Awakin Calls » Ven Pannavati

Ven Pannavati: Buddhist Nun, Social Change Reformer

Dec 20, 2014: The Journey from Inner Change to Outer Change

Read: Call Transcript (Also: It's a Matter of the Heart)

Born into a Baptist family, Ven. Pannavati shares, "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. 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? That path led me to Buddhism."

Venerable Pannavati is one of the first African-American Theravada nuns in the United States, and co-abbot of Embracing Simplicity Hermitage, a Buddhist practice center in Hendersonville, N.C. She describes four strikes that she has had to overcome: "being Buddhist in a predominantly Christian community, black in a largely white community, female where women are not encouraged to be leaders, and outspoken where Southern tradition emphasizes genteel qualities."

"It is not enough to sit on our meditation cushions. These times call for compassionate action to be an integral part of our practice," says Venerable Pannavati.

Her insight is rich with warmth, compassion, wit and humor. She is known for her ordination of Thai and Cambodian nuns, work with homeless youth in Appalachia, and ministry to the "untouchables" in India. On a recent trip to Seattle, she spent time with a dozen teens and treated them to lunch. As they were about to sit on the streets, one of the teens spreads out his jacket so Ven. Pannavati could be comfortable. Such is her teaching -- be kind to others, and they'll be naturally be drawn to be kind to you.

Join us on this call to learn about the remarkable journey of nun, who went from a teenage experience with the KKK to becoming an African American Buddhist nun and now giving voice to the unheard while emphasizing the inner journey.

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