Dakini’s Warm Breath
The primary emblem of the feminine in Tibetan Buddhism is the Dakini, or “sky-dancer,” a semi-wrathful spirit-woman who manifests in visions, dreams, and meditation experiences.
In the spiritual journey of the meditator – Simmer-Brown demonstrates in Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism – the dakini symbolizes levels of personal realization: the sacredness of the body, both female and male; the profound meeting point of body and mind in meditation; the visionary realm of ritual practice; and the empty, spacious qualities of mind itself. When the meditator encounters the dakini, living spiritual experience is activated in a nonconceptual manner by her direct gaze, her radiant body, and her compassionate revelation of reality. Grounded in the author’s personal encounter with the dakini, this unique study will appeal to both male and female spiritual seekers interested in goddess worship, women’s spirituality, and the tantric tradition.
All the layers, levels, and subtleties of the dakini symbol and energy are lucidly disclosed here by author Judith Simmer-Brown, chairwoman of Religious Studies at Naropa University and and an acharya (an empowered teacher) of the Shambhala lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Tara Compendium
Practitioners who wish to benefit beings and attain realization based on Tara need to garner her energy and apply it. Not only can we reach a level of personal achievement; we will be able to help sick people, safeguard fearful ones, and pacify mental suffering. Buddha Shakyamuni said that among all buddhas, Tara has exceedingly great resolve, being an emanation of the mother of all the buddhas of the three times, she carries out all their activities. Of utmost significance is her vow to emanate in female form until all of samsara is emptied.
If you are someone with devotion, perseverance, and pure samaya, and exert yourself in Tara practice, you will, by means of the ‘indicating example wisdom,’ before long fully realize the intrinsic great bliss that is ‘indicated ultimate wisdom.’ Tara is a manifestation of discriminating wisdom, the nature of which is luminous wakefulness. She is the heroine who swiftly carries out the activities of all the buddhas, the very identity of enlightened activity—beyond that which we can fathom—and has incredible virtues that surpass any thought….Within this very lifetime you will accomplish the state of the utterly indestructible, undefeatable and unchanging Vajra Tara of the innermost essence, who is prajñaparamita.”
~ Adeu Rinpoche
Source: Rangjung Yeshe Publications
Niguma, Lady of Illusion
Translated with an introduction by Sarah Harding.
Lady of the Lotus Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal
The first Tibetan ever to attain enlightenment was in all probability a woman: Yeshe Tsogyal, closest disciple of Padmasambhava, the master who introduced the Buddhist teachings to Tibet in the eighth century.
This book is not only her biography; it is a colorful and intriguing picture of Tibet at the beginning of the Buddhist era—a time of upheaval, when royal patronage was striving to foster the new teachings in the face of powerful opposition. It gives a kaleidoscopic picture of a vanished world, the heart of which is still alive today.
It also presents an archetypal description of the teacher-disciple relationship, showing how Yeshe Tsogyal attained enlightenment in following the complete Buddhist path, including the Dzogchen teachings.
Passages of profound teachings are offset by episodes of exploit and adventure, spiritual endeavor, court intrigue, and personal encounters. The dramatic story, full of beauty and song, is narrated largely in the first person and offers an intimate glimpse of Tsogyal’s feelings, aspirations, hardships, and triumphs.
Lady of the Lotus Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal is a terma, a Dharma treasure written and concealed for future generations by the accomplished masters Gyalwa Changchub and Namkhai Nyingpo, disciples of Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal.
Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group.
The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava
This lucid translation of a rare Tibetan treasure text makes available for the first time to Western readers the remarkable life story of Princess Madarava. As the principal consort of the eighth-century Indian master Padmasambhava before he introduced tantric Buddhism to Tibet, Mandarava is the Indian counterpart of the Tibetan consort Yeshe Tsogyal. The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava recounts her struggles and triumphs as a Buddhist adept throughout her many lives, and is an authentic deliverance story of a female Buddhist master. Those who read this book will gain inspiration and encouragement on the path to liberation.
Translated by Lama Chonam and Sangye Khandro.
Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro
Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro reads the autobiographical and biographical writings of one of the few Tibetan Buddhist women to record the story of her life. Sera Khandro Künzang Dekyong Chönyi Wangmo (also called Dewé Dorjé, 1892–1940) was extraordinary not only for achieving religious mastery as a Tibetan Buddhist visionary and guru to many lamas, monastics, and laity in the Golok region of eastern Tibet, but also for her candor. This book listens to Sera Khandro’s conversations with land deities, dakinis, bodhisattvas, lamas, and fellow religious community members whose voices interweave with her own to narrate what is a story of both love between Sera Khandro and her guru, Drimé Özer, and spiritual liberation.
Sarah H. Jacoby’s analysis focuses on the status of the female body in Sera Khandro’s texts, the virtue of celibacy versus the expediency of sexuality for religious purposes, and the difference between profane lust and sacred love between male and female tantric partners. Her findings add new dimensions to our understanding of Tibetan Buddhist consort practices, complicating standard scriptural presentations of male subject and female aide. Sera Khandro depicts herself and Drimé Özer as inseparable embodiments of insight and method that together form the Vajrayana Buddhist vision of complete buddhahood. By advancing this complementary sacred partnership, Sera Khandro carved a place for herself as a female virtuoso in the male-dominated sphere of early twentieth-century Tibetan religion.
Women of Wisdom
Women of Wisdom is an exploration and celebration of the spiritual potential of women as exemplified by the lives of six Tibetan female mystics. These women achieved full illumination despite cultural prejudices and a host of other problems that male practitioners do not encounter, and their stories are an inspiration to everyone on the spiritual path.
The landmark study of life stories of great yoginis, known and little known, has been an inspiration for Western women on the path since its publication in 2000.
It features biographies of Ayu-Khando, Dorje Paldron; Machig Labdron; Nangsa Obum; Jomo Memo; Machig Ongjo; and the Liberation story of Drenchen Rema.
Written by Lama Tsultrim Allione, one of the most widely known contemporary Western women teachers of Buddhism. One of the first Western women to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun, she is currently the director of Tara Mandala, a retreat center she founded in Southwest Colorado that has been described as one of the most dynamic new Buddhist centers in North America.
The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi
She Got Up & Did Something: Freda Bedi
‘Among the Tibetans it was whispered that Freda was regarded as an emanation of Tara, the female Buddha of Compassion in Action. Tara (beloved of all Tibetans, religious or not) was hailed as the Divine Mother, to whom they all prayed when in need. It was Tara, rather than the historical male Shakyamuni Buddha, whom they called upon whenever they were in danger, sad, frightened, or sick, because they knew Tara did not merely sit and listen compassionately to their pleas; she got up and did something. This ability to act and act quickly was regarded as a quintessential female quality.
She was the first Western woman to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun—but that pioneering ordination was really just one in a life full of revolutionary acts. Freda Bedi (1911–1977) broke the rules of gender, race, and religion—in many cases before it was thought that the rules were ready to be challenged. She was at various times a force in the struggle for Indian independence, spiritual seeker, scholar, professor, journalist, author, social worker, wife, and mother of four children. She counted among her friends, colleagues, and teachers Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and many others. She was a woman of spiritual focus and compassion who was also not without contradictions.’
This Precious Life
Using the traditional Tibetan Buddhist framework of the Four Reminders – the preciousness of human birth, the truth of impermanence, the reality of suffering, and the inescapability of karma – Khandro Rinpoche explains in This Precious Life why and how we could all better use this short life to pursue a spiritual path and make the world a better place. The book includes contemplative exercises that encourage us to appreciate the tremendous potential of the human body and mind.
“We all want to meditate well and attain some kind of fruition. We all have good intentions and want to do good. Nevertheless, we tend to separate ourselves from our practice: our life and identity on one hand, our Dharma practice on the other. Separating our practice from our life, we tend not to trust it. Then we try to make them coexist, like a marriage, but that doesn’t work. The hesitation that arises from this false separation results in the feeling that sometimes we are Dharma practitioners and sometimes we are not…To reach enlightenment, we must cut through every level of hesitation.”
Written by Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche.
