job of selling the nuns to the world. His firm had scored big with clever ads that made Goodwill clothes hip and Steak & Shake burgers saucy. The nuns were an irresistible challenge. All he needed was a hook.

"Whether it's a steak burger or a nun, [you have to ask] 'What do you want people to think of when they see them?' It's all about strategic positioning," said Tom Denari, an agency vice president.

Searching for that hook, the marketing team asked the nuns: "So, what do you do?"

"We pray," the sisters replied.

"What do you pray?"

"We pray the news."

Indeed, the sisters devour current events. They read Time, Atlantic Monthly, the Economist, National Geographic, Arthritis Today. Often, a sister will don headphones during morning prayers to catch National Public Radio. After Mass (led by a visiting priest), they take turns discussing world events that merit special prayer.

The ad team wanted to play off that passion. In a flash of inspiration, http://praythenews.com was born.

The interactive Web site offers Carmelite history and a prayer of the day. The nuns post a sample daily schedule (feed the birds, pray, change oil in the Taurus), and essays explaining the contemplative life.

The heart of the site is the News Perspective page, where sisters post essays about current events--from famine in Eritrea to pedophilia in the church, from corporate scandals to the temper of basketball coach Bobby Knight.

"It's like we're raising our antenna, so if someone out there has a calling to this life and is raising her own antenna, we might be able to communicate," says Sister Terese Boersig, 69.

Since http://praythenews.com was launched in March 2001, the site has logged more than 12 million hits. Many readers return once a week to read Sister Betty's take on the Taliban or see what Sister Joanne has to say about Iraq.

Virtual visitors from around the globe have e-mailed prayer requests to the Light a Candle page. Those prayers have opened the nuns' eyes to the struggles they left behind when they took their vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. So many asking for help finding jobs, Sister Ruth murmurs. So many asking for help finding love.

More than three dozen women have contacted Sister Joanne online to talk about Carmelite life, including eight who seem genuinely drawn. One woman explained that the Web site had awakened the same joyous feeling she felt when she prayed at the monastery years before. "It made me wonder once again," she wrote, "whether I am called to religious life."

The outreach campaign forced the sisters to wrestle with the modern world in ways they had never imagined.

They have prayed much over whether to sell their books through the Web site. They reluctantly agreed--on advice from Mike Zunk, the Colts security chief--to conduct background checks on any woman who applies to enter the monastery.

Most dramatic, the sisters have found themselves, for the first time, under pressure to produce something.

The nuns who write the News Perspective face a deadline every Monday. They dread it. For years, they have let their thoughts unroll in languor. As they put it, they have focused on being, not doing. Now, they must direct their musing to a particular topic, then commit their prayers to paper. "A chore," Sister Joanne calls it.

Yet the sisters cannot imagine again withdrawing behind the veil.

"This is transformative," Sister Terese says. "We're not going back."

Adds Sister Joanne: "I don't think we could."

The nuns have found joy in breaking down their cloister. For years, they were convinced that steeping their souls in solitude brought them closer to God. Now, they find spiritual strength from their readers' words on the Web site.

As they pray for a mother to recover from cancer, for an end to civil war, for a raise, for a safe journey, the Sisters of Carmel of the Resurrection feel they are performing a great service.

They no longer pray for the world. They pray with it.


3. Bibliography: Women and the female in Buddhism.

* http://www.Sakyadhita.org


The following is a selection of books about women, the "divine feminine", and the female influence in Buddhism. Most of the books are by women, although male authors are also included. Where possible the number of pages and ISBN are given... Sakyadhita.org


1. Aitken, Molly Emma, ed. Meeting the Buddha: On Pilgrimage in Buddhist India. Riverhead Books (Tricycle), 1995 (370pp).

2. Allione, Tsultrim. Women of Wisdom. London: Arkana, 1984 / New York: Arkana, 1986. ISBN 0-14019-072-4 (282pp). A selection of life stories of great Tibetan women teachers, with a lengthy introduction to the topic of women and the female principle in Tibetan Buddhism.

3. Bartholomeusz, Tessa. Women under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

4. Batchelor, Martine. Walking on Lotus Flowers: Buddhist Women Working, Loving and Meditating. London: Thorsons/Harper Collins, 1996. ISBN 0-7225-3231-8.

