An interview with Venerable Pannavati about her Christian-Buddhist path, why there are not more people of color in Buddhism, and her push for girls, women, and "untouchables."
Ven. Dr. Pannavati, a former Christian pastor, is co-founder of Embracing-Simplicity Hermitage in Hendersonville, NC. A black, female Buddhist monk ordained in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions with Vajrayana empowerments and transmission from Roshi Bernie Glassman of Zen Peacemakers, she is both contemplative and empowered for compassionate service. She just returned from South India where she established the first nunnery for "Untouchables," and she told me about the urgent need for support for girls and women.
Michaela Haas: I regret that I didn't include any women of color in Dakini Power. One obvious reason is that there are so few, but there are some! Do you have an explanation why there are so few African-American women in the Buddhist communities?
Ven. Pannavati: I do. First of all, most communities (sanghas) aren't that inviting to African-Americans. It's not deliberate, just conditioning. This is a reflection of our broader society. Western meditation was really a sort of white, elite pastime. We people of color weren't there in the beginning. I remember when I first started going to centers -- one in particular. I came by myself at first. They were happy. I was a novelty. We call it being a "token." I began to bring friends. By our fourth or fifth visit, they gave me a cassette, saying, "You know, y'all don't have to come all this way. We made a tape so you can listen in the comfort of your own home!" True story! We were quiet, clean, on time -- just black. And, of course I don't need to tell you about the problems we are having with communities all across the country. Trouble in paradise. How can it be different? The people that show up in here come from out there. They are looking for something but their mindset is not transformed. We don't want to admit some things are just plain wrong or face the fact that without justice, there will be no peace.
Read the full post on the Huffington Post
To condense more energy in five feet, two inches is unimaginable. Like a high-powered, nimble, compact car, Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche zoomed through the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. at top speed. With the resolute gestures of a seasoned choirmaster, she directed 175 volunteers, shepherding them into a smiling army of ushers. During the multiple day visit of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama to the Capital in 2011, she and her team worked around the clock behind the scenes to make his rare Kalachakra event in the West a success. Lack of sleep never slows Khandro Rinpoche down. “Being available; helping whenever, wherever, whomever” is how she defines Buddhism in action.
The Verizon Center provided a fitting snapshot of what Khandro Rinpoche is all about: making a difference without making a fuss; being of service while escaping the limelight. “Service” might be the word she uses most, and rather than just preaching, she lives it.Read the full article in the Washington Post
The Supreme Court decision on marriage equality has ignited a renewed debate among religious leaders. Predictably, some conservative religious leaders have protested against the decision to recognize same-sex marriages. As a Buddhist author, I often get asked by colleagues and students: What did the Buddha say about homosexuality? The short answer is simple: nothing. As far as we know, he never mentioned it, and some scholars regard this as a quiet acceptance on his part. But many of his followers in the centuries afterwards voiced strong opinions.
Read the full article in the Washington Post
Buddhist women are celebrating a landmark victory: For the first time in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, 27 nuns have gathered in North India at Jamyang Choling Nunnery near Dharamsala and have begun their exams for the Tibetan equivalent of a Ph.D., the so-called Geshe-title. To understand the impact and range of this decision, take a moment to imagine what it would be like if until now only men had been allowed to pass their doctorate exams. As many American students are preparing for their final exams and graduation celebration during these weeks, picture what this would look like if girls were excluded. This was the situation for women in the Himalayas—and it is about to change!
So, why is this such a big deal and why did it take so long? Read the full article in the Washington Post
This International Women's Day, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will honor ten courageous women, some of which have risked their lives to expose abuse and injustice. Among these women is one fearless Tibetan poet, Tsering Woeser. Read the full blog here.
At their international Sakyadhita conference, the 'Daughters of the Buddha' Discuss How Buddhist Women Can Achieve Equality
"They're telling the nuns, 'Oh, you're so humble, you're not interested in gaining prestige and power like these Westerners,'" Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo says with a calm voice but a quizzical look. "Well, I just wonder why they are not telling the monks that. If women are perpetually disadvantaged, this is what you end up with. Surveys show that the nuns' health is by far the worst of any group. Their educational standards are by far the worst too. There is a lot of work to be done, and awareness raising, especially among women." Read the whole post on Huffington Post