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Marianne Dresser

Buddhist Women on the Edge; Contemporary Perspectives from the Western Frontier
Berkeley, North Atlantic Books, 1996.

This book is the best exploration I've read yet of the issues for a feminist woman in adaptating Buddhism to Western culture — thoughtful, creative, daring, thorough. Contributors and the names of their chapters are listed below; if the name does not easily communicate the subject, I have included a description or brief quote."

Miranda Shaw: "Wild, Wise, Passionate: Dakinis in America"

Sallie Jiko Tisdale: "Form, Emptiness; Emptiness, Form" — Gender is form; we live in the world of form just as we have our being in emptiness.

Kate O'Neill: "Sounds of Silence" — "The unacknowledged sexist bias inherent in many Buddhist teachings and forms has felt like a silent scream, a lack of peace for many women". [pp. 19-20]

Anne C. Klein: "Persons and Possibilities" — "We must not confuse those aspects of selfhood denied in Buddhist philosophy — permanence, independence, or immunity from causes and conditions, for example, with the undeniable existence of persons who laugh, cry and sometimes seek liberation." (p. 40)

Jane Hirshfield: "What is the Emotional Life of a Buddha?"

Anita Barrows: "The Light of Outrage: Women, Anger and Buddhist Practice"

Kate Wheeler: "Bowing, Not Scraping" — "What am I doing in a religion whose formal expression is a highly defended, medieval, male, sexist hierarchy?" (p. 57)

Marilyn Senf: "Unlearning Silence: A Further Feminist Revaluation of Buddhist Practice"

Jan Willis: "Buddhism and Race: An African American Baptist-Buddhist Perspective"

Lori Pierce: "Outside In: Buddhism in America" — "It is incumbent upon us to strategize ways in which stuructures of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender and class can be dismantled. Buddhism is a powerful tool in this struggle." (p. 102)

Tsultrim Allione: "The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism"

Melody Ermachild Chavis: "Walking a Few Steps Farther" — Acknowledging the patriarchal history of the transmission of the dharma.

Alta Brown: "The Ruthlessness of the Practice of Compassion" — "The attitude which cherishes the interests of self above those of every other being is considered to be the locus of every form of ethical enormity." (p.127)

Rita M. Gross: "Community, Work, Relationship and Family: Renunciation and Balance in American Buddhist Practice" — In our culture, what kind of lay lifestyle promotes enlightenment?

Judith Simmer-Brown: "Romantic Vision, Everday Disappointment" — "Romantic love, no matter how delicious, is the primary symptom of cultural malaise, the central neurosis of Western civilization." (p. 151)

Celeste West: "My Tantric Flip-Flop" — "A tantric flip rolls with the punch so that you flip the problem onto its kazoo and get on with the dance of life." (p. 159)

Barbara Gates: "Watering the Garden with My Eyes Closed" — "I have begun to see how futile it is for me to wall up against the violence in the world. I notice that the violence that I shun outside is inside of me." (p. 163)

Maylie Scott: "A Short History of Buddhists at the Tracks" — Brian Wilson was sitting on the railroad tracks rom Concord Naval Weapons Station when a weapons train hit him, dragged him under it, injured his head seriously, and cut off his legs. He lived. This is the story of the Buddhists who have made a practice of vigil at the site.

Anne Teich: "Frontier Buddhism" — Adventures in establishing Buddhism in a culture new to it, and looking forward to what must be done next, especially by women.

Sandy Boucher: "Not To Injure Life: A Visit with Ruth Denison" — "Whatever our spiritual attainments, we are one with the conditioned world, and how we greet and care for and respond to that ordinary world provides the crucial ground for the honing of our practice." (p. 200)

Shosan Victoria Austin: "Suzuki Sensei's Zen Spirit" — A teacher of mindfulness in activity, who taught by example more than by words.

Nina Egert: "Coming Home" — Reflections on traveling half a world away to find one's spiritual path.

Thubten Chodron: "You're Becoming a What? Living as a Western Buddhist Nun"

Michele Benzamin-Masuda:  "Fertile Ground for a Warrior" — "We are in a constant flow of interconnection: this very body, this life, this world, is the body of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha." (p. 239)

Ji Ko Linda Ruth Cutts: "The Dark Clue" — Ariadne's thread leads the way through the maze, showing us how myth and symbol from our own culture's deep history can guide us on a Buddhist path.

Susan Moon: "Wholeheartedness" — An alternate way of looking at the idea of commitment: "The task is to focus on one project at a time, and do that with full attention, until it's completed." (p. 260)

Anne Waldman: "Poetry as Siddhi" — "The pivotal words for me, in terms of how I relate my Buddhist practice to a practice of writing, is energy." (p. 264)

Erin Blackwell: "The Province of the Saved" — The story of Blackwell's journey to Buddhism.

bell hooks: "Contemplation and Transformation" — "A fundamental shift in consciousness is the only way to transform a culture of domination and oppression into one of love. Contemplation is the key to this shift." (p. 292)

Pema Chodron: "No Right, No Wrong" — "The Dharma is about stepping into the groundlessness of neither right nor wrong. [Of] not having the security of either right or wrong — that's the major challenge, to think bigger than just in terms of problem-solving." (p. 303)

10 November 99