Anita Hill is a Bodhisattva: Quote and Book Review

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We must all understand that there is great merit in sacrificing for others and that by so doing we live the full life.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Aung San Suu Kyi is considered a bodhisattva in her country.  I would consider Anita a bodhisattva in the USA.  Both have led full lives of compassionate giving.  Below is my book review of Hill’s book from goodreads.

Anita Hill tells her story with courage and heart. Her incise arguments to every sexist and racist claim made against her had me riveted. Her stories were both moving and offered insight into several generations of an African-American family meeting degradation with strength and unrelenting dignity. The recent documentary film, Anita, is a great compliment to her writing and helps us understand the tenor of the Hill-Thomas hearing of 1991 by the power of it’s visual impact. We also have the opportunity to see the continuation of her impactful work against sexual harassment two decades after the event. Although the book was published in 1998, I found it vital in describing a historical event, Anita Hill speaking truth to power, that has changed the lives of women worldwide.

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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

Realized Woman and Mother of the Buddha

I have been

mother,

son,

father,

brother,

grandmother;

knowing nothing of the truth

I journeyed on.

But I have seen the Blessed One;

this is my last body,

and I will not go

from birth to birth again.

            Mahapajipati

~*~

Maya Giving Birth to Guatama from her side

                              photo by D. Bowman, Bangkok National Museum

~*~

            When Pajapati was born she was recognized an exceptional child and it was predicted she would become a great leader or the wife of an emperor.  Many years later she and her sister Maya would become wives of the Sakya clan leader, Suddhodana.  Maya would give birth to a son Gautama, and like his aunt, it was predicted that he would be a great material or spiritual leader.  Maya died seven days after giving birth and Pajipati raised Gautama as her own.

We know the story of Guatama leaving his riches and royal standing for the life of a spiritual seeker.  After seven years and his final enlightenment under the Bodhi tree he returned home as an awakened one, the Buddha. His teachings electrified his family and eventually his father and son, Rahula, along with many of the men of the clan followed him.

Pajipati also wanted to follow her adopted son and sought his blessing to establish a nun’s group.  Turning her down, he went on to Vesali to continue his teachings.  Pajipati was not to be dismissed and along with a great gathering of 500 women, they donned the saffron robes and walked barefoot 150 miles to make another plea.

Three times the Buddha turned her down until Ananda interceded.  As a realized one and also a friend of the family he asked the Buddha, “Are women capable of leading the holy life and attaining liberation?”  The Buddha replied, “Yes, yes of course they are.”  Ananda then asked, “so why are you creating an obstacle for them?”  And the Buddha said, “Okay, so be it.”

In sharing this conversation between Ananda and the Buddha, Tenzin Palmo, a recognized teacher in the Tibetan tradition, states how this is the only recorded occasion when the Buddha changed his mind.

Pajipati, became known as Mahapajipati, or the great Pajipati.  She is recognized as the first woman leader of Buddhism and an awakened one, a Buddha herself.  Her words are recorded in the Therigatha, the songs of the elder women.  Speaking of her many lifetimes and her awakening the final words of this verse commemorate her sister Maya:

Maya gave birth to Gautama

for the sake of us all.

She has driven back the pain

of the sick and the dying.

                                          We can draw inspiration from Mahapajipati’s generosity, insight and determination. She is a mother of the Buddha and a realized teacher. Other realized women of the Therigatha sing her praises.   We are lucky to have their voices, the first recorded spiritual teachings of women in the history of the world.

~*~

WOMEN AND BUDDHISM: Talk and Slide Presentation with Deborah Bowman

October 28, 7-9, 100 Arapahoe Ave., Suite 6, Boulder, CO

Action + Acceptance — Art Therapy Serves Sex Trafficked Girls

Acceptance does not mean passivity. We may try to accept things as they are, but that doesn’t mean if, for example, a situation is unjust that we don’t try to change it.
Diana Winston

There is so much pain and suffering in this world that is hard to accept.  I have a friend that is working on a project to bring art therapy to young girls who have been used in the sex traffic industry so I’ll start there.

