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#4636 - Monday, June 25, 2012 - Editor: Gloria Lee

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  • Gloria Lee
    #4636 - Monday, June 25, 2012 - Editor: Gloria Lee The Nonduality Highlights http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights/ Compassion does not arise from ideals
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 26, 2012
      #4636 - Monday, June 25, 2012 - Editor: Gloria Lee
      Compassion does not arise from ideals of perfection but from a
      recognition of and concern for our own fallibility. At the heart of our
      potential for health and wholeness is the need for a fundamental quality
      of acceptance, an unconditional compassionate presence. Without this
      capacity either for ourselves or for others, even our spirituality can
      become harsh and uncompromising.
      Rob Preece -The Wisdom of Imperfection
      via Daily Dharma

      An Interview with Venerable Pannavati Karuna

      Profession: Co-Abbot, Embracing Simplicity Hermitage; Founder of My
      Place; Age: 60 Location: Hendersonville, North Carolina
      Where did you grow up? I grew up in Washington, D.C., and the
      surrounding Maryland area.
      What was your religious upbringing? I was raised as a Baptist Christian.
      How did you get from the Baptist church to Buddhism? I felt the love of
      Jesus enter my heart when I was 6. But, when I was 13, I had an
      experience that the Baptist church said was not real, so I had to look
      outside of the church for an explanation: I began speaking in tongues,
      and we didn’t even believe in that in my church! I ended up going to a
      Pentecostal church—we called them “Holy Rollers”—against the wishes of
      my mother. Sometimes I would have to sneak out the window to go to
      services. And my faith deepened.

      Eventually I became a Christian pastor, but in 1985 I had a vision that led
      me away from the church onto my own path, and I entered into a
      15-year dark night of the soul. I was really trying to find out who I was,
      what the meaning of life was. What’s the world all about? Exactly who
      and what is God? Finally, that path led me to Buddhism.
      In 2009 you went to Thailand to ordain Theravada nuns as bhikkunis.
      How did that trip come about?
      After becoming a Theravada nun I began
      to look around me—I could really see the patriarchal aspect of
      institutionalized Buddhism, and I became very disenchanted with it, I saw
      that this was the same system as institutional Christianity. When the
      masters come to the West from the East they bring what good they have
      to share with the world, but it’s wrapped in culturalism. I had been on a
      spiritual path my whole life. Still, the teachers want to take you back to
      grade school—“Let me dress you like me.” Why should I learn Tibetan?
      I’m not Tibetan. Why should I learn Chinese? I’m not Chinese. Why
      should I speak Pali? The Buddha didn’t even speak it. I needed to walk
      my own path, so I just did what I felt that I had to do, and I found
      support from senior Thai monks and Western nuns to convene the
      platform. Actually, because I did not have the “required” years to serve as
      a higher ordination master, Venerable Karuna Dharma gave me written
      permission to act in her stead so there would be no problem in the
      I understood when these women, some of whom had lived unofficially as
      nuns for well over a decade, sought higher ordination, and I was asked to
      officiate over that higher ordination. (I had previously given them
      samaneri [novice Buddhist nun] vows.) I wanted very much to do it,
      because although it is not allowed in Thailand, ordination is an act of the
      heart—not the country. I was not afraid. It was really, really wonderful.
      And now it’s done. Nothing more to talk about. Just quietly doing what
      needed to be done and helping each woman who had a desire to step
      into the life with her whole heart and full confidence. That’s it.
      Tell me about My Place—the center you founded for homeless youth in
      the Asheville area
      . I found out that there were hundreds of homeless kids
      in the city, and I heard that they were sleeping in laundromats and under
      viaducts and in cars, and couch surfing. This town is basically an affluent
      retirement area, and virtually no resources are available to older
      homeless or at-risk teens except jails. I talked to my sangha and said,
      “We have this monastery just sitting here most of the time—no one
      spends the night. Would you mind if I opened up the space to homeless
      youth?” And, they said “OK.”
      How did the community respond to a Buddhist nun taking in homeless
      It’s been very rough financially. We get virtually no support from
      local foundations or agencies. My Place is an unbelievable concept to the
      people who live here. When we opened in 2009, we started off with
      about 14 kids, ages 17 to 20 years old. Can you imagine being in the
      Southern Bible Belt, having youth in this age bracket living in a Buddhist
      monastery? Yet with the help of a few dedicated supporters Ven.
      Pannadipa (co-abbot of Embracing Simplicity Hermitage) and I have
      parented more than 60 teens over the past two years. We even have our
      own accredited high school! I didn’t realize the backlash that would come
      from it. People asked, “What are you gonna do with them? You gonna
      teach them Buddhism?” I said, “No, we don’t have to teach them
      Buddhism. We’ll just live like we live.” Some things are better caught than
      taught. No need to give a good teaching— just live it, and people will
      catch it. And that’s what happening.
      What’s next for you? Recently, My Place received $1 million in stock from
      the vice president of an environmentally engaged company, Reshoot
      Productions. We can’t trade it yet. There are conditions. One is that to
      continue working in this Appalachian region, the donor would like to see
      the buy-in of the community. So I’m trying to raise $100,000 over the
      next 60 days that will be matched 10 to 1 by the corporation over the
      next few years. We need this to stay afloat. The other condition is that
      he’d like us to include a formal meditation program. If we’re dependent
      on local funds, that may not be possible. So I’m asking the national
      Buddhist community to help me raise the funds. Hopefully I will be able
      to turn this work over to others within two years. Then, along with some
      other 21st-century yoginis and yogis, I’ll become more active in the
      mission of the Sisters of Compassionate Wisdom, an alternative to
      traditional lineage sisterhood that will support individual nuns’ journeys.
      Actually, I’ll be doing more by doing less! It will provide a place for
      solitary retreat, supported by the fourfold sangha, where nuns and
      laywomen can come in for a period of time for cloistered living and go
      out with skills and encouragement for compassionate service to the
      world. I am grateful to have found this simple buddhadharma. I
      understand that not clinging to anything—bad or good—is the real
      —Rachel Hiles
      For more information about My Place, visit myplacewnc.org
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