This seems to be from a mediation group led by Pamela Weiss.
This transcription should not be taken as an official record of the event.
Pamela Weiss: So, um, Matty asked that I open by reading a couple of the palms, to kind of seed and flavor the field as it were. So we kind of rifled through and noted some of our favorites. So here we go.
Vijaya ~ Victor
[see side by side comparison]
When everyone else was meditating,
I’d be outside circling the hall.
Finally I went to confess.
I’m hopeless, I said.
The elder nun smiled.
Just keep going, she said.
Nothing stays in orbit forever.
If this circling is all you have,
why not make this circling your home?
I did as she told me,
and went on circling the hall.
If you find yourself partly in
and partly out—
if you find yourself drawn to this Path
and also drawing away—
I can assure you,
you’re in good company.
Just keep going.
Sometimes the most direct path isn’t a straight line.
So we’ll do one more. Do you want to say anything about that one? Now This one is called.
Siha ~ Lioness
[see side by side comparison]
People used to say
that I was so beautiful
it hurt to look at me—
like the sun.
The sun lights the whole world,
but it isn’t free.
It lives its life on a leash.
I lost weight and grew pale.
My sister said I looked like a dead person.
When I finally put on robes,
my family was almost relieved.
Maybe it would help.
For seven years I wandered.
I got really good at being sad.
Late one afternoon,
I took a rope and went to the woods.
The sun was setting.
I could feel the rough fibers
against my neck
as I put my head inside.
That’s when I saw—
it was just one more leash.
What goes on can come off.
I’m going to read one more that I had planned to read before I got Maddie’s note, which is, uh, about the moon as well as his son. This is, uh,
Punna ~ Full
[see side by side comparison]
Make the dark night shine.
Oh, I may have read this here another night. Yeah, maybe we’ll pause there. So it would be great to hear a little bit about, um, well maybe you could start by saying a little bit, like, what are these poems and how, how, where did they come from? Start with that. Yeah. Thanks.
Mathew Weingast: It’s lovely hearing you read them. Yeah. Um, yeah, this is a collection of poems is part of the Pali Canon, which is the early Buddhist texts. Um, so it’s called the Therigatha. It’s just means in Pali, um, verses of the elder Budhist Nuns. So Theri is the sing… Is the feminine and Thera is the masculine. So there’s actually a parallel collection of Poems of the first Buddhist monks called the Theragatha. Um, so these are 73 poems, um, composed by, you know, the first Buddhsit nuns that existed. And there they come down through us in the same way that all the other parts of the suttas come down to us.
Pamela Weiss: Anything else you want to know about [inaudible]?
Mathew Weingast: Yes. So, so people disagree about that a little bit. So as you all know, the Buddha was somewhere around fifth century BCE and these women, um, also were existing around that time. And the poems they’re talking about the Buddha. I mean, they were students of the Buddha. Um, so it’s unclear whether or not some of the poems were composed a little bit later than others and there’s, as it, as it goes, there’s lots of scholarly arguments about which ones are later and which ones are not. Some of them seem like they’re, um, it had been kind of put together with other poems. So some have kind of turned into two poems which turned into one. At some point there was some repetitions here and there, it was an oral tradition. So it got a little bit messy. Um, but all signs point to them being just as early as any of the other Buddhist texts, realy.
Yes. It, interesting question. Um, because what you do see is a lot of these, um, in Pali, what’s called asubha practices that the nuns were very into, which is like, um, looking at the body and meditating on the body and seeing it is not beautiful, um, which is always going to be a major issue for women of any age, right? Whether it’s 2,500 years ago all the way through. So there’s lots of interesting questions around how much of that was legitimate and how much of that was kind of put in along the way by males who were reciting these as well. And how much of it was just like, Oh, the assumption that naturally women are going to have to do more of these practices because that’s, what’s holding them back more. It’s a fascinating question to me. And the whole thing I think is really interesting. And in the end, we just have to decide for ourselves how we want to relate to that. Um, the other things that definitely come up more in, in the, in the, in the women’s, in the nuns poems than in the monks, is this feeling of community. So it’s clear that that was a essential part of how they were viewing their relationship to the Dharma and their relationship to the path. I think it’s fair to say more so than the males were. So those are the two that stand out
Pamela Weiss: And what’s the, um, cause, you just told me there’s now a title for the text. So what’s the title, cause that gives away a little what the themes are. Yes.
