Women Practicing Buddhism - Contributors

American Experiences

Rev. Hilda Ryūmon Gutiérrez Baldoquín is a Zen Buddhist priest in the Sōtō lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Rōshi. She received ordination from San Francisco Zen Center’s former abbess Zenkei Blanche Hartman Rßshi, served as shuso (head monk) at Green Dragon Temple/Green Gulch Farm Zen Center with Abbess Jiko Linda Cutts, and studies with the Venerable Pema Chödrön. She was born in Cuba, and her life journey has taken her from working-class, immigrant, monolingual Spanish-language origins to intellectual middle-class privileges, all due to many years of formal schooling at the Florida State University in Tallahassee, the State University College at Buffalo, New York, and at Stanford University in California. Ryūmon is invited to work with contemplative communities across the United States, leading meditation retreats for people of color, working with established white convert Buddhist sanghas in addressing issues of race, power, and privilege, and supporting emerging Buddhist communities committed to multiculturalism. Ryūmon is a member of the planning team and faculty for the program in the Contemplative Clinical Practice Advanced Certificate Program at the Smith College School for Social Work. She is also a mentor to emerging leaders, social change activists, and organizers within the Social Justice Program at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. The founder of Dragon Gate Zen, Ryūmon has coauthored and/or served as advisor to publications such as Cultural Considerations in Domestic Violence Cases: A National Judges’ Benchbook; Face to Face: Solving Conflicts Without Giving In; and Taking the First Step: A Guide for Cultural Programming. She has been published in Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly and Turning Wheel: The Journal of Socially Engaged Buddhism. She is also the editor of Dharma, Color, and Culture: New Voices in Western Buddhism.

Virginia Straus Benson has worked for many years in the public policy sphere. She is executive director of the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century (BRC), a peace and justice institute founded by Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International. Benson has directed the center since its founding in September 1993. The center is committed to social change through dialogue and education aimed at cultivating an inclusive sense of community, locally and globally. Its current programs focus on women’s leadership for peace, global citizenship education, and the philosophy and practice of community building. Before joining the center, Benson codirected Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based public policy think tank, which she helped to establish in 1987. During the 1970s she worked in government in Washington, D.C., where she served as a legislative researcher and publisher in the House of Representatives, a financial analyst in the Treasury Department, and an urban policy aide in the Carter White House.

Carolyn Chen is an assistant professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. She received her doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002. A former fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, she is currently a visiting faculty fellow at the American Bar Foundation and the author of Getting Saved in America: Taiwanese Immigrants Converting to Evangelical Christianity and Buddhism, to be published by Princeton University Press.

Ven. Thubten Chodron was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977. She studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhism under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tsenzhap Serkong Rinpoche, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and other Tibetan masters for many years in India and Nepal. She has been resident teacher at Amitabha Buddhist Centre in Singapore and at Dharma Friendship Foundation in Seattle and was coorganizer of “Life as a Western Buddhist Nun,” an educational program in Bodhgaya in 1996. In 2003, she founded Sravasti Abbey, one of the few Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the United States, near Newport, Washington. She is involved in interfaith dialogue, conferences between scientists and Buddhists, meetings of Western Buddhist teachers, and gatherings of Western Buddhist monastics. She teaches Buddhist philosophy, psychology, and meditation worldwide, including in Israel, Latin America, and former communist countries, and she is active in prison work. Her many books include: Open Heart, Clear Mind (1990); Blossoms of the Dharma: Living as a Buddhist Nun (2000), Buddhism for Beginners (2001); Working with Anger (2001); Taming the Mind (2004); How To Free Your Mind: Tara the Liberator (2005), and Cultivating a Compassionate Heart: The Yoga Method of Chenrezig (2006).

Peter N. Gregory joined the faculty at Smith College as Jill Ker Conway Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies in 1999. After receiving his doctorate in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University in 1981, he taught in the Program for the Study of Religion at the University of Illinois for fifteen years. He has also served as the president and executive director of the Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Human Values since 1984, and in that capacity he has directed two publication series with the University of Hawaii Press: “Studies in East Asian Buddhism” and “Classics in East Asian Buddhism.” His research has focused on medieval Chinese Buddhism, especially the Chan and Huayan traditions during the Tang and Song dynasties, on which he has written or edited seven books, including Tsung-mi and the Sinification of Buddhism (1991). He is currently completing a translation of a ninth-century Chinese Buddhist text on the historical and doctrinal origins of the Chan tradition. Since coming to Smith, his research and teaching have increasingly focused on Buddhism in America.

