Growing up in a Buddhist family in Virginia in the '80s, I was often on the defensive about my family's beliefs. It was not unusual to be shunned by other kids because I did not believe in God the same way they'd been taught in church.
What I find most inspiring about accomplished Buddhist teachers is how they live Buddhist wisdom in everyday life, how they carry themselves not only on the teaching throne, but in personally challenging situations, how they deal with the messy stuff. What can we learn from them?
Sangye Khandro has translated and mastered some of the most profound Buddhist teachings. Born as a Mormon in Oregon as Nanci Gay Gustafson, she became one of the earliest Americans to explore the community of Tibetan refugees in North India in the early seventies.
Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche's position in the Buddhist world is entirely unique. She is one of the very few fully trained female incarnations in the Tibetan tradition. Why are there not more women like her, not more female Tibetan Buddhist teachers?
Thubten Chodron gave this short teaching well before the Boston Marathon Tragedy, but her words about "The True Meaning of Forgiveness" could not be more timely. If we hold on to anger, we hurt ourselves the most, and the violence will never end.
Many of us dream of exchanging our day-to-day responsibilities for a heartfelt life full of purpose, but few of us ever get around to doing something about it. The women featured here are the exception.
"They're telling the nuns, 'Oh, you're so humble, you're not interested in gaining prestige and power like these Westerners,'" Lekshe says with a calm voice but a quizzical look. "Well, I just wonder why they are not telling the monks that."
If the next Dalai Lama is a woman, would she offer the same grounding wisdom? Inspire compassion within people of all cultures? Properly navigate Tibet's troublesome relationship with the Chinese government?