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Activist Women in Buddhism

Ven. Ngawang Sangdrol, imprisoned Tibetan nun

NEW Ven. Ngawang Sangdrol is a young Tibetan nun and prisoner of conscience.  She was only 13 years old when the Chinese government jailed her because she took part in a peaceful demonstration for a free Tibet. Initially sentenced to 9 years imprisonment, Ngawang was sentenced to a further 9 years for the "crimes" of refusing to stand up when an official entered the room during a political re-education session, failing to tidy her quarters satisfactorily, and shouting "Free Tibet!" during punishment.   In 1998 the Chinese added another 3 years to her sentence for participating in the Drapchi prison protests - a total of 21 years.  Ngawang Sangdrol's sentence is the longest faced by any female prisoner in Tibet ...  and she is also said to have been physically beaten and tortured.   Read her story on the FreeTibet site and on TIN, and consider joining the campaign for the freedom of this courageous young woman.

Aung San Suu Kyi

UPDATED "Burma's Gandhi", the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy in Burma and has frequently been arrested and imprisoned for her non-violent beliefs.  Daw was interviewed by John Pilger for the New Internationalist as part of the magazine's on-line issue on Burma. Read her thoughts on the subjects of Buddhism, powerlessness and freedom in interview with the Shambhala Sun.  The BBC now has an online profile of Suu Kyi as well as a RealPlayer recording of the activist herself explaining her people's desire for democracy.  NEW Visit dassk.com , the new website dedicated to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Roshi Joan Jiko Halifax

UPDATED Roshi Joan Jiko Halifax, Ph.D., is a Buddhist priest, student of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, and a founding member of the Zen Peacemaker Order.  She is also the founder of Upaya, a Buddhist organization dedicated to education and practices that foster effective action and right livelihood, and whose programs include Being with Dying, Programs on Engaged Spirituality, and The Landmark Program.   Halifax's own approach to working with the terminally ill is movingly described in her article "Being with Dying".   She teaches courses on Buddhism and shamanic relationship to the environment at Upaya, the Esalen Institute, and at other venues around the world.
Sensei Sandra Jishu Angyo Holmes UPDATED Roshi Sandra Jishu Angyo Holmes was the second Abbot of the Zen Community of New York.   Along with her husband, Roshi Bernie Glassman, she co-founded the Zen Peacemaker Order, an international order of social activists engaged in peacemaking based on Three Tenets: penetrating the unknown, bearing witness to joy and suffering, and healing ourselves and others. The two also co-founded the Interfaith Peacemaker Community, embracing peacemaker villages around the world such as Jishu's Pamsula Village in Yonkers, NY.  Jishu passed from this sphere of teaching on March 20, 1998.  Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao has written a poignant description of the funeral entitled Saying Goodbye to a Dharma Sister.
bell hooks (Gloria Watson) UPDATED bell hooks is a brilliant thinker and social critic concerned with the political implications of gender, race, and class inequities in America, and also a Buddhist practitioner in the tradition of the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. bell hooks interviews Pema Chödrön in the March '97 Shambhala Sun, talks about Buddhism, love and cynicism in the Shambhala Sun interview An Intimate Conversation, and interviews her own teacher, the Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh.   See also the Broward Community College page as well as NEW Shambhala Sun's online archive for an overview of recent work by hooks.

Joanne Macy

Dr. Joanna Macy, activist, ecologist and author, is one of the pioneers of "engaged Buddhism". Her online work includes the article "World as Lover, World as Self"; "Bestiary" (an ode to wildlife); Nuclear Guardianship, her testimony at the World Uranium Hearings in Salzburg, 1992; and The Vegan Vision, on the ethics of a vegan diet.   Her other books include Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems, World as Lover - World as Self and Rilke's Book of Hours.
Helena Norberg-Hodge UPDATED Helena Norberg-Hodge -- Swedish linguist, environmental activist, and author of Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh -- is the founder of The Ladakh Project in India, an international non-profit organization concerned with the search for more sustainable ways of living in both the developed and developing parts of the world.   She is also the director of its parent organization, the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) - and was awarded the 1986 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, for her work.  NEW Hear Norberg-Hodge speak about her work in interviews with In Context (1997) and Z Magazine (1999).
Sensei Enkyo Pat O'Hara Sensei Enkyo Pat O'Hara is a Soto Zen Priest and Teacher in the White Plum Lineage (and resident teacher at the Village Zendo in Manhattan -- see the Zen teachers page for details), and a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order.   Enkyo manages the Buddhist AIDS Network, guides a meditation group for people with AIDS at Gay Men's Health Crisis in Manhattan, and regularly leads retreats.  As a Zen Peacemaker Sensei is deeply involved in exploring a Zen Buddhist approach to deeper commitment to issues of difference around race, class, sexuality and health.  She has participated in two Zen Peacemaker Auschwitz retreats and in Street Retreats which explore the experience of homelessness and urban poverty.
lesslie williams lesslie williams operates the Engaged Buddhism webpage, an inspiring project with extensive links to resources on human rights and social justice.  lesslie says of this page: "It has been my dharma practice these past three years.  By offering information about peoples deprived of human rights, I feel the page becomes a voice for the voiceless -- through it people can speak for those whose wellbeing is in jeopardy by, for instance, registering an e-mail protest at human rights violations."  Point Communications called her page "a fine-featured call-to-action" (Top 1000).  Her current Urgent Action campaign is the Campaign to Ban Landmines.
Master Cheng Yen UPDATED The female Master Cheng Yen is a bhikkhuni in Taiwan who, moved by the plight of the poor, established the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation in 1966.  Tzu Chi is a global non-profit organization providing charity and medical treatment to the needy worldwide, granting treatment to all irrespective of ability to pay.  Tzu Chi also works in education and culture, international disaster relief, bone marrow donation (Tzu Chi's bone marrow registry is the largest in Asia), environmental protection, and community volunteer service.  NEW The online Tzu Chi magazine includes a touching biography of this extraordinary woman, some anecdotes of her earlier days, .
DharmaNet logo UPDATED Numerous worthwhile projects (such as a project to feed homeless women and children) are posted on a regular basis on the Acts of Kindness: Opportunities page maintained by DharmaNet.

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This page was last amended on 1 January 2001.
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