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Bibliography: Women and the female in Buddhism

Written by eastern writer on Sunday, February 24, 2008

The following is a selection of books about women, the "divine feminine", and the female influence in Buddhism. Most of the books are by women, although male authors are also included. Where possible the number of pages and ISBN are given.

Please note that, where the author has an ordained name, the last of these is read as a "surname". This is not correct usage, strictly speaking, but this is how these texts are likely to be catalogued by librarians and publishers.

  1. Aitken, Molly Emma, ed. Meeting the Buddha: On Pilgrimage in Buddhist India. Riverhead Books (Tricycle), 1995 (370pp).
  2. Allione, Tsultrim. Women of Wisdom. London: Arkana, 1984 / New York: Arkana, 1986. ISBN 0-14019-072-4 (282pp). A selection of life stories of great Tibetan women teachers, with a lengthy introduction to the topic of women and the female principle in Tibetan Buddhism.
  3. Bartholomeusz, Tessa. Women under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  4. Batchelor, Martine. Walking on Lotus Flowers: Buddhist Women Working, Loving and Meditating. London: Thorsons/Harper Collins, 1996. ISBN 0-7225-3231-8.
  5. Batchelor, Martine and Brown, Kerry, eds. Buddhism and Ecology. Cassell, 1992. ISBN 0304303756 (114pp.).
  6. Beck, Charlotte Joko. Everyday Zen: Love and Work. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989. ISBN 0-06-060734-3.
  7. Beck, Charlotte Joko. Nothing Special: Living Zen. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1994. ISBN 0-06-251117-3 (277 pages). See also the review by Fumyo Mishaga.
  8. Benard, Elisabeth. Chinnamasta: The Aweful Buddhist and Hindu Tantric Goddess. Motilal Banarsidass, 1995.
  9. Beyer, Stephan. The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. A study of Tibetan beliefs and practices concerning Tara, the Bodhisattva of compassionate activity.
  10. Blakiston, Hilary. But Little Dust. Cambridge: Allborough Press, 1991.
  11. Blofeld, John. Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin. Boulder: Shambhala, 1978. A study of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, in the female forms of Kuan Yin (Chinese) and Tara (Tibetan).
  12. Boucher, Sandy. Opening the Lotus: A Woman's Guide to Buddhism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997. "An introduction to Buddhist philosophy and practice for women." ISBN 0-8070-7308-3 (hardcover), list $18.00 U.S.
  13. Boucher, Sandy. Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism (387pp). San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988. An extensive series of interviews with women active in North American Buddhism.
  14. Byles, Marie B. Journey into Burmese Silence. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1962.
  15. Cabezón, José Ignacio, ed. Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.
  16. Campbell, June. Traveller in Space: In search of female identity in Tibetan Buddhism.. London: Athlone Press, February 1996. ISBN 0-485-11494-1 (236pp.)
  17. Chayat, Roko Sherry, ed. Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, with a foreword by Edward Espe Brown. Boston: Shambhala, 1996. ISBN 1-57062-094-6. A collection of teachings by the late female Roshi Maurine Stuart - a principal American student of Soen Nakagawa Roshi and a teacher at the Cambridge Buddhist Association.
  18. Chödron, Pema. Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. Boston: Shambhala, 1994. The author is the abbess of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada, and a senior student of the late Ven. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
  19. Chödron, Thubten. Open Heart, Clear Mind. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1990. Thubten Chödron is the seniormost female teacher within the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organisation founded by the late Lama Yeshe.
  20. Chödron, Thubten. Taming the Monkey Mind. Lutterworth, Leicestershire: Tynron Press, 1990.
  21. Chögyam, Ngakpa. Rainbow of Liberated Energy: Working with Emotions through the Colour and Element Symbolism of Tibetan Tantra. Forthcoming, Aro Books; formerly Longmead: Element Books, 1986.
