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Female Buddhist Scholars


Marie Byles UPDATED Marie Beuzeville Byles (1900-1979) was an Australian pioneer of Buddhism, as well as the first woman solicitor in New South Wales.  She authored many books on Buddhism, including Footprints of Gautama the Buddha which is still in print.  Marie Byles was sensitive to the subjugation of women in traditional Buddhist societies; in another of her books (Journey into Burmese Silence, 1962), she commented: "All this monk-worship and nun servility would be merely a source of amusement to the tourist [...]  The Western man, even though a meditator, would probably hardly have noticed it unless he were very unusual.  But when you are a woman meditator and a member of the servile community, you notice it very much indeed.  And when you have been trained to abhor sex and class superiorities the abhorrence upsets your equilibrium and causes pain."

Prof. Rita Gross

UPDATED Rita M. Gross, PhD., is Professor of Comparative Studies in Religion at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.  A former president of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, she is the editor of Beyond Androcentrism: New Essays on Women And Religion, and with Nancy Falk, of Unspoken Worlds: Women's Religious Lives.  She is also the author of numerous articles and essays on women and religion.  Her most recent book is Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues (1998).
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Janet Gyatso, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Religion at Amherst College. She has studied with many Tibetan teachers and has received her doctorate in Buddhist studies from the University of California at Berkeley. Her recent research interests have focused on Tibetan visionary practices, lifestories, diaries, and female religious masters. Her most recent book is Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary (Princeton, 1998).
Sarah Harding UPDATED Sarah Harding, B.A., has been a student of Buddhism for 25 years, practicing mainly under the great master Kalu Rinpoche (1904-1989). Author of Creation and Completion, she completed the traditional three-year retreat required for lamas in 1980. She co-founded the Tibetan Language Seminar, a correspondence course in Tibetan language. She is a faculty member of the Religious Studies Department of the Naropa Institute.
Prof. Anne Carolyn Klein

Anne Carolyn Klein, Ph.D., is Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University, where she specialises in Asian Religions with strong emphasis on Indo-Tibetan Buddhist thought and practice, as well as comparative and cross-cultural work on women and Buddhism incorporating contemporary feminist theory.  Dr. Klein also teaches meditation outside the university at Dawn Mountain (of which she is founding director).  She has studied Buddhist philosophy and practice with Asian scholars and meditation masters since 1971, including three years of fieldwork in India, Nepal, and Tibet.  Dr. Klein has written several works on Buddhist philosophy, including Path to the Middle, Oral Madhyamaka Philosophy in Tibet; Knowing, Naming and Negation: A Sourcebook on Tibetan Sautantrika; and Knowledge and Liberation: Buddhist Epistemology in Support of Transformative Religious Experience.  Her most recent book is Meeting the Great Bliss Queen: Buddhists, Feminists, and the Art of the Self.

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Miranda Eberle Shaw, Ph.D. is a scholar, translator, and author of Passionate Enlightenment (a study of women in Tibetan Buddhism -- see bibliography).   Dr. Shaw is Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Richmond.  A short work of hers which is available online is her translation of three Tantric Buddhist women's songs.
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Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown (B.A. Cornell College, M.A. Florida State University, advanced graduate study, Columbia University, Univ. of British Columbia, Ph.D. Walden University). Judith was trained in South Asian Religious Studies and Sanskrit at Columbia University, University of British Columbia and Walden University. Before coming to Naropa Institute in 1978, Dr. Simmer-Brown taught at Fordham and Western Washington Universties. She serves on the board of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies and is presently chair of the Naropa Institute's Religious Studies Department.  A student of the late Ven. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Dr. Simmer-Brown also teaches frequently within the Vajradhatu community.  Her current work in progress is a book called Dakini's Warm Breath: Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism.
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Kamala Tiyavanich is a fellow at the Kahin Center for Advanced Research on Southeast Asia at Cornell University.  Her recent book, Forest Recollections, is a formidable examination of wandering forest monks in Thailand during the twentieth century and has received superior reviews (see Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Inquiring Mind, and many other Buddhist publications).  "Her scholarship and innovation in presenting a clear picture of how state Buddhism stifled the wandering monks and their relationship to their communities, should be required reading for anyone interested in Theravada Buddhism." -- Ellie Waters.

Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo

Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo is Instructor of Buddhist Studies at Antioch University and a Degree Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu.  She is the author of several books on Buddhism, including Buddhism Through American Women's Eyes, Sakyadhita: Daughters of the Buddha, Jorcho: Preparatory Practices and most recently Sisters in Solitude - Two Traditions of Buddhist Monastic Ethics for Women.  Lekshe also serves as International Secretary of Sakyadhita International, the international association of Buddhist women.
Jan Willis Janice Dean Willis, Ph.D. is among the first Western "scholar-practitioners" of Tibetan Buddhism. She authored Diamond Light of the Eastern Dawn, one of the earliest collections of translated Tibetan Buddhist meditation rituals, and her most recent work is Enlightened Beings: Life stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition, a study of some of the greatest figures of the Geluk school (Boston: Wisdom, 1994). She also edited, and contributed two essays to, Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet (see bibliography).   Dr. Willis is Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University.

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This page was last amended on 1 January 2001.
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