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.
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.
Niguma, Lady of Illusion
Translated with an introduction by Sarah Harding.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Luminous Moonlight: The Life of Do Dasal Wangmo
Tara Mandala launched Dakini Day, July 2, 2013, with the launching of ‘Machig Publications’ with the groundbreaking release of “Luminous Moonlight: The Life of Do Dasal Wangmo,” the great-granddaughter and lineage holder of the great Terton Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje.
From Tara Mandala:
On July 2, 2013 Tara Mandala is launching a publishing company entitled Machig Publications with their first book, “Luminous Moonlight: The Life of Do Dasal Wangmo” translated by Sarah Schneider, with an extensive introduction by Lama Tsultrim Allione. We are pleased to announce the publication of this first book, which is a biography of the great-granddaughter of Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800-1866), the tertön (treasure revealer), of the Dzinpa Rangdröl cycle of teachings, which is the focus of the seven-year Gateway program being initiated this week at Tara Mandala.
Do Dasal Wangmo is a well known Tibetan physician and the last of the family lineage holders. She is a reincarnation of Do Khyentse’s sister Lösal Drolma, who was the Dharma heir for the extraordinary cycle of teachings called Dzinpa Rangdröl. In 2010 Lama Tsultrim, facilitated by Sang-ngag Rinpoche and Alec Zenkar Rinpoche, had the great fortune to meet Do Dasal Wangmo who was 83 years old at the time, in Dartsedo where Do Khyentse resided. Sarah Schneider was present as translator and began the translation at that time. The book includes photos of Dasal Wangmo, the lamas around her, the retreat huts and monasteries of Do Khyentse, as well as lineage paintings and rare lineage photos.
The intention of Machig Publications is to support Tara Mandala Sangha and other practitioners of Buddhism in publishing relevant and otherwise unavailable books and translations. Several other books are currently in development.”
We rejoice in this landmark release of a life story of a great yogini and lineage holder of the Dzinpa Rangdröl. We look forward to what is to come from Machig Publications.
Meeting the Great Bliss Queen: Buddhism, Feminism, & the Art of the Self
Despite the daunting barriers of geography and language that separate them, Buddhism and contemporary feminism have much to say to each other. Buddhist practices such as mindfulness (in which calm centering and keen awareness of change coexist) and compassion (in which the self is recognized as both powerful in itself and interdependently connected with all others) can be important resources for contemporary women, while feminism can expand the traditional horizons of Buddhist concerns to include social, historical, and psychological issues. The image and ritual of the Great Bliss Queen, an important Buddhist figure of enlightenment, form the unifying theme of this book, Meeting the Great Bliss Queen, modeling the practices and theory that can assist each of us in being at one with ourselves and fully engaged with others.
Written by Anne Carolyn Klein.
The Excellent Path of Devotion: An Abridged Story of a Mendicant’s Experiences in Response to Questions from Vajra Kin
“The Excellent Path of Devotion: An Abridged Story of a Mendicant’s Experiences in Response to Questions from Vajra Kin” is a concise autobiography composed in 1929 by the great treasure revealer Sera Khandro, Dewa’i Dorje, 1892–1940.
“It presents in poignant verse key events from Sera Khandro’s spiritual and conventional worlds. It affords a rare opportunity to glimpse the extraordinary journey of a Tibetan female master whose fortune was intricately entwined with heirs of the Dudjom lineage in early twentieth-century Golok. Sera Khandro’s account of her experiences in undergoing hardships on the path and pursuing her prophesized destiny as a treasure revealer can serve as a source of inspiration and increased faith for all Buddhist practitioners.”
Translated by Christina Monson (assisted by Lama Chonam).
Currently this book is not available to order. Most of this first printing is being offered as gifts, and the translator plans on reprinting a softback version at a later date. To receive notification of when it might be available, or if you are interested in helping to sponsor the 2nd softcover publication, please visit:
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.
Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War
Sister Chan Khong’s autobiography tells the story of her spiritual and personal odyssey through the many years of her life. The book’s centerpiece is her moving account of her return to Vietnam, her homeland, after 40 years of exile. She describes in refreshing detail her emotional reactions, the reunions with many old friends and fellow activists, and her impression of the “new Vietnam” where Buddhists still struggle for religious freedom. Often compared to The Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, this memoir connects to larger themes, especialy when the author discusses the life and teaching of her fellow exile, Thich Nhat Hanh, gives an overview of the development of the European and American peace and human rights movements, and introduces readers to the Vietnamese style of Buddhism. Learning True Love is a testament to the power of tenacity and faith.
Written by Sister Chân Không.