5. Batchelor, Martine and Brown, Kerry, eds. Buddhism and Ecology. Cassell, 1992. ISBN 0304303756 (114pp.).

6. Beck, Charlotte Joko. Everyday Zen: Love and Work. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989. ISBN 0-06-060734-3.

7. Beck, Charlotte Joko. Nothing Special: Living Zen. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1994. ISBN 0-06-251117-3 (277 pages). See also the review by Fumyo Mishaga.

8. Benard, Elisabeth. Chinnamasta: The Aweful Buddhist and Hindu Tantric Goddess. Motilal Banarsidass, 1995.

9. Beyer, Stephan. The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. A study of Tibetan beliefs and practices concerning Tara, the Bodhisattva of compassionate activity.

10. Blakiston, Hilary. But Little Dust. Cambridge: Allborough Press, 1991.

11. Blofeld, John. Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin. Boulder: Shambhala, 1978. A study of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, in the female forms of Kuan Yin (Chinese) and Tara (Tibetan).

12. Boucher, Sandy. Opening the Lotus: A Woman's Guide to Buddhism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997. "An introduction to Buddhist philosophy and practice for women." ISBN 0-8070-7308-3 (hardcover), list $18.00 U.S.

13. Boucher, Sandy. Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism (387pp). San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988. An extensive series of interviews with women active in North American Buddhism.

14. Byles, Marie B. Journey into Burmese Silence. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1962.

15. Cabezón, José Ignacio, ed. Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

16. Campbell, June. Traveller in Space: In search of female identity in Tibetan Buddhism.. London: Athlone Press, February 1996. ISBN 0-485-11494-1 (236pp.)

17. Chayat, Roko Sherry, ed. Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, with a foreword by Edward Espe Brown. Boston: Shambhala, 1996. ISBN 1-57062-094-6. A collection of teachings by the late female Roshi Maurine Stuart - a principal American student of Soen Nakagawa Roshi and a teacher at the Cambridge Buddhist Association.

18. Chödron, Pema. Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. Boston: Shambhala, 1994. The author is the abbess of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada, and a senior student of the late Ven. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

19. Chödron, Thubten. Open Heart, Clear Mind. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1990. Thubten Chödron is the seniormost female teacher within the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organisation founded by the late Lama Yeshe.

20. Chödron, Thubten. Taming the Monkey Mind. Lutterworth, Leicestershire: Tynron Press, 1990.

21. Chögyam, Ngakpa. Rainbow of Liberated Energy: Working with Emotions through the Colour and Element Symbolism of Tibetan Tantra. Forthcoming, Aro Books; formerly Longmead: Element Books, 1986.

22. Coleman, Rev. Mary Teal (Ven. Tenzin Yeshe). MONASTIC: An Ordained Tibetan Buddhist Speaks on Behalf of Full Ordination for Women (99pp).

23. David-Neel, Alexandra. Magic and Mystery in Tibet (321pp).

24. Dowman, Keith. Sky Dancer: the secret life and songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. London: Arkana, 1989; originally London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984. ISBN 0-140-19205-0 (379pp). A sacred biography of the Tibetan yogini Yeshe Tsogyel, consort of Padmasambhava and regarded in her own right as a great mystic, teacher and lineage-holder.

25. Dresser, Marianne, ed. Buddhist Women on the Edge: Contemporary Perspectives from the Western Frontier. North Atlantic Books, 1996. ISBN 1556432038 (321 pages). The CIIS Bookstore says of this book: "The essays ... explore issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality; lineage, authority, and the accessibility of Buddhist institutions; monastic, lay, and community practice; the teacher-student relationship; psychological perspectives and the role of the emotions; crossscultural adaptation and appropriation; and how spiritual practice informs creativity, personal relationships, and political/social activism."

26. Drolma, Delog Dawa. Delog: Journey to Realms Beyond Death. Padma Publishing, 1995.

27. Edou, Jérôme. Machig Labdrön and the Foundations of Chöd (244pp). Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1995. A book about the Tibetan Buddhist practice of chöd, founded by the great female mystic Machig Labdrön.

