Recorded at Hartford, CT on May 2013
- DPR Teaches in NYC: Dependence and Interdependence from the Nalandabodhi US blog.
- Brad Warner’s headed to a living room near you in support of his latest book ‘There Is No God and He Is Always with You: A Search for God in Odd Places’
- Please do read this blog post titled ‘Buddhism and Mental Illness’ by Justin Whittaker over at American Buddhist Perspective. If you’re so inclined, please do share your story in the comments section on his blog.
There is no grand optimistic twist in the story. To tell you everything will be okay would be a lie. Things will still get shitty. But not always as shitty as before. And sometimes life will actually be pretty damned good. And it’s that ‘good’ that we strive for: the moment of peace with the 3-month old baby, the colorful sunset after the cloudy day, the hug from a friend or parent after a long time apart. There is so much to discover in live that connects us with the truths of impermanence, interconnectedness, and ultimate nonsubstantiality of the self; concepts that seem on the surface to be merely theoretical, but must be experienced to be truly realized.
- ‘Cult Mentalities, Hero Worship and the Pitfalls’ from Undercard Superstar (Yes I know this is a blog post about martial arts, but with a blog name like Full Contact Enlightenment, you know I had to post it here for its relevance to the situations of abuse going on in the Buddhist community.
She started with the question “Are you supposed to do anything to become a World Champion?” I replied, “Yes, there are sacrifices you must make to become a World Champion and you are going to have to do some things that other people won’t do to become a World Champion”. She began to cry as she explained. She said that when she first joined the team she was given a set of rules. She was told exactly how she should act.
I was so very excited to read of this book as I am an avid ‘devourer’ of books written to express the experiences of fellow sisters on the Buddhist path. From Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom by Sallie Tisdale to Women Of Wisdom by Tsultrim Allione and several other books that rest on both my physical and digital bookshelves, this book has now become a treasured guide to help inspire me through its presentation of strong, determined and steadfast feminine energy.
In her book ‘Dakini Power’, author Michaela Haas has gathered together the fascinating biographies of 12 diverse women who have been pivotal within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as it moved from East to West. The women featured (from left to right in the image below) are: Khandro Tsering Chödrön, Pema Chödrön, Roshi Joan Halifax , Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Thubten Chodron, Dagmola Kusho Sakya, Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Sangye Khandro , Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel , Chagdud Khadro and Lama Tsultrim Allione .
Each story unique and each biography offers up a vibrant glimpse of how these women discovered the dharma, met their teachers and the challenges and successes they may have encountered on their individual paths as dakinis – “female messengers of wisdom”. Several married, others unmarried or previously married (some have even married their teachers) and many have borne children and balanced motherhood with spiritual practice and study. A fully detailed experience is presented here via the stories and interviews between the pages of ‘Dakini Power’ and as such, topics including: geography, politics, cultural barriers for female practitioners, love, the issue of women’s ordination within Buddhism, sexual abuse within the Buddhist community among many other aspects of the human condition all are presented and explored with a mixture of humour, wisdom and passion.
The impact that each of these women has made in the global community is also highlighted as each have used their precious human birth to assist in the spread of the dharma in their own ways, be it through becoming high ranking spiritual teachers, authors, lecturers, translators or founders of spiritual centres. To read of their motivations and their desire to be of service is truly a gift.
‘Dakini Power’ isn’t afraid to dive into the choppy waters of gender politics and Buddhism and the book opens with a quote from Padmasambhava - “Whether male or female, there is no great difference. But if a woman develops the mind of enlightenment, her potential is supreme.” A nuanced approach to gender runs through the book and each biography offers up whether the woman featured has a specific take on feminism as it has applied in their respective lives. In the case of Tenzin Palmo, she mentioned how at one time or another each of us has been male and female and she is dedicating herself to becoming enlightened in a female form since she believes in the importance of there being more women teachers and role-models. Khandro Rinpoche in the book when commenting on why some female students place so much importance on having a female teacher or on gender politics, she dismisses this kind of thinking and says, “If being a woman is an inspiration, us it. If it is an obstacle, try not to be bothered’ and later goes on to say, “There is no need for aggression or for sadness about discrimination. One just works harder, works harder… This is what I would like women to know – you need a lot of patience, you have to work towards it, and if you are really serious about equal qualities of women, then you have to work by example”.
With her book ‘Dakini Power’, Michaela Haas has provided an important contribution to Buddhist scholarship in compiling research and conducting interviews with these twelve women as it is an essential snapshot of time showing the contributions of several modern female Buddhists and to see where the future of Buddhism ends up. Several of the women featured are some of the first wave of Tibetans to be forced from their land by the Chinese and this book captures their stories. Other women were those who traveled from the West over to India and Asia to experience and discover the wisdom traditions of the East. We must ask ourselves now what the next generation of female Buddhists will contribute.
The e word. Enlightenment. It’s a pretty polarizing word. Many folks are getting rich off of selling the enlightenment experience. Others are using it as part of their blog’s title.. Ahem.
