Stepping into Groundlessness: Interview with Pema Chödrön (Full Text)

NOTE: A few weeks ago Tricycle published the interview I did with Pema Chodron last summer. Because the full interview ran quite long, it was decided that they would publish an edited down version of a more standard length. Below is the full text of the conversation. * = previously unpublished

Pema Chödrön is a spiritual icon and one of the most influential and recognizable Buddhists in the world. A bestselling author and prolific teacher, she has touched the lives of countless individuals and in turn is fervently admired by many people, and not just Buddhists.

But the Pema I am drawn to—and I imagine most Pema Chödrön fans out there feel the same way—is not the celebrity, but the real-world Buddhist nun who works with her mind and doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. Genuine, playful, kind, and humble, the secret to Pema’s success seems to be that she has no secret. She is able to help people work with fear and confusion because she has worked with her own fear and confusion. There’s no wizard behind the curtain. There’s just Pema, and she’s practicing just as any of us can.

This summer, before the start of the Being Brave: Transforming Our World program in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I was able to sit and talk with Pema about a wide range of issues, from her early life, teachers, and current path to spiritual materialism, the future of monasticism, and the harsh realities of the world we live in.

*Long before you were known as the great Pema Chodron, you were born Deidre Blomfield-Brown. Tell me about Deirdre. What were you like before finding the Buddhist path? Well, I was born in New York City in 1936, during hard financial times. When I was three months old my family moved to my grandfather’s farm in New Jersey, and my parents commuted to New York. It was a pretty sweet life, gentle. We didn’t have a lot of money, but by the time I got to be a teenager there must’ve been more money around because, with the help of scholarships, they were able to send me to really good schools. I went to Miss Porters School in Farmington, Connecticut with Jackie Kennedy’s sister, and then I went to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY but left after two years when I got married. I was 20 when I got married, and then seven years later I got divorced. Then I married again. I was pretty conservative.

My second marriage was the beginning of me breaking out of that kind of conventional 50’s mindset, and my second husband, instead of being like the East Coast upper middle class people I had become used to, was the son of a Beverly Hills psychoanalyst [laughs], who had movie stars as patients. His mother was a writer, they were Jewish, and it was so different, and I loved it. That was the beginning of me taking my first steps out of the pretty conventional life that I grew up in.

*In those early years, was there anything before this lifestyle switch that indicated or foreshadowed your future path? Did you have a kind of path or practice before the switch? I didn’t have a practice, Buddhism, or anything, even as I began the switch. Friends that I knew in high school tell me that we were Catholic. My mother was Catholic and my father was not, so I was never a strict Catholic, but friends tell me that I was always very spiritual, but I don’t remember that. One friend was telling me not too long ago about how in the summer after our freshman year of high school her cousin drowned in a stream. I knew the cousin, she was a year behind us in school, and my friend tells me that when this happened I was the only one who really sat down with her and talked about what she might be going through. She said I was very helpful to her. I don’t remember that, but apparently there were some indicators.

*It’s interesting when things get reported back to us that don’t necessarily align with our memory. Our view of ourselves, that’s true.

Please tell me about this Being Brave: Transforming Our World program you’re about to teach with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Acharya Adam Lobel. I can’t tell you too much about it because when you teach with the Sakyong you pretty much just jump off the end of a diving board. Unlike when I teach my own weekends and I kind of have a concept of what it’s going to be about. In this case, I’ll hear his talk and bounce off of it. It’s going to be a last moment kind of thing, which is good.

Of course, knowing the Sakyong and the title of the program, it’s about helping the world; using the tools that were left to us by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, meditation and the Shambhala teachings, to be of use and of help to a troubled world.

Can these teachings on human bravery literally transform the world? Yes, that’s right. Transform the people so they can transform the world. It takes a lot of bravery.

The big thing in my own experience is that the bravery is to not just go with a habitual pattern because it’s usually fear-based. Instead, stay present and open so you can connect with your underlying strength, which is called basic goodness. The seductiveness of habitual pattern is a false security, but we wouldn’t follow it if we didn’t think it was going to bring us some comfort or relief. Still, habitual patterns just keep us stuck in the same rut, so the courage is to actually realize you have a choice and choose to do the tougher thing.

What’s your relationship with the Sakyong like? Are you two close? Yes, we’ve been close for many, many years. When he was a teenager, his father, the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, asked me to be his meditation instructor because he was just starting ngondro [Foundational Vajyarana-Buddhist practices]. I used to go to his home in Boulder, the Kalapa Court, and have meditation instruction meetings. We got to know each other then, and there came a point where I didn’t have anything to teach him anymore. He was teaching me more and more. We have remained close ever since. Now he’s a wonderful teacher, and the relationship is different in the sense that he is the teacher and I am the student. Yet, we still have a kind of intimate relationship, too. Even if I don’t see him very much, it doesn’t matter.

*That touches on something I want to ask about. You’re this highly revered teacher and that seems to be how most people think of you. However, I understand you’ve also been studying with Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, and I’d like to ask about Pema the student. How are you doing with your study and practice? What are you working with? Trungpa Rinpoche died in 1987, and I wasn’t looking for another teacher. When the Sakyong took over the Shambhala community in 1995, I asked him if I could study with him, and at that point he didn’t feel comfortable taking students yet, so he basically said no. He just wasn’t taking students. At that point, I still wasn’t looking for another teacher because I felt I had a lot to work with and that I had not in any way realized what Trungpa Rinpoche had communicated to us.

Nevertheless, we Shambhala students had been raised in three lineages, Karma Kagyu, Nyingma, and Shambhala. I’d had a lot of training in Shambhala with Trungpa Rinpoche’s root terma texts, Shambhala training, and all of the teachings on bravery, courage, basic goodness, and warriorship. I’d also had a very thorough training in the Karma Kagyu tradition. I did a three-year retreat, in which we did all the practices that Trungpa Rinpoche had given us such as Charkrasamvara and Vajrayogini in a lot of depth, and then we went beyond that and did the Six Yogas of Naropa. It was really very complete, but I’d never had any Nyingma teachings that I was aware of. I wanted to go through some kind of Nyingma Maha Ati training, but I didn’t know much about the lineage at all.

One day I happened to be in San Francisco, just before a Buddhist teacher’s gathering at the San Francisco Zen Center. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche was also attending, and I had never met him, but I knew his picture and had always heard nice things about him. I was sick and had been recuperating in my room, and I sort of staggered out of my room after sleeping all day. It was almost like a choreographed dance, I just happened to open the door to my room right as Dzigar Kongtrul opened the door to his, which was the adjoining room. We recognized each other, so I said, “Rinpoche! My goodness, it’s so exciting to meet you like this! Would you like to come in and have a cup of tea?” He came in and we talked for two hours or more, and I was so… I didn’t feel sick any more. I felt very uplifted. He left right at the end of the conference, and the next time we spoke was at the Sakyong’s empowerment, and again it was so engaging. I felt I could ask him all my questions and everything.

Later, I heard that he lived with his wife and son in Colorado and I was going to be in Boulder teaching, so I requested an interview with him. We had our third meeting, and then without having planned it I said, “Rinpoche, would you take me through the cycle of the Nyingma teachings?” and he said, “No.” I asked, “Why?” and he said, “Because I’ve had a lot of funny experiences with Shambhala people where I give them all this time and energy and everything, and then they start acting as if they’re married to somebody else, and I’m their lover, and they shouldn’t be seeing me.” He said, “I really don’t want to go through that again.” I thought, “Hmm.” I knew he had a point. I was able to contact the Sakyong and asked his permission to go through the Nyingma cycle with Dzigar Kongtrul and the Sakyong gave me his permission. So when I got back in contact with Dzigar Kongtrul and told him this, he said okay, but it took two more years of false starts and various things happening until finally I came down to his retreat center in Crestone where I currently have a cabin. He really started me in on these teachings, and it’s been a very close relationship. He messed with me. It would be things like coming to ask me about my meditation experience, so I’d think we were getting to the main nugget of the whole thing, and I’d tell him my experience, and he’d say, “You just didn’t get it at all.” I’m just crestfallen. Then he’d said, “I’ll come back on Sunday,” which is maybe four days away, “And you practice hard in the meantime, and then I’ll talk to you.” So Sunday comes, and needless to say I’m a nervous wreck, and I’m pacing the floor, and every time I’d even go out to use the outhouse or something I’d leave a note saying I’ll be right back. He never shows up.