So the title of the book hasn’t been published yet, it’s coming out in February, um, and the title is going to be the first free women. Um, it was an arduous Trek to that title. That’s another story. Yeah.
[Audience] Sorry. I had a question I walked in late, so I didn’t hear the introduction of you. Are these your poems or are they translations of early poems?
Mathew Weingast: This is the question.
Pamela Weiss: [Laughter]
Mathew Weingast: Um, so the, Yeah, [sigh]
A little bit of both. Yeah. Um, I know Pali and I was working with the original Pali texts and um, you know, originally I didn’t, I never really planned on doing something like this. Like it wasn’t like I set out to be a translator and it certainly wasn’t, like I said, I have to translate this particular collection. And when it first started, I thought it was, I was a little bit uncomfortable, the whole idea, being a male, um, and translating the voices of women, um, more than a little bit. And I actually still feel pretty uncomfortable with the whole situation. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t really like reading them and why I really love hearing them being read. It doesn’t sound right. Coming out of my mouth. [Pamela Weiss: laugh] Um, but, um, so like when it was starting, I didn’t have much of an idea what I was doing or what I was trying to do, but it, the, the general idea was, oh, I’ll, make it kind of, there were other English translations of this collection. So I was like, Oh, I’ll just make it something, but a little bit more accessible. Um, it got way wider than that. [Pamela Weiss: laugh] Um, how wide some poems are wider than others and depart more from the texts, you know, are fairly close and some are not, um, that’s a whole ‘nother discussion. Um, that’s as clear as I go.
Pamela Weiss: Could you give an example of a line or couple of lines that like what a literal translation would be like and what, as an example of what you did?
Mathew Weingast: Uh, [deep sigh] I mean, it’s almost, it’s almost gets even wider than that really. Um, [Pamela Weiss: laugh] so yeah, I mean, like, luckily I had no idea what I was doing, so like, it just kind of allowed me to just make it up as I went along and I spent a long time doing it and a lot of time editing them, some of these poems, I rewrote, you know, a hundred, 150 times more. So it was kind of always just this, um, seeing what it was, seeing, what it was for me, that was the important part. And then trying to kind of let that come through, um, how much of it was me and how much of it was the originals, something in between there. Yeah.
Again, it, it, there’s, it’s really hard to say a little bit. I was leaving. So like I started this maybe two and a half years ago and I was leaving my job at the time I was working at Barre Center for Buddhist Studies back in Massachusetts. And, um, I was on self retreat at a friend’s cottage and, you know, I had a bunch of texts with me and like I said, like I studied Pali. So I was, you know, I had the Therigatha among other things. Um, and I was looking at one of the English translations and being like, well, but that word doesn’t necessarily mean that it could also be like that. Um, and, um, it just kind of went from there. Um, but I mean, in all honesty, like I would have to say that like over the past years, like I’ve been learning more and more about, um, the struggles of both modern day and the earliest, um, Buddhist nuns for gender equality, with the males. Um, and definitely that was a major influence in me wanting to do this. Um, I’m sure Pam has spoken a little bit about that. So just like in every facet of life, the gender equality is, does not exist between male, if you know, monastics. Um, so yeah, there was something there for sure.
Pamela Weiss: One poem where the woman talks about being done. Do you remember who that is with her? She’s married and she’s like, I’m not as clear as she’s being beaten by remember which one that is.
Mathew Weingast: I wouldn’t be able to find it right away.
Pamela Weiss: Okay. Sorry. You can answer it.
Mathew Weingast: Yeah.
Pamela Weiss: There was a pretty good
Audience?: Specific examples of poems.
Mathew Weingast: There was some, this was kind of the, one of the, like when I started, I wasn’t really sure how long I would work on this project for still, like one of the things that kind of kept me going with it was kind of seeing that, seeing that there could well be ways of interpreting a lot of the lines as ways in which to get through the censors of, of the male reciters that we’re going to be responsible for these poems being passed along. So if you look, you can find these examples of both where it seems censorship did happen and both where women said things in certain ways.
That would be a good one.
Pamela Weiss: This one, Mutta?
Mathew Weingast: Yes!