Brad Warner recently wrote a post titled ‘ What is Enlightenment?’ which resonated with me and I wanted to share some thoughts on. While I can attest to having a few ‘awareness’ experiences in my life, I don’t really hoot on about them, go off writing books like ‘The Secret’ or crafting pithy blog posts about how realized I am. I think there’s a fine balance between the humility that I hold my practice with combined with the strength that’s required to pursue being a functional Buddhist in today’s modern world. It truly is a balance- much like one can become that annoying person on the airplane that doesn’t shut up about their wife, kids, peanut farm for 20 hours non-stop or the glassy eyed stranger that doesn’t even smile or engage after you accidentally bump their table tray. There are some out there in the world that just get off on selling enlightenment and there are many that are just craving the possibility that comes with meeting an enlightened being.
The movie ‘Kumare’ really got to me as it was one of the most genuine portrayals of the spiritual seeker that I’ve seen in some time. The ability to see the perspective of what people were looking for when they chose to follow this learned man was a precious one for those who work in spiritual communities because it shines a light on the need for absolute care that has to be taken when individuals enter a spiritual center seeking – whatever it is they are seeking… answers, relief from suffering, community, meditation instruction or any of the reasons one walks through the door of a Buddhist/spiritual community.
So back to enlightenment. I think in many ways it’s seen as a goal. An attainment. Similar to how my Pentecostal family would herald when someone received the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues or rolled around on the floor or ran around the perimeter of the church. Sometimes the idea that it can take several zillion lifetimes for enlightenment is lost on us. We want it NOW, but we don’t even really know why.
Do go over to Brad’s site and read his post as it is a great read and worthy of discussion related to the topic of spiritual masters and spiritual seekers.
After being fully stoked over my chat with Miguel from Teenage Bottlerocket last week, I careened into a set of weekend talks from Nalandabodhi’s dear Lama Rabten who is visiting our local centre for this auspicious month of May and offering teachings on Lojong. It has been lovely and incredible to be together with my local sangha to study, practice and be present and also the dual opportunity for me to practice my French skills as there is translation from English to French for each talk.
So on my radar as a few items that made an impression lately:
- Check ins and being present from @Mindonly
- Day 219: The Banana Stand
- Pouzza Buddha image from their upcoming Montreal punk festival
- iMeditation – by David Allen McKeel
- The Unborn a blog post by 108 Zen Books is just wonderful. You must read it.
How to sit without the hope that some intense curiosity or vibrant joy will infiltrate, breaking our shell, opening us. If only to see that what we were intended for is no longer possible. And yet, what we are is immense in its possibilities.
- I have to thank dear Fitri for sharing this most meditative cake baking sequence that I’ve ever seen.
Last week while flipping through my RSS feeds to keep up to date on the goings on in the punk rock world, my beady little eagle eyes spotted a ‘Meditate and Destroy’ t-shirt on Miguel Chen, bass player for pop-power-punk group Teenage Bottlerocket.
Now I fangirl adore Teenage Bottlerocket. Hailing from Laramie, Wyoming, they are pure in your face, three chord harmonious, snotty punk that’s hooky, tight and just done ever so right.
I was really curious to find out more about Miguel’s connection with Buddhism so I dropped him a line and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions about how he discovered Buddhism, details on his personal practice and a bit of information on how BDSM figures into his life. He’s very open in both being a Buddhist and his participation in BDSM and I found it both interesting and important to find out more about his perspective on something that I quite honestly have not really read or heard many Buddhists speak of aside from that filthy Brad Warner fellow
How did you discover Buddhism? Describe the circumstances.How long have you been interested?
About 7 years ago we went on tour with The Epoxies. I was kind of going through a rough time in my life and their lead singer Roxy gave me a copy of ‘Dharma Punx’ by Noah Levine. At the time the book helped me relate to someone who had been through similar suffering to my own, but it wasn’t until a few years later when I revisited it that the Dharma really made it’s way into my daily life. When I revisited the book I was going through a really dark time, doing lots of drugs and generally being depressed. I knew that when I played shows and connected with people I wasn’t depressed, but that was only for an hour a day, I needed to find a way to be happy the rest of the day. And so I revisited Dharma Punx. This time around it made even more sense than before and it lead me to many other Buddhist authors including Tai Sheridan, Charlotte Joko Beck,Thich Nhat Hahn, Brad Warner, Lodro Rinzler and many others. Over the next few months I read every book on the subject I could get my hands on and my life really began to transform. I started meditating every morning and finally began to feel like I’d found what I was looking for.
What school of Buddhism do you follow?
My initial reaction is to say I relate most to Zen Buddhism. I believe in keeping things simple and Zen offers a lot of that. I basically sit every day, then spend the rest of my day trying to do my best. There’s not a lot more to it as it applies to my life, people are often surprised when I tell them that. For me, Buddhism boils down to realizing we are all connected, we all suffer, and we all want to be happy. Those simple lessons have had a major impact on my life. Noah Levine once said he considers himself and American Buddhist, a combination of several schools and I might agree with that. A lot of the schools that work in the East don’t translate so well into our day to day lives over here. I really like that. Maybe I’ll say I consider myself a Mexican-American Buddhist.
