The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi: British Feminist, Indian Nationalist, Buddhist Nun. Vicki Mackenzie. Shambhala.
British journalist Mackenzie (Cave in the Snow) crafts a concise, well-rounded portrait of Freda Bedi (1911–1977), the first Western woman to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun. Freda Houlston was drawn early in life to the lives of the saints and to Eastern thought. Her father’s death in the trenches of World War I was her first taste of universal suffering. At Oxford University she met her husband, Indian Sikh and fellow socialist Baba Phyare Lal Bedi, and wore Indian dress from their wedding onward. The couple settled in India, where Bedi taught English and campaigned for independence from British rule. She first encountered Buddhism on a Unesco mission to Burma and recognized it as her destiny. Taking a vow of chastity and abandoning her three children, she founded a democratic nunnery and school for Tibetan refugees and in 1966 was ordained Sister Palmo. “Is it possible for a woman to be Che Guevara, Mother Teresa, and a physical mother at the same time?” Mackenzie asks. Drawing on interviews with Bedi’s family and acquaintances, and passages from her letters and journals, the fascinating book sensitively explores her contradictory roles while celebrating her part in bringing Buddhism to the West and helping to spark its feminist revolution. (Apr.)
Phabongkha and the Yoginī: The Life, Patronage and Devotion of the Lhasa Aristocrat, Lady Lhalu Lhacham Yangdzom Tsering. by Joona Repo. vol. 9. 2015. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies
Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo (pha bong kha bde chen snying po, 1878-1941) was one of the most popular and influential Gelug religious figures in the Lhasa Valley during the first half of the twentieth-century. His students included not only lay people and monks from all of the most important religious institutions in the region, but also an impressive array of some of the highest-ranking aristocrats and government officials of the day. This article is focused on the life of one of Phabongkha’s most important aristocratic students, Lhalu Lhacham Yangdzom Tsering (g.yang ‘dzom tshe ring, 1880-1963) and her relationship to her teacher and his lineage teachings. The development of her devotion to Phabongkha, and her and her family’s sponsorship of the sustenance and popularization of his lineage in general will be considered with an aim of giving us a wider understanding of Phabongkha and his “movement”. The Lhacham’s devotion to the controversial protector deity Dorje Shugden (rdo rje shugs ldan), whose practice she received from Phabongkha, will also be discussed in detail, especially with regard to a number of tragedies which befell her, and which were portrayed by the later lineage as being the results of the wrathful activity of this deity.
Orality, Memory, and Spiritual Practice: Outstanding Female Thai Buddhists in the Early 20th Century. Martin Seeger. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.
In Search of the Khmer Bhikkhunī: Reading Between the Lines in Late Classical and Early Middle Cambodia (13th–18th Centuries). Trude Jacobsen. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.
Semen, Viagra and Pandaka: Ancient Endocrinology and Modern Day Discrimination*. by Paisarn Likhitpreechakul. vol 3. Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.
In a Vinaya passage, the Buddha laid down a rule to bar pandakas from ordination. Although there have been several attempts to shed light on whom the word pandaka referred to, all of these were based on the circumstantial evidence in the Vinaya. This article argues that this approach is a red herring and conclusions drawn from it are at odds with other parts of the Canon.
Based on an overlooked Abhidhamma passage which characterises pandakas as those unable to emit semen, the author reconstructs an Indian proto-endocrinology – with support from ancient medical treatises – to identify pandakas as impotent men, and to reveal the connection between different pandaka types and related terms. He then examines various considerations which the Buddha may have had in banning them from the Order.
The article finally discusses the implications of all this for modern Buddhist societies where gay men and transgenders are often confusedly categorised as pandakas and discriminated against for that reason.
Chinese Nuns and their Ordination in Fifth Century China. Ann Heirman. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. (24/2, 2001)
Changing the Female Body: Wise Women and the Bodhisattva Career in Some Mahāratnakūṭasūtras. Nancy Schuster. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. (1981).
