1,300 Years of Buddhist Women Practitioners and Dakinis from the 8th Century to the 21st
In this issue we focus on women practitioners and scholars, patrons, and leaders who inspire us.
- We continue our Patron Series highlighting the great patrons of Buddhism, with the story of Her Majesty Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck of Bhutan.
- An exclusive audio introduction to Sera Khandro, a great terton of the 20th century, given by Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche at the request of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.
- Introductions to a few of our grant recipients.
- Books: A reading list of some of our favorite books on female practitioners
- Faces of the Foundation: Stephanie Lai
- First Person: Words about giving from Sylvana Maria Barbanti
Happy Losar and welcome to the year of the male water dragon. For news about recent grant activity, check out the KF web site and our Facebook page.
Matching Funds Program doubles all regular monthly donations through
the generosity of a group of matching donors. Signing up for automatic
monthly contributions is the best way for you to connect with and
support Khyentse Foundation. If you are not yet a monthly donor, please
consider it. It's easy to sign up.
Banner Photos: Dzongsar
Khyentse Rinpoche washing young Saraswati's feet, Malibu, 2008 by Jesse
Klein Seret; Detail of Vajrayogini thangka by Tara di Gesu; Khandro
Lhamo, sangyam of Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche; Happy Year of the
Dragon!; Khandro Tsering Chödrön.
THE WORDS OF OUR GURU
about Khyentse Foundation California, August 2011
What is Khyentse Foundation? Why did you start it?
was the idea of a few of my friends who work in the world of finance
and management and who understood that there are ways to pool resources
and increase the power that money has. We were in Derge visiting my
monastery there. Many lamas have this issue of having to support
monasteries and I suppose being there, and seeing how much of a
responsibility this was, my friends wanted to figure out a way to
relieve the pressure. Once we started imagining the possibilities, the
idea of a setting up a system of patronage began to take root.
Where is KF now?
That conversation in Dzongsar was 10 years ago. We are now supporting the study and practice of Buddhism
in 30 countries. Because of the way these friends have pooled the
sources and managed the funds, we have been able to offer over US$6
million in grants. Someone has calculated that the lives of more than
10,000 people have been affected, and my hope is that through their
study and practice, Buddha’s teachings are spreading. We have tried to
identify people and projects that are dedicated to the study and
practical usage of the authentic Buddhadharma, and who can make a
positive difference in the world.
Rinpoche at the INEB Conference in Bodh Gaya. Photo by Ven. Manjusri Balangoda.
Delhi, New York, 2012. By Lowell Boyers.
KHYENTSE FOUNDATION ACTIVITIES MAKING AN IMPACT AROUND THE WORLD
These project updates and other articles have been posted on the KF site since the last Communiqué. You can also keep updated by joining our Facebook page.
Bel Pedrosa, Lisa Davison, Cangioli Che, and Florence Koh of the KF Executive Committee. Photo by John Solomon.
most exciting thing about working for Khyentse Foundation has to be the
opportunity to meet so many different people from different walks of
life who are working toward a common goal. I’m particularly impressed
with all the amazing women I’ve met – Vesna Wallace, Anne Klein,
Chodrung Ani Kunga Chödrön, Ding Nai-Chu, not to mention my colleagues
in the KF executive committee and other committees. Interestingly,
about 75% of my colleagues at KF are women — true professionals in
their own right and committed practitioners, coming together to
volunteer to spread Buddha’s wisdom and compassion for the benefit of
— Cangioli Che, KF Executive Director
So Many Books About Female Bodhisattvas and Women Practitioners, So Little Time...
annotated list of books that we’ve enjoyed about women (and female
bodhisattvas and deities) in Buddhism is just a tiny sample of what’s
available. We had to cut the list short or risk taking up this entire
issue of the Communiqué. Please excuse us now while we go
spend the rest of the year reading new books about the feminine spirit
in Buddhism, and rereading old favorites.
Please support your locally owned bookstore; but if you intend to
purchase online, remember to enter the Amazon site through the link on
the Khyentse Foundation donation page (fourth bullet point). A percentage of your purchase will be donated to KF.