Reflections On A Mountain Lake
This sparkling collection of Dharma teachings by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo addresses issues of common concern to Buddhist practitioners from all traditions. Personable, witty, and insightful, Tenzin Palmo presents an inspiring and no-nonsense view of Buddhist practice. Includes questions and answers on practical Buddhism.
The quality of her mind and authenticity line every page of this extraordinary book.
“There were certainly many great female practitioners in Tibet. But because the lacked a background of philosophical training, they could not aspire to write books, gather disciples, go on Dharma tours, and give talks. When we read the histories, we will notice that nuns are distinguished by their absence. But this doesn’t mean they weren’t there. Even today if you travel to Tibet and go beyond the tourist trail into the regions where there are caves, you will find almost eighty percent of those living up there and practicing are women.”
From Reflections on a Mountain Lake.
When Things Fall Apart
“Every act counts. Every thought and emotion counts too. This is all the path we have. This is where we apply the teachings. This is where we come to understand why we meditate. We are only going to be here a short while. Even if we live to be 108, our life will be too short for witnessing all its wonders. The dharma is each act, each word, each thought we speak.
Are we at least willing to catch ourselves spinning off and to do that without embarrassment? Do we at least aspire to not consider ourselves a problem, but simply a pretty typical human being who could at that moment give him- or herself a break and stop being so predictable?
My experience is that this is how our thoughts begin to slow down. Magically, it seems that there’s a lot more space to breathe, a lot more room to dance, and a lot more happiness.”
~ Ani Pema Chödrön, from When Things Fall Apart.
What drives a young London librarian to board a ship to India, meditate in a remote cave by herself for twelve years and then build a flourishing nunnery in the Himalayas? How does a surfer girl from Malibu become the head of the main international organization for Buddhist women? Why does the daughter of a famed music executive in Santa Monica dream so vividly of peacocks one night that she chases these images all the way to Nepal where she finds the love of her life in an unconventional young Tibetan master?
These are some of the fascinating stories in this remarkable book: Twelve stories of courage, determination and wisdom.
Dakini Power: Twelve Extraordinary Women Shaping the Transmission of Tibetan Buddhism in the West is the first and only book to feature the life stories of the most accomplished female Tibetan Buddhist teachers who bring fresh insights into Buddhism in the West. Their absorbing, personal and provocative accounts provide surprising insights into what this age-old tradition of wisdom can offer to modern seekers.
Featured in Dakini Power are:
- Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche (This Precious Life)
- Dagmola Kusho Sakya (Princess in the Land of Snow)
- Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (Diane Perry) (Into the Heart of Life)
- Pema Chödrön (Deirdre Blomfield-Brown) (When Things Fall Apart; Start Where You Are)
- Khandro Tsering Chödrön (aunt of Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)
- Thubten Chodron (Cherry Greene) (Buddhism for Beginners; Taming the Mind)
- Karma Lekshe Tsomo (Patricia Zenn) (Buddhism Through American Women’s Eyes)
- Chagdud Khadro (Jane Dedman) (P’howa Commentary; Life in Relation to Death)
- Sangye Khandro (Nanci Gay Gustafson) (Meditation, Transformation, and Dream Yoga)
- Roshi Joan Halifax (Being with Dying)
- Lama Tsultrim Allione (Joan Rousmanière Ewing) (Women of Wisdom; Feeding Your Demons)
- Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel (The Power of an Open Question)
Many of us dream of exchanging our day-to-day responsibilities for a heartfelt life full of purpose, but few of us ever get around to doing something about it. The women featured in Dakini Power — contemporary teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, both Westerners and Asians, who teach in the West — are the exception. All twelve women followed their intuition against all odds, made dramatic and unusual decisions, and sometimes had to fight for their survival in order to lead the lives they envisioned. All were criticized—for being too conservative or too rebellious, too feminist or not feminist enough—yet they pulled through with immense determination and bravery. Today all are recognized as accomplished practitioners and brilliant teachers.
What can we learn from these women? How do they handle the cultural differences? How do they deal with the more controversial aspects of Buddhism? The Westerners among them risked alienating their families and closest friends by immersing their lives in a completely foreign culture. Often, this necessitated radical life changes. What did they find on their journey? Was the price they paid worth it to them?