Okay. So here’s a, here’s a poem that speaks to that. And I don’t know how much of it was your in your interpretation or not, but this is called another Mutta … so the, each poem is named, the name is a person, is the woman’s name, the nun who wrote it,
Another Mutta~ Free
[see side by side comparison]
So this is what it feels like—
to be free.
from playing the mortar
to my crooked husband’s
crooked little pestle.
For my mother.
For my daughter.
And for all the daughters
I might have had.
The cycle ends here.
Pamela Weiss: Beautiful. Yeah.
Mathew Weingast: it’s a perfect example. It’s a good answer for your question, because this was the kind of thing. So in the original, it specifically talks about a mortar and pestle, and of course these were like basic instruments, you know, for every housewife to cook food, you know, um, it’s not hard to look a little bit further to see that there’s a strong imagery there. So being done with the mortar and pestle is also being done. These women were almost entirely in pre.. In a marriage that they didn’t show choose. And in a lot of cases, the marriages were just awful for them. Um, so to some extent, um, joining the Buddhist path was a way out of that [inaudible] not just spiritual freedom, but actual like freedom in their lives. That really just was not attainable in those days in many other forms. Um, I mean the other thing too, I mean, to some extent, like, and this comes up in a few of the other poems, um, the sexual imagery of like they’re Buddhist, nuns, so they can’t talk specifically about sex kind of in general, you know, a few of them were cortisons or prostitutes, um, sex workers.
So they talked specifically about like having left that behind, of course, like for female monastics, they’re going to be celibate. But to some extent, it seems fair to say that there was a desire to say that for many of these women, the sex was never a pleasurable experience. Um, and to want to cite that specifically and pass that along seems very natural and appropriate.
Pamela Weiss: So I, if you could say A little bit more about, you started out with almost casually, like, Oh, I’ll take these different translations and take a look. And how did that process kind of build momentum, as it were for you?
Mathew Weingast: Yeah. I mean, it’s hard to stress enough, like how surprising it was for me to take on a project like this one. I’m not a poet and I’m not translator. I do have a writing background and some editing background. Um, but the idea of translating a collection of poems about the first Buddhist nuns is something I’d never had imagined doing. Um, but you know how it is in life. Like I was finding so much joy in it and seeing that there were different ways of approaching it, you know? And, um, so soon after I left that job, I ended up going to South America to spend time with my brother and his wife, in Chile. And I decided, well, I’ll bring along the books I needed just in case. And kind of, as I was going, I would tell myself any day that you want to stop today can be that day.
You know, like this was, I wasn’t going to turn into a project and I wasn’t going to turn into something that like I felt compelled to do or melt the work on, you know, um, to some extent like giving myself the opportunity of quitting it every day was the perfect thing I could have done for allowing it to kind of be whatever wanted to be. Um, I mean it was months and months and months and drafts and drafts and drafts before I finally allowed myself to admit to myself that, okay, like I was going to do this, you know? Um, but that was so much longer than I, and I wasn’t really telling people in my life that I was working on this. Um, I know some of my friends would have thought it was crazy and other people would have just, yeah, I mean, you could imagine, you know, the range of responses, but it was something that I was keeping very close to me and sharing it with very few other people.
And I wasn’t sharing any of the drafts with anyone either. And I wasn’t really talking about my process. Um, and the whole thing was really crazy. There was a lot of doubt, you know, and I was like, well, what business do I have doing something like this? You know, and it’s, you know, I shouldn’t be doing it anyway. And like, what am I doing? Um, it did take on a life of its own. Um, but people are, anyways, people are going to have feelings about it one way or the other, not everyone’s going to like that. I did this or the way in which I did it. I have friends who were pretty hardcore monastics and some of them are going to think what I did. Wasn’t good. Um, but at this point, I’m okay with that. I, it was definitely, um, the coolest thing that I’ve been part of in my life and the thing I most had the most joy from. So yeah. You know, I, I wouldn’t take it back now.
Pamela Weiss: this is a poem that maybe one of the monastics might not like so much in the same theme it’s called Sumangala’s Mother. Remember this?
[see side by side comparison]
from having to stroke
my husband’s little umbrella
until it stands up straight.
His releases came quickly—
and with lots of grunting.
