Mindful Life on the Nine Dragons: Vietnam

UntitledMindfulness enables us to cultivate a different quality of attention, one where we relate to what we see before us not just as an echo of the past or a foreshadowing of the future, but more as it is right now.  Here too we find the power of kindness because we can connect to things as they are.

Sharon Salzberg

The Mekong River divides into nine channels known as the Nine Dragons at the delta in Vietnam.  Life on the river must be attentive to detail as the river has many undercurrents and is constantly changing. Many people live on the boats they work on and appear relaxed yet ever aware of their environment.  Sharon’s words of wisdom reminds me of the attitude of attention we observed when we spent the day in a boat exploring one of the dragons of the Mekong in south Vietnam.

 

 

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Approaching Guanyin’s Altar

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We approach Kwan Yin as who we are.  we welcome her into our real, everyday lives. We open ourselves to her as our individual minds and hearts can understand her.  This is how it has always been with Kwan Yin.  she offers her myriad forms to us and promises only as much as we are open to receive in and from ourselves.  She enters and becomes us, we enter and become her.

Sandy Boucher

 

These two images of Guanyin in Marble Mountain Cave in Vietnam struck me as two incarnations of the bodhisattva.  One older and carved from wood, unique in its depiction of her eternal connection to the ground of being. The other statue light and feminine, like a breeze of fresh air.  Their juxtaposition reminding me of the broad range her compassion and willingness to manifest as needed to relieve the suffering of the world.  How has she entered and become us?  How have we entered and become her?

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Making a Buddha: Women in Mandalay

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Therefore, the practice of generosity is about creating space.  We see our limits and we extend them continuously and consciously, joyfully, which creates an expansiveness and spaciousness of mind that’s deeply composed.

Sharon Salzberg

On one side of this narrow road in Mandalay men used power tools and chisels to carve the forms of many Buddhas and on the other side of the road women refined the figures by shaping the details and polishing the stone.  I was drawn to the gentle touch and concentration of these women.  They appeared generous in spirit and deeply composed like the Buddhas they were creating.

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TEMPLES OF SOUTH AND EAST ASIA: DISCOVERING THE SUBLIME IN A PHOTO

Free: Tues, Mar 11, 7 pm, Changes in Latitude, 2525 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO

Join Deborah Bowman in a search of the transcendent at temple sites in Asia.  Enjoy the draw of both famous and obscure sites at times of silence or among throngs at colorful festivals.   Come now to enjoy a feast of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or learn tips for great shots at exquisite gardens or inside darkened temples.

Deborah Bowman, Ph.D., is a photographer, psychologist & professor at Naropa University.

Illumine Your Own Heart: Words of Rengetsu

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If you want to

Extend the light

Of the Dharma

Let it first illumine

Your own heart.

Rengetsu

Rengetsu’s Waka poem, a traditional form similar to Haiku, reminds us that we can only bring compassion to the world with the healing of our own hearts.

The Dharma represents the teachings of the Buddha and the truth he brought to the world, how compassion flows out of clear seeing that lifts the delusion of our separation from others.

I can only imagine the statue of the young girl at the entrance to Chion-in, an  temple complex in Kyoto, represents the pure heart with which we enter this world.

Female imagery at Buddhist temple sites in Kyoto is uncommon and remarkable when it appears.  It appeared that this figure had a quieting effect on the visitors as they walked toward the entrance gates.  I wondered if it represented Rengetsu, who was raised by a kindly monk within the temple of Chion-in over two centuries ago.

Please let me know what you know of this lovely statue!

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TEMPLES OF SOUTH AND EAST ASIA: DISCOVERING THE SUBLIME IN A PHOTO

FREE Talk/Slides: Tues, Mar 11, 7 pm, Changes in Latitude, 2525 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO

Join Deborah Bowman in a search of the transcendent at temple sites in Asia.  Enjoy the draw of both famous and obscure sites at times of silence or among throngs at colorful festivals.   Come now to enjoy a feast of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or learn tips for great shots at exquisite gardens or inside darkened temples.