  22. Coleman, Rev. Mary Teal (Ven. Tenzin Yeshe). MONASTIC: An Ordained Tibetan Buddhist Speaks on Behalf of Full Ordination for Women (99pp).
  23. David-Neel, Alexandra. Magic and Mystery in Tibet (321pp).
  24. Dowman, Keith. Sky Dancer: the secret life and songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. London: Arkana, 1989; originally London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984. ISBN 0-140-19205-0 (379pp). A sacred biography of the Tibetan yogini Yeshe Tsogyel, consort of Padmasambhava and regarded in her own right as a great mystic, teacher and lineage-holder.
  25. Dresser, Marianne, ed. Buddhist Women on the Edge: Contemporary Perspectives from the Western Frontier. North Atlantic Books, 1996. ISBN 1556432038 (321 pages). The CIIS Bookstore says of this book: "The essays ... explore issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality; lineage, authority, and the accessibility of Buddhist institutions; monastic, lay, and community practice; the teacher-student relationship; psychological perspectives and the role of the emotions; crossscultural adaptation and appropriation; and how spiritual practice informs creativity, personal relationships, and political/social activism."
  26. Drolma, Delog Dawa. Delog: Journey to Realms Beyond Death. Padma Publishing, 1995.
  27. Edou, Jérôme. Machig Labdrön and the Foundations of Chöd (244pp). Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1995. A book about the Tibetan Buddhist practice of chöd, founded by the great female mystic Machig Labdrön.
  28. Ehrlich, Gretel. Questions of Heaven: The Chinese Journeys of an American Buddhist. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997. "A haunting pilgrimage to one of China's holy mountains." ISBN 0-8070-7310-5 (hardcover), list $20.00 U.S.
  29. Feldman, Christina. The Quest of the Warrior Woman: Women as Mystics, Healers and Guides. London & San Francisco: Aquarian, 1994. ISBN 1-85538-323-3 (239 pp). The author co-founded Gaia House, a retreat centre in Devon, England. She is also an international adviser to the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.
  30. Feldman, Christina. Woman Awake: A Celebration of Women's Wisdom (155pp).
  31. Friedman, Lenore. Meetings with Remarkable Women: Buddhist Teachers in America. Boston: Shambhala, 1987.
  32. Galland, China. Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna (392pp). New York: Viking, 1990.
  33. Grimshaw, Anna. Servants of the Buddha: Winter in a Himalayan Convent. London: Open Letters, 1992. A woman from Lancashire visits a Ladakhi Buddhist convent.
  34. Gross, Rita M. Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993. (The online journal CyberSangha offers a review of this book.)
  35. Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Guide to Dakini Land: A Commentary to the Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Vajrayogini. London: Tharpa, 1991. A guide to the Highest Yoga Tantra practice of the female Buddha Vajrayogini.
  36. Halifax, Joan. The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0-06-250369-3 (240pp). A personal and very moving journey in which Halifax "weaves diverse themes of deep ecology, shamanism and Buddhism into a colorful literary tapestry" [Andrew T. Weil]. An appendix includes the Precepts of the Order of Interbeing by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh.
  37. Havnevik, Hanna. Tibetan Buddhist Nuns. Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1990. The definitive work on the subject.
  38. Hopkinson, Deborah, Michele Hill, and Eileen Kiera, eds. Not Mixing Up Buddhism: Essays on Women and Buddhist Practice. Fredonia (NY): White Pine Press, 1986.
  39. Horner, Isaline B. Women Under Primitive Buddhism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1930 (reprint Delhi: Motilal Barnasidass, 1975).
  40. Kabilsingh, Chatsumarn. A Comparative Study of Bhikkhuni Patimokkha. Chaukhambha Oriental Research Studies, vol. 28. Varanasi: Chaukhamba Orientalia, 1984. On the vows and rules of fully ordained nuns (bhikkhuni [Pali] or bhikshuni [Sanskrit]).
