Tuesday, January 27, 2009

gelongma palmo had two eyes

back in sarnath for a brief spring visit. reminding me vividly of my stay here before, none of my three teachers really has much time to read, despite the genuinely warm reception they gave me. i leave in two days for dharamsala, where the ever generous geshe rinchen ngodrup la remains eager to work on anything regarding nuns and vinaya!

meanwhile, i met some tibetan and himalayan nuns from Thrangu Tara Abbey in nepal. (photo above comes from their website.) thrangu tara abbey has in excess of 200 nuns and includes a vigorous study program, as well as facilities for nuns to do three-year meditation retreat. nine nuns are currently in solitary retreat there at the moment.

in light of conversations about full ordination for nuns in the tibetan traditions, and especially in terms of their own level of interest, the following conversation i had with one of the thrangu nuns may be worth reporting. she was clearly devoted to his holiness karmapa, and was in sarnath at this monastery to participate in pujas scheduled to coincide with a visit by hh karmapa.

we were seated on the steps to the main assembly hall, in the midst of many of the monastery monks, waiting for the fireworks that a chinese disciple had organized in celebration of chinese new year. i gave this nun a copy of a book that had been produced recording his holiness the dalai lama's address to nuns last year. she asked what it was about and i explained that it had a good deal to say about full ordination for tibetan nuns as bhiksunis. she said at once said, in tibetan, 'yes we need this. we need this book and we need gelongma vows. we are waiting for that, and when it comes we will be first in line.' this was definitely loud enough for the monks around her to hear. and they all became attentive to her comments. one monk was listening while standing in front of us holding some fireworks (not lit), and she said, with obvious humor but also quite firmly, 'please don't point that at me. i need my eyes. i need to have my eyes for when there is gelongma ordination! it could be one of the requirements, to have both eyes! anyway, i need my eyes. did gelongma palmo* have only one eye? did arya tara? no, they did not. so i also need
both my eyes, just like them. so please do not point that at me!'

the monks laughed in good humor and the one holding the fireworks shuffled off chuckling. this outspoken and skillful nun is tibetan, from the border area near nepal, and she was just spectacular.

fortunately for her, she is following a lama who is supportive of her aspirations, and probably that is not a coincidence!

* gelongma palmo is one of the very few fully ordained nuns noted in the transmission lineages of tibetan buddhism, and so serves as a model inspiring female practitioners in particular. her photo appears in the frontispiece to the book in question by HHDL. gelongma is the tibetan term for bhikshuni, or fully ordained nun.

Monday, January 26, 2009

read the speech

for those who are curious, here is a link that will take you to the text contained in the booklet mentioned in the above blog entry. the pdf begins with the comments made by his holiness the dalai lama in tibetan, followed by a translation into english. the english text begins on page 22 of the pdf file.

read the speech by his holiness the dalai lama, addressed to tibetan nuns in mundgod, south india.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

taking the text in hand

while in sarnath, i attended a private audience with his holiness the karmapa, in the company of my korean friend, chonyi-la, and her mother and sister. when i first entered the room, i took the opportunity to offer 50 copies of the book mentioned in the next blog entry - a speech by his holiness the dalai lama, for and about tibetan nuns - to his holiness the karmapa - as consistent and clear a supporter of nuns as one could hope to find among lamas.

i placed the books on his table when i first entered the room, and even before we were seated, his holiness the karmapa had taken the book in hand and begun reading, nodding in agreement...