Deborah Bowman, Ph.D., is a photographer, psychologist & professor at Naropa University.

Guanyin in China: Inclusive and Connected

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Spirituality is the movement from our prison of self-blame and self-preoccupation to an inclusive and open engagement with all of life.  In many ways a spiritual path is essentially about connection – a deep connection to our own inherent capacity for wisdom and love no matter what, a connection to a bigger picture of life no matter what.        ~Sharon Salzberg

This image of Guanyin, taken at Fayu temple on the island of Putuoshan, captures her amid many historic and mythological figures of China.  It captures the spiritual importance Chinese Buddhists place on her role as the Bodhisattva of Compassion and her relationship to the vast pantheon of spiritual personalities.

The diorama was placed on the backside of the altar and she was “mobbed” by worshippers as they circumambulated the temple.  I had to wait for an opportunity to capture her photo as individuals bowed and made offerings at the statue’s feet.

In the photo below, in Shanghai, we discovered another diorama featuring Guanyin placed similarly in the Jade Temple.  It was a day to honor ancestors and again we encountered large crowds making offering to Guanyin and Buddha.

We never encountered another Westerner in the days we spent visiting temples and gathering images of Guanyin in China.  In some ways we were invisible yet connected, everyone intent in their devotion to the divine.

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GUANYIN: THE EMBODIMENT OF LIBERATION AND LOVE

Free talk/slides: Fri, Feb  21,  7 pm, Paramita Campus, 3285 30th St., Boulder, CO 

Focusing on the qualities of selflessness central to Guanyin, we will explore her incarnation as the Chinese folk legend Miao-shan, and compare her to the Handless Maiden in the western fairy tale.  These stories ask soul-searching questions:  What is sacrifice? What is unconditional love?  How is the feminine liberated from patriarchal dictates?

TEMPLES OF SOUTH AND EAST ASIA: DISCOVERING THE SUBLIME IN A PHOTO

Free talk/slides: Tues, Mar 11, 7 pm, Changes in Latitude, 2525 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder

Join Deborah Bowman in a search of the transcendent at temple sites in Asia.  Enjoy the draw of both famous and obscure sites at times of silence or among throngs at colorful festivals.   Come now to enjoy a feast of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or learn tips for great shots at exquisite gardens or inside darkened temples.

Deborah Bowman, Ph.D., is a photographer, psychologist & professor at Naropa University.

Awakening Together: Photos from Laos

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Because reality is seen as dependently co-arising, or systemic in nature, each and every act is understood to have an effect on the larger web of life, and the process of development is perceived as being multidimensional.  One’s personal awakening (purshodaya) is integral to the awakening of one’s village (granodaya), and both play integral roles in deshodaya and vishodaya, the awakening of one’s country and one’s world.

Joanna Macy

Joanna’s words seem an apt compliment to this photo of Buddhas from a temple in Laos. During the “secret” bombing of Laos by the United States in the Vietnam War the town of Luang Prabang was considered the spiritual capital of Laos and was not struck.  Villagers and monks from the surrounding towns brought Buddha statues and other sacred relics to be stored for safety in temples in Luang Prabang.

When we visited several years ago sacred wooden statues were stacked many deep in Wat Winsunalat and the opportunity to photograph “relationships” between the Buddhas was impossible to pass up.  The foreground figure in the photo above seems to capture the mind of the Buddha, peaceful no matter who is looking on.

IMG_3548print 9.21.07slide showI was thankful to be able to salvage a little beauty in a photo out of the results of a terrible war.  These Buddhas appear to timelessly stand for teachings of wisdom and compassion passed down for over 2500 years.

The morning I discovered the many standing Buddhas stored in a temple in Laos I felt ecstatic.  Sunlight streamed through the windows and reflected off the golden figures draped in orange cloth.  They were glowing strength!”

Deborah Bowman, The Luminous Buddha

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The Female Buddha: Words and Images of Wisdom

FREE Lecture & Slides  Jan 31, 2014,  7 – 9, Naropa U., 2130 Arapahoe, Boulder, CO 

Poetry suggests what prose cannot convey: the sublime and transcendent.  We will look at quotes in The Female Buddha that open “doors of perception” including Niguma’s reference to the mind as a “wish fulfilling jewel”, the words of enlightened women at the time of the Buddha, the haiku of Chiyo-ni and modern day reflections by women teachers.