Jane Hirshfield is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her poetry has been called “passionate and radiant” by the New York Times Book Review and her collection of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (1997), was found by the Japan Times to be “indispensable.” A practitioner of Sōtō Zen for over thirty years, she is the author of six books of poems, most recently After (HarperCollins, 2006). Her previous collection, Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award. She has also edited and co-translated three now-classic collections documenting the spiritual and emotional lives of women poets from the past. Her honors include fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Among other awards are multiple selections in the Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize anthologies, the Poetry Center Book Award, and the California Book Award. A former visiting professor at the University of California in Berkeley, Elliston Poet in Residence at the University of Cincinnati, and member of the writing faculty of Bennington College’s MFA program, Hirshfield has been featured numerous times on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac NPR program, as well as in two Bill Moyers PBS specials.

bell hooks, a visionary feminist thinker, cultural critic, and writer, is Distinguished Professor in Residence at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky and among the leading intellectuals of her generation. Her writings address a range of topics, including gender, race, teaching, and media in contemporary culture. Her critically acclaimed love trilogy—All About Love (2001), Salvation: Black People and Love (2001), and Communion: The Female Search for Love (2003)—boldly and eloquently outlines her assertions and questions about a topic that has occupied and inspired human philosophy and art for centuries. Her most recent publications include: The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (2004), We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity (2003), and Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope (2003), a companion to Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994). She is also increasingly becoming known as a writer of children’s books. Since her first book, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, published in 1981—which was named one of the “twenty most influential women’s books of the last twenty years” by Publishers Weekly—hooks has written twenty-two books.

Carolyn Jacobs is the Elizabeth Marting Treuhaft Professor and Dean of the School for Social Work at Smith College. Her areas of professional interest include religion and spirituality in social work practice, social work research, and statistics. She has written and presented extensively on the topic of spirituality in social work, including presentations within the school’s network of field agencies; she is the coeditor of Ethnicity and Race: Critical Concepts in Social Work. Jacobs received her B.A. from Sacramento State University, her M.S.W. from San Diego State University, and her doctorate from the Heller School of Brandeis University. A spiritual director trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, in 2001 she was also elected as Distinguished Practitioner in the National Academies of Practice in Social Work.

Diana Lion is the founding director of the national Buddhist Peace Fellowship Prison Project. A Canadian dharma practitioner, she is a longtime activist and has been doing prison dharma work at BPF since 1998. She is a graduate of Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Community Dharma Leaders Program, a certified trainer in Nonviolent Communication, and on the teaching team of the first Bay Area Buddhist chaplaincy program. She is passionately involved in dharma and diversity issues and has worked in many other activist arenas (peace, women, LGBT, farm workers, and human rights) over the last thirty years.

Eve Myōnen Marko teaches Zen meditation at the Montague Farm Zendo, the Motherhouse Zendo of the Zen Peacemakers. She cofounded Peacemaker Circle International with Bernie Glassman and is a founding teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order. During the 1980s and 1990s she worked with the Greyston Mandala, a Buddhist-inspired network of for-profits and not-for-profits working together to provide jobs, housing, and community services in Yonkers, New York. She is also the author of several books for young people.

Meredith Monk is a composer, singer, director/choreographer, and creator of new opera, musical theater works, films, and installations. A pioneer in what are now called “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance,” Monk creates works that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound in an effort to discover and weave together new modes of perception. Her groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument, as an eloquent language in and of itself, expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies, and memories for which we have no words. During a career that spans forty years she has been acclaimed by audiences and critics as a major creative force in the performing arts. Monk has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1995, two Guggenheim Fellowships, three Obies (including an award for Sustained Achievement), and the 1986 National Music Theatre Award. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and holds honorary doctor of arts degrees from Bard College, the University of the Arts, The Juilliard School, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Boston Conservatory. She has been a Shambhala Buddhist practitioner since 1985, and she has taught “Voice as Practice” at Naropa University, Zen Mountain Monastery, Omega Institute, and other international venues. In October 1999 Monk was honored to perform a vocal offering for His Holiness the Dalai Lama as part of the World Festival of Sacred Music in Los Angeles.