Bodhisattva of Compassion:
The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin
John Blofeld. Shambhala Publications, Inc. 1977.
you ever wondered how Avalokiteshvara, the male bodhisattva who
embodies the compassion of all Buddhas, came to be associated with the
female bodhisattva Tara (India), Drolma (Tibet), Kannon (Japan) and
Kuan Yin (China)? In this beautifully written history and extended
meditation on the mystical tradition of Kuan Yin, John Blofeld traces
her lineage from India throughout Asia.
Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo's Quest for Enlightenment
Vicki Mackenzie. Bloomesbury Publishing. 1998.
amazing story of a Western woman who became a Buddhist nun and spent 12
years meditating in a remote Himalayan cave at 13,000 feet. Tenzin
Palmo now teaches in many locations around the world, including Deer
Park Institute in Bir, India. She has established a nunnery, Dongyu
Gatsal Ling, which houses 75 nuns living, studying, and practicing
together. She writes, “My feeling is that in the future well-trained
nuns will have an increasingly important role to play in upholding the
sacred Dharma and we are committed to helping this come about."
Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism
Judith Simmer-Brown. Shambhala Publications. 2001.
is a dakini to be understood – as a human woman, a goddess, an
archetype? What is the significance of her gender for the Tibetan
tradition and for contemporary Western interpretation?” Judith
Simmer-Brown asks and answers these questions and many others in her
study of the feminine principle in in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. The
title comes from a song of Milarepa: “The teachings of the whispered
lineage of the dakini’s warm breath.”
Khyentse Rinpoche established the Lho Mon Society in 2011. In
Bhutanese, Lho means south or southern, and Mon refers to the people of
the southern regions of Bhutan and the surrounding regions of Assam and
Burma. Rinpoche chose the name to indicate that people are unified not
only by the borders of their countries but also by the natural
environments in which they live.
Lho Mon Society is Bhutan’s first major civil society development
project with a mission to foster genuine Gross National Happiness-based
development in harmony with government goals. The society’s purposes
are to raise living standards in Bhutan in an ecologically friendly
way, and to establish food security and self-sufficiency, while fully
protecting and enhancing the natural environment, strengthening
communities, promoting Bhutan’s unique culture, stemming the
rural-urban migration tide, and fostering a cooperative, productive,
entrepreneurial, and self-reliant spirit. The Samdrup Jongkhar
Initiative (SJI) was Lho Mon Society’s first project, and it remains a
vital part of the organization. Lho Mon Education began as a part of
SJI and has since grown into a separate entity that addresses the
education needs of the entire country.
society is assisting existing organizations such as the Bhutan Nuns
Foundation and the Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs to create
new curricula based on the concepts of interdependence and compassion.
1 - 9 June, 2012
Taipei City, Taiwan
In the past years,
we have all together made innumerable offerings of flowers, incense,
lamps, umbrellas etc. and have accumulated hundreds of thousands of
Ushnisha Vijaya mantras and mandala-circumambulations. The chanting,
which sounded like big waves, and the shadows of lamps interwoven like
webs, are still lingering in many people's minds. Rinpoche has said
that Ushnisha Vijaya is very suitable for Taiwan and vice versa.
Therefore, let's welcome the auspicious causes and conditions of the
fifth Ushnisha Vijaya Puja in Taiwan, which will be performed in June
this year. The merit and benefits of Ushnisha Vijaya Thousand-offering
Puja are profound. We sincerely welcome you to join and perfect this
special dharma banquet.
Your support and
donation will be deeply appreciated. Registration is not necessary for
the puja. To protect the environment, please bring your own cups.
Rinpoche is wrapping up the set of his third film after a successful shoot in Sri Lanka.
Casting still photo of Shahana Goswami in her leading role of Lila. Photo by Pawo Choyning Dorji.
If you are not receiving the Communiqué directly from Khyentse Foundation, you may sign up on the
KF NEWS AVAILABLE IN CHINESE, FRENCH, AND PORTUGUESE
If you prefer to read KF news in Chinese, sign up here. Please visit our Chinese language site
for information about how to participate as a sponsor and/or as a
volunteer. We also have French and Portuguese editions of the
Communiqué. Please send an email to
let us know if you would like to be added to those lists. French
speakers may also be interested in the French edition of Rinpoche's pilgrimage book, which is now available online.