28. Ehrlich, Gretel. Questions of Heaven: The Chinese Journeys of an American Buddhist. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997. "A haunting pilgrimage to one of China's holy mountains." ISBN 0-8070-7310-5 (hardcover), list $20.00 U.S.

29. Feldman, Christina. The Quest of the Warrior Woman: Women as Mystics, Healers and Guides. London & San Francisco: Aquarian, 1994. ISBN 1-85538-323-3 (239 pp). The author co-founded Gaia House, a retreat centre in Devon, England. She is also an international adviser to the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

30. Feldman, Christina. Woman Awake: A Celebration of Women's Wisdom (155pp).

31. Friedman, Lenore. Meetings with Remarkable Women: Buddhist Teachers in America. Boston: Shambhala, 1987.

32. Galland, China. Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna (392pp). New York: Viking, 1990.

33. Grimshaw, Anna. Servants of the Buddha: Winter in a Himalayan Convent. London: Open Letters, 1992. A woman from Lancashire visits a Ladakhi Buddhist convent.

34. Gross, Rita M. Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993. (The online journal CyberSangha offers a review of this book.)

35. Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Guide to Dakini Land: A Commentary to the Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Vajrayogini. London: Tharpa, 1991. A guide to the Highest Yoga Tantra practice of the female Buddha Vajrayogini.

36. Halifax, Joan. The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0-06-250369-3 (240pp). A personal and very moving journey in which Halifax "weaves diverse themes of deep ecology, shamanism and Buddhism into a colorful literary tapestry" [Andrew T. Weil]. An appendix includes the Precepts of the Order of Interbeing by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh.

37. Havnevik, Hanna. Tibetan Buddhist Nuns. Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1990. The definitive work on the subject.

38. Hopkinson, Deborah, Michele Hill, and Eileen Kiera, eds. Not Mixing Up Buddhism: Essays on Women and Buddhist Practice. Fredonia (NY): White Pine Press, 1986.

39. Horner, Isaline B. Women Under Primitive Buddhism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1930 (reprint Delhi: Motilal Barnasidass, 1975).

40. Kabilsingh, Chatsumarn. A Comparative Study of Bhikkhuni Patimokkha. Chaukhambha Oriental Research Studies, vol. 28. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Orientalia, 1984. On the vows and rules of fully ordained nuns (bhikkhuni [Pali] or bhikshuni [Sanskrit]).

41. Kabilsingh, Chatsumarn. Thai Women in Buddhism. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1991.

42. Kalyanavaca, editor, The Moon and Flowers - A Woman's Path to Enlightenment Birmingham:Windhorse Publications, 1997. Brings together essays written by nineteen women who have been ordained within the Buddhist tradition.

43. Khema, Ayya. Being Nobody, Going Nowhere. London: Wisdom Publications, 1987. An introduction to Buddhist practice by a German-born bhikshuni (fully ordained nun) of the Theravada tradition.

44. Khema, Ayya. When the Iron Eagle Flies: Buddhism for the West. London: Arkana, 1991.

45. Khong, Chan. Learning True Love: How I Learned and Practiced Social Change In Vietnam. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993.

46. King, Sallie B., trans. Passionate Journey: The Spiritual Autobiography of Satomi Myodo. Boston: Shambhala, 1978.

47. Klein, Anne C. Meeting the Great Bliss Queen: Buddhists, Feminists, and the Art of the Self (307pp). Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. (Click here to see a reproduction of a thangka of Yeshe Tsogyal in the form of Dechen Gyalmo, the Great Bliss Queen.)

48. Kunsang, Erik Pema. Dakini Teachings: Padmasambhava's Oral Instructions to Lady Tsogyal. Boston: Shambhala, 1990. ISBN 0877735468 (189pp.).

49. Kunsang, Erik Pema. The Lotus-Born: the life story of Padmasambhava. Composed by Yeshe Tsogyal. Boston: Shambhala, 1990. ISBN 0877738696 (321pp.).

50. Law, Bimala Churn. Women in Buddhist Literature. Varanasi: Indological Book House, 1981.

51. Levine, Norma. Blessing Power of the Buddhas (155pp). Describes observable physical manifestations, e.g. relics and other sacred objects, of the Buddhas' blessings.