Paired with the quotes are moving photographs of Guanyin temples and statuary throughout Asia. We will explore the historical meaning of her vibrant presence across time and place and trace her spiritual influence to our lives today.

Deborah Bowman, Ph.D., is a psychologist, photographer and professor at Naropa University where she founded the Transpersonal Counseling Psychology Program and the Wilderness Therapy program.  For 25 years, she has worked as a Gestalt and Jungian oriented psychotherapist. Passion for Guanyin guided her travels in Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, China and Myanmar. She is author of The Luminous Buddha and The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love. 

 

The Floating Market: Mindful Beauty

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Mindfulness enables us to cultivate a different quality of attention, one where we relate to what we see before us not just as an echo of the past or a foreshadowing of the future, but more as it is right now.  Here too we find the power of kindness because we can connect to things as they are.                                    ~ Sharon Salzberg

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Sharon’s quote brings us to the here and now.  We can see the beauty in simple things, the fruits of our labor and the tranquility of rest.  I was struck by these images in at the floating market, a place where chaos can seem to reign until you notice the details.

Each individual paddling her or his boat was attentive in the crowded canal to every other person and their needs.  The boats full of fruit or vegetables were objects of art, the empty boats like fallow fields. I felt blessed to be brought to moments of contemplation in the bustle of the market place.

IMG_4653Thank you for your continued support and subscriptions to Follow the Female Buddha.

Best wishes in the New Year,

Deborah

www.thefemalebuddha.com 

Buddha, Birds and Freedom: Photos from Burma

For those whom there is no hoarding,

Who have fully understood the nature of food,

And whose pasture is freedom

That is empty, that has no sign,

Their course is as hard to trace

As that of birds in the sky.

The Buddha ~ The Dhammapada


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The quote by the Buddha refers to the quality of freedom experienced by the enlightened, leaving no trace like a bird in the sky.  Empty of any “baggage”, the sages freedom is without the things we hoard and the desires that drive our clinging to the material world.  We can understand this metaphor to also refer to all hoarding; of our past wounds, of our future expectations and ultimately, our sense of self.  Freedom is liberation of the heart and mind, an experience aptly described by the flight of a bird in the clean, bright, open blue sky.

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Two years ago we had the delight to visit Shwedagon temple in Rangoon with many  outdoor altars and many golden Buddhas.  Pilgrims left plates of rice offerings and the crows kept the offerings fresh by waiting on top of a Buddha’s head and regularly cleaning the plates.  I found the juxtaposition of the many Buddhas and   crows delightful.  At home when reviewing my photos I found more crows in the shots than I remembered! Can you find them too?

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When looking for images to offer for the holiday season I found myself drawn to these photographs and wanted to offer something playful and rich.  May you delight in this season of renewal and freedom.

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Enlightened Women of the Therigatha

Therigatha Altar

Therigatha Altar

There are women teachers everywhere.  It is for me to recognize and acknowledge this fact.

China Galland

The hand formed clay figures above represent the 12 women who were recognized by the Buddha for having exceptional skills and enlightenment.  They are known as Therigatha, or women elders in the early Buddhist tradition.  These figures were made by the Venerable Dhammananda, the abbess of the Songdhammakalyani monastery for women in Thailand.

I had the delight and honor to spend 3 days practicing and photographing the nuns at the monastery.  The clay figures were one of the priceless finds on the altar in one of the temples where we practiced meditation.

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Below are just a few of the photographs from The Female Buddha book on sale for the Holiday season at 40% off.

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Watermoon Guanyin, Sanyi, Taiwan

Guanyin at Wat Pho

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A Deep Bow of Thanksgiving

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When we extend attention and appreciation toward our environment and other people, our experience of joy gets even bigger.                                                 Pema Chodron

photo: D. Bowman, Jogyesa Temple, Korea

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 November 23 – December 8!    

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