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Buddhadharma : Summer 2005
buddhadharma| 87 |summer 2005 G ladys ThaTcher, BroTher david sTeindl-rasT, and reverend cecil Williams were hon- ored at the San Francisco Zen Center’s annual benefit event and silent auction held on April 24 at the community-run Greens Restaurant. The three were recognized for the wisdom and compassion they’ve mani- fested in their lives and actions. Gladys Thatcher is the founder of Gladnet, a women-oriented resource center that provides expertise, counseling, and information to those undergo- ing career and life transitions. She is also a trustee of the San Francisco Foundation, which acts as a catalyst for change to build strong communities, foster civic leadership, and promote philanthropy in San Francisco. Brother David Steindl-Rast studied Zen with Suzuki Roshi and Eido Shimano Roshi, co- founded the Center for Spiritual Studies, and received the 1975 Martin Buber Award for his achievements in building bridges between religious traditions. Brother Steindl-Rast’s current project is www.gratefulness.org, a website with the objective of helping to create a global net- work of people whose spiritual practice fosters personal fulfill- ment, ecological concern, and action on behalf of peace and justice. Reverend Cecil Williams is pastor of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco and has led his congregation of 10,000 members to distribute over 1,000,000 meals to the hungry each year. ■ On March 12, richard Gere accepted the Geuzen Medal in Vlaardingen, Netherlands, on behalf of the International Campaign for Tibet. The medal, a call To Women B uddhist women from across North America gathered at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, in April for the conference, “Women Practicing Buddhism: American Experiences.” Sponsored by Smith and other local colleges, as well as by Sakyadhita International, the three-day event brought together over 1500 students, teachers, and activists to explore the experiences of Buddhist women in North America. The conference drew women from all the major Buddhist traditions, and had strong representation from local Buddhist communities. A hundred or so men also participated, as did students from Smith and the Five-College area. Karme Lekshe Tsomo, president of Sakyadhita, set the tone for the conference with a call to social action. “The American mantra of taking care of oneself,” she emphasized, “contradicts the Buddhist mantra of looking out for others. If we hope to rescue humanity from the collision course we are on, we desperately need to work together, to reach beyond our individual affiliations to speak with a united voice on issues of Buddhist practice and social justice. We need to ask: Where are the Buddhist Mother Teresas and the American Aung San Suu Kyis?” In discussions and workshops, women offered their perspectives on gender, race, ethnicity, and class, and shared their experiences as students and teachers. Each day included celebration and creativity, with highlights featuring a conversation between poet Jane Hirshfield and singer Meredith Monk on Buddhism and creativity, and a class on the traditional “21 Praises of Tara” dance led by the Tara Dancers. During a panel on women dharma teachers, Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara suggested some approaches to teaching that women, in particular, could take. “As someone trained mostly by men,” explained O’Hara, “I now find myself having more transparency with my students, and working to dissolve what can be a reifica- tion of the teacher. I’m more apt to join in with my students, collaborating in a kind of interrelational field where koan, student, and I work together, rather than the student working mainly on his or her own.” Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín, Zen priest and editor of Dharma, Color, and Culture, spoke about discrimi- nation in American Buddhist communities. “The issues are about white privilege and our resistance to tackling head-on the issues of race, class, and homophobia. It’s not that people are so unwilling, but that this is a scary thing – it requires that we let go of our attachment to comfort.” In discussing how far women have come since the early years of dharma in America, Karma Lekshe Tsomo explained, “I am impressed with the level of social and political awareness at this conference. I have a feeling that women are the ones leading the way in terms of Buddhist social action. Women are emerging as leaders, which is a sign of the increasing maturity of North American Buddhist women’s practice.” MARyLANG summer 2005 MahaSangha News SANFRANCISCOZENCENTER