Susanne Mrozik is an assistant professor in the Religion Department of Mount Holyoke College, where she teaches courses on Buddhism and comparative religion. Mrozik was one of the organizers of the conference that inspired this book. She earned her M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School and her Ph.D. from the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University. A specialist in Buddhist ethics, Mrozik has written extensively on the ethical significance of gender, bodies, and emotions and is the author of Virtuous Bodies: The Physical Dimensions of Morality in Buddhist Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2007). Her newest research project concerns the reestablishment of the Therav›da Buddhist nun’s lineage in Sri Lanka.

Rōshi Pat Enkyō O’Hara is the abbot of the Village Zendo in Manhattan. She received priest ordination from Maezumi Rßshi and dharma transmission and inka from Rßshi Bernie Glassman. The example of her teachers encourages her work in the ordinary running of an urban temple and in peacemaking activities. Much of O’Hara’s activism is in the world of HIV/AIDS. An ongoing exploration for her is articulating a Zen Buddhist approach to issues of difference around race, class, sexuality, and health. Working with Bernie Glassman, O’Hara is involved in the design of the Maezumi Institute, a study center for Zen and peacemaking. O’Hara was associate professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she taught video and interactive arts for twenty years.

Sharon A. Suh is the director of the Asian Studies Program and associate professor of World Religions at Seattle University. She received her Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University in 2000 and is the author of Being Buddhist in a Christian World: Gender and Community in a Korean American Temple, published by the University of Washington Press in 2004. She is currently working on a project entitled Sacred Seattle that looks at the role of Buddhism in Seattle’s Asian American communities. She is particularly interested in the transmission of the dharma to younger generations. Prior to moving to Seattle in 2000, she worked as the executive director of the Korean American Museum in Los Angeles and as a researcher for the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California.

Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Asian Philosophy from the University of Hawaii and is currently an associate professor at the University of San Diego. As the author and editor of numerous books on women and Buddhism, a fully-ordained Buddhist nun, and a relentless activist for the rights of Buddhist women around the world, she is a leading scholar of and spokesperson for women in Buddhism. She helped found Sakyadhita: International Association of Buddhist Women in 1987 and as its president has coordinated a series of nine international conferences on issues pertaining to women in Buddhism. Her primary academic interests include women in Buddhism, Buddhism and bioethics, religion and cultural change, and Buddhism in the United States. To date she has published eight books on women in Buddhism: Out of the Shadows: Socially Engaged Buddhist Women (Sat Sriguru, 2006), Buddhist Women and Social Justice (SUNY, 2004), Innovative Women in Buddhism: Swimming Against the Stream (Curzon, 2000), Buddhist Women Across Cultures (SUNY, 1999), Living and Dying in Buddhist Cultures (Asian and Pacific Studies, University of Hawaii, 1997), Sisters in Solitude: Two Traditions of Buddhist Monastic Ethics for Women: A Comparative Analysis of the Chinese Dharmagupta and Tibetan Mūlasarvāstivāda Bhikṣuṇī Prātimokṣa Sūtras (SUNY, 1996), Buddhism Through American Women’s Eyes (Snow Lion, 1994), and Sakyadhita: Daughters of the Buddha (Snow Lion, 1989). In addition to her academic work, she is actively involved in interfaith dialogue and in grassroots initiatives for the empowerment of women. She is also director of Jamyang Foundation, an initiative to provide educational opportunities for women in the Indian Himalayas.