  41. Kabilsingh, Chatsumarn. Thai Women in Buddhism. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1991.
  42. Kalyanavaca, editor, The Moon and Flowers - A Woman's Path to Enlightenment Birmingham:Windhorse Publications, 1997. Brings together essays written by nineteen women who have been ordained within the Buddhist tradition.
  43. Khema, Ayya. Being Nobody, Going Nowhere. London: Wisdom Publications, 1987. An introduction to Buddhist practice by a German-born bhikshuni (fully ordained nun) of the Theravada tradition.
  44. Khema, Ayya. When the Iron Eagle Flies: Buddhism for the West. London: Arkana, 1991.
  45. Khong, Chan. Learning True Love: How I Learned and Practiced Social Change In Vietnam. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993.
  46. King, Sallie B., trans. Passionate Journey: The Spiritual Autobiography of Satomi Myodo. Boston: Shambhala, 1978.
  47. Klein, Anne C. Meeting the Great Bliss Queen: Buddhists, Feminists, and the Art of the Self (307pp). Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. (Click here to see a reproduction of a thangka of Yeshe Tsogyal in the form of Dechen Gyalmo, the Great Bliss Queen.)
  48. Kunsang, Erik Pema. Dakini Teachings: Padmasambhava's Oral Instructions to Lady Tsogyal. Boston: Shambhala, 1990. ISBN 0877735468 (189pp.).
  49. Kunsang, Erik Pema. The Lotus-Born: the life story of Padmasambhava. Composed by Yeshe Tsogyal. Boston: Shambhala, 1990. ISBN 0877738696 (321pp.).
  50. Law, Bimala Churn. Women in Buddhist Literature. Varanasi: Indological Book House, 1981.
  51. Levine, Norma. Blessing Power of the Buddhas (155pp). Describes observable physical manifestations, e.g. relics and other sacred objects, of the Buddhas' blessings.
  52. Majupuria, Indra. Tibetan Women (Then and Now). Lashkar, India: M. Devi, 1990.
  53. Murcott, Susan. The First Buddhist Women: Translations and Commentaries on the Therigata (219pp). Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1991.
  54. Neumaier-Dargyay, Eva K. The Sovereign All-Creating Mind - The Motherly Buddha: A Translation of the Kun byed rgyal po'i mdo. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.
  55. Norberg-Hodge, Helena. Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. Vintage, 1991. Preface by H.H. the Dalai Lama, introduction by Peter Matthiessen.
  56. Norman, K.R., trans. The Elders: Verses II: Therigatha. London: Pali Text Society and Luzac & Company, 1971.
  57. O'Halloran, Maura. Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind. Riverhead Books (Tricycle), 1994. Lovely story of a young Irishwoman who became a recognised Zen master in Japan.
  58. Palmer, Martin and Ramsay, Jay with Kwok, Man-Ho. Kuan Yin: Myths and Propecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion. London/San Francisco: Thorsons (HarperCollins Publishers), 1995. ISBN 1 85538 417 5 (226pp).
  59. Pao-Ch'ang, Shih. Lives of the nuns: biographies of Chinese Buddhist nuns from the fourth to sixth centuries. Trans. by Kathryn Ann Tsai. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1994. ISBN 0824815416 (188pp).
  60. Padmasuri. But Little Dust : Life Amongst the Ex-Untouchables of India . Birmingham:Windhorse Publications, 1997.
  61. Paul, Diana Y. Women in Buddhism: Images of the Feminine in Mahayana Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985; formerly Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1979.
  62. Rhie, Marylin M., and Robert A.F. Thurman. Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1991. A magnificent large-format book of sacred art (statues and paintings) from Tibet (from the art exhibit of the same name). Includes depictions of numerous female Buddhas, bodhisattvas and protectors.
