Extraordinary Women Shaping the Transmission of Buddhism in the West

Dakini Power honors contemporary female Buddhist teachers and practitioners.

Inspiring Female Practitioners

The book Dakini Power  focuses deliberately on some of the most successful female pioneers in the West, but of course there are many more amazing women in Tibetan Buddhism who deserve to be honored and praised. Think of all the unsung practitioners in Tibet, such as the Nangchen nuns in East Tibet, who continue their steadfast practice under unimaginable pressure. These accomplished meditators still carry out the traditional three-year retreats in the most remote locations, sitting in their customary three-by-three-foot wooden meditation boxes.

Tens of thousands of Tibetans continue to work for their compatriots in exile. To name just a few, the Dalai Lama’s sister, Jetsun Pema, has dedicated her life to creating a safe refuge for Tibetan children who have been sent by their parents across the ice-covered passes to India, in the hope of finding a better future in exile. The Tibetan Women’s Association has worked since its founding in 1959 to support Tibetan women and raise awareness for the education of nuns. Ani Chöying Drolma has used her successful singing career to sponsor more than a dozen charities in Nepal and establish Arya Tara School, the first school in Nepal to bring Western and Tibetan educations to nuns. Other Tibetan nuns and former nuns survived decades of torture in Chinese prisons and now use their voices, unafraid, to tell others the truth about the hell beneath the Chinese “kingdom of heaven.”

Increasing numbers of Western women are inspired to follow the path forged by the Asian trailblazers. Scholar-practitioner Rita M. Gross wrote a timeless article in the Shambhala Sun about How American Woman are Changing Buddhism. The first Tibetan Buddhist nunnery in America, the Vajra Dakini Nunnery, is fledgling in Vermont under the American abbess Venerable Khenmo Nyima Drolma. Women continue to excel in studies, for instance, Venerable Kelsang Wangmo, the first female geshe, and all the myriad women, ordained or lay, who see their possibilities broaden as a direct result of the efforts of a few courageous pioneers. The life stories of female Buddhist teachers are varied and even include an heiress of the Hyatt Hotel, Linda Pritzker, now better known as Lama Tsomo. Read an interview with her here.

The Yogini Project under the guidance of the Venerable Tsoknyi Rinpoche is committed to honoring female Buddhist practitioners all over the world. Find more resources for films about Buddhist women here and a reading list here.

Innumerable women and men organize meditation retreats, teach, study, cook, clean, drive, and keep centers flourishing. And the dharma would be nothing without the many wonderful practitioners who don’t sit on thrones and don’t write books but just quietly light up the world.

This website is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments and life stories of the women featured in this book and many more. Please write and share your story how Buddhist women have inspired you. We will continue to add new interviews with female Buddhist teachers, as well as extend profiles and resources.

Traleg Khandro speaks about her life with the Yogini Project