Mine has taken
a little longer—
and came with
of straight bamboo
being cleanly sliced
into two even pieces.
I now know for myself
where true release
and where it leads.
A seat at the foot of any tree.
Pamela Weiss: someone might object to that a little bit.
Mathew Weingast: There was actually what, this was a good one. Cause there was actually one person in particular, a very prominent, um, Western Buddhist Dharma teacher, um, who specifically, uh, did not [inaudible] this poem in particular. Um, and I believe his reasoning was something along the lines of it’s too. Like anti-family, antisexual like, isn’t there opportunities for making sex and relationships, a healthy part of one’s life. Um, and of course my response was of course, but, um, this woman perhaps at a different understanding and a different experience of what comes along with that, um, again, there was some liberties taken on my part to bring out like what, what felt like, um, was coming across. And in the end, I, I had to tell him that I just disagreed and it was going to stay how it was. Um, that kind of thing, um, feels pretty important. I mean, like, uh, again, it was life back then was of course, incredibly patriarchal and males kind of took care of everything.
If you were a woman you were owned by your father until you were owned by your husband, um, thinking that they had very extreme feelings about how their life was being managed by these men seems to just, it has to have been that way, whether or not they were able to express it in the way they would have wanted to certainly they would not have, but seeing that finding evidence in the original Pali texts [inaudible] and then to some extent, bringing it along a little bit, just seem natural. Yeah. And I still feel like it was, it was the right thing to do
Audience [mostly inaudible] This. This is a question, um, I don’t know why listen to those the most, the best translation for poems and poetry, you may not be an official poet but [inaudible] are.
Pamela Weiss: Just take that in for a minute [laughter].
Mathew Weingast: thank you very much. I really appreciate that. Yeah. And, um, what I really mean is like, I had never done it before, so, um, and you know, I’m not like a kid anymore, like, so like, it seemed like a little bit late in life to start on something like that. But no, um, well that was great. Yeah. Thanks.
Audence: So a couple of things, one is like, thank you so much for, um, what sounded to me like, um, respect for women, uh, [inaudible] a couple of that came up for me. One is like, what is your calling with this? What is your intention is to give voice to these beings where they are, or to point out the female [inaudible] what happens in you, what happened through the process. And that might be a long answer.
So in case, in case people can’t hear, she asked about what my intention was in the poems, and also what my relationship to the women who composed these. Yeah. Um, so I honestly, I really don’t have a great answer for what my intention is, you know? I mean, it wasn’t something I thought about, um, I thought about a lot, but it was a lot of it, it was wanting to give voices, you know, and I mean, doesn’t it feel sometimes like we just do things and then afterwards we like, think of like why we did them. Like, I would love to have like a great answer to this question of like what my intention was, but I really don’t, you know, I, you know, like I started without really thinking about it. And I continued because I was experiencing a lot of joy from it.
And I continued doing it long enough enough that like eventually, like it got done, you know, um, in the end, it’s all of those things, you know, and everything that was happening to me in my life and everything that’s ever happened to me in my practice, you know, I mean, like to some extent, like each of these poems was a teaching for me, you know, that was guiding my own practice. I mean, for the time I was working on these, I mean, I was rather obsessed, you know, like, I mean, these women were kind of in my head all day and the voice and these poems were in my head all day. So all day long, I’d be like, dah, dah, dah. And then I’d be taking walks and be like, Oh, is it that word or that line? I mean, it was just kind of everything that it was my entire life for this time.