Foundation’s logo is Ashoka’s lion. King Ashoka reigned during the
Mauryan Empire (3rd century B.C.), one of Buddhism’s golden eras. His
trademark was the pillars inscribed with Buddhist teachings that he
erected throughout his kingdom.
A Legacy of Devotion, Generosity and Leadership
Her Majesty Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck: Patron Queen of Bhutan (1911-2003)
by Charmaine Oakley
Bhutanese royal family is known for having a strong tradition of
patronage and support for the dharma, especially the queens. In
particular, Her Royal Highnesses Ashi Wangmo and Ashi Phuntsho Choden
and the present Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choden have created a
legacy throughout Bhutan. You won’t find many gold butter lamps in the
temples of Bhutan that have not been offered by one of them. Looking
back, my memory of this great queen, Ashi Phuntsho Choden, is something
I can never imagine recreating. That setting was so special. I was only
eight or nine years old when I spent time with her, and our encounters
mostly took place in the presence of both of my grandfathers, His
Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Pomda Khen
Rinpoche, and the previous Khamtrul Rinpoche — many times all at once.
My childish memory of her is her eating very thin slivers of betel nut
that her attendants had carefully sliced because with her aged teeth
she could not chew the whole ones. But she was so elegant."
— Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche on Queen Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck
Phuntsho Choden (1911-2003) married Bhutan’s second king, Jigme
Wangchuck, in 1925 when she was 15 years old. This marriage between
second cousins carried on the religious lineage of the royal family of
Wangchuck that traces its origins to Tertön Pema Lingpa (1450-1521).
Ashi Phuntsho Choden was the half-sister of the father of the new
Dragon Queen Jetsun Pema, and she was the great grandmother of the
fifth king of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. (The wedding of
Jetsun Pema and Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck took place in October,
nobility is tightly interwoven with sacred prophecies, revealed
treasures, and Guru Rinpoche’s blessings. The country’s first queen,
Ashi Tsendue Lhamo, was deeply devoted to Buddhism and was the only
woman in the district of Bumthang whose wrist fit Yeshe Tsogyal’s
bracelet. Ashi Phuntsho Choden, the second queen, was equally devout.
As Bhutan began the balancing act of promoting and preserving its
culture while trying to engage with the modern world, she carried the
Buddhadharma beyond Bhutan into India and Nepal. In 1927, when her
husband Jigme Wangchuck became Druk Gyalpo, the Dragon King, she took
her place as a patron queen, responsible for religious, royal, and
Phuntsho Choden’s aristocratic education taught her how to manage
Bhutan’s domestic world of weavers and estates. As queen, she was kind,
capable, open-minded, and generous, moving gracefully between her inner
and outer worlds of her activity. When she gave birth to the third Druk
Gyalpo, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, in 1928, she made sure that he
learned both English and Hindi in early childhood to prepare him for
Bhutan’s escalating involvement in foreign diplomacy. After the birth,
Ashi Phuntsho Choden had no more children, and focused her life around
Buddhism and matters of state.
Linking Sera Khandro Through the Dudjom Lineage
2008, at the request of Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse
Rinpoche gave a series of Sera Khandro Dewai Dorje empowerments in
Santa Barbara, California. Sera Khandro was a great female treasure
revealer in the early 20th century, highly respected by all the Nyingma
Lamas. With his "sexy voice," Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche gave a brief
history of Sera Khandro at the empowerments; his masterful way of
storytelling intertwines Sera Khandro's life with the life story of
Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, Rinpoche's father, who recently passed away. We
offer this lovely 20-minute segment in memory of Dungsey Thinley Norbu
Rinpoche. You can also read the transcript of the talk, which was
transcribed by Kathleen Pratt.
Bhakha Tulku on the life and liberation of Sera Khandro
Read the transcript of Bhaka Tulku Rinpoche's talk
A Few Drops of Generosity
love to hear from our friends and supporters about their decision to
become regular contributors to the matching funds program. All monthly
contributions are automatically doubled through the program, thanks to
a group of anonymous matching funders. In many ways, the matching fund
program is the lifeblood of Khyentse Foundation. Silvana Maria Barbanti
wrote us this kind note with a few insights as well.
By Silvana Maria Barbanti
have studied and worked since I was a teenager. Many times I have asked
myself about the meaning of struggling and putting lots of energy on
worldly business. Although I always tried to support Dharma projects as
much as I could, I did not have much commitment to any particular
project. After so many years of going through hope and fear, I decided
to commit to a Dharma project that is very close to my heart — a
project that will make a difference. I was never approached by any
representative from Khyentse Foundation with a request to contribute.
I think their attitude is quite noble, I wonder if this laid-back style
might have delayed a bit my commitment to the Matching Funds Program,
just by the fact that I was not made aware of how much the foundation
does need help. In any case, I really trust Khyentse Foundation and I
really believe that its founder, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, cares
about people. I hope the few drops of generosity I am offering to
Khyentse Foundation will bring oceans of lasting happiness to all
you would like to share your matching funds story, please send it to
us. We love to hear what inspired you to join and how it makes you feel
to be part of the KF ocean of activity. And if you have not joined the
Matching Funds Program, please do! Every dollar you donate will be
matched, doubling your contribution.
Coming Soon: The 84000 Reading Room
84000 Reading Room will be an immersive online reading environment
where everyone can directly encounter the words of the Buddha. Based on
state-of-the-art interactive Web technologies, the Reading Room will
present translations of the Buddha’s words in a clear, easy-to-read
format. Users who want to read offline can download the translations as
PDFs, or share them with friends and colleagues.
Reading Room will feature a linked, integrated three-language glossary
in Tibetan, Sanskrit, and English. The glossary will help readers
identify and evaluate key terms, person names, and place names. Also, a
subject classification system will reveal in greater depth the subjects
present in the Tibetan Buddhist canon. The Reading Room is being
developed in collaboration with the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC). It will be launched very soon, along with the publication of the first batch of completed translations.
For more exciting news about Translating the Words of the Buddha, go to www.84000.co.
A Few of the Women Who Received KF Grants in 2011
Anne Klein, Rice University
Klein is a professor (and former chair) in the Department of Religious
Studies at Rice University. In addition to focusing on Buddhist studies
for both graduate and undergraduate students, she also teaches Tibetan.
A grant from Khyentse Foundation is making it possible for one of her
senior students to teach Tibetan to beginner and intermediate students.
About the benefits of the grant,
Professor Klein writes, “Interested undergraduate students benefit, the
graduate program at Rice is strengthened and, by catching smart and
enthusiastic students young, the future study of Tibetan texts is
enriched. Also, requested funds let us project three years of
continuous Tibetan language study, making it more likely that ambitious
students will begin. Finally, a cohort of students studying Tibetan
language makes the Buddhist conversation much more visible at Rice,
bringing more benefit from invited Tibetan scholars, and strengthening
requests to Rice administration for more support.”
Alina Cepeda: Studying to Become a Trilingual Translator
Cepeda is a native of Mexico who used a Khyentse Foundation grant to
partially support her pilgrimage, study, and practice in retreat in
Nepal, Thailand, and India. She is now studying Tibetan with the goal
of being able to translate from Tibetan to English and Spanish, both
orally and written texts. She is also preparing to do a three-year
writes, “I just want to add that this year was of an enormous benefit
because I was able to dedicate this year to do serious Dharma Practice
as well as pilgrimage. It is still my wish to start learning Tibetan in
a more formal way. Thank you so much for the support and for believing
Jenkir Shih: Buddhist Nun and Aspiring Translator
Shih is a Buddhist nun from Taiwan who has completed four years of the
five-year Tibetan Translator Degree Program at Guna Institute in Bir,
India. The program is designed so that students will become proficient
in all aspects of the spoken and written Tibetan language. She is also
continuing to develop fluency in English. The KF grant that she
received paid for her tuition at the Guna Institute. Jenkir Shih writes,
a Buddhist nun, I devote my whole life to practice and study in
Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Vajrayana Buddhism. My
original motivations and aspirations of being trained in Guna Institute
were more on the level of technique: To improve my ability to translate
different Buddhist traditional texts into Chinese to increase
communication and understanding among Buddhist schools in Asia. My
study of Tibetan, together with my ongoing skill development in
Sanskrit and English and my knowledge of my native language of Chinese,
will make this translation goal achievable. “I am lucky to have been
allowed to spend 6 months in learning Tibetan in India by my teacher
and Dharma sisters in Taiwan, but there is no fund in my nunnery
(Luminary Temple--Mahayana temple, the most organized Bhiksuni Sangha
in Taiwan) to support me about this study.”
| FACES OF THE FOUNDATION
Member of KF's Executive Apprentice Program
each issue of the Communiqué, we introduce a member of our volunteer
team—country representatives, project coordinators, advisors, board and
committee members, and members of the executive office. This month we
introduce Stephanie Lai, a member of Khyentse Foundation's apprentice
executive program. Stephanie is the daughter of Ding Nai Chu, a
respected meditation instructor, and Stan Lai, one of Taiwan's most
renowned playwrights and filmmakers. She and her husband, photographer
Pawo Choyning Dorji, and their daughter, Oddyanna, split their time
between Taiwan and Bir, India. Stephanie studied at the London Academy
of Drama and Music with a focus on acting. She has performed in several
theatrical plays and television shows. Rinpoche appointed
Stephanie to the executive apprentice program, which he
established in 2010 to cultivate future leaders.
was a little girl my parents hosted many lamas at our house so I
actually met Rinpoche when I was a little kid, but I didn't start
studying the dharma with him until I was 22, which was the same year I
heard about Khyentse Foundation. I remember being at Cangioli's house
in San Francisco 10 years ago when they were discussing starting the
Foundation. At that time it sounded so enormous to me and so far
removed from my own capabilities. Even back then I heard them talk
about cultivating the next generation of leaders, but I didn't think it
pertained to me. Then last summer I attended my first Khyentse
Foundation board meeting and was assigned to apprentice under Cangioli.
This amazing experience really brought home to me that although what KF
doing seems so far reaching, it is also achievable. It really opened my
I think it is incredible of
Rinpoche to create a group of young apprentices. Even though I have
very limited experience of work like this, and I was surprised that he
included me, I trust Rinpoche's vision. Now it makes sense. Rinpoche is
really thinking about cultivating the next generation. In fact,
everything that Rinpoche and the Khyentse Foundation team are doing now
seems to have far-reaching goals. They are thinking about preserving
the dharma for centuries to come, and I will do whatever I can to help
achieve Rinpoche’s wishes.
Photo: self-portrait of Stephanie and her husband Pawo.
and your dedication will bear fruit in a very, very big way. What I’m
saying is that all of our efforts, all of us, individually, are
responsible, and will be responsible, for many of the very essential
activities that Khyentse Foundation is undertaking.”
—Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
The great practitioner and Khyentse sangyam, Khandro Tsering Chödrön
sharing photos with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. From Rinpoche's private
Imagine: What would 100% sangha participation look like?
estimate that only about 40% of those who receive teachings from
Rinpoche support Khyentse Foundation as donors. We have tried our best
to convey the importance of supporting the Foundation without engaging
in aggressive fundraising campaigns. We had hoped that by simply
sharing the success stories of KF activities, donors would want to take
the opportunity to create this connection with Rinpoche and his work.
But, as Cangioli said recently:
there is a communication gap. If students were clearly aware of
Rinpoche’s vision and what KF is doing to fulfill that vision, and if
they knew that KF depends on the generosity of individuals, every one
of Rinpoche’s students would want to be connected and to share the
merit by supporting the Foundation. I am confident that with proper
communication, one day 100% of those who have received teachings from
Rinpoche will become KF donors!"
Prajnaparamita thangka by Tara Di Gesu for Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel
Thank you for reading.
You can now also post comments on the KF web site.