Nowhere that is not a Wisdom Hall

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I still recall, how with my bag on a pole,

I forgot my yesterdays,

Wandering the hills, played in the waters,

went to the land of the clouds.

The lift of an eyebrow, the blink of an eye–

all of it is samadhi;

In this great world there is nowhere that is

not a wisdom hall.

~ Ziyong

 

This poem by the 18th century Chinese nun, Ziyong, provided the anchor for the faculty commencement speech I gave this year the Naropa University.  I spoke about the lessons I learned from a climbing accident I barely survived in 1979. It taught me to look for the wisdom in every moment!  Please check it out by clicking on: 12 minute speech

In gratitude,

Deborah

P.S. I took this photo at Wat Arun in Bangkok.  He reminds me of the joy of living.

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The Female Buddha book

The Female Buddha book

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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.

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE

Watermoon Guanyin, Sanyi, Taiwan

Guanyin at Wat Pho

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Click here to see more photos!         Click here for Books on sale at 20% off!

Please note we have corrected the prices to reflect the 2013 holiday discount when you check out.  Our apologies if you encountered a previous problem!

My Heart is the Color of Blossoms

Japanese dolls

Japanese dolls

I’ll be changing into

My summer robes today

But my heart is

Still stained with

The color of spring blossoms.

Rengetsu

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Free video of Boulder Bookstore talk, April 2013

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http://www.thefemalebuddha.com

The Female Buddha book

The Female Buddha book

Extending our Attention creates Joy

Japanese Traditional Music

Japanese Traditional Music

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

 Pema Chodron

I took this photo last weekend at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Denver. I highly recommend this yearly event with musical performances, martial arts demonstrations and lots of great booths with kimonos, dolls and t-shirts with rich japanese paintings.

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The Female Buddha book on sale at Amazon!

Kindness: A nun in Taiwan

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We need to remember that most of practice can be summed up in kindness.

Charlotte Joko Beck

I feel blessed to include this photo in my book, The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love.  My host in Taiwan, Venerable Jenkir Shih, is pictured on the right with one of her elder students from one of her classes on Buddhism.  She brought me with her to visit this lovely woman after the death of her husband.  Many family members gathered for the visit with Ven. Jenkir and I was treated to the warmth of an extended Chinese family honoring a loved one.

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If you are in Boulder don’t miss my book signing at the Boulder Bookstore, Weds, Apr 24, 7:30 – 8:30.  I will be presenting a slideshow of photos from the book and talking about the quotes from women teachers that accompany the photos.

In Vietnam with Guanyin

Deborah Bowman in a temple in Hoi An, Vietnam

Poetry of Women Chinese Chan Masters: Ziyong

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I still recall, how with my bag on a pole,

I forgot my yesterdays,

Wandering the hills, played in the waters,

went to the land of the clouds.

The lift of an eyebrow, the blink of an eye–

all of it is samadhi;

In this great world there is nowhere that is

not a wisdom hall.

Ziyong

I took this photo at the monastic center of the Luminary Order of nuns in Taipei on the first day I arrived in the country.  This order has been described by American scholars as a “quiet” feminist center of activity.  During the five days I spent in Taiwan they guided me to sites where miracles occurred at or near Guanyin statues.      You can read more about the rise of Guanyin East and West in my new article in elephant journal on Celebrating the Divine Feminine.

The poet Ziyong was a Chinese Buddhist nun in the 18th century and an exceptional poet.  This poem was written on her year off from intense practice, teaching and administrative duties as the abbess of numerous monastic sites.  During her time off she wandered the countryside and mountains as her poem suggests.

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Last weekend a gathering of 12 women joined me in contemplating other poems and verses of the wise women of the Buddhist tradition.  We meditated, made art and shared tender stories of our own struggles, insights and awakenings.  The time together at this Female Buddha workshop was declared “Transformational!”  Please stay in touch for the next workshop announcement at http://www.thefemalebuddha.com.

Books available at www.thefemalebuddha.com or www.amazon.com

Book imageAvailable at www.thefemalebuddha.com or www.amazon.com

Chiyo-ni, Haiku Master and the Watermoon

Watermoon Guanyin, Sanyi, Taiwan

I also saw the moon

and so I say goodbye

to this world

Chiyo-ni

In Japanese poetry the moon is often a reference to enlightenment.  In this death poem by Buddhist nun Chiyo-ni, she expresses her final words to the world and her experience of awakening.  Is it a glimpse?  A continuous state of mind?

As one of the great haiku poets of her time, Chiyo-ni expresses a sense of wakefulness in all her poems with sublime beauty and metaphor.  She wrote her first poem at age six and spent her life devoted to the arts of 18th century Japan.

In my garden

starflowers bloom

come and see.

Chiyo-ni, age 6

While her choice to become a Buddhist nun came later in her life after the death of her husband, the temple near her home was purported to be a strong influence in her life.  Her devotion to the wonder of the world and freshness of vision is apparent in all her works.

Chiyo-ni studied in the tradition of Basho and is considered to be one of the great haiku masters of all time.  She studied with many masters in his lineage and is one of the few women recognized for her work in her lifetime.

Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi translated her voice in 1998 with precision and care in Chiyo-no: Woman Haiku Master. While the book is already out of print and only available used or as a rare copy it is still sought after by those who love her work.

I’ve paired my photograph of the Watermoon Guanyin with her poem as the reference to the ephemeral reflection of the moon in the water is a commonly used metaphor in Buddhism to represent impermanence.  It seems the arts best captures the exquisitely luminous quality of our fleeting experience.

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           THE FEMALE BUDDHA

          WORKSHOP

             Boulder, CO     Feb. 9-10, 2013      $185

             Sat. 9:30 – 12:30, 2 – 5, &  Sun. 9:30 – 1

Deborah will share stories & slides of Guanyin and we will connect the dots to her inspiration and our lives through personal reflection & sharing. Contemplations on the images & quotes in The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love bring us closer to the wisdom and compassion of Guanyin.

Click here for more information.

www.thefemalebuddha.com

 

A Nun of Cambodia: Keeping Buddhism Alive at Angkor Wat

nun, mother and childWho has gone past being a someone, a this or a that,

That one is free from fear and is blissful.

                                                                                            The Buddha

When we visited the great temple site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia several years ago this beautiful nun was offering incense sticks to worshippers.  Nuns keep all the Buddhist holy sites at temples fresh and instruct foreigners how to make offerings with incense.  We happened to arrive on the day the country was celebrating freedom from Pol Pot and many Cambodians were making offerings and seeking religious ceremonies for family members they lost in the genocide.  The nuns have taken over these responsibilities because almost all the monks were wiped out in the mass murders.

We were greatly surprised by the warmth and natural cheerfulness of the Cambodian people and were happy to join in the celebrations on this day.  Capturing the photo of this generous nun and the mother and child behind her was a highlight of my experience.

For more photos and inspirational words go to www.thefemalebuddha.com

and www.luminousbuddha.com

Buddha’s Birthday in Korea: Photos and Festivities

Hanging lanterns

Two years ago I spent four days in Korea for the purpose of photographing the events celebrating the Buddha’s birthday, enlightenment and passing away.  During the event, known as the Lotus Lantern festival, hundreds of thousands of lanterns are hung in every Buddhist temple across Korea.  Each one represents an offering made by an individual or family to commemorate the day.

Jogyesa temple in Seoul was the center of activities and first place I visited when I arrived. For two weeks hundreds of practitioners had been gathering, praying and chanting under a canopy of lanterns and an old bodhi tree. In the last four days before the culminating activities the crowds grew and a sense of reverence was interwoven with joy.

Buddha's Birthday Girl

The day of the Buddha’s birthday a street festival lined many blocks of one of the central avenues in Seoul.  Venders sold food, non-profits brought attention to their causes and children were offered arts and crafts projects.  At one booth young boys and girls lined up to have their photos taken as a Buddha.  This young girl captured my heart.

Special tables were set up so visitors from other countries were assisted in making Lotus Lanterns.  At another booth images of Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion, were colored in by children and adults alike.

Dragon

Over 10,000 participants marched in the evening Lotus Lantern Parade. Starting at dusk everyone walked for five miles before arriving at the final stretch of the procession.  At the end of the procession several city blocks were lined with crowded stadium seats waiting for the parade.  The children particularly delighted in this sixty foot dragon that shot fire from its mouth.

Cymbal Band

A cymbal band made up of nuns and monks took my breath away as they whirled
and punctuated the air with the synchronized bursts of their percussive instruments. How joyfully they affirmed the clarity each moment!  The Buddha’s teaching resonating into the night for everyone to hear.

At the beginning of the parade I joined the many onlookers as we clapped and cheered on the groups of children, elders and marching musicians.

A group of young girls dressed in bright turquoise decorated their dharma drum lanterns with Buddhas  and cartoon characters.  Groups of women dressed in chiffon streamed in unison as a light wind rippled their flowing gowns.

Woman with Lantern

Every group wore an emblematic color and carried matching lanterns in the shape of dharma wheels, bells, umbrellas and all things symbolic of the tradition. Several hundred Buddhist lay and monastic groups carrying lighted paper lanterns walk down the central streets of Seoul after dark.  The final parade marked the culmination of many spiritual activities rejoicing in the life of the Buddha.


 I took a subway to the end of the parade where a baby Buddha riding on the back of an twenty foot elephant was pulled by four young strapping men.

Constructed of paper each figure was magically lit from within.  I spotted the bodhisattva of compassion, Guanyin, or Kwan Um as she is known in Korea.  Almost twenty feet tall she was one of many historical and legendary figures of the Buddhist pantheon celebrated in the final night of the festival.

Young monks

Everyone wanted to photograph these young monks whenever they were spotted during  festivities.

Guanyin statue at Doseon-sa Temple

A bus trip took me to the Doseon-sa temple in the mountains just outside of Seoul. Strangers became friends as they held my hand and assisted me in finding my way.  At the temple this lovely Guanyin figure riding a dragon was set off by the colorful lanterns and flags from many nations.

Heartened yet wistful I flew out of Korea the day after the parade. Without the photos to jog my memory it would be difficult to recall the colorful crowds and smiles that shattered the language barrier.