I was in silence, but I wrote a note to one of the other retreatants and asked, “Do you know why Rinpoche didn’t come today?” and they said, “Oh, he’s not even here. He’s up in Boulder.” I just went back to my cabin and wept. At the same time I thought, no one has really been able to get to me at this gut wrenching level and really train me at that level of working with patterns of klesias. I’m pretty much a con artist. I have an easy time schmoozing my way through the world, so he was really, really pulling the rug out, and I saw it as teaching. I didn’t see it as being mean or forgetting, and so at the end, after a few things like that happening I asked him if he would be my teacher rather than just my teacher for the cycle, and he said yes, he would. That’s when that started. I’ve always kept the Sakyong informed about where I was regarding training, and he’s always encouraged me.

There are so many different forms of Buddhism, and within different traditions there’s different lineages and sects and so on. It’s all very complex and can be a lot for a newcomer to take in. What advice could you offer to new practitioners that are drawn to Buddhism but unaffiliated with any tradition and unsure of the best way to move forward? I would encourage them to go to teachings. If they live somewhere that teachers come and teach, I would encourage them to go see every Buddhist teacher they can and see if something clicks. If they can’t do that, I would encourage them to listen to recorded teachings and read books of multiple teachers until something feels like a good fit. Then I’d encourage them to join that sangha and go as deep as they can and see if it continues to feel like a good fit.

It makes a big difference when someone has really connected with a teacher and a group of people who are practicing, because each teacher has their own way of bringing the students forward and you go a lot deeper. You just can’t do it completely on your own, or it’s the rare person, anyway. You need rubbing up against the sangha and a teacher who inspires you.

Sometimes people find a teacher and sangha and it ends up being not the right fit, and that’s all right too. It wasn’t a waste of time. Try something else.

Sangha is important. In such an individualistic culture it seems like a lot of people have this idea that they can do it on their own and retain that sense of autonomy. Right.

I heard someone say once that of the Three Jewels, sangha is the most imperfect, there’s the most neurosis there, and it is also the most important. That’s true. In a sangha, the one thing you have in common besides your teacher is an enthusiasm for understanding the teachings and applying them to your life. You can call each other on each other’s neurosis because you assume that everybody is committed to wanting to connect with their sanity. You have that in common. Other than that, sangha is a lot like family in that you don’t get to choose your family. Sometimes they’re the last people in the world you’d live with.

A lot of people rub each other the wrong way, but that rubbing the wrong way has a lot to do with our propensities. People aren’t really the cause of your discomfort. They are the trigger for your propensities that are preexisting to come forward. All of the neurotic tendencies to be hooked, agitated, or irritated are exactly what you’re hoping to not be run around by any more—to be free of those things so that you can see more clearly and connect with a deeper wisdom and intelligence. To use real Buddhist talk, you could say it’s karmic that you happen to be with those particular people, and you have something to work out with them. What you have to work out is freeing yourself from your own neurosis and returning to your fundamental sanity, so they really help you with that. There’s that analogy of dirty potatoes in a bag, and if you shake them all together the dirt starts coming off. The sangha is more like that. I have always gravitated to teachers who put a big emphasis on sangha.

What are your thoughts and feelings as we approach the 25th Parinirvana of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche? My main thought is that all that he predicted is happening. A lot more challenges environmentally, natural disasters, but also economic failure and more wars and conflict globally. Reading the news is so sad. In every continent of the world there’s tremendous strife. It almost seems like North America is this bubble that hasn’t quite popped yet. You wonder how long you have.

Chogyam Trungpa taught the Buddhist teachings through the Vajrayana, but at the end, the emphasis was all on Shambhala. The Shambhala message was that everybody is fundamentally sane and has the capacity to open, and we can connect with that and live from that rather than our neurosis. He said the times will get tougher and tougher, and that the habitual pattern will be to escalate the aggression. It’s like when there’s a lot of people that are very uncomfortable physically and afraid because of financial reasons and so forth. It brings out the worst in people. They become afraid, aggressive, stingy, out for themselves and their families. He said you can train ahead of time so that those very same conditions bring out the best in you.