  63. Rhys-Davids, C.A.F. and Norman, K.R., translators. Pitakas/Khuddaka: Poems of Early Buddhist Nuns (Therigata). Headington, Oxford: Pali Texts Society, 1989. ISBN 0860132897 (233pp).
  64. Roberts, Bernadette. The Experience of No-Self. Boulder, Colorado: Shambala, 1984. A practising Catholic's experience of anatta or no-self.
  65. Salzburg, Sharon. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (193pp). Shambhala. Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and Barre (Massachusetts) Center of Buddhist Studies.
  66. Savvas, Carol D. A Study of the Profound Path of gCod: The Mahayana Buddhist Meditation Tradition of Tibet's Great Woman Saint Machig Labdrn. Ph.D. dissertation: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990 (493 pp). A detailed study of the origin and practice of chöd with translations of many essential texts and commentaries.
  67. Seneviratne, Maureen. Some Women of the Mahavamsa and Culavamsa. Colombo: H.W. Cave & Co., 1969.
  68. Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tibetan Buddhism. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-691-03380-3 (291pp). A riveting look at the little-known role of female teachers and lineage-holders in the Vajrayana tradition. Essential reading for Tibetan Buddhist women.
  69. Shin, Nan (pseud.). Diary of a Zen Nun: Every Day Living. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1988.
  70. Sidor, Ellen S. A Gathering of Spirit: Women Teaching in American Buddhism. Cumberland (R.I.): Primary Point Press, 1987.
  71. Srimala, Breaking Free : Glimpses of a Buddhist Life Birmingham:Windhorse Publications, 1997. The remarkably honest, moving, and often very funny story of a woman's journey to spiritual freedom.
  72. Subhuti (Alex Kennedy). Women, Men and Angels. Birmingham: Windhorse Publications, 1996. An exposition of the provocative views of Sangharakshita, the founder of the Western Buddhist Order/FWBO, on women and men in the spiritual life.
  73. Tsomo, Karma Lekshe, ed. Buddhism Through American Women's Eyes. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1995. ISBN 1-55939-047-6 (180 pp). A selection of essays "by practitioners from the Theravada, Japanese Zen, Shingon, Chinese Pure Land, and Tibetan traditions, who share their thoughts on Buddhist philosophy, its practical application in everyday life, and the challenges of practicing Buddhism in the Western world."
  74. Tsomo, Karma Lekshe, ed. Sakyadhita: Daughters of the Buddha. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1989. Lekshe is a bhikshuni (fully ordained nun) in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and is Secretary of Sakyadhita International. She founded the Jamyang Chöling Institute for Buddhist Women in India and is currently in the Philosophy Department at the University of Hawai'i. This book is a collection of essays and presentations by women who attended the first international conference of Buddhist women, with significant content relating to the ordination of nuns.
  75. Tsomo, Karma Lekshe. Sisters in Solitude - Two Traditions of Buddhist Monastic Ethics for Women - A Comparative Analysis of the Chinese Dharmagupta and the Tibetan Mulasarvastivada Bhiksuni Pratimoksa Sutras. New York: SUNY Press, 1996. ISBN 0-7914-3090-1 (paperback) or 0-7914-3089-8 (cloth), 192 pp. This landmark book is the first translation into English of two versions of the Bhikshuni Pratimoksha Sutra, the precepts and rules of conduct for fully-ordained Buddhist nuns.
  76. Tulku, Tarthang, trans. Mother of Knowledge: The Enlightenment of Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal, by Nam-mkha'i snying-po, ed. Jane Wilhelms. Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1983. Another translation (see Dowman, above) of the sacred biography of the Tibetan yogini Yeshe Tsogyel.
  77. Willis, Janice D., ed. Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet. Ithaca (NY): Snow Lion Publications, 1989; reprinted 1995.
  78. Willson, Martin. In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress. London: Wisdom Publications, 1986.
  79. Wilson, Liz. Charming Cadavers: Horrific Figurations of the Feminine in Indian Buddhist Hagiographic Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.


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