Buddhism Through American Women's Eyes

reviewed by Kristine Morris

Buddhism Through American Women's Eyes

Edited by Karma Lekshe Tsomo

For Western women, Buddhism’s enticing spiritual package creates some dilemmas when it comes wrapped in an Asian cultural package. Karma Lekshe Tsomo says: “While the Buddha taught that happiness lies in limiting desires, American culture teaches that happiness can be found in fulfi lling desires. While our culture teaches self-assertiveness and the pursuit of self-fulfillment, Buddhism teaches selfdenial and other-centeredness … Other problematic features emerge from Asian cultural carry-overs, such as hierarchical structures, authoritarianism, and sexism.”

Throughout Buddhism’s 2600-year history, greater weight has always been given to the words of men, and few records of women’s insights have been kept. Today, it is encouraging to see how women are coming to play a major role as Buddhism adapts to make a place for itself in the West. This eminently readable and engaging volume brings together the voices of 13 experienced Western Buddhist women practitioners on topics both practical and philosophical, including “The Bodhisattva Peace Training,” “Bringing Dharma into Relationships,” “Dealing with Stress,” and “Abortion: A Respectful Meeting Ground.” The writers of these and the other collected essays speak of the power of compassion as an antidote to violence and hatred, the inner healing and reconciliation that can be brought about through meditation, and how to bring to bear one’s Buddhist practice on the injustice that has historically characterized the treatment of women at all levels of society and in the various religious traditions worldwide, including Buddhism.

Karma Lekshe Tsomo is an associate professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego. She studied Buddhism in Dharamsala, India, and holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Hawaii. She is the author of several books and the founder and past president of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women and the director of the Jamyang Foundation, an innovative education project for women in developing countries.

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