Being a Buddhist nun today

the sangha at sakyadhitya conference 2019On a cold day in the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney, hundreds of women from across the globe gathered together for the International Sakyadhita conference on Women in Buddhism.

Nuns from Korea, Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar, Australia and more, came together to discuss what Buddhism has to offer in the face of shared challenges.

Among them was Roshi Joan Halifax, one of the leading figures in the Zen Buddhist tradition. She, like Korean nun and Emeritus Professor Bon-Gak, have been forging a socially engaged Buddhist movement for many years.

We also meet the Venerable Hassapaññā, from Giggiganup in Western Australia. She was one of the first four Theravadin nuns to be ordained in Australia in 2009


Tibetan Nuns chanting
Tibetan Buddhist chanting at the International Sakyadhita Conference, 2019. (ABC RN: Meredith Lake)


Statue of Buddha
Statue of Buddha at the International Sakyadhita Conference, 2019. (ABC RN: Meredith Lake)


Tibetan Buddhism has been under pressure in its heartland since Chinese occupation in 1959. This prompted many Buddhists to flee the country, and seek refuge in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal. Venerable Thunten Sangmo was born to a Buddhist family in Nepal and in 1992 at a young age decided to take orders as a nun. She eventually entered the Kopan Monastery, north of the ancient Buddhist town of Boudhanath.

Venerable Sangmo spoke to RN’s Geoff Wood at the Woodford Folk Festival earlier this year, and shared her story.

You can listen to this (or download the audio file) here


Venerable Thungten
Venerable Thunten Sangmo is part of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. (ABC RN: Geoff Wood)


Tibetan buddhist nuns doing Sand Mandala
Kopan Tibetan nuns of Nepal with a sand mandala at the Woodford Folk Festival, 2018. (Image: Supplied/ Woodford Folk Festival)


Further Information
International Sakyadhita Conference 2019:
The 16th International Sakyadhita Conference took place in June 2019 in the Blue Mountains of Australia, near Sydney. The theme, New Horizons in Buddhism, explores changes within Buddhist circles worldwide, in response to current global concerns. What has Buddhism to offer in the face of our shared challenges? And in particular, what are the particular qualities which the female voice can bring in facing these concerns?

Standing at the Edge by Joan Halifax:
Joan’s book recounts the experiences of caregivers, activists, humanitarians, politicians, parents, and teachers, incorporating the wisdom of Zen traditions and mindfulness practices, and is rooted in Halifax’s groundbreaking research on compassion. It’s a powerful guide on how to find the freedom we seek for others and ourselves — a book that will serve us all.

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