As we come to his Parinirvana, I have renewed my own aspiration that his teachings on bravery and basic goodness will spread and have a very deep and profound influence on a growing number of people. Whether they call themselves Buddhists or Shambhalians, it doesn’t really matter. These teachings can really have a big impact and attract other people from other traditions that are already involved in the same kind of work. In other words, his vision for an enlightened society, an uplifted society, can become more and more a reality. That would be my main aspiration.

Would you like to see Chogyam Trungpa’s vision of an Enlightened Society grow on a more massive and established scale? Where would you like to see it go? I’d like it to help the largest number of people possible. I think the only way to do that is if you’d have a core of people who are committed to his terma and things like this, but for the majority of people it wouldn’t be like that. It would be just basic training on working with not escalating your reactive emotions, learning to hold your seat and be present with difficult emotions, and to stay and keep your heart and mind open to other people in the world. In other words, not living from a place of prejudice and bias, but living from a place of caring for everyone and seeing that we all need to work together in order to save the planet.

I just hope that somehow we begin interfacing more and more with all the multitude of people on the earth who are already doing this kind of work, and that we be part of the big movement for living from a place of nobility and strength, rather than hatred.

Glenn Beck is no longer with us, so to speak, in the terms of his popularity. He was incredible. Watching him it seemed like his only purpose was to kindle a great fire of hatred, to get people full of hatred and fear. I thought, “Oh, my gosh. That’s what could take over.” That’s probably what allowed fascism to grow in Europe in the ‘30s. It was good people, yet it got so out of control. May that never happen again, because these Shambhala teachings and people of like mind who don’t call themselves Shambhalians are coming from the same place, and somehow that’s the major force in the world. That’s what I think would make Chogyam Trungpa smile broadly.

*Beautiful. Your relationship with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche is something that’s been covered in depth. It’s been written about, you’ve had an interview in Tricycle about it. I recently watched Johanna Demetrakas’ film Crazy Wisdom about Trungpa’s life and I really appreciated something you said in the section of the film about the more controversial elements of his life. You said that you simply “don’t know” how such a teacher could have engaged in some of the activities he did. That meant a lot to me. As someone who grew up in the Shambhala community, I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about him, and I’ve also heard all the upsetting stuff. While I’ve tried to explain his behavior in different ways at different times, it occurred to me that, frankly, I don’t know either. I know what I see in my family and in his teachings, but in terms of the whole storyline, I don’t know. I just wanted to thank you for that.
You’re welcome. I’ll tell you a story. Not too long ago, I was sitting having breakfast at a restaurant with a close friend, who was also a student of Trungpa Rinpoche’s, and my granddaughter, who is 19. My granddaughter said, “I looked up Trungpa Rinpoche on Wikipedia, I think he’s kind of a sketchy guy.” My friend said, “Well yeah, you can look at it that way, but for me, he was the first person I ever met that made me feel like I was okay, that I was a good person.” She said, “He made everybody feel like that, made them feel like they connected with their potential of what they could do as a human being.” That’s certainly true of me too. I think my granddaughter thought that was pretty good.

Being around him and seeing how he related to people, it was more like he connected you with what you could do. It wasn’t worshiping him. He was a very important catalyst, but it was always about your own potential, rather than surrendering yourself to him or hand over your power. He empowered you.

*Yeah, there does seem to be a difference between the recollections of people that were around him and his Wikipedia page. There’s a gap there.
He was so unconventional. Imagine, I am a nun, celibate, no drinking, no drugs, I’m just a nun, and I’m in this sangha that’s pretty far out there. He’s my teacher, and he’s very far out there. This really taught me about having an open mind. Someone once asked Suzuki Roshi, “What’s the nature of enlightenment?” and he said, “Not always so.” Meaning, you can say anything, but it’s not always so. Nothing is fixed in time and space. Trungpa Rinpoche really, really taught me that at a profound level, and it had something to do with the fact that you could never buy him completely or throw him out. He kept you in this space of not being sure which way he was going. But underneath it, there was enormous warmth and caring, and everybody felt that. That big mind, he really taught you about that.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche taught about spiritual materialism. These days, it seems like the term “spiritual materialism” itself gets thrown around somewhat haphazardly, and I think people could use a refresher. What’s your take on spiritual materialism, and what can people do to kind of counteract it, or be aware of it? My understanding of spiritual materialism is using the spiritual teachings to build up your sense of ego, or limited sense of a self. In other words, you become more arrogant, more puffed up. Spiritual Materialism is using spiritual teachings as a way to get ground under your feet, rather than seeing spiritual teachings as stepping into groundlessness. Groundlessness keeps opening up as the teachings evolve.

