Thursday, February 14, 2013

January 6, 2013
2nd day of Sakyadhita Conference of International Buddhist Women.  Theme: Grassroots of Buddhism

Academics and devotees, lay and clergy, Europeans, North Americans, Australians and Asians.  I’m probably playing mind games, but being asked about Buddhism in my life is oddly disturbing as I’m such a dilettante here.  I've been consciously studying Buddhism for 7 years, but don't feel that I'm a "Buddhist."  I'm often asked why I've come to India.  Only my desire to learn has brought me here, but it takes me a while to realize that. 

January 9

Three of us walk/stroll to the Japanese Peace Pagoda near the hotel.


One of the women, a nun, tells me about relics, one of which is buried across the lake.  There are many, many of them all around the world, small, some like pearls, she says.  I wonder how there can be so many and she tells me that they multiply.  I say, “like gall stones?” and she gives me a funny look.  I regret my unwise speech and hope I haven't hurt her feelings.  Relics are, of course, symbols of devotion, ways of renewing one's belief with an object of love.

The walk around the lake was lovely and the unearthed relic burial site in a garden, very peaceful and well kept. We walk around in a clockwise direction (circumambulated) the pagoda 3 times (a sign of respect).  Again, I wish I could be more devotional, but my skepticism (or something I haven't figured out yet) stops me.  Even though my back was hurting with the slow walking, I appreciated the sense of peace and am content to know that Gautama Buddha's presence here has caused it to be so.

Walking in the neighborhood, for the first time I see the homes of people in this region close up.  Cows lay about like cats in their most comfortable positions; crows land on the cows to preen them, finding tasty morsels.  Sculptures of cow dung mixed with straw dry in the sun.  They are the primary fuel used in this area and they contribute to the smog. We walk by a small tourist area near the relic garden, with low key salesmen. J bought a little plastic prayer wheel driven by solar power chip.


Back at the tea shop outside the monastery, life again seems mundane again as children laugh and ask for anything in our pockets.  Is this any more real than the idea of a relic of the Buddha being buried only a short distance away?

Thoughts on Buddhism.  We strive to control wildness--even of thoughts…but should they be tamed/trained?  Don’t we love the wild? When we are the slaves of our minds, untamed thoughts can be harmful, but can't wild thoughts also be creative?

Shamata:  calm, quiet.  The reason why we are not ‘awake’ is because of ego.  Studying dharma creates a well balanced, healthy ego, with self-esteem.  This is a preparation for looking through it (the ego) and losing it (even momentarily).

Shamata is calming
Vipassana is analyzing.

If we try to dissect and analyze before enough calming, the insights will not be deep enough.  And so the meditation calms the mind before the analysis.  Shamata is merging of subject & object (breath).  Then one can turn awareness back to itself and watch the mind.  Thoughts are not the problem; identifying with the thoughts is the problem.  Thinking that we are our thoughts and then clinging to that identity that thinks causes suffering.  All of our beliefs are merely the result of our thinking.

‘Space’ is the nature of the mind … there is just awareness there … it cannot be claimed.  The open, awake mind doesn’t project because there is no place.  The word for “awake’ in Tibetan is more than ‘space’ but ‘expanding,’ that is, in process.

Meditation makes attention very sharp and precise so that when we look at the thoughts we can see clearly what they are without ego projection.  (Haven’t reached that clarity myself!)

Talk by Tenzin Palmo~~Everything goes with you on the path: both obstacles and opportunties Life is the gymnasium of the soul.

January 9

The conference is coming to a close.  Panel papers are stimulating and relevant--focusing on practical issues and women’s empowerment.  A monk from Sri Lanka has been the only male to speak and he was eloquent and moving, encouraging and supporting women's desire to be ordained in all Buddhist traditions.  Thai women (from a population primarily Buddhist) are not allowed ordination.  I find this amazing as so many of  the Northern California Buddhist teachers were trained (and ordained) in Thailand.  One would think that they would boycott or speak out against the sexism of the monks in their tradition. (Maybe they are doing this and I am unaware.)
Here we are, a conference of academics, monastics, and feminists.  Many are doing wonderful things to promote peace and understanding between cultures.

Workshop about international interfaith dialogue (led by Gabriella Frey) with the passionate Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo as co-participant was a highlight for me. Fascinating and valuable thoughts and actions are going on in the world to get people of faith together to learn how to get along.  Gabrielle Frey of the European Council:  Social harmony can’t be complete if neighbors don’t at least know something about each others’ religions.  We don’t have to believe the same things, but we need to be tolerant and know that we have the same goals of happiness and harmony.

A few of the topics at the conference:
Buddhist Women of the Himalayas
Ambedkar's Perspective on Women in Indian Society: Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar ( knew nothing about this 'untouchable' who became a writer of the Indian constitution)
The Changing Roles of Buddhist Nuns and Laywomen in Cambodia
Than Hsiang Kindergarten:  A Case Study
Self-Esteem, Self-Promotion and No-Self
Identity and Samsara
The Good Girl Syndrome:  Feminism and Being an Authentic Practitioner
Lay Buddhist Women in Buryatia
Beyond Text: Rebirth Narratives of Model Women in Buddhism
Dress and Liberation:  Ordained Buddhist women in Britain
The Council of Europe's Investigation on Religious and Cultural Relativism
Gender Equality among Buddhist Clerics in Korea
Buddhism and Aging
Why Educating Nuns is Important in the 21st Century
So many more!!

1 comment:

indu said...

Meditation makes attention very sharp and precise so that when we look at the thoughts we can see clearly what they are without ego projection. (Haven’t reached that clarity myself!)
i think "Meditation makes attention very sharp and precise..." period.i too am not clear how 'ego' plays a part..