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
Skillful Grace: Tara Practice For Our Times
Tara is one of the most inspiring of Buddhist deities, embodying the most compelling and vital qualities of the feminine: beauty, grace, and the ability to nurture, care for, and protect. This complex goddess, whose practice transcends sect and class, is also a true warrior, vanquishing fear and ignorance–in a sense the earliest known incarnation of Buddhist feminism. Skillful Grace is an elegant introduction to practice and meditation techniques based on the Vajrayana path.The book is divided into three main sections. The first contains the basic text of Tara practice, The Essential Instruction on the Threefold Excellence, which connects the seeker to the profound essence of Tara as revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa.
The other two sections feature enlightening commentaries on the text by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Jamgön Kongtrül, and Adeu Rinpoche.
Skillful Grace includes all the preliminaries of Tara practice, as well as its main part and the subsequent yogas. Tara Bennett Goleman’s foreword, Marcia Schmidt’s introduction, and various appendixes and footnotes add useful context.
Translated and edited by Erik Pema Kunsang and Marcia Binder Schmidt.
For the highly recommended study program by Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche that utilizes the Tara’s Triple Excellence, see:
Buddha’s Daughters: Teachings from Women Who Are Shaping Buddhism in the West
Buddhism began to take root in the West at just the same time that women’s voices were arising to find expression here—after millennia of being relegated to the background. If that was a coincidence, it was an auspicious one, for the women who emerged as Buddhist teachers have been among the most articulate of Dharma-communicators—and they remain an indelible feature of Western Buddhism as the practice matures here. The remarkable range of their teaching is showcased in this anthology. The pieces featured touch on the topics that are at the heart of our lives—relationships, uncertainty, love, parenting, food, stress, mortality, living fully, and social responsibility. These approachable, engaging teachings illuminate Buddhist concepts and practices, such as
meditation, tonglen, lovingkindness, cultivating gratitude, and deep relaxation.
Buddha’s Daughters is a collection of compelling and informative teachings by the most influential female Buddhist teachers of today illuminating a diverse range of topics, containing wisdom from such well-known and respected contemporary Buddhist teachers as:
Pema Chödrön, Ayya Khema, Sharon Salzberg, Toni Packer, Maurine Stuart, Karen Maezen Miller, Khandro Rinpoche, Jan Chozen Bays, Sister Chan Khong, Sylvia Boorstein, Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Darlene Cohen, Joanna Macy, Bonnie Myotai Treace, Tsultrim Allione, Tenzin Palmo, Tara Brach, Joan Sutherland, Carolyn Rose Gimian, Joan Halifax, and Charlotte Joko Beck..
Edited by Andrea Miller and the editors of the Shambhala Sun.
Taking The Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears
“Deep down in the human spirit there is a reservoir of courage. It is always available, always waiting to be discovered.
In the last years of his life, Chogyam Trungpa taught unceasingly on the very real possibility of creating enlightened society – a society where individuals cultivated unconditional friendliness for themselves and unconditional caring for others. It is true that when we try to do either of these things, we find that it’s not that easy. The resistance to accepting ourselves and to putting others’ welfare first is surprisingly strong. Nevertheless, he spoke with enthusiasm and confidence about our remarkable capacity for bravery, for open-mindedness, for tenderness – our remarkable capacity to be spiritual warriors, fearless men and women who can help to heal the sorrows of the world.
The Buddhist master Shantideva set forth a path for training in spiritual warriorship. In his text ‘The Way of the Bodhisattva,’ he explains how the bodhisattva or spiritual warrior begins the journey by looking honestly at the current state of his or her mind and emotions. The path of saving others from confusion starts with our willingness to accept ourselves without deception.
You would think that a training whose intention was to prepare us to benefit others would focus exclusively on other people’s needs. But the majority of Shantideva’s instructions entail working skillfully with our own blind spots. Until we do this, we are in the dark about how other people feel and what might soothe them. It only dawns on us slowly that the way sorrow and joy feel to me is the same way they feel to others. As Shantideva put it, since every single being on the earth feels insecurity and pain, just the way I do, then why do I keep putting the emphasis only on me?
This book has been an attempt to look closely at how we stay stuck in this kind of narrow, self-absorbed vision. It has also been an attempt to pass on some of what my teachers have taught me about how to get unhooked. The motivation for presenting this material, however, is not solely the wish that each of us might become happier. The primary intention is that we might follow the advice contained here in order to prepare ourselves to look beyond our own welfare and consider the great suffering of others and the fragile state of our world. As we change our dysfunctional habits, we are simultaneously changing society. Our own awakening is intertwined with the awakening of enlightened society. If we can lose our personal appetite for aggression and addiction, the whole planet will rejoice.