In the foundational teachings, things are pretty reliable and there are lists of virtuous and non-virtuous actions. In the Mahayana, which was the Buddhism that went to Japan, China, Tibet, Korea, and Vietnam, the lists of virtuous and non-virtuous actions don’t quite hold because it’s more important what your intention is. For instance, there arej stories in the Mahayana of someone killing somebody else in order to stop them from killing 500 people. Even something so seemingly obvious as not killing becomes more vague in the Mahayana. Things are less fixed. If you move into the Vajrayana, then the whole ground shifts and nothing is fixed.

I think that spiritual materialism is trying to use any of that to get ground under your feet and a sense of, “It’s like this, and I’m like this.” That’s when you get people wearing special clothes…haha, like me! But anyway, sometimes you see people, they’re proclaiming their spirituality by how they’re walking and dressing and things like that. You can smell a rat right away. That’s what I think of as spiritual materialism. To avoid it would be to keep your mind open and always question and explore, be inquisitive, curious. When you feel yourself getting triggered or hooked, see that as a warning sign that you’re holding onto something and be curious. Step in a little further. That’s what I think counteracts it.

Materialism usually means material things. People use clothes and furniture and cars and everything you can think of to comfort themselves or to feel secure. Spiritual materialism is using spirituality the same way as materialism, instead of spirituality being something that introduces you to the true nature of reality, which is unfixed, impermanent, and changing.

Chogyam Trungpa, most notably in the Sadhana of Mahamudra [a text written by Trungpa Rinpoche around which an important Shambhala practice developed,] proclaimed that we are living in the dark ages, and that materialism and aggression are out of control on a mass scale. Do you share in this notion? What can we do? Trungpa Rinpoche felt that what we could do was to just teach about basic goodness and try to help people connect with their basic goodness. In other words, he felt that people can have confidence in their basic nature, rather than emphasizing their faults, addictions, and harmful deeds and speech. Basic goodness, as it’s usually taught, in Shambhala, is that space before you get into biased or prejudiced or polarized mind of good and bad. It’s that much more open space. You begin to really trust, from your own experience, that when you can stop yourself from being caught in fear-based emotional reactivity, there’s a clear space where you always know which direction is towards sanity and health. That space has a lot of gentleness and kindness in it. You can trust it. At any time you can pause and connect with your fundamental intelligence, which will help you do whatever is needed to actually help the situation.

Let’s say you begin to feel afraid, and out of habit you begin to speed up and get panicked. This thereby strengthens further habits that keep you stuck in a rut. What you find is if you just train in simply staying present even a few seconds with those uncomfortable feelings, like fear, that you can then develop the strength to stay present for a few minutes, and then 10 minutes, then more, and so on. If you can stay present with your own emotional distress in an open space that’s not clouded and keep letting the thoughts about it go, then you always know what will deescalate the heat of the situation. When you go on automatic pilot, you automatically escalate. You become a slave to your own habits. Basic goodness to me is that you actually know what’s going to help the situation.

I’m curious about the intersection of practice, examining our habits and working with how we relate to our minds, and actually living in the world in troubled times. There are so many dangers facing the world, and it’s hard to not be a part of them. For example, it could be argued that just by having bank accounts and driving cars we’re taking part in some systems that threaten the planet. Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, “Don’t fight against the systems,” like the cars and the bank accounts and credit cards. He used to always say, “Stop ridiculing people with clean front yards and grass.” He said, “There’s some basic goodness in that.” You have to join in with society and work with it as it is, not try to escape it. But when you’re working with it as it is, you do it from a place where you yourself are really grounded and present in your body and in touch with your emotions. Then you are the first one to know when you’ve been triggered and you’re starting to get mean, or be unkind.

You don’t need to try and get off the grid, although that’s not a bad idea. We may want to go back to before there were computers and live off the land, but we can also jump into the current society just as it is, and try to not escalate its neurotic aspects.

