Extraordinary Women Shaping the Transmission of Buddhism in the West

Dakini Power honors contemporary female Buddhist teachers and practitioners.

Recommendation by Chris Faatz at Powell's Books, Portland. Thank you!

Recommendation by Chris Faatz at Powell's Books, Portland. Thank you!


"It’s a riveting read. People who dedicate their lives to any religion fascinate me, and there’s something otherworldly about Westerners who immerse themselves in Buddhism, particularly the storied and sometimes fantastic traditions of Tibetan Buddhism."—Radio Shangri-La author Lisa Napoli, KCRW 

“A powerful and fascinating book.”—Light of Consciousness Magazine

“A true treasure trove, long awaited by many.”The Yogini Project

 "Dakini Power offers twelve fascinating and intimate profiles of women teachers who are shaping Tibetan Buddhism in the West."—Shambhala Sun, September 2013, by Andrea Miller

 "Haas’ strength in Dakini Power is to weave together with interviews, journalistic fact finding, and personal anecdote, a picture of 12 notable women who are molding how Tibetan Buddhism is being transmitted in the West. Haas offers the reader a glimpse of the evolution of a diverse collection of female teachers: Asians and Westerners, lay people and nuns, traditional and rebellious, women who have and have not been mothers, practitioners in various traditions (even one Zen practitioner!). Perhaps most interesting is Haas’ willingness to explore some of their opinions and ideas about their tradition’s relationship to gender, sex and sexism."— Mandala Magazine Editor's Choice by Michael Jolliffe

"As engaging and inspiring as it is informative, this is a uniquely wonderful book that should prove to play a large role in encouraging and helping to develop more Buddhist leaders who are women."—Patheos, "Five Favorite Dharma Books of 2013", by Rev. Danny Fisher

"...I urge you to read this book and watch the various online interviews. Michaela Haas is a marvelous writer and storyteller who evokes the spirit and challenges of our times in vivid language. ...These women are not only shaping the transmission of the Teachings in the West but trailblazers in our western culture on a number of fronts in the fields death/dying, permaculture, and social justice. They also all seem to have a particular siddhi that allows them to withstand avalanches of criticism by less adventurous practitioners out to diminish their contributions. Michaela Haas also does a great job of portraying the unique contributions each woman has made to her particular lineage and how their personal and sometimes painful spiritual development empowered them on the path as well as serves as an inspiration to thousands of others."—The Mirror, June 2013, by Jacqueline Gens

 "Where are the female Milarepas or Dalai Lamas? It’s not that examples of enlightened Buddhist women don’t exist, Haas writes. It’s just that they have seldom been acknowledged. Dakini Power, then, is more than a simple celebration of these women’s lives. It’s a testament to their struggles navigating the patriarchy of Tibetan culture, as well as a resounding call for change."—Tricycle Magazine, Spring 2013, by Emma Varvaloucas

"In this beautiful book, Michaela Haas offers readers inspirational life stories of 12 accomplished female practitioners and teachers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West....Surely the women in this book embody dakini power in their works and lives as teachers, writers, translators, founders of monasteries for women, and directors of spiritual centers. These 12 women illustrate, through Haas’ nuanced prose, this power to transform conventional ways of thought....Undeterred by gender bias in traditional teachings or sexism in the sangha, these women found their own visions, their own voices, rendered by Haas with poignancy, humor, and power. Importantly Haas illuminates, through these life stories, different gifts and leadership styles so needed in our times. Celebrated and still fully committed to others, the women represent diversity and change. ...Clearly Haas took the advice of her teacher, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, who suggested she should not gloss over significant issues. Haas takes up the words of women as they talk in sometimes contrasting ways not only about meditation and compassion but also, as she writes, “about power and abuse, seclusion and seduction, logic and faith, devotion and rebellion.” For Western women readers interested in meaningful social change, this well-managed transparency and directness is likely most welcome in discussions of topics of such magnitude to our lives. The capacity, the wisdom, to deal skillfully with contradictions and contrasts are the substance of contemporary feminism. Haas accomplishes this and she subtly invites us to do the same....Ultimately, Michaela Haas has given us beautifully wrought spiritual biography, perhaps at its finest."—American Buddhist Woman, Sakyadhita USA eZine 1/2013, by Carol L. Winkelmann, Professor at Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH

"These personal stories will make this book a must read for anyone interested in not only Buddhism but female biography, spiritual memoir, Asian culture, or religious history. And if you are a Buddhist practitioner, particularly Tibetan Buddhism, this book is a treasure trove of insight about many topics – the teacher/student relationship, true meditation, overcoming hurdles in practice, reconciling Buddhist beliefs with other faiths, and more. The book does not shy away from controversial topics either, as the women frankly discuss the challenges female Buddhist practitioners often face, including the lack of support and opportunity for Tibetan nuns, a situation several of them are actively working to change. All in all this is an excellent book that not only profiles twelve inspiring, wise women, but also offers an in-depth look at the state of Buddhism today in the world."—BellaOnline by Lisa Erickson

"One of the extraordinary forces shaping Buddhism in North America and Europe is the teaching and leadership of women. This book profiles 12 (three of them Tibetan) practitioners, consorts,  nuns, and heroines whose work and teachings are making an impact on the  transmission of Tibetan traditions of Buddhism in the West."—Buddhadharma Book Reviews: From the Editor's Desk by Michael Sheehy

"This book has now become a treasured guide to help inspire me through its presentation of strong, determined and steadfast feminine energy. ...Each story unique and each biography offers up a vibrant glimpse of how these women discovered the dharma, met their teachers and the challenges and successes they may have encountered on their individual paths as dakinis – “female messengers of wisdom”."—Full Contact Enlightenment by Tanya McGinnity  

"Bent on enlightenment, wrathful and playful, a dakini seduces, wills, and tugs practitioners toward wisdom. Dakini Power, a recent book by German journalist Michaela Haas, explores the feminine dakini ideal as a force for institutional change. In a historically male hierarchy, modern female teachers are transforming Tibetan Buddhism, tugging it toward greater acknowledgement of female ability and accomplishment.
Haas interviewed twelve of the most influential female teachers and figures in Tibetan Buddhism, from princesses in exile to hermits, consorts, and the founders of abbeys around the world. Some, such as Pema Chödrön, are familiar voices for Western practitioners; others, such as Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, cross boundaries between Tibetan and American audiences. All these teachers share something in common, Haas asserts: they prove that women can and do have a role at the highest levels of Tibetan Buddhism....
Haas writes in a crisp, clear style. It’s pleasant reading—well sourced and factual, but rooted in the heart."Buddhistdoor International, by Caitlin Dwyer

"The stories of these twelve women are interesting and inspirational, and following the paths they have taken provides a fascinating look at the way these different women have met the challenges they've faced....Although I could never become a Buddhist, I'm fascinated by the spiritual aspect of Buddhism and found this book thought-provoking and informative. I eagerly read each profile and found each one intensely interesting."—A Garden Carried in the Pocket by Jen Mullen

"Dakini Power is an intriguing and entertaining set of biographies, featuring influential women in modern Tibetan Buddhism. "—Rachel Cotterill Book Reviews

“I applaud Ms. Haas' work to fill the informational hole and bring the stories of these twelve amazing Dakinis to the rest of the world. This is a book worth reading, and re-reading. And sharing.”— Random Musings of a Curious Mind by Julie Hughes

 "In this fascinating and illuminating book, [Haas] introduces us to the lives and work of 12 contemporary teachers of Tibetan Buddhist teachers, both Asians and Westerners. In the preface, Haas admits that these spiritual teachers have given her courage, inspiration, new insights, and enthusiasm."—Spirituality & Practice by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

"This is one of those dharma books that you just can’t read all at once. Not because it isn’t well written – it is – but because each story is so touching that you need some time to digest it before moving on to the next....It is hardly possible for me to share all I loved about this book."—Great Spiritual Books by Katinka Hesselink