52. Majupuria, Indra. Tibetan Women (Then and Now). Lashkar, India: M. Devi, 1990.

53. Murcott, Susan. The First Buddhist Women: Translations and Commentaries on the Therigata (219pp). Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1991.

54. Neumaier-Dargyay, Eva K. The Sovereign All-Creating Mind - The Motherly Buddha: A Translation of the Kun byed rgyal po'i mdo. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

55. Norberg-Hodge, Helena. Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. Vintage, 1991. Preface by H.H. the Dalai Lama, introduction by Peter Matthiessen.

56. Norman, K.R., trans. The Elders: Verses II: Therigatha. London: Pali Text Society and Luzac & Company, 1971.

57. O'Halloran, Maura. Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind. Riverhead Books (Tricycle), 1994. Lovely story of a young Irishwoman who became a recognised Zen master in Japan.

58. Palmer, Martin and Ramsay, Jay with Kwok, Man-Ho. Kuan Yin: Myths and Propecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion. London/San Francisco: Thorsons (HarperCollins Publishers), 1995. ISBN 1 85538 417 5 (226pp).

59. Pao-Ch'ang, Shih. Lives of the nuns: biographies of Chinese Buddhist nuns from the fourth to sixth centuries. Trans. by Kathryn Ann Tsai. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1994. ISBN 0824815416 (188pp).

60. Padmasuri. But Little Dust : Life Amongst the Ex-Untouchables of India . Birmingham:Windhorse Publications, 1997.

61. Paul, Diana Y. Women in Buddhism: Images of the Feminine in Mahayana Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985; formerly Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1979.

62. Rhie, Marylin M., and Robert A.F. Thurman. Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1991. A magnificent large-format book of sacred art (statues and paintings) from Tibet (from the art exhibit of the same name). Includes depictions of numerous female Buddhas, bodhisattvas and protectors.

63. Rhys-Davids, C.A.F. and Norman, K.R., translators. Pitakas/Khuddaka: Poems of Early Buddhist Nuns (Therigata). Headington, Oxford: Pali Texts Society, 1989. ISBN 0860132897 (233pp).

64. Roberts, Bernadette. The Experience of No-Self. Boulder, Colorado: Shambala, 1984. A practising Catholic's experience of anatta or no-self.

65. Salzburg, Sharon. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (193pp). Shambhala. Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and Barre (Massachusetts) Center of Buddhist Studies.

66. Savvas, Carol D. A Study of the Profound Path of gCod: The Mahayana Buddhist Meditation Tradition of Tibet's Great Woman Saint Machig Labdrn. Ph.D. dissertation: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990 (493 pp). A detailed study of the origin and practice of chöd with translations of many essential texts and commentaries.

67. Seneviratne, Maureen. Some Women of the Mahavamsa and Culavamsa. Colombo: H.W. Cave & Co., 1969.

68. Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tibetan Buddhism. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-691-03380-3 (291pp). A riveting look at the little-known role of female teachers and lineage-holders in the Vajrayana tradition. Essential reading for Tibetan Buddhist women.

69. Shin, Nan (pseud.). Diary of a Zen Nun: Every Day Living. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1988.

70. Sidor, Ellen S. A Gathering of Spirit: Women Teaching in American Buddhism. Cumberland (R.I.): Primary Point Press, 1987.

71. Srimala, Breaking Free : Glimpses of a Buddhist Life Birmingham:Windhorse Publications, 1997. The remarkably honest, moving, and often very funny story of a woman's journey to spiritual freedom.

72. Subhuti (Alex Kennedy). Women, Men and Angels. Birmingham: Windhorse Publications, 1996. An exposition of the provocative views of Sangharakshita, the founder of the Western Buddhist Order/FWBO, on women and men in the spiritual life.

73. Tsomo, Karma Lekshe, ed. Buddhism Through American Women's Eyes. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1995. ISBN 1-55939-047-6 (180 pp). A selection of essays "by practitioners from the Theravada, Japanese Zen, Shingon, Chinese Pure Land, and Tibetan traditions, who share their thoughts on Buddhist philosophy, its practical application in everyday life, and the challenges of practicing Buddhism in the Western world."