Vesak, the celebration of the Buddha’s birth, death and nirvana was made more meaningful by joining in a centuries’ old tradition celebrated by thousands in the heart of a modern Asian city.

The quote below is by one of Korea’s most revered living teachers.  I’m delighted she happens to be a woman.

Spiritual practice means having faith that there is a great treasure within your mind, and then finding it.  Learning to discover the treasure within you is the most worthwhile thing in the world.  If you can put this into practice, you can live freshly, with a mind open like the sky, always overflowing with compassion.  What could be better than this?

                               Daehaeng Sunim,  Zen Master

For more photos and inspirational quotes go to: www.luminousbuddha  and www.thefemalebuddha

A Mother Meets the Buddha: Patacara

Patacara statueThis photo of Patacara is taken in Thailand at Songdhammakalyani Monastery where 12 statues are placed of the foremost Theri (elder nuns) from the time of the Buddha.  

The next photo is from the same monastery of clay sculptures of the Theri by Venerable Dhammananda.  

The last photo shows Rev. Dhammananda and the sisters of the monastary meditating under a Medicine Buddha.

   

Last night I delivered a speech about Patacara to the 2012 graduating class of Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at Naropa University.  I learned several members of the class would sing Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Paul Simon right before my talk.  Those students inspired the beginning of my speech:

Our job as transpersonal psychotherapists is to be that bridge over troubled waters and to help others to learn to ease their minds.  Our job is also to inspire the depths that are possible below those troubled waters, where the peace of our greatest nature resides.

In an ancient Chinese text, the TaoTe Ching, an old sage expressed it this way:

Some say my teachings are nonsense.

Others call them lofty yet impractical

But for those who have looked inside themselves,

This nonsense makes perfect sense.

And to those who have put it into practice,

this loftiness has roots that go deep.

I have just three things to teach:

simplicity, patience and compassion.

These three are your greatest treasures.

Simple in actions and thoughts,

you return to the source of being.

Patient with both friends and enemies,

You accord with the way things are.

Compassionate towards yourself,

you reconcile all beings in the world.***


Therigatha statues

Simple in our thinking as we start to drop some of our mind chatter and insecurities.  Instead of our ranting or babbling with others, simply saying, “I’m sad or angry and I need support” or “I hear how much pain you are in.”

Patient towards all parts of ourselves, towards the differences of others and what we don’t understand.

Compassionate. Trusting compassion is our basic nature.  When we look within and put compassion into practice our world is righted and we see a human being where we once saw a wrong.

I’d like to share a story on this day before Mother’s day about a mother who lost everything, went mad and then found a bridge over troubled waters.

Her name is Patacara and she lived some 2500 years ago in ancient India.   She was making the traditional trip home to her parents to birth her second child.

The baby came midway on the journey and while her husband struggled to make a shelter in a storm he was bit by a poisonous snake and died.

Continuing her journey both her sons died as she attempted to cross a river.

When she came to the town of her family she discovered her parents and brother died when their house collapsed in a fire. The ashes were still smoldering.

Mad with grief she wandered about walking in circles and tearing at her cloths. As a ragged and now homeless person people threw trash at her.

Sitting with the Medicine Buddha

One day she entered a grove where the Buddha was teaching and the audience attempted to keep her away.  Nevertheless the Buddha approached her and said “Sister, recover your presence of mind.”

Her mind became clear at that moment and after hearing his words of wisdom she asked to be ordained.  On the spot he left the audience and  took her to a community of nuns where she was accepted.

Here is a poem by Patacara of her later enlightenment in a moving translation by Anne Waldmen, one of the founders of our Writing and Poetics program:

Young Brahmins plough fields,

sow seeds,

nourish their wives and children,

get wealthy

Why can’t I find peace?

I’m virtuous

comply with the teacher

not lazy or puffed up

One day washing my feet

I watched the water as it

trickled down the slope

I fixed my mind

the way you’d

train a thoroughbred horse

Later, taking my lamp

I enter my cell

sit on my bed and

watch the flame

I extinguish the wick

with a needle

The release of my mind

is like the quenching of the lamp

O the nirvana of the little lamp!

Patacara expresses frustration in this verse yet describes how she returns to a simple practice with patience.  No longer tearing her cloths to shreds or the facets of her mind she finds the compassion that has no boundaries.

The moment the lamp is extinguished so is her final suffering.  Her peace is the bliss of nirvana.

Patacara went on to become a great teacher and many expressed their appreciation her for being their own bridge over troubled waters.

We have a lot to celebrate today.  You’ve followed your own emotional, mental and spiritual path of development these past 3 or 4 years.

You’ve shared what you’ve learned of simplicity, patience and compassion with your clients in internship.  You bring your presence of mind to your work and invite others onto the same path.  This is the transpersonal path.

Now you are about to make your own journey as healers into the world.  I speak for all the staff and faculty of Naropa University in wishing you many, many blessings on your journey.

***translation by Stephen Mitchell

All photos by Deborah Bowman

For more photos and inspirational words go to www.thefemalebuddha.com

For the 2008 Naropa University graduation speech go to www.luminousbuddha.com