Helen Tworkov grew up in New York City and studied anthropology at Hunter College and the City University of New York. From 1964 to 1966 she traveled extensively in Asia and taught English for six months in both Kyoto and Kathmandu; she also worked in a Tibetan refugee camp in Nepal. Her Buddhist studies have been primarily with teachers of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism and with Maezumi Rōshi and teachers within his Sōtō Zen lineage. She is the author of Zen in America: Five Profiles of American Zen Teachers (published by North Point Press in 1989; reprinted by Kodansha in 1994); in 1990 she founded Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, an independent quarterly, which she edited until 2001. Currently she works as a consultant to Tricycle and divides her time between upstate New York and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Alice Unno is cofounder, with her husband Taitetsu Unno, of the Shin Buddhist Sangha and Dharma School for Children in Northampton, MA. She holds a B.A. and Ed.M. from Smith College and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in School Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She studied Zen under Yasutani Rßshi while living in Japan, as well as Shin Buddhism under leading Japanese teachers between 1962 and 1968. Unno also holds a Master’s Certificate from both Urasenke Tea Ceremony and Ohara Flower Arranging schools. She served for many years as a special education teacher in Northampton Public Elementary Schools.

Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg has served in multiple capacities in the Jewish community—including Hillel director, day-school teacher, and community-relations professional. She is a 1986 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and has served as a congregational rabbi for seventeen years. In the last sixteen years she has studied mindfulness and introduced meditation into the Jewish world as a form that can enliven and illuminate Jewish practice, ideas, and community. She teaches mindfulness meditation in a Jewish idiom to laypeople, rabbis, cantors, and other Jewish professionals and is a senior teacher and director of community outreach of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, a retreat-based program for Jewish leaders. Her extensive writings cover a variety of subjects, including Jewish spirituality, social justice, feminism, and parenting; she is also a major contributor to the Kol Haneshamah prayer-book series. Her CD, Preparing the Heart: Meditation for Jewish Spiritual Practice, integrates Jewish sacred texts and meditation.

Arinna Weisman has studied insight meditation since 1979 and has been teaching since 1988. Her root teacher is Ruth Denison, who was empowered by the great Burmese master U Ba Khin. She has also studied with Thich Nhat Hanh in the Zen tradition, Punjaji in the Advaita tradition, and Tsokney Rinpoche in the Dzogchen tradition. She teaches insight meditation throughout the United States and is the founding teacher of the Insight Meditation Center of Pioneer Valley in Easthampton, MA. She is coauthor of A Beginner’s Guide to Insight Meditation. She is particularly interested in how to manifest wisdom and compassion in the practice of building healthy communities, and so her dharma practice and teaching have been infused with political, antiracist, and multicultural perspectives. She was the first Therav›da teacher, with Eric Kolvig, to lead insight meditation retreats for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community.

Carol Wilson has been involved in practicing and studying Therav›da Buddhism since 1971, including a year-long ordination as a nun in Thailand in the early 1980s. She began leading intensive meditation retreats at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts in 1986. Currently she leads insight meditation (vipassanā) and lovingkindness (metta) retreats at IMS and around the world. Wilson is particularly interested in bridging ancient and more structured forms of transmitting Buddhadharma with forms appropriate for modern Western practitioners. She presently serves as a guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Society, as well as on the board of directors for the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and the Dharma Seed Archival Center. In the past three years, she has been inspired to be a part of the Metta Dana Project, which assists the people of the Sagaing Hills in Burma through education, health care, and the support of their monasteries and nunneries.

Ven. Yifa was born in Taiwan and was ordained as a Buddhist nun at Fo Guang Shan in 1979. After finishing a B.A. in law from National Taiwan University, she went on to receive an M.A. in Comparative Philosophy from the University of Hawaii and a PhD in Chinese Buddhism from Yale University. In 2002 she published a historical study and annotated translation of the Chanyuan Qinggui, The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China and a book dealing with current social issues, Safeguarding the Heart—a Buddhist Response to Suffering and September 11. She has taught at Boston University, McGill University, and Sun Yatsen University, served as abbess of the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center, and currently serves as provost of the University of the West (formerly Hsi Lai University) in Rosemead, California, where she also chairs the Department of Religious Studies. Recently Yifa has been directing the Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program, which provides youth with firsthand spiritual experience. She is involved in various interfaith dialogues such as Gethsemane Encounter and Nuns in the West. Yifa is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Outstanding Buddhist Women Award and the Juliet Hollister Award, for her contribution to peace and interfaith education.