74. Tsomo, Karma Lekshe, ed. Sakyadhita: Daughters of the Buddha. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1989. Lekshe is a bhikshuni (fully ordained nun) in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and is Secretary of Sakyadhita International. She founded the Jamyang Chöling Institute for Buddhist Women in India and is currently in the Philosophy Department at the University of Hawai'i. This book is a collection of essays and presentations by women who attended the first international conference of Buddhist women, with significant content relating to the ordination of nuns.

75. Tsomo, Karma Lekshe. Sisters in Solitude - Two Traditions of Buddhist Monastic Ethics for Women - A Comparative Analysis of the Chinese Dharmagupta and the Tibetan Mulasarvastivada Bhiksuni Pratimoksa Sutras. New York: SUNY Press, 1996. ISBN 0-7914-3090-1 (paperback) or 0-7914-3089-8 (cloth), 192 pp. This landmark book is the first translation into English of two versions of the Bhikshuni Pratimoksha Sutra, the precepts and rules of conduct for fully-ordained Buddhist nuns.

76. Tulku, Tarthang, trans. Mother of Knowledge: The Enlightenment of Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal, by Nam-mkha'i snying-po, ed. Jane Wilhelms. Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1983. Another translation (see Dowman, above) of the sacred biography of the Tibetan yogini Yeshe Tsogyel.

77. Willis, Janice D., ed. Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1989; reprinted 1995.

78. Willson, Martin. In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress. London: Wisdom Publications, 1986.

79. Wilson, Liz. Charming Cadavers: Horrific Figurations of the Feminine in Indian Buddhist Hagiographic Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.


4. Hidden Spring: A Buddhist Woman Confronts Cancer

by Sandy Boucher

* http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0861711718/wwwkusalaorg-20/


"It is the nature of all things that take form to dissolve again." - the Buddha

In October 1995 I went to a hospital in Oakland, where I live, for the medical test known as a sigmoidoscopy. Although I had been experiencing symptoms, I did not for a moment anticipate that there could be a serious problem. I expected to be told that I had some minor, easily corrected condition. But the test, instead, opened the door into the world of hospitals, surgery and chemotherapy. The sigmoidoscopy showed a large tumor in my colon; a later colonoscopy confirmed it to be malignant. In a week I was having major surgery, and a month later began a course of chemotherapy that was supposed to last forty-eight weeks. My work, my intimate relationship, my home, my relations with friends, my body — every element of my life seemed sucked up into a dizzying vortex.

The one still point in this turning world was the Buddhist practice I had been cultivating for twenty years. The formal meditation practice served me: all those hours of sitting still while emotions raged in me, while my body clamored for relief, while my mind tortured me in myriad ways. I had learned to be there for it all — to attend to my sensations, recognizing in that moment, as painful or imperfect or frustrating as it was, that this was the actual texture and content of my life. And then to experience its changing — because I noticed that nothing ever stayed the same — and to know these thoughts, emotions and sensations as the incessant flow of phenomena. This practice had steadied me through major crises in my life, providing a reliable base point to which to return, no matter what else was going on. During those years I had been cultivating, as well, an attitude of spaciousness, acceptance, compassion for others and myself. This training and its attendant cast of mind served me in the most trying times of my encounter with cancer, and sometimes deserted me. My years of work with a unique and powerful teacher gave me some tools to meet the requirements of the illness and its treatment, when I could, and the compassion to be patient with myself and begin again, when I couldn't. I have tried to reveal how I applied the practice and benefited from the Buddhist perspective in many of the most difficult situations, hoping that my experience may be of use to the next person who opens that door.

My entry into the rich sustaining tradition of Buddhism began in 1980 when I began to sit on a pillow and meditate. For the first three years I thought I would just learn how to do the meditation, and have nothing to do with the "furniture" of the religion out of which it comes. Even so, because I am a curious person and like to orient myself in a new activity, I began to study the texts of Buddhism, listen to what teachers said, learn about the Asian roots of Buddhism; as I understood more, I turned to Buddhist principles to shed light on my experience. In a difficult situation, I would hark back to my reading or the insights I had gained in meditation, and ask myself what would be the action that would best promote the welfare of all concerned.