For the sake of all sentient beings, I hope that you will join the growing society of aspiring and full-fledged spiritual warriors who are emerging from every continent on the globe. May we never give up our genuine concern for the world. May our lives become a training ground for awakening our natural intelligence, openness, and warmth, and may this small text be of some support on the way. As Chogyam Trungpa joyfully proclaimed, “We can do it!”
~ ‘Epilogue: Taking This Into The World’ from Taking The Leap.
Written by Pema Chödrön.
Princess In The Land of Snows: The Live of Jamyang Sakya
Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho Sakya was born in Kham, Eastern Tibet. As the niece of one of the most highly realized Sakya Masters of the twentieth century, H.E. Dezhung Rinpoche III, her training in Buddhist practice began at an early age. She has received extensive teachings and empowerments from many great lamas of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism throughout her lifetime. Dagmola is married to H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya of the Khön lineage, the Head Lama of the Sakya order of Tibetan Buddhism. Dagmola specializes in Tara empowerments, practices, and teachings, and has many students throughout the world.
Princess In The Land of Snows chronicles her life:
“This is the story of a determined woman who overcame great obstacles in order to achieve religious freedom. Born in eastern Tibet, Jamyang Sakya married into the powerful Sakya family, spiritual advisers of Kublai Khan and for years rulers of much of Central Asia. Her engaging personal story evokes a rich vision of Tibet’s traditional culture, customs, and religious practices.
Jamyang Sakya tells of being the only girls in a monastic private school, of dreams and divinations interpreted by high lamas, of long pilgrimages to sacred Buddhist sites, and of her life as a high lady of Sakya. Her narrative reveals a multifaceted picture, from the intricacies of managing a palace household to the political takeover by the Chinese Communists, who destroyed much of Tibet’s religious heritage. It climaxes with the Sakya family’s harrowing walk through the Himalayas to freedom, during which they were hotly pursued by the Chinese. After a year in India, they immigrated to the United States, one of the first Tibetan families to do so.”
Written by Jamyang Sakya (Dagmo Kusho-la) and Julie Emery.
Tara: The Feminine Divine
“Let us suppose that in a dream we meet a deity. We would also be sure of the individual existence of that deity. Also, we would be sure of the reality of the “I” who, upon seeing the deity, would feel joy and devotion. However, in truth, the person perceiving the deity and the deity would both be manifestations from the same inexpressible essence, the mind itself. In the same way, for those who live on a relative level, the deities appear on a relative level without being separated from their essence, which is none other than the essence of the mind.
Let us take Tara as an example. Now, when we practice Tara meditation, we must make a mental effort to imagine her as she is, green in color, hands making certain mudras, legs in a definite position, adorned with various attributes, and so on. In a certain way, Tara is then the creation of our psyche, and we remain, at least partially, prisoners of the idea that there is ‘me’ on the one hand and Tara on the other. This mental creation is not useless. As a reflection of the Body of Enjoyment, this mental creation is linked with it and allows us to approach it.
Once the ultimate realization is obtained, this same Tara is no longer the fruit of any mental effort. Without her form disappearing, she reveals herself as a spontaneous expression of the Absolute Body, a clarity of the mind in which there is no subject and no object.
There is also a difference between the deity as we imagine it, and as she exists in the reality of the Awakened Mind.”
~ Bokar Rinpoche, from his introduction in Tara: The Feminine Divine.
Tara’s Enlightened Activity: An Oral Commentary on the 21 Praises to Tara
The female Buddhist deity Tara is an object of devotional worship and meditative practice for Tibetan Buddhists everywhere, both male and female. She clears away fears, overpowers negative emotions, and enables all beings to reach enlightenment. She has special resonance as a source of female spiritual wisdom. Tibetans of all schools and traditions recite the verses on which this commentary is based. Focused contemplative meditation in relation to the myriad aspects of Tara works to transform the practitioner’s mind into those enlightened qualities and mind states that Tara represents.
Sought-after teachers throughout the West for over twenty-five years, Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and his brother Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche illuminate the practice of the Praises to the Twenty-one Taras in Tara’s Enlightened Activity with humor and wisdom. The explanations cover progressively more subtle levels from basic Buddhism through the Inner Tantras and culminate with Dzogchen. Interspersed with lively stories about Tara, the authors explain the physical conditions for practice, the outer and inner meanings of the text itself, and give solutions for problems that may emerge as practice progresses.
Written by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche.
How To Free Your Mind: The Practice of Tara The Liberator
Tara, the feminine embodiment of enlightened activity, is a Buddhist deity whose Tibetan name means “liberator,” signaling her ability to liberate beings from the delusion and ignorance that keep them trapped in ever-recurring patterns of negativity. She embodies a challenge—to transform our minds and become like her, whose tranquility, compassion, and wisdom make her so beautiful—but one that is profoundly nurturing.
