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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
fall 2005| 76 |buddhadharma the roots. But having mastered the Jain teachings, Bhadda went in search of wiser teachers. She debated one teacher after the next, sticking a rose apple branch in the sand to signify her readiness to debate philosophical doctrine. In debate, Murcott said, “Bhadda could find no equal.” Only Sariputta, the Buddha’s chief disciple, could stump her. He led her to the Buddha, who gave her instruc- tion, and she attained enlightenment on the spot. She was ordained by the Buddha with two words, “Come, Bhadda.” The First Buddhist Women became my secret retreat book for a number of years. I squirreled it away into silent retreats, and when inspiration flagged, I’d whip out my dog-eared copy and read a former courtesan’s song of enlightenment. The book broadened my vision of the female religious experience. And it had an unexpected consequence: I started to want to be like them. Every time I read of Khema giving up her gowns and status, I would imagine that it could be me. I began to think about cutting off my long red hair. What would it be like to practice just like they did? What would happen to my meditation practice if I ordained as a nun? Could I have a purity of heart just like these women? If they could do it, couldn’t I? You know how you have a desire and then put it aside, because your life is busy with other things, but somehow it’s cook- ing there all along, even if you’re not con- scious of it? Well, about five years later I flew to a Burmese monastery and took robes as a Buddhist nun. Meditating as a nun really was differ- ent. I felt tied to the long line of women who had ordained and lived this life before me. It was as though I carried their protection, that they were rooting for me. I could sense them. Maybe it was in my head, but I had brought them to life so vividly that they became my com- panions. I’d like to say that the end of the story is that I stayed a nun forever and might have my own mystical song recorded for history. But that’s not true. I lasted a year, which is pretty good, considering how badly I missed my friends and how much I hated the snakes and spiders. Yet the nun experience was the most extraor- dinary year of my life, in all its difficul- ties and complications. The book led me there. And it transformed me. The Mirror Newspaper of the International Dzogchen Community of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu The Mirror is the newspaper of the international Dzogchen Community of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu in publication since 1990. Subscribing to The Mirror keeps you up to date on all the activities of the Community, including Rinpoche’s teaching schedule, teachings by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, courses and retreats offered around the world, the activities of Shang-Shung Institute, an organization founded for the preservation of Tibetan language and culture, and ASIA, an organization established to help build hospitals and schools in Tibet. There are also book reviews, biographies of great masters, interviews, and a wide variety of material of interest to Dharma practitioners. 6 issues for $35 The Mirror, PO 277, Conway, MA 01341, USA Tel: 413 369 4208, Fax: 413 369 4153, Email: Mirrornk@cs.com Subscribe on line at www.melong.com with Visa or Master card. on line only $25 on line and paper $45 2006 Calendar On Sale Now! Supportrefugee Buddhist nuns by purchasing our 61⁄2”x 7” wall calendar, filled with beautiful color images of Tibetan life and culture, as well as inspiring quotes for each month. Includes Tibetan lunar calendar and ritual dates. $10.00 (in WA add .85) N $14.00 CDN ORDER NOW N email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 206-652-8901 N www.tnp.org We accept VISA & MasterCard TNP, 619 Western Ave. #22, Seattle, WA 98104 TNP is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization Photograph by Jeffery Davis TIBETAN NUNS PROJECT