Over the twenty years' time since I first sat down on a pillow and tried to pay attention, I have been doing meditation with more or less faithfulness, both by myself and with groups and with my principal teacher Ruth Denison in her center in the Mojave Desert of California. Ruth is one of the first-generation Western women who brought Buddhist practice to us in the United States. She had studied and meditated in Burma with a noted Theravada Buddhist teacher, who asked her to return here to teach. I myself went to Asia, where I lived for a short time as a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka, and stayed in monasteries in Thailand and Burma. As part of my life as a writer and teacher, I regularly study the texts of Buddhism, and keep on meditating.

Most of all I have tried to apply the Buddhist principles in my daily life. That morning in the G.I. (Gastro-Intestinal) Laboratory at Summit Hospital gave me an opportunity. I remember the doctor, a tall African-American man, talking to me after the test was completed. "When the growth is that big, we're ninety percent certain it's cancer. I'm calling your doctor right now. We want you in the hospital for major surgery in a week."

I am not a very spiritually adept person. Mostly I plod along, failing often, succeeding sometimes in my efforts at concentration and right action. But my years of practice and study had given me an understanding of life's task. So that when I received the news of cancer, I understood, Oh, yes, what is required of me now is that I be fully present to each new experience as it comes and that I engage with it as completely as I can. I don't mean that I said this to myself. Nothing so conscious as that. I mean that my whole being turned, and looked, and moved toward the experience...

Returning from the test, with the doctor's voice echoing in my head, I walked up the back steps to my house. "Well, I'm fifty-nine years old," I thought. " I've published four books, I've experienced marriage and many intensely engaging love affairs, I've done honest political work, I've traveled, I've lived my life as fully as I could. If this is the end, that will be all right."

Then I walked in the door, through the kitchen and into the living room where Crystal lay on the couch. She had been up most of the night working on a music project; I had seen her sleeping there when I left an hour or two earlier. Now she sat up and looked at me, her face creasing with concern. "What is it?" she asked. I walked across to the couch, knelt on the rug and burst into tears. Crystal put her arms around me, as I choked out the news. And then she too was crying, as both of us felt the sadness of the coming ordeal, the terror that my life might end.

Buddhist practice does not prevent anything, it does not shield us from anything. It softens and opens us to meet everything that comes to us.


5. The Zen Center of Los Angeles

* http://www.zencenter.com/

What's old and what's new at ZCLA

The Zen Center of Los Angeles has a 30-year history as a Zen training and practice center. Always changing to meet the needs of its members, it now grows under the leadership of a 3rd-generation American Zen teacher, Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Abbot. Sensei is a successor of Roshi Bernie Tetsugen Glassman who was Maezumi Roshi's first successor. ZCLA continues its strong tradition in the practice of zazen and Zen Buddhist liturgy, and now includes the path of service and the path of community.

The Temple Seal was passed to our new abbot on June 12, 1999.

Name of ZCLA: Our masthead now reads "Buddha Essence Temple." It sounds new, yet it's old. "Buddha Essence" is the translation into English of our Japanese name "Busshin-ji."

Zendo: Our zendo has a new look based on its use for zazen and talks. Our old Manjusri Bodhisattva presides over zazen and sesshin from a new altar. A newly carpeted area lets us gather to hear and participate in talks.

There is a new Kanzeon Room near the interview room where the Bodhisattva of Compassion will encourage private reflection.

Buddha Hall: Our new Buddha Hall is our old Godo. Here Shakyamuni Buddha, the original temple image of ZCLA, presides over religious ceremony.

In the Buddha Hall, we chant the Prolonging Life Kanzeon Sutra (Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo) and the Gate of Sweet Nectar (Kan Ro Mon) in English and chant the names of our lineage in their own original languages — Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, and English, experiencing a new intimacy with what's older than old. We also chant the names our women ancestors.

Sunday service is the Gate of Sweet Nectar, when we blow the conch shell to declare the raising of the Bodhi Mind and invite and feed the hungry spirits. Members bring nonperishable food offerings which are collected for a neighborhood food bank.

Dharma Hall: Maezumi Roshi's old residence (formerly the Inryo) is the new home of our history as a sangha. Photographs of our teachers, and our teachers' teachers, pictures of our early days, mementos, and calligraphy are displayed. This building eventually will house ZCLA's archives, and be used as a library. It is also used for meetings and classes.

