China: Sacred Sites of the Divine Feminine

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Putuoshan Island is dedicated to the goddess of compassion, Guanyin. Above she is depicted on the central altar in Puji temple with a smaller statue of Tara below her.  Practitioners come in droves to pray for her mercy and offering gratitude for her blessings. Her large countenance creates a sense of awe when you enter the temple and there is a hushed quiet in the movement of men and women circumambulating her altar.

In September I will be returning to Putuoshan and other sacred sites in of Guanyin to guide a 12 day pilgrimage sponsored by True Nature Journeys.  Please check out: Sacred China and consider joining us!

Awakened Woman: The freedom of letting go

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The awakened woman emerges from the chrysalis of her own inner resources.  She is established in freedom, she manifests her freedom in the celebration of her interconnectedness with all of life.

Christina Feldman

These dancers are practicing a sequence of a dance routine at Colorado University. I used this photo from a class I took on photography to illustrate an idea of letting go in a TedxBoulder talk I gave last week.  Here is a brief quote from the talk:

We need examine our failings and our fears and then let them go.  May all of us, you and I, be a bucket full of lessons, overflowing with wisdom and love.

Christina’s quote seems to also illustrate the freedom, interconnectedness and celebration of the dancer in trusting the process of letting go!

The link to my Tedx talk should be available soon.  I can’t wait to send it to you!

Deborah

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.

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.

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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Guanyin in China: Her Sacred Mountain

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Guanyin Altar at Yangzhi Monastery on Putuoshan Island

Putuoshan Island off the coast of Shanghai is one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China.  Each mountain is dedicated to a particular Bodhisattva and Putuoshan is dedicated to Guanyin, the goddess of compassion.

Last month I visited the many temples dedicated to her at Putuoshan and spent a week studying with Dr. Chun-Fang Yu, Columbia University’s scholar on the Guanyin.  We studied the transformation of this deity from male into female over many centuries in Chinese history.  While in certain settings Guanyin is still depicted as male, at Putuoshan she is primarily considered female and tied to the Chinese folk legend of Miaoshan, a young woman who is transformed into Guanyin through her exceptional sacrifices.

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Guanyin Statue in reconstruction at Fayu Temple on Putuoshan Island

I’ll be sharing more of the story of Miaoshan later in this blog and also for the C.G. Jung Society in Denver on Oct 4.  Learn more about the talk at www.thefemalebuddha.com

Guanyin: Archetype of Liberation and Love:  Friday Oct 4, 7 p.m.,  First Divine Science Church,  14th Ave. and Williams St.,    $15 at the door, $10 for students and seniors

Generosity on this Path of Love

Chinese Statue at Wat Arun, Bangkok

Chinese Statue at Wat Arun, Bangkok

Together on this path of love, we can try to make a small difference in someone’s life.  What else is there to do?

Sister Chan Khong

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I’m in China this month studying and practicing at Putuoshan, an island dedicated to Guanyin since the last millennium.  My husband and I received generous scholarships from a Chinese and American organization and are grateful for the opportunity to share our experience when we return.

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Tara: The Spirituality of Wrath

Wrathful Tara

Wrathful Tara

When we begin to accept that our anger and grief are as valid sources of learning as our quietness and detachment, we begin to accept ourselves, to heal our selves and to transform ourselves.

Christina Feldman

In the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism Tara is a beloved figure of compassion.  Her wrathful energy is understood to serve others and to cut through to truth.  In this form she is a protector and uses her energy wisely.

Tara is one of the few female figures of divinity that shows a full range of expression.  The figure above is from the Tara Mandala in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  She is one of 21 Tara figures, each one with a specific expression and meaning.  Her hand is in a teaching  mudra and a Vajra emanates from her arm.  The Vajra is a symbol of discriminating awareness and represents a thunderbolt.

Tara’s wisdom is expressed through the clarity and strength of a thunderbolt.  Imagine a mother tiger protecting her young, ready to pounce if necessary.  Her kindness is as powerful and direct.  She teaches us to appreciate our emotions and channel our passions as devotion to others.

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Click on the link below to view my talk on The Female Buddha at Boulder Bookstore, 2013:

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http://www.thefemalebuddha.com

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