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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 89 |summer 2007 mahasangha news an iMPoRtant steP FoR Buddhist nuns by Andrea Miller a n international congress, the first of its kind, will focus on estab- lishing full ordination for Buddhist nuns in all traditions. The congress, organized by the Foundation for Buddhist Studies, a German charitable organization, will be held at the University of Hamburg from July 18 to 20 and attended by scholars from around the globe. It will conclude with a declaration by the Dalai lama. “His Holiness is very supportive of opportunities for Buddhist nuns,” says Karma lekshe Tsomo, one of the scheduled speakers and the president of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women. “He has repeatedly said, however, that as a single bhikshu, he cannot alone make the decision to fully ordain women in the Tibetan tradition. That decision needs to be made by a counsel of senior sangha members.” Tibet, Thailand, Cambodia, laos, and Burma have never had an established bhikshuni lineage. That said, such a lineage does have a precedent. After the Buddha ordained his stepmother and aunt, bhik- shuni lineages flourished in ancient India and spread throughout much of Asia. In China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan, the bhikshuni sangha successfully took root and has enjoyed unbroken continuity to the present day. In Sri lanka, on the other hand, a lineage was estab- lished but died out in the 11th century because of political issues. When Sakyadhita was founded in 1987, its members immed- iately began working on the establishment of bhikshuni sanghas in the Buddhist traditions that did not have one. Progress is slow, says Tsomo, because “it involves complex issues of monastic laws that are 2,500 years old. But progress is being made.” After 16 Sri lankans attended the first Sakyadhita conference, they returned home and helped to reestablish the bhikshuni sangha in Sri lanka. “There were no bikshunis in Sri lanka for almost a 1,000 years,” Tsomo says, “but now there are about 500.” Tsomo hopes that, as a result of this summer’s congress, the Dalai lama will recognize the establishment of full ordination for nuns in the Tibetan tradition. “If Tibetan nuns are granted the right to full ordination,” she says, “that would be tremendously encouraging for all Buddhist women, especially nuns, and it would be a step forward for women’s rights around the world.” His Eminence chogye tRichen RinPoche (left, inset) head of the Tsarpa branch of the Sakya lineage and the most senior living Sakya lama, died at age 87 on January 22 at his residence at Tsarpa Retreat Center in Kathmandu. As his body traveled by procession (above) to his main monastery in Boudhanath, thousands of devotees lined the streets and chanted. On March 3 he was cremated, with lamas from the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism in attendance. Chogye Trichen served in the Tibetan Government-in- Exile in the 1960s before returning to Nepal to rebuild the seat of the Tsarpa school. He founded two monasteries and a retreat center and traveled internationally for decades to teach. the U.S. before going to DVD. ■ On May 9, chong won suniM (above, right) was installed as ab- bot of Providence Zen Center by Zen Master Dae Kwang, abbot of the Kwan Um School. Kwan Sahn Sunim (left) was also named the new head dharma teacher at Provi- dence during the ceremony. ■ The saKya nuns’ institute, a retreat converted to a training cen- ter in Manduwala, India, opened its doors in January to its first group of 35 nuns (some pictured below), chosen by drawing lots from 200 women living at a nearby nunnery in Dehradun. The nuns will follow the same curric- ulum and graduate with the same degree as monks from the Sakya College. “We have long been thinking of establishing an insti- tute where nuns, particularly from the Sakya tradition, have the op- portunity to study advanced Bud- dhist studies like their compatriot monks,” says Khenpo Gyatso, the principal of Sakya College. “If we are successful, we will be able to produce at least a handful of eru- dite nuns capable of taking the responsibility of abbess.” Kasur Rinchen Khadrola, director of the Tibetan Nuns Project, has offered 25 scholarships to this first group of female scholars. ■ This summer, during the annual writing pro- gram at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa University will celebrate the 50th anniveRsaRy oF KeRouac’s On the Road, the autobiograph- ical stream-of-consciousness novel about various road trips he took with fellow Beat poets Allan Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and others. The Kerouac festival will include a marathon reading of the novel, musical performance, and a video film project. Festival organizers and special guests will be blogging ➤ continued page 93 THOMASKellYDANIelCOllINSJWHARRINGTONKATIeCUMMINGS