Also, in the Dharma Hall, we share our life experiences in Practice Circles, which are based on the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Though circles are new to ZCLA, human beings have been gathering in this way since time immemorial.

Sangha House: The Sangha House has always been a hub for members and newcomers to ZCLA where the news of the moment and inter-sangha news is posted on bulletin boards, and calendar and program information is available. Our new dining room and the ZCLA Bookstore are housed on the ground floor.

Grounds: In the midst of our historical Shuso pines, a hand-carved Kanzeon Bodhisattva now graces our backyard, providing a new site for outdoor religious ceremony and meditation. The mural on the back wall of the Sangha House lends its creative energy and its unifying message to ZCLA.

Programs: ZCLA continues its strong tradition of Zen practice and study. Zazen and interviews are offered at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. from Wednesday through Friday, with zazen and a talk on Thursday evening. Saturday and Sunday schedules include 8:30 a.m. Service, Zazen, Working Together, and Lunch, as usual. We continue to offer introductory classes at various levels every Sunday morning whether the center is open or closed. Newly offered on the weekends are Training and Practice Circles and a Day of Reflection on the Precepts.

Practice circles led by Sensei Egyoku and practitioners are ongoing, forming around various themes and needs of the members: for example, there are Precept Circles, occasional Men's Circles, Women's Circles, Twelve-Step & Zen Practice Circles, and Family Circles. Healing Circles are based on the teachings of Unknowing, Bearing Witness, Right Action, and Letting Go. We are also exploring the Way of Council as a means of strengthening inter-sangha relations.

A Sesshin led by Sensei Egyoku or a senior student takes place monthly. Each sesshin uses a study text, which participants read and study together. Koan, sutra study, shikantaza, working and living together, the precepts, service to self and others, and compassion practices are among the means used to study the self.

Starting in October 1997, Sensei Egyoku began Intensive Practice/ Study Months, which focus on specific practice themes. October was devoted to the Buddhist compassion practices, and a Head Trainee was installed for a year. In addition to three month long intensives, each Head Trainee will undertake a personal dharma study project which will be presented to the Sangha. Each will end their year of training with Dharma Combat. Under this system, successive Head Trainees will have overlapping training years.

Inter-sangha and interfaith programs include talks by visiting Zen teachers, Shabbat service and High Holy Days are led by Rabbi Don Ani Shalom Singer Sensei, and an annual spring Christian/Buddhist retreat led by Fr. Robert Jinsen Kennedy Sensei.

New programs also include community involvement and emphasize bearing witness and engaged Buddhism. In addition to supporting our neighborhood food bank, our regular Working Together Practice periods will occasionally extend into the street — we'll do street cleanup and begin to explore ways we can interact with our diverse neighborhood. We are developing programs for Children and Families, all with an emphasis on Zen practice reflecting the all-inclusiveness of our 20th Century American lifestyles.

Membership: We welcome as members all who endeavor to live the Buddha's Way, encompassing all life situations. Practitioners range from young children to those in their 70's and are from many cultural and economic backgrounds. Some members run satellite sitting groups in their homes, teach beginning zazen to newcomers, and develop meditation programs such as at the Los Angeles Juvenile Hall.

Finances: ZCLA is supported by its members and friends. The Zen Mountain Center, formerly a branch of ZCLA, is now an independent center.

ZCLA expects that current income will adequately support its programs, staff, and operations. For capital improvements, such as badly needed roofing, extensive painting, plumbing improvement, or new building projects, we will fundraise and explore the possibility of obtaining grants. We hope to expand ZCLA's small endowment fund through the generosity of its supporters.

Looking Towards the Future: The Zen Center of Los Angeles/Buddha Essence Temple continues to build on the strong foundation laid by the many people who have come and gone through our temple gate. As Zen practitioners, we continue to look at our lives and the way we live through Zazen, Religious Ceremony, Service to Self and Others, and to Community. How we live our lives together is a primary commitment for our thriving city community.

ABBOT: Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao



The Urban Dharma Newsletter Archives:



To Subscribe or Unsubscribe:



http://www.UrbanDharma.org ...Buddhism for Urban America