Though women have always played an important role in the dharma, they haven’t always been given the recognition or rights they deserve. Fortunately today we have many examples of contemporary women who’ve paved their own way on the Buddhist path and dedicated their lives to spreading the dharma. Ven Robina Courtin, Pema Chodron, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Kathleen McDonald, Thubten Chodron, Sharon Salzberg, Tsultrim Allione to name but a few.
Join us as we get to know some of them, making use of recorded teachings available online. We plan to examine their contributions to the question of how to live a good life, whatever our gender identification. This is not a space to examine the role of women in Buddhism, but rather to access the riches of some of our most gifted teachers, who happen to be women.
This will be an experimental class, but, at least to begin, we plan to open the class with a guided meditation, then after a short introduction to the teacher, watch a teaching (or excerpt) together, the open up the discussion to the group, before a short closing meditation. Let’s see how it goes!
Week 1: Jestsunma Tenzin Palmo: The Four Noble Truths, part one is here. The other sessions follow on. Look up also the book ‘Cave in the Snow’ for the story of her life, and I can recommend ‘Reflections on a Mountain Lake’, a collection of her teachings
Week 2: Pema Chodron: ‘Making Friends with Yourself’ excerpt is here. You can subscribe to follow the whole course online if you wish. There is plenty more about her and her books on the website. My particular favourite book is ‘The Wisdom of No Escape’. This is the quote I couldn’t remember: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Victor Frankl, Psychiatrist and holocaust survivor
Week 3: Pema Chodron revisited: ‘Why I became a Buddhist’ is here. I read Chapter 12, ‘Empty Boat’ from her book ‘Start Where You Are’, and also this from ‘When things Fall Apart':
“I remember so vividly a day in early spring when my whole reality gave out on me. Although it was before I had heard any Buddhist teachings, it was what some would call a genuine spiritual experience. It happened when my husband told me he was having an affair. We lived in northern New Mexico. I was standing in front of our adobe house drinking a cup of tea. I heard the car drive up and the door bang shut. Then he walked around the corner, and without warning told me that he was having an affair and wanted a divorce.
I remember the sky and how huge it was. I remember the sound of the river and the steam rising up from my tea. There was no time, no thought, there was nothing – just the light and a profound, limitless stillness. Then I regrouped and picked up a stone and threw it at him.”
Week 4: Ven Robina Courtin: The section on Mind is here – about 6 minutes in, and the Ikea clip is here. Here’s another lovely clip if you fancy getting to know her a bit better – about 20 minutes long. And here’s another quote from Einstein: ‘Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.’ The one at the top of the page from Pema Chodron is also relevant to last night’s discussion.
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space.
We experience ourself, our thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Einstein