Dakini Power honors the lives and accomplishments of these female pioneers of Buddhism in the West, not least because they seem to have bridged gaps that many of us struggle with. Meeting them in this book, the reader will be inspired in the same way: to let go of old fears, explore new paths, and listen to one’s inner voice with confidence.
Written by Michaela Haas, PhD, author, international reporter, lecturer, and consultant.
The Power Of An Open Question
Life is uncertain. We never know what happens next. And yet, despite uncertainty, we continue to search for a place to rest. Trying to find security in a fluid and changing world defines our struggle as human beings – our predicament. In her book, The Power of an Open Question, author and practitioner Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel takes this predicament by the horns and turns it into an inquiry. She invites us to join her.
“Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel has written a bold, playful and invigorating book about the Buddha’s most important and subtle teachings – the teachings on emptiness. As we read, we walk with her through the world of experience, looking clearly without reaching conclusions. We understand emptiness as a continuous discovery; we see life full of possibility for liberation. The Power of an Open Question is an important contribution to Buddhist literature of our times.”
~ Ani Pema Chödrön’s praise for The Power of an Open Question
Forward by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.
Machik’s Complete Explanation: Clarifying The Meaning of Chöd
Fear, anger, and negativity are states that each of us have to contend with. Machik’s Complete Explanation, the most famous book of the teachings of Machik Lapdrön, the great female saint and yogini of eleventh- to twelfth-century Tibet, addresses these issues in a practical, direct way.
Machik developed a system, the Mahamudra Chöd, that takes the Buddha’s teachings as a basis and applies them to the immediate experiences of negative mind states and malignant forces. Her unique feminine approach is to invoke and nurture the very “demons” that we fear and hate, transforming those reactive emotions into love. It is the tantric version of developing compassion and fearlessness, a radical method of cutting through ego-fixation.
This expanded edition includes Machik Lapdrön’s earliest known teaching, the original source text for the tradition, The Great Bundle of Precepts on Severance (Chöd). This pithy set of instructions reveals that the teachings of the perfection of wisdom are the true inspiration for Chöd. It is beautifully clarified in a short commentary by Rangjung Dorje, the Third Karmapa.
Translated and introduced masterfully by Sarah Harding.
Feeding Your Demons
Are you wrestling with your demons? Struggling with depression, anxiety, illness, an eating disorder, a difficult relationship, fear, self-hatred, addiction, or anger? Renowned American Buddhist leader Tsultrim Allione explains that the harder we fight our demons, the stronger they become. If we want to liberate ourselves from the fight once and for all, we must reverse our approach and nurture our demons.
In Feeding Your Demons, Allione adapts the revolutionary wisdom of Tibet’s greatest female spiritual master for the first time, providing a powerful method for coping with the inner enemies that undermine your best intentions. Based on an extraordinarily simple yet effective five-step practice, Feeding Your Demons outlines a strategy for transforming negative emotions, relationships, fears, illness, and self-defeating patterns. By recognizing your demons, giving them form, and then feeding them, you can free yourself from the battle. And the paradigm shift from fighting to feeding demons can apply not only to your personal challenges but also to the challenges of the world at large.
Enriched with detailed examples to show how others have transformed their demons, Feeding Your Demons will give you remarkable new insight into the forces that threaten to defeat you, along with the tools to achieve inner peace.
Written by Lama Tsultrim Allione.
Sky Dancer: The Secret Life and Songs of Yeshe Tsogyal
Yeshe Tsogyal, consort of Guru Padmasambhava, is the most famous of the enlightened women of Tibet. Women have a special place in tantra, but except for Sky Dancer there are few writings that present the spiritual practices and evolution of female aspirants. Here women are in an eminent position, and a path of practice is given for present-day initiates to emulate.
A lively biography of one of Tibet’s celebrated enlightened women, with extended insight into women’s role in the Tibetan tradition. Hardly an artifact of the past, Yeshe Tsogyal’s life story and detailed instructions to her disciples here included still provide tremendous inspiration for practitioners of today. Keith Dowman supplements this translation with a detailed commentary on the historical background to the text, the tantric tradition, Nyingma lineages and the tantric view of women and the dakini.