Let’s talk about genocide. The Hutus and the Tutsis. These were invented. The Dutch separated Rwandans by the ones that were tall and thin and the ones that were shorter, something like this. By the time the genocide came, it was hard to tell who was who and there was a lot of intermarriage, but they had it stamped in their passports. They were able to drum up this hatred towards the others, based on prejudice. The same is true with black people in the United States under segregation, and Jewish people, Gypsies, and homosexuals in Nazi Germany. It’s like the most distorted part of our nature begins to drive the society. Or it can be our basic goodness that’s driving society. I think that’s what we’re hoping for the world, individual by individual.

Since basic goodness is in everybody, we can all begin to have confidence in our own basic goodness. When you have confidence in your basic goodness, then you see it in everybody else. Until you have respect for yourself, you can’t really have respect for other people. It has to start with respect for your self.

And it can move out from there. Yes. A lot depends on how you feel. Do you trust yourself? Many people say, “No, I don’t, because I fly off the handle,” “I go on binges, drinking, eating, heroin,” whatever. They don’t trust themselves. But Buddhist teachings say that all those habitual patterns, as fixed as they can get, are still removable, and the basic nature is like the sky behind the clouds; it never changed and you can always touch into it.

I have a close friend, an inmate on Death Row, and he sees the basic goodness in all the guys there, and they’re mostly murderers. It’s there.

Monasticism has traditionally been such a central part of Buddhism, but in the West there are many more lay practitioners. What do you see as the role of monasticism in the West, going forward? It doesn’t seem that this is the time for the monastic path to flourish in the West. There’s not a tremendous amount of interest in it.

I live in a monastic community, Gampo Abbey. To me, community is a very important feature of monasticism. When you’re in a community, that’s when the real possibility of transformation and helping the world happens.

When you go to a monastery, you didn’t choose the particular people that are going to be there. Some people that bother you the most are there. This presents the challenge of being kind without it being idiot kindness, and in a very real situation. We always say, “If we can’t have an enlightened society here, how can we expect anyone else to have it?” We’re all of one mind, we’re all dedicated to waking up, we’re in this remote place where we don’t have any distractions, but still, we come right up against our habitual patterns.

To me, one of the beauties of monasticism is that it really can transform you at the core quite rapidly. The methods for that are meditation and studying the Buddhist teachings, and we go very deep. This becomes grist for the mill of learning to be kind to each other. It’s such a profound container, the monastery. You don’t get it at other centers because the population is so transient. This is we have temporary monks and nuns, and Trungpa Rinpoche said, “Temporary monasticism is what will allow monasticism to continue in the West.” He always said there will be some that will be life-long monastics, and they will keep the thread alive, but the majority of people will be there for one, two, up to five years, and then they’ll go back to their lay life. It’s very transformative for people who do that. And so because of the people who’ve committed their lives to it, those people are great helpers and guides for the people who are coming in for short terms. Then the people who are in for their life are continually learning from the new people because there’s always someone new to push your buttons or to enlighten you. It isn’t just that you take vows, it has to do with the community.

*I find the lack of full female ordination in Tibetan Buddhist traditions shocking. Can you comment on this? Would you like to see this changed? Of course I’d like to see it change. I’ve put quite a bit of energy into that. If you spend any time in Africa, Southeast Asia, Nepal, or India, particularly in the village level, generally speaking women are in a very, very awful situation. Burning wives, rape, human trafficking, it’s terrible. The attitude towards women is that they’re definitely lower. The Tibetans held that view, and it was cultural rather than religious. This isn’t to say they were cruel to all women, but still they held that view.

The Buddha himself fully ordained women. He may have done so reluctantly, but he did it. As the centuries went on, only Mahayana Buddhism kept the full ordination alive, but wasn’t in Tibet and Southeast Asia and it still isn’t. As an example of how deeply ingrained this view of women is, this lower view of women, his Holiness the Dalai Lama, both the 16th and 17th Karmapas, and in general the Kagyu and Nyingma lineage are big proponents of full female ordination, but there’s still so many old-school people who absolutely will not hear of it. They say things like, “Well, it’s not an unbroken lineage” and stuff, but it really has to do with prejudice. There are some women, fully ordained women like myself, who are working really hard for full female ordination. People like Lekshe Tsomo, Thubten Chodron, Tenzin Palmo. and others, have all put in a lot of time and energy.

Now, for someone like myself, at Gampo Abbey, it’s unthinkable that we wouldn’t have fully ordained nuns.

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