Light of Consciousness: Journal of Spiritual Awakening

Light of Consciousness Magazine

Light of Consciousness Magazine

This wonderful magazine, Light of Consciousness, has a five page article, including seven photos, that I wrote on Visions of The Female Buddha.  Please check it out!

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Learning to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important.  The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering.  We’re discovering the universe.

Pema Chodron.

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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

 

Responding to Nature: What the Video Editor saw

When I first started imagining a video for my Indiegogo campaign to promote The Female Buddha book a good friend suggested I work with Bill Woolery, an accomplished editor of film trailers.  Lucky for me he had switched to making trailers for documentaries after many years working commercial films in Hollywood.  Some of them quite well known!

I sent him most of the photos from my book and he immediately began seeing a nature theme and used most of my work from Japan, where gardens were the best place to get a stunning shot of the Bodhisattva, Kwannon or Guanyin as she is known in China.

For me, nature has a feminine quality, a place where you are inspired and have to yield to her whims.  In Japan, a temple is always surrounded by the beauty of the natural world.  In the garden is where Kwannon always resides, to welcome you and offer you peace of mind.

I feel very blessed to have Bill’s creative mix of images to show you here.  Please take the time to watch the trailer and if you are inspired buy a book or contact Bill to make your own video.  I learned a lot from what he chose to use to tie the piece together and feel very blessed to have a nature loving man on my team.

Steps to the Temple

Kyoto Temple Steps

For more information go to http://www.thefemalebuddha.com

Contribute & Receive Photos, Books & Gifts

She is on her way!

CLICK HERE to receive The Female Buddha book and other lovely gifts with you donation to The Female Buddha campaign.

Book image

The Indiegogo campaign runs today until Dec 10 and offers you the opportunity to receive a signed copy of the Female Buddha book, lovely notecards, photographs, a workshop, consulting or other generous rewards for your donations.  In the first 24 hours of the campaign we have already met 25% of our goal with $1200 in contributions.  Everybody is expressing the value they receive for what they give.  Please join us today in bringing her quotes and photographs to an audience eager for her wisdom, compassion and beauty.

Thanks so much for your interest and please, check her out!

www.thefemalebuddha.com

3 Faces of the Feminine in Bangkok: Photos of Guanyin

White Marble Guanyin

***********************************************************************I am experiencing and cultivating an opening of my heart that allows for tenderness, for forgiveness, for a deep listening to others and myself.  Kwan Yin has been part of this opening.

   Sandy Boucher

Each of these three photos were at separate temple sites throughout Bangkok.  This first white marble Guanyin had it’s own worship area in a corner of Wat Indravahin.  A little more than life-size, she sat between two large dragons on an altar covered with candles, offering trays and small figurines.  I was able to capture her as the light changed from afternoon to dusk and placed the white and red flower offering over the vase she is holding.  A little while later a temple attendant cleaned the statue of flowers and beads so the next round of visitors could make similar offerings.

Guanyin at the Royal Palace

Within the grounds of the Royal Palace are many grand and lovely statues of Buddhist dieties.  The gold on this bronze Guanyin statue is the result of men and women placing gold leaf on her in acts of devotion.  Behind her stands a large guardian figure covered in mosaic.  Guanyin figures are rare in Thai temples unless found in Chinatown.  The Chinese immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century became more influential over time and are responsible for her presence at a few more traditional temples throughout the city.

Guanyin at Wat Pho

I photographed these golden figures of Guanyin in the early morning light at Wat Pho, one of the oldest temples in Bangkok.  Although the general public was not admitted to the site until a later hour, an old women escorted us to a back entrance where locals came early to  worship.  I can’t tell you how delightful it was to walk around the grounds in the peace of dawn and the reverence of those making offerings.  For a photographer it was heaven.

Update on my book, The Female Buddha: Looked over the color proofs from China this weekend and sent the first edit back.  It looks great and should be out before Christmas!

For more inspirational images and information about The Female Buddha go to: www.thefemalebuddha.com  and www.luminousbuddha.com

The Generosity of Guanyin in Bangkok’s Chinatown

Guanyin on a Dragon

We practice generosity with others and with ourselves, over and over again, and the power of it begins to grow until it becomes almost like a waterfall, a flow.  We practice kindness with others and ourselves, over and over again, and this is who we become this is what feels most natural.

 Sharon Salzberg

When I first starting looking for images of Guanyin in Bangkok I headed out to Chinatown.  Like many of our big cities in the United States, Chinatowns may be found throughout the world.  The large cities and coastal town of East Asia were particularly popular for  immigrants when times were hard or there was political repression in China.

The Chinese practiced a form of Buddhism giving devotion to Guanyin and brought many images of the her to the shores of Bangkok where only images of the original Buddha are found.  I discovered the mural above adorning the walls of an outdoor temple amidst a busy street in the heart of Chinatown.

Guanyin has a willow branch in one hand displaying her gentle nature and a vase pouring healing nectar in the other hand.  She rides the back of a dragon on ocean waves with confidence and command.  She is known as the one who hears the cries of the world.

This outdoor temple was part of a Charity Medical Center sponsored by a Buddhist association.  When I went to the door I was asked if I needed medical attention and was touched by their generosity.

Guanyin at Charity Medical Center

At the back of the temple was this life size statue of Guanyin in the male form.  When Buddhism came to China in the 2nd century Guanyin was known by his Indian name, Avelokitasvara.  By the 8th century many depictions were painted and sculpted as  female. Today you will see statues in East Asia that are male, female or androgynous.

Guanyin in Chinatown

I discovered this last image of Guanyin at the back of another temple that was closed for the day.  As you can see many individuals leave sweet and kitschy items to honor her presence.  In the next post I will share more of my photos of the feminine Guanyin found throughout the temples of Bangkok.

