Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Ven. Karma Lekshe Tsomo

Being teased as a teenager is rarely a trigger for life-changing serendipity, unless you're Karma Lekshe. Prior to ordaining as a Tibetan nun, her last name was "Zenn" and kids used to tease her -- "What are you, Zen Buddhist or something?" She didn't really understand the "insult", so she went to the library and checked out two books on it that would change her life.

Little did those kids know that they were inadvertently sowing the seeds of a revolution in a 2500 year old religion -- Buddhism.

In between a surfing competition in Japan, Karma Lekshe visited some local monastaries to learn more about spirituality. While on a continuing trip to India, she heard the teachings of Dalai Lama. One thing after another, she was convinced that she wanted to become a nun, and dedicate her life to service. Except for one problem: no monastery would accept her, because she was a woman.

So, Karma Lekshe started her own nunnery in the Himalayas and sure enough, became a Buddhist nun herself.

Today, decades later, she has drastically altered Buddhism's view of women. As a PhD in comparative philosophy, author of several books, founder of a Himalayan nonprofit, professor at University of San Diego, president of International Assocation of Buddhist Women, Karma Lekshe is actively involved in interfaith dialogue and grassroot initiatives for empowerment of women.

On Wednesday, Jan 21st, it is our privilege to host Venerable Karma Lekshe as she shares stories of her incredible journey and the universal principles that continue to light her way. Everyone's invited! This event is hosted in our home and there is no cost to attend; please RSVP for more details (unfortunately, we can only accommodate the first 80 RSVP's).

"Surfing" The Waves

Born in Delaware, raised in Hawaii by a "materialistic Dad" and a "Southern Baptist Mom", Karma Lekshe largely found her connection to spirituality while surfing the waves near Honolulu.

A surfing competition led her to Japan, which then took her to India. Compelled by the Tibetan culture and spirituality in Dharamsala, she stayed for a year. When money ran out, she sold her guitar back at home and stayed another year. By 1987, she was ready to start her first project, without any money, for eight nuns who had recently walked out of Tibet. Today, with 115 students and many innovative programs, the Jamyang Foundation has revolutionized many cultural paradigms and is seen as a model for emerging initiatives.

Through her well-researched academic work, Karma Lekshe also brings new insights to traditional interpretations of history; sometimes she simply brings stories back to life:

Mahaprajapati walked several hundred miles to implore Sakyamuni Buddha for an "order of women mendicants." On the basis of her work, the Buddha agreed that the spiritual potential of women and men is equal, and he recognized the right of women to wear the garb of a mendicant.

Despite Karma Lekshe's academic -- she has 2 masters and a PhD -- and social action background, she is an exemplar for leading an integrated life. "Practice rests on 3 pillars. Each path is individual but for me, meditation informs scholarship, scholarship informs social action, social action informs contemplation."

In the late 80s, she was bit by a poisonous viper that could've ended her life. Her arm was paralyzed but she somehow survived. With an iron will and unwavering committment, Karma Lekshe keeps the revolution going.

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