Buddhism, miraculous powers, and gender - Rethinking the stories of Theravāda nuns. Rachelle M. Scott. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. Volume 33 Number 1–2 2010 (2011)
Their stories and the stories of contemporary nuns, such as Mae chi Thosaphon and Khun Yay Ubasika Chan, do not negate the undeniable presence and impact of misogynistic ideas about women in Buddhist texts and societies; they do off er, however, another interpretive lens for examining the lives of Theravāda nuns and their followers. In so doing, their examples change the discourse on Buddhist nuns from a discourse focused solely on the diffi culties faced by contemporary Theravāda nuns to a discourse about how some Theravāda nuns attained religious authority despite the substantial prejudice against female renunciation in South and Southeast Asia.
ANN HEIRMAN What Happened to the Nun Maitreyl? Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Volume 23 • Number 1 • 2000.
REIKO OHNUMA. The Story of RupavatI: A Female Past Birth of the Buddha. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Volume 23 • Number 1 • 2000.
Walters, Jonathon. “A Voice from the Silence: The Buddha’s Mother’s Story.” History of Religions 33/4 (May 1994), 358–379.
_____. “Gotamī’s Story,” in Buddhism in Practice, ed. by Donald Lopez. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1995, 113–138.
Sanitsuda Ekachai, “Crusading for Nun’s Rights,” Bangkok Post, September 4, 1996.
Second to None: The Biography of Khun Yay Maharatana Upasika Chandra Khon-nok-yoong. Pathumthani: Dhammakaya Foundation 2005.
Seeger, Martin, “The Bhikkhunī-Ordination Controversy in Thailand,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 29/1 (2008) 155–184.
Horner, I.B. Women Under Primitive Buddhism: Lay women and Alms women. New York: E.P. Dutton 1930.
Karen C. Lang, “Lord Death’s Snare: Gender Related Imagery in the ‘Theragatha’ and the ‘Therigathaʼ,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 2 (1986) 63–79.
Lindberg Falk, Monica. Making Fields of Merit: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand. Seattle: University of Washington Press 2007.
Paul, Diana. Women in Buddhism: Images of the Feminine in the Mahayana Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press 1985.
Collett, Alice. “Buddhism and Gender: Reframing and Refocusing the Debate,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 22/2 (2006) 55–84.
Gender and Salvation: Jaina Debates on the Spiritual Liberation of Women (Padmanabh S. Jaini). Serinity Young. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 16/1 (1993).
The Female Renunciates of Sri Lanka: the Dasasilamattawa. Lowell W. Boss.
JIABS 10/1 (1987)
The Bhikkhunī-ordination controversy in Thailand . Martin Seeger. JIABS.
Some Remarks on the Rise of the bhiksunīsangha and on the Ordination Ceremony for bhikṣunīs according to the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya. Ann Heirman.
JIABS 20/2 (1997)
Nuns, Laywoman, Donors, Goddesses. Female Roles in Early Indian Buddhism. Peter Skilling. JIABS (24/2, 2001)
Dogen’s Raihaitokuzui and Women Teaching in Sung Ch’an. JIABS 21/1 (1998)
"This inferior female body:” Reﬂections on life as a Tibetan visionary through the autobiographical eyes of Se ra mkha’ ’gro (bde ba’i rdo rje, 1892–1940). Sarah H. Jacoby. JIABS 32/1-2 (2009)
Eṣā agrā; Images of Nuns in (Mūla-)Sarvāstivādin Literature. Peter Skilling. JIABS (24/2, 2001).
The Life of dGe slong ma dPal mo: The Experience of a Leper, Founder of a Fasting Ritual, a Transmitter of Buddhist Teachings on Suffering and Renunciation in Tibetan Religious History. Ivette M. Vargas-O’Brian. JIABS (24/2, 2001).
What Makes a Nun? Apprenticeship and Ritual Passage in Zanskar, North India. Kim Gutschow. JIABS (24/2, 2001).
The Fincances of a Twentieth Century Buddhist Mission: Building Support for the Theravāda Nuns’ Order of Nepal. Sarah Le Vine. JIABS (24/2, 2001).
Chinese Nuns and their Ordination in Fifth Century China. Ann Heirman. JIABS (24/2, 2001).
The Story of Rūpāvatī: A Female Past Birth of the Buddha. Reiko Ohnuma. JIABS 23/1 (2000)
The Religious Standing of Burmese Buddhist Nuns (thilá-shin): The Ten Precepts and Religious Respect Words. Hiroko Kawanami. JIABS 13/1 (1990)
Tessa J. Bartholomeusz, Women Under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).