Slavery and rape are more accurate words for the unspeakable crimes committed against children throughout the world.  “Traffic” and “industry” says how far off course humanity has veered.

The reports on girls abducted or sold on the black market is horrifying.  The latest stories and the mounting statistics tug heavily at my heart.  I admire those who challenge the transgressions in the streets and in the halls of government.

How can we accept these despicable acts?  Not easily, but if we don’t fully accept the injury we can never address the suffering. When we accept the truth we face it, look it in the eye and let it in our hearts.

No wonder it’s so hard to accept. Our heartstrings are inevitably intertwined with the distress of others the moment we make contact.  Acceptance means connection and responsibility. Response-ability is the measure of an open heart.

With endless access to the suffering of a world torn open by the media’s onslaught we are faced with a mighty big task.  Every one of us must honestly ask ourselves whom we are able to serve: a young girl, a neighbor, our grandfather?

Every year I am struck by the ignorance of a childhood fiction that the world was on a trajectory of improvement.  The 50’s myth was shored up by a mistaken belief that every disease would be cured, technology would solve any problem and increased understanding was uniting humans across racial differences.

Yet every year my eyes are opened to greater suffering and doubts about a future on our planet. Child slavery points a laser beam on that uncertainty.

So how do we choose to serve?  How we know our capacity? How do we keep our hearts open?

My friend Sue is finding her edge developing a service-learning project for her art therapy students at Naropa University.  The Naropa Community Art Studio International is planning to take their healing work to Cambodia to support and empower survivors of sex trafficking.

She’s Partnered with Transitions Global, an organization that provides a safe environments where girls can heal through intensive trauma therapy and sustainable life and job skills training.

Raising funds through crowdrise and throwing marathon-painting parties the students are on their way to working with the Cambodian girls next summer.

Do I need to believe in a myth?  Absolutely not.  Can I accept a world of hurt?  It’s a little easier with friends like Sue.



Connecting to Others: Meditation and Tonglen

We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.

Pema Chodron

Do I spend time wondering how others are doing?  When someone sits across from me: yes.  Otherwise: usually not.

Pema Chodron’s suggestion has me wondering if this is enough.  I live a pretty whirlwind life: psychotherapist, professor, photographer, author, partner and friend.  When I’m not immersed in one of these roles my mind goes to problem solving and planning.

Sitting on the cushion in meditation I notice my designing thoughts fashioning syllabi, gardens, page layouts, budgets, retirement, interventions, trips, counseling centers, paragraphs, presentations, emails, household chores, ad infinitum.

The mental computer loops through tasks while I practice coming back to my breath again and again.  I always imagined I was 180 degrees different from the engineering lineage of my grandfather, father, uncles and brother.  Yet nonstop I engineer superhighways of the mind to accomplish tasks at higher and riskier speeds.

Do I wonder how my actions affect other people’s hearts?  All the strategic thoughts are seamlessly connected to actions. But are they genuinely connected to others?  In the abstract: yes.

My bigger endeavors have given hundreds of students a stellar education in transpersonal psychology.  I’ve initiated or designed several successful counseling programs at Naropa University.  Those tasks occupied large tracks of cerebral space for years.

Now authoring books occupies the dominant parcel of mental real estate. I want to share inspirational images and quotes of women from around the world.  Blogging about the process helps me feel more connected to my audience and other authors.

The practice of tonglen helps me move from the abstract to the personal. It’s a structured exercise in Tibetan Buddhism to breath in the pain of others and then breath out an offering of compassion and relief.  Pema speaks of it as a natural process we’ve lost touch with in our hurly-burly lives, something a big open heart does without thinking.

Tonglen reminds me to deliberately consider family members, friends and colleagues; especially anyone who is suffering or someone I’m having trouble with. I’d like to embody the process a little more off the cushion and in my daily ruminations towards others and myself.

Setting the intention is the first step.  Over and over I see a line of progress when I begin with a straightforward question and an open heart.  No beating myself up, simply breathing in the pain and starting fresh again.

How about you?  Where is your mind wondering?  Where could you use a little compassionate relief?