There’s a new book out from Snow Lion/Shambhala called Dakini Power: Twelve Extraordinary Women Shaping the Transmission of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. The author is Michaela Haas, a journalist who earned a phD in Buddhist studies after a transformative trip to Bhutan; she lives in both Malibu and her native Germany.
The book offers biographical sketches of influential women in Buddhism, from nuns immersed in service work, to women who are wives of spiritual masters, to show that it is not a man’s world only.
It’s a riveting read. People who dedicate their lives to any religion fascinate me, and there’s something otherworldly about westerners who immerse themselves in Buddhism, particularly the storied and sometimes fantastic traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.
To some of the stories in the book, I found myself wondering: Is it feminist (and/or religious) to marry your spiritual master, and then, as he ages, bring another man into the home? Is a solitary retreat a solitary retreat when one interrupts to tend to their family?
The whole “spiritual master” thing, as I’ve written here before, makes me uncomfortable, but Haas introduces these stories with an even hand that made me think, more than I usually do, about it–as well as the nature of devotion and spirituality and feminism.
The book also made me wonder: Is there something to this idea of a person being an “emanation’ or “reincarnation” or able to transmit or receive teachings–versus simply practicing the basic precepts of Buddhism and living kindly and peacefully, mindful of your impact on the earth? Can one person be more holy than another, really?
If you’re reading this un-review (I’d rather talk about it with you in person than try to play book reviewer, which I am not!) all I’m saying is: Dakini Power might make you ask some questions, too. At the very least it’ll introduce you to some interesting and indeed powerful women who have made some very interesting life choices in the name of their spiritual path.