Are there any specific teachings that resonate with you?
I’ve read the Dhamapadda, The Art of Living, The Lotus Sutra etc, however I find the teaching I relate to the most is of course the 4 Noble Truths. I interpret them to be first that all living beings suffer. Secondly, the reason we suffer is attachment to a self and that this self creates differences in the way things are and the way we think they are. Third there is an end to suffering and that can be found by following the 8 fold path. When I’m asked about the 8 fold path I generally tell people it’s just about trying to do what is best for each situation we are presented with, and to focus on living now, not in the past or the future.
Do you have a teacher?
I wish! Again, there are not a lot of Buddhists in Wyoming, so finding a teacher has yet to happen. I do have some friends around the country I will talk to when I get the chance, but no formal teacher.
Do you have a meditation practice? How is that going for you being on the road touring?
Every single morning I wake up and sit on a cushion for 20-45 minutes. On tour it’s usually on the shorter end of that spectrum because we have so little free time. I will spend the first part of my meditation calming and clearing my mind, and the second part working on metta concentrations. I also wear a mala on my wrist that I will use to count my breaths or go through mantras whenever I get a free moment on tour.
You are open about being a member of the BDSM community and see a tie in (ha ha) between BDSM and Buddhism. How so?
As far as letting go of your ego and becoming truly present in the now, few things will get you there as quickly as being tied up and beat with a paddle. Nipple clamps are a great tool as well because they will put your focus on one thing and keep your mind from wandering. The feeling I get after a good BDSM session is very similar to the feeling I get after a good meditation. There is a lot of power in just being present, for whatever we are doing when we are doing it. BDSM allows me to let go of control, to just exist in one exact moment in time. It’s really very Zen-like for me!
In his book ‘Sex, Sin and Zen’ , Brad Warner wrote about some misgivings he had about BDSM but overall spoke to the responsibility involved with all who participate. He mentioned trauma and power exchange and how it’s can be somewhat similar to cult-like behaviour within some Buddhist communities. How would you respond to this?
I would say there is definitely potential for that sort of abuse of power, but I have never had experiences like that. When done properly BDSM is a good way for people to really connect. There is a big stigma over BDSM but I think really a lot more people might like it if they went in with an open mind. Again it’s all about giving yourself completely to the moment and if you are doing these activities with people you can trust to care for you it can be a very rewarding experience.
How do you relate to desire and attachment as a BDSM Buddhist?
All humans have desire and I believe that is okay. The problem becomes our attachment to it. If you can work on accepting things as they are over how you think they should be, then desire isn’t much of a problem. It’s okay to desire something as long as it doesn’t consume you and if you can’t have it, just let it go.
Do you feel that the Buddhist community is open enough about sexuality as a whole?
One thing that really stuck with me about Buddhism is that it’s not necessarily a religion. I forget who wrote it, but I once read something along the lines of “Don’t practice Buddhism to be a better Buddhist, practice Buddhism to be a better whatever you already are.” With that in mind there are Buddhists of all walks of life, some are monks who perhaps aren’t open enough about sexuality, others are Dominatrixes and punk rockers. My Buddhist friends tend to be pretty open, but that might be because they are also punks.
Is there anything you’d like to share relating to anything I haven’t asked? Advice. Questions.
I can’t really think of anything. Thanks for the interview. May we all be happy and free from suffering!
I am so very happy to share this information with you as it is quite exciting…
Tergar Montreal is delighted to present two teachings by H E Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche
- Path to Compassion: Essential Teachings on Training the Mind ~ August 9, 7 – 9 PM, August 10, 9 AM – 5 PM
In these turbulent times, it often seems that uncertainty and challenges surround us in every direction. Meditation is not meant to remove us from the world, but to open our hearts and minds to the beauty of what we already have. In this teaching, renowned Buddhist teacher Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche will share her insights in this journey, showing how we can generate compassion and train our mind even in the midst of our busy lives.
For more information on how to register, click here.
- Teaching and Empowerment of Yeshe Tsogyal ~ August 11, 9 AM – 5 PM
Yeshe Tsogyal was a direct incarnation of Dhatvishvari Vajra Yogini in the form of a woman. She was one of five dakini emanations of Vajra Yogini and, in essence, also a manifestation of Guru Rinpoche himself. She appeared to assist Guru Rinpoche in spreading the Vajrayana, especially the terma teachings, in the Snowy Land of Tibet. Yeshe Tsogyal is also considered an emanation of Arya Tara, Vajra Varahi, Prajnaparamita and Samantabhadri — all enlightened buddhas.
For more information on how register, click here.
H E Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche
Born as the eldest daughter of Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen Gyurme Künzang Wangyal – the 11th Mindrolling throne holder of the renowned Mindrolling lineage, Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche, as a Jetsünma within the Mindrolling lineage and a Tulku within the Kagyu lineage holds both the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions. Rinpoche speaks fluent English. For a full biography please see http://www.mjkr.org/biography.