“I am heartened to read the accounts in this book of the achievements of women teachers from different schools of Buddhism: it is a celebration of the contribution which female practitioners have made throughout history, and which they are continuing to make….My heartfelt prayer is that women such as these are the trailblazers; their efforts will lead to a fresh recognition of the unique insights and qualities of female spirituality, and wider acknowledgment of women practitioners and teachers.”—From the foreword by His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje

"Dr. Michaela Haas’s impressive presentation of the struggles and achievements of female practitioners is a wonderful encouragement for anyone facing challenges on the spiritual path, and for the advocates of gender equality.”—His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa

“The twelve women profiled in Michaela Haas's book form a circle that radiates in countless ways. Taken as a whole, their lives document both the continuing emergence of Tibetan Buddhism in the West and the concurrent work towards women's inclusion in arenas of practice and leadership where they have historically been marginalized and excluded. Dakini Power is an inspiring contribution to the ongoing conversation.” —Sharon Salzberg, author of Loving Kindness and Real Happiness

What a moving and powerful book! With passion and verve, these remarkable women bear witness to the fact that the buddhadharma has put down firm roots in the West. Michaela Haas has done a superb job of presenting their struggles and their realization in a way that makes them an inspiration to men and women alike.”—B. Alan Wallace, author of Boundless Heart and Choosing Reality

“Apart from a few rare hagiographies of ancient Tibetan yoginis, there is a dearth of information about accomplished Buddhist women practitioners. Michaela Haas’s Dakini Power addresses this historical oversight by profiling the lives of twelve dynamic contemporary female pioneers – from Tibet and the West – who, in spite of few role models, have overcome challenging gender-based situations, become internationally respected teachers, and set new standards for actualizing compassion in the 21st century. Beautifully written, pertinent to the times, Dakini Power is a study in courage and perseverance and a much-needed contribution to modern Buddhist literature.”—Mikel Dunham, author of Buddha’s Warriors and Caught in Nepal.

“Dakini Power is a pilgrimage into the exemplary lives of twelve women. The journey throughout the book is like the dakinis themselves, spacious and wise, caressing and sometimes wrathful. Michaela Haas has skillfully amplified these women’s voices, bringing to us their penetrating insights about the spiritual path, as well their timely considerations on sexuality and sexism. Spiritual biographies are meant to inspire practitioners and Dakini Power does just that!”—Matteo Pistono, author of In the Shadow of the Buddha

“Despite pronounced male dominance in both Buddhism in general and Tibetan Buddhism, many women find Buddhist teachings liberating and confirming. With Buddhism coming to the West, the situation for women is changing significantly as women become Buddhist teachers and leaders. This book provides vivid portraits of twelve women teachers, some Tibetan and some Western, who are fostering this change. A welcome addition to literature on women and Buddhism.”—Rita M. Gross, author of Buddhism After Patriarchy and Soaring and Settling


His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. Photo: Courtesy of Kagyu Office

His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. Photo: Courtesy of Kagyu Office

The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa's support for Buddhist women

"The path to enlightenment which the Buddha taught was for all sentient beings, for women as well as men.

In the past there were many great women practitioners, such as Mahaprajabati Gautami, who was both Shakyamuni Buddha's adoptive mother and the first woman to be ordained into the sangha he established. Buddhist texts also refer to female Arhats. Equal practice opportunities were given to both men and women, and the four pillars of the house of Buddhism include ordained nuns and lay women. 

I am heartened to read the accounts in this book of the achievements of women teachers from different schools of Buddhism. It is a celebration of the contribution which female practitioners have made throughout history, and which they are continuing to make.

Unfortunately, influenced by the views and customs of the time, too many societies have put too much emphasis on the difference between men and women, and this has led to discrimination against and unequal treatment of women in many religions, including Buddhism.

My heartfelt prayer is that women such as these are the trailblazers, their efforts will lead to a fresh recognition of the unique insights and qualities of female spirituality , and wider acknowledgement of women practitioners and teachers."

Read the original foreword for Dakini Power by HH the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa