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Discussion Responses: Buddhist Women On The Border

From April 2 class: Here are some thoughtful observations on our recent reading from those who were able to attend class discussion. (We had Pat Darling come in to share her experiences over the past decades of Buddhism in America, then some reading discussion.)

• Pema Chodron: appreciated her teacher because he always made her upset. Why didn’t it bother her that her teacher was having affairs? Wouldn’t that create problems within the community?
• Also struck being a Buddhist – the teacher is supposed to be a role model for all students – not to do any behavior that would harm anyone. But Pema’s teacher wasn’t a monk – also, Jan Willis described her respect for her teacher who treated her as a daughter – that is more the way it should be.
• Enjoyed reading bell hooks – didn’t know until this class that she was a Buddhist – she doesn’t capitalize her name because she doesn’t want her ego to get too big – she says ‘hi’ to everybody no matter what their class – truly loves every living creature. Also likes how she has her Ph.D. but you don’t know that when you read her.
• Pema appreciating her teacher: can understand why she would appreciate getting her upset, because it forced her to learn to control – also, when Pat left, she mentioned some of the Buddhists in Tibet, in the midst of their adversity, stayed calm (also Jan Willis mentioned this). They learned to control their anger and reactions so that little stuff didn’t move them.
• In Jan Willis’s article talking about confidence – she talked about the impact on people’s self image from having a history of 300 years of slavery – this was striking and helpful.
• bell hooks ties into that – coming into a place where you can be defined by more than your pain – that you are impacted but not defined by your pain – you are more than it. Beyond being a victim – (quote from hooks:) “the sense of unworthiness is more life threatening than the structures of domination.”
• Also struck in bell hooks – because she’s a black woman writing about healing and moving beyond your pain to her own community, it has the potential to create a paradigm shift – if someone can say, I understand what you have gone through, but we have to move beyond – it’s not someone from outside the community, but someone within who can make a difference.
• Interested in how the nuns taking vows also are given a new name (one connected to the teacher’s lineage).
• Impressed by Jan Willis – it said that Buddhism didn’t open the door to African Americans – and there were so few of them that they tended to join together – also Buddhism seems to attract people who were seeking something, who were not at peace. This seems more intentional than just finding a church for social or ritual comfort – people attracted to Buddhism want more to concentrate on themselves individually.