“In the profound sutra system, the dakini is called the great mother: Indescribable, unimaginable Perfection of Wisdom, unborn, unobstructed essence of sky, she is sustained by self-awareness alone…thus it is written in the Great Paramita Sutra. In the precious tantric tradition, desireless, blissful wisdom is the essence of all desirable qualities, unobstructedly going and coming in endless space. This wisdom is called the sky dancer, feminine wisdom, the dakini…”
~ Dungse Trinley Norbu
Translated with commentary by Keith Dowman.
Into The Heart Of Life
The real test of our Buddhist practice happens not on the cushion or in the protected space of retreat, but moment-to-moment in daily life, particularly when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. How do we respond? In this book, one of the most respected Western figures of contemporary Buddhism, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, offers insights gleaned from more than forty years of engagement with Buddhist practice. Her perspective is vast, with a well-grounded understanding of how the timeless Buddhist teachings apply to the demands and challenges of modern life.
“Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo takes the core teachings of the Buddha and weaves into them deep personal insights and riveting stories from her unusual history as a member of an extraordinary tradition. It is amazing that no matter how many times you hear these essential teachings, they continue to penetrate deeply. This book provides practical wisdom for anyone interested in bringing the teachings to life.”
~ Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel, author of The Power of an Open Question
“Into the Heart of Life radiates Jetsunma’s enthusiasm for life and makes the Buddha’s teachings readily available so that we can integrate them seamlessly into our being, thus transforming ourselves from the inside out. Readers will feel that Jetsunma is sitting right there with them, talking over a cup of tea.”
~ Thubten Chodron, author of Buddhism for Beginners
Written by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.
Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo’s Quest For Enlightenment
Cave In The Snow chronicles the incredible story of Ani Tenzin Palmo, a remarkable woman who spent 12 years alone in a cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas. At the age of 20, she entered a monastery in India – the only woman amongst hundreds of monks.
Thirteen years later, Tenzin Palmo secluded herself in a remote cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas, where she stayed for twelve years. In her mountain retreat, she experienced unimaginable cold, wild animals, floods, snow and rockfalls, grew her own food and slept in a traditional wooden meditation box, three feet square. She never lay down.
Tenzin emerged from the cave with a determination to build a convent in northern India to revive the Togdenma lineage, a long-forgotten female spiritual elite. She has traveled around the world to find support for her cause and to offer teachings, from her own experience, on practical Buddhism.
Written by Vicki Mackenzie.
The Wisdom Of No Escape and The Path Of Loving Kindness
Pema Chödrön teaches in The Wisdom of No Escape that by embracing all the happiness and suffering, all the intelligence and confusion (that are natural parts of our existence), that it is possible to say yes to life and all it’s manifestations. Doing so opens a wellspring of courage and love within our hearts. In her first book, Pema presents traditional Buddhist wisdom that anyone can relate to.
“Being satisfied with what we already have is a magical golden key to being alive in a full, unrestricted, and inspired way. One of the major obstacles to what is traditionally called enlightenment is resentment, feeling cheated, holding a grudge about who you are, where you are, what you are. Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have.”
~ Pema Chödrön
Women Practicing Buddhism
Individually and collectively, today’s female practitioners are changing the face of Buddhism today, as surely as Buddhist practice is transforming each one of their lives. In Women Practicing Buddhism, you’ll meet a diverse sampling of contemporary Buddhist women, from those who are crucial to the community’s organizational fabric to others who infuse their art and activism with the Dharma.
Contributors include: author Bell Hook; composer, singer, filmmaker, choreographer, and director Meredith Monk; American-born Tibetan Buddhist nun Karma Lekshe Tsomo; former Tricycle editor Helen Tworkov; poet Jane Hirshfield; abbot of NYC’s Village Zendo Pat Enkyo O’Hara; and many more.
Women Practicing Buddhism is a kind of mosaic portrait of the Buddhist women’s movement, revealing some of the many ways that the Dharma returns the embrace of those women who are coming to it and making it their own.
Edited by Peter N. Gregory and Susanne Mrozik.