In the Venerable Thubten Chodron’s words in How To Free Your Mind: The Practice of Tara The Liberator, “We can relax in her presence and look at ourselves honestly, knowing that Tara will not judge, reject, or abandon us due to our shortcomings. Like a mother, she sees her child’s potential—in this case, our spiritual potential or Buddha-nature—and wants to nurture it.”
Ven. Chodron describes a simple meditation on Tara, explaining its benefits and its application to daily life. She then presents two well-loved praises to Tara, together with reflections on their meanings for modern practitioners.
Written by Thubten Chodron.
Open Heart, Clear Mind
“This introduction to Buddhism by an American Tibetan Buddhist nun focuses on practical applications of Buddhist psychology to modern life. In a straightforward style and with warmth and humor, Chodron sets forth the fundamental points of the Buddha’s teaching on transforming habitual attitudes and realizing our full human potential. “…conveys a clear understanding of Buddhism as it has been practiced by Tibetans, in easily comprehensible language.” ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Open Heart, Clear Mind provides practical introduction to Buddhism that focuses on the application of Buddhist psychology to modern life. Thubten Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, presents the basic points of this path for understanding ourselves and improving the quality of our lives. In a straightforward style and with warmth and humor, Chodron gives us the fundamental points of the Buddha’s teaching on transforming habitual attitudes and realizing our full human potential.
Written by Thubten Chodron.
Machig Labdrön and The Foundation of Chöd
Machig Labdrön is popularly considered to be both a dakini and a deity, an emanation of Yum Chenmo, or Prajnaparamita, the embodiment of the wisdom of the buddhas. Historically, this Tibetan woman, a contemporary of Milarepa, was an adept and outstanding teacher, a mother, and a founder of a unique transmission lineage known as the Chöd of Mahamudra. This translation in Machig Labdrön and The Foundation of Chöd of the most famous biography of Machig Labdrön, founder of the unique Mahamudra Chöd tradition, is presented together with a comprehensive overview of Chöd’s historical and doctrinal origins in Indian Buddhism and its subsequent transmission to Tibet.
Chöd refers to cutting through the grasping at a self and its attendant emotional afflictions. Most famous for its teaching on transforming the aggregates into an offering of food for demons as a compassionate act of self-sacrifice, Chöd aims to free the mind from all fear and to arouse realization of its true nature, primordially clear bliss and emptiness.
Written by Jerome Edou.
Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death
The Buddhist approach to death can be of great benefit to people of all backgrounds—as has been demonstrated time and again in Joan Halifax’s decades of work with the dying and their caregivers. Inspired by traditional Buddhist teachings, her work, as shared in Being With Dying, is a source of wisdom for all those who are charged with a dying person’s care, facing their own death, or wishing to explore and contemplate the transformative power of the dying process. Her teachings affirm that we can open and contact our inner strength, and that we can help others who are suffering to do the same.
Written by Roshi Joan Halifax, a Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, author, and social activist whose work focuses on teaching contemplative practices to prisoners and dying people.
Joan Halifax is the abbot and head teacher of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, a board member and fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, and a Lindisfarne Fellow. She has also founded several organizations and initiatives, including the Zen Peacemaker Order, the Ojai Foundation, The Project on Being with Dying, and the Upaya Prison Project.
First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening
First Buddhist Women is a readable, contemporary translation of and commentary on the enlightenment verses of the first female disciples of the Buddha. Through the study of the Therigatha, the earliest-known collection of women’s religious poetry, the book explores Buddhism’s 2,600-year-long liberal attitude toward women. Utilizing commentary and storytelling, author Susan Murcott traces the journey of wives, mothers, teachers, courtesans, prostitutes, and wanderers who became leaders in the Buddhist community, acquiring roles that even today are rarely filled by women in other, patriarchal religions.
Written by Susan Murcott.
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.
Buddhism Through American Women’s Eyes
The Buddha’s path to human transformation declares women and men equally capable of spiritual realization, yet throughout history most exemplars of this tradition have been men. Now, as Buddhism is transmitted to the West, women are playing a major role in its adaptation and development.
Buddhism Through American Women’s Eyes presents the conversation taking place among experienced practitioners from many Buddhist traditions who share their thoughts on the Buddhist outlook, its practical application in everyday life, and the challenges of practicing Buddhism in the Western world. Thirteen women contribute a wealth of thought-provoking material on topics such as “Bringing Dharma into Relationships,” “Dealing with Stress,” “Buddhism and the Twelve Steps,” “Mothering and Meditation,” “The Monastic Experience,” and “Forging a Kind Heart in an Age of Alienation.”
Translated and edited by Karma Lekshe Tsomo.