For additional inspirational images and quotes go to : www.thefemalebuddha.com  and www.luminousbuddha.com

Contented Moments

Crow on Buddha

Contented moments are the potential of every moment.  Actually all moments are contented.  When they’re not, it’s because the mind has made a mess of them.

Sylvia Boorstein

 

This photo is from the Shwedagon temple in Burma where my husband and I visited last December.  The quote is from Sylvia’s book It’s Easier Than You Think.  Her sense of humor is something I could use right now!  I’ve been working hard to get photos ready for printing for my book The Female Buddha.   These last details are about to make my hair stand on end.  I think a little crow is helpful about now.

 

 

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

www.luminous buddha.com

Photos of Temple Life in Burma

Old Monk in MandalayMonk at Teak Temple

 Italian designed eight sided temple, Mandalay

These are just a few of the people we encountered visiting the temples of Mandalay and the surrounding towns in Burma.  The elder monk above guided us through an abandoned temple and showed us where the altars and Buddha statues used to sit.  He smoked a large cigar and folded it into his robes when I asked to take his photograph. 

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Woman ringing bell

Woman ringing Burmese Gong, Kuthodaw Paya (temple), Mandalay

This woman was demonstrating how to ring a traditional Burmese gong and sold us a smaller version after much haggling.  Her original prices were twice what we discovered on the streets  so we were happy to have engaged in   friendly haggling over the gongs.

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Children visiting temple

Young girls visiting a temple, Kuthodaw Paya (temple), Mandalay

These young students were on a field trip from the surrounding villages and flocked around us to see and touch a foreigner.  Their smiles and giggles were infectious and we found ourselves inundated by twenty or thirty at a time.  They wanted us to take their pictures and often expressed a mixture of delight and embarrassment when I snapped a shot.  

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Women Praying

      Women Praying, Mahamuni Paya (temple), Mandalay

This famous temple receives thousands of visitors who come to venerate the famous Mahamuni Buddha image that is believed to have been caste in the 1st century AD.  Only the men are allowed to walk up to the image and apply gold leaf that is now more than six inches thick on the statue. The women gather to worship in front of the Buddha.

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Young Boys in Costume

          Young Boys in Temple Ceremony,

         Mahamuni Paya (temple), Mandalay

These boys stand in line waiting for the procession to begin where they will be “king for the day”.  This Buddhist initiation ceremony occurs once a year and is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both girls and boys.  When we first asked a bystander about the procession where an adult holds an umbrella over the head of each child, he pointed to a girl and said she was “queen for the day”.  I put my hand to my heart to express the specialness of the occasion yet couldn’t stop my mind from the association to the TV show of my childhood era where women were crowned “queen for the day”.  What a different experience! 

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Young people in costume


              Preparing for Temple Procession, 

                                              Mahamuni Paya (temple), Mandalay

These young people pose for a group photo before they join the processional walk around the temple.  Unlike the children we met everywhere we went they held back their smiles for the seriousness of the event.  I am so thankful we stumbled on this ceremony and just wish I could say more about its meaning and origin. 

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Nun studying for exam

Nun Studying for Exam, Samaidodaya Recluse, Sagaing

This beautiful nun was the attendant for the head abbess of a monastery for approximately 250 women.  While we visited and had tea with the elder abbess the young woman studied for an important exam she would take the next day at a Buddhist university.  Her studies included English and she was able to share at bit of her knowledge of the challenging Buddhist philosophy she was preparing to be tested on.  

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Whenever you have friendliness to yourself, then friendliness to your world happens simultaneously.  As natural goodness begins to dawn in your heart, and a sense of dignity begins to occur.  The more you open yourself up to this process, the more you find that the world extends its hospitality for you to proclaim your dignity.

Cynthia Kneen, Awake Mind, Open Heart

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More inspirational words and photos at

Making a Buddha in Burma: Photos of Devotion

two women making a buddhaWomen polishing a Buddha

Three or four blocks of a street in the busy city of Mandalay are devoted to sculptors working on Buddha statues.  On the east side of the street men wield power tools carving out the basic shapes of Buddhas sitting, standing or lying down.  On the west side the women refine and polish the statues before they are distributed to temples or individuals who have purchased the sacred icons.  Men and women cross back and forth checking on the work and chat with their friends and family members.

Although I had permission to take photos I felt as if I was an intruder.  Did I understand their devotion and concentration?  The last thing they probably imagined was that our faith was mutual and that I hoped to share the beauty of their work with the world.  

Everyone one making a buddha is also working on the project of becoming a Buddha.  Below I share a passage of a conversation between Subhuti and the Buddha on what that might look like in our everyday lives.

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Four Burmese making Buddhas


Sculpting Many Buddhas

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Making a Buddha with power tools

      Power tools to shape a Buddha

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Finishing touches on a Buddha

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 Buddhas for sale in the Scupture Park

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Subhuti asked: “What does buddha mean?”

The Buddua answered: “Buddha is reality. One who thoroughly comprehends all the factors of existence is a buddha.”

Then Subhuti asked: “What does enlightenment mean?”

The Buddha replied: “Enlightenment is a way of saying that all things are seen in their intrinsic empty nature, their Suchness, their ungraspable wonder.  Names or words are merely incidental, but that state which sees no division, no duality, is enlightenment.”

Subhuti asked: “if one wants to know emptiness, how should one do it?”

“The one who wants to realize emptiness should adore reality, develop a skill in living in the world, and cultivate friends of the same mind.  Skill can only be developed in the presence of reality, not otherwise.  Endowed with skill, the person gives without the idea of a giver and lives in the realization that all the factors of existence have no ultimate substance.”

The Buddha, from the Prajnaparamita Sutra 

translation by Anne Bancroft, The Buddha Reader

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More inspirational words and photos at