What are we reading at DRBU? Female Cultivators

Aug 30, 2020

We welcome you to enjoy this selection of books highlighting the spiritual accomplishments of women cultivators across time and place. Writings by women were historically preserved significantly less than men’s, leading to a present record that is dominated by men’s writing and lacks the voices of others. These texts help to correct the record.

Drawing from the Western, Indian, Chinese, and Buddhist traditions, these books contain the writings and teachings of incredible cultivators with advanced spiritual realization and wisdom. They can be enjoyed in their own right as spiritual documents worthy of study and understanding. They are read in the DRBU programs.

Daughters of Emptiness: Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns

This book is a collection of poems by Chinese Buddhist nuns, translated by Beata Grant. The book includes the work of forty-eight nuns, from the fourth century to the present. View the book on Amazon.

A sample poem:

The sequence of seasons naturally pushes forward,
Suddenly I am startled by the ending of the year.
Lifting my eyes I catch sight of the winter crows,
Calling mournfully as if wanting to complain.
The sunlight is cold rather than gentle,
Spreading over the four corners like a cloud.
A cold wind blows fitfully in from the north,
Its sad whistling filling courtyards and houses.
Head raised, I gaze in the direction of Spring,
But Spring pays no attention to me at all.
Time a galloping colt glimpsed through a crack,
The tap [of Death] at the door has its predestined time.
How should I not know, one who has left the world,
And for whom floating clouds are already familiar?
In the garden there grows a rosary-plum tree:
Whose sworn friendship makes it possible to endure.

- Chan Master Jingnuo

Mae Chee Kaew: Her Journey to Spiritual Awakening & Enlightenment

Buddhist nun Mae Chee Kaew (1901-1991) is a highly regarded practitioner in the Thai Forest tradition. This biography of her life and spiritual accomplishment was compiled from Thai sources by Bhikkhu Dick Sīlaratano. E-book available for free download.

A passage from page 164:
By decisively reversing her focus inward, Mae Chee Kaew halted the normal flow of consciousness and realized the true essence of mind — the very essence or source of awareness. Within the heart’s central chamber, she experienced an ungraspable sense of vast space, beyond measure — the wondrous nature of the formless essence of awareness. When focusing inward, she suddenly forgot the focusing, and entered utter quiescence. Not a single thought arose. Everything was empty silence. Body and mind were in a state of great freedom, and all objects — including her body — disappeared without a trace. Utterly tranquil, her mind stayed for many hours bathed in its own solitude. 


The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism

This anthology of Christian mystical literature, edited by Bernard McGinn, includes writings by several woman cultivators. DRBU students study the work of Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) and Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179). Hildegard of Bingen was also a well known composer of spiritual music. 

Listen to music composed by Hildegard of Bingen on Youtube.


Songs of the Saints of India

This book is a collection of mystical poetry from Indian saints, translated by John Stratton Hawley and Mark Juergensmeyer. The devotional poetry of female saint Mirabai (1498-1546), who intensely longed for union with her beloved, Kṛṣṇa, is included in chapter five. View the book on Amazon.