It wasn’t like I wasn’t really doing anything else. And I wasn’t really that available for other people at the time either. Um, yeah, I really don’t think I’ll ever know what it was all about for me, but it was great anyway, it was great for my practice and it was great for so many other parts of my life. Um, so I can see all those for sure. Um, as far as my relationship to the woman who composed these poems, um, I mean, because I was translating it because I had never translated anything before, so I didn’t know how to do it. I was just doing my best to kind of get myself out of the way and kind of letting it come through that can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. And ultimately I have no idea, you know, um, but certainly I was feeling like I was like hanging out with them. You know, I don’t mean that literally. And I don’t mean that, but like in my mind I was, so I was feeling connected to the text, you know? Um, and I was feeling connected to the, these women who I imagined being behind the text, um, yeah, I mean, I felt rather close actually. Um, I, I mean, what happened about a year, 14 months ago? Has Anandabodhi been here before?. MW:
Pamela Weiss: I don’t know, but I was just going to ask you, so please
Mathew Weingast: Like about 14 months ago, I was on a month retreat. And, um, I was there, um, attending for the monk who was leading it when your attendant, you like cook the meals and you’re like hanging out with them and stuff. And, um, so I was also asked by that monk to do the same thing for two nuns who were there. Um, one is Dhammadinna. Who’s a big time scholar out in Taiwan. And the other is Anandabodhi, um, who co-runs, uh, a local vihara, which is a nun’s monastery up in Placerville. Um, anyway, I showed both of the, both those nuns of the manuscript at the end of that retreat. And since then, Anandabodhi has become like one of my best friends. I’ve actually spent the majority of this past year at their monastery hanging out with them. So like I was, I have actually been up there all winter and I’m just coming down there now.
So I’ve been up there since the beginning of January and this past summer I was there for four months. So, so it was pretty cool when it first happened cause I was like, wow, like maybe I’m going a little bit crazy and like doing this and then like real nuns. Oh, like nuns that are real life now like, okay, this is something, you know, um, and then being able to be up there and like, I was up there for a long time, you know, like, I mean, like I became friends with them, you know, and, um, getting to hang out with them and working on the poems with them too. And [inaudible] became a massive part of this project and she became chief editor of the work. So she was going, we were going over all of these poems together and she would be like, not that word, not this line. Let’s try something else. Let’s try something else. I can’t tell you how many hours we did it, you know? Um, so all of these things combined, and then it just,
Audience: It was her interpretation of the word or, or that, that she’s been, not this word or that word,
Mathew Weingast: Not so much to Pali, um, because she doesn’t have Palli actually. Um, so at that point we were just kind of reading the drafts that I had and it was kind of like, no, this one doesn’t ring true. This one does. And what can we do? You know? And then I would kind of go back to the drawing board and kind of see what else, and then we would be and she would be reading them aloud and I’d be like, read it aloud this way. We know that that way she’d be like, how about this way? How about that way? So, um, yeah, anyway, I mean, certainly, um, yeah, certainly it was pretty cool thing. Um, I mean my relationship to the whole, the bhikkhuni order from present now to past, I mean, I feel just very close and very it’s just involved and it was just very touched by everything that you had to go through, um, and feel very strongly that for Western Buddhism to really, to both survive and to fully, um, fully become what it wants to become, the feminine absolutely has to be recognized and given, I mean, honestly, a greater role, you know, even than the, than the masculine.
Um, and it feels like it’s this time for that to happen right now.
Pamela Weiss: So some of you who were here last week, heard me describe that. Um, when I was on retreat with venerable Analayo, who [inaudible], uh, Matty was tending or attending. Yeah. And, um, Anandabodhi was also teaching and, uh, there were two other women as well, lay women. And, uh, he’s been an enormous advocate of the authorization and qualification of full Bhikkhuni ordination, which has been a very, uh, fraught topic. And, uh, it was so beautiful to see this very traditional, brilliant monk sitting on stage at the same level with these three other women, which all by itself as a huge deal. That’s not how it’s done that. The rules were that the, the youngest male like novice male monk was still ahead of like go before in the food line before the most senior nun. So there was a huge ranking thing that went on.
And so he here was Analayo sitting on stage at the same level with these other three women referring to them and sometimes the deferring to them and calling them, well, “my Dharma sisters,” this is an extraordinary shift. Um, and he has done his part also in, um, supporting the, bringing forth of these voices. Um, and not just the voice, but of the whole perspective that’s needed to rebalance in some way, not just Buddhism, but maybe the rest of the world. Um, and one of the things that for me, that I love so much about you and, Anandabodhi and whatever other forces came together to let these beautiful poems come through is that, um, there’s so little, there’s so little of anything that’s very tangible about these, the lives of these women and their voices and their teaching and their understanding. And so any way in which that can be brought to life, because it was there, it was lost or it wasn’t recorded, or it wasn’t acknowledged.
Yeah. So it’s a huge gift and it requires, I so appreciate the sort of a leap of faith. Like “why me?” And is it, is it accurate? Is it inaccurate? We, at some point we have to trust that the Dharma, the truth is the truth and it comes through us. It’s not something that somebody wrote down in a book a long time ago. And so I, for me, and I think someone else sort of what you were saying about the feeling of these poems that they’re alive, they’re not some dead words that were remembered. They’re actually a kind of living Dharma. And as you talk about your process, it strikes me well, that’s why, because it was a living process and my hope would be that for all of us, that we take that in and understand that this practice is not about what you read in a book it’s about what you take in and metabolize and doubt and fear, and are unclear just as the nuns voices reflect, and you find your way. That’s how it works. So beautiful example of that. Please.
Audience: [very low volume hard to make sense of] I I’m, I’m Just feel a little also clear because, you know, Pali, have you have seen any other renditions of these? so were you also, I think this is what you were saying. You were in the, um, you know, besides zoning in, I guess when I think about sometimes for me, this music with a song with your Bessie Smith, “sing the song and then revolve flows, sing a song” Have you ever thought on, and to hear someone else to take those translations in and understand how these individuals are shaping these words so that their, feeling their, um, Oh, I was just curious how that dance worked for you too, with the other translation, the besides zoning in into the element role, um, is, you know, , I get this feeling from you is that you say, you know, this kind of walking and being in the trees and feeling [inaudible] yourself, did you work with other translations or are those just not really in circulation?
Mathew Weingast: Good question. Yeah. Um, they are in circulation, um, and there’s some very good ones and yeah, I consulted everyone. I could get my hands on. Um, and even some of it, I was living out of a backpack, so it was more weight than I wanted to carry, but it was worth it, you know? So like at least six, I consulted on every single poem, you know, and especially for every single word and it’s, Pali’s not spoken any more. So some words in particular that aren’t commonly used, there’s a lot of, Oh, it could mean this, It could mean that. So definitely I consulted every single one of them to see how they treated that word or how they treated that section and learned a lot. Um, so without those really, it would have been, um, it would’ve been something different, you know? So those were very valuable. Absolutely.
Audience: [inaudible] or easy to process. I think there are other kind of creative process that, uh, I don’t know, some kind of constant common deadline. Um, I know my own creative work in the past. If I go see it, [inaudible]
They timely question because I’m actually just got the hard copy proof back from my publisher and sent it back to her. But of course I had to make a promise, like, please send me an electronic version so I can just go through one last time. Um, yeah, I mean, the way, like the amount of editing and the matter of [inaudible], I basically memorized all the poems, not by trying to do it just by having read them so many times. Um, so, uh, yeah, and like, even, and of course I was doing these final things with venerable, Anandabodhi uh, the nun who we just spoke of, you know, out there and we were kind of going through it and both of us were kind of going through it the last time being like, all right, we’ve got make sense. And there was a couple stanzas, I don’t want to talk about, we just pulling the ones, but there were a couple of stanzas in one of them that we ended up taking out and we both kind of were like, ah, actually we can leave it in.
She would take it out. And we were both looking at each other being like, it’s five years from now, you know, like we’re both gonna be looking at them or reading them or hearing them, you know, and thinking, Oh, maybe I should have left it in, you know, like, or like, Oh, I could have changed that. And that it would have worked. Um, but it was kind of sweet because I mean, like, um, I’m kind of very excessive when it comes to these kinds of things. So I’m happy to rewrite something 500 times, but in the end we were just kind of looking at each other and being like, we absolutely positively gave it our all, you know, we, we absolutely positively put the time in and gave their give as much love and as much energy as we possibly could. Definitely there would be some things that we look back on and wish we had changed, even if it’s just a comma versus an M dash or something like that. And we just have to let it go. Yeah. But it’s still gonna hurt. I know there’s [inaudible].
Audience: Whose your publisher?
Mathew Weingast: Shambala.
So I’ll read one more. That is, um, about the process of, uh, the practice, but it fits what you were describing a bit about the difficulty that we go through in the process of birthing anything. Um,
Patacara’s 30 nuns
[see side by side comparison]
Farmers take grain from the earth
and branches from the trees.
They crack open one with the other
and take what’s left to feed their families.
You are all like unripe grain.
Take time to grow.
Then leave the ground behind
and let your husks be stripped away.
I promise. Less is more.
So Patachara told us.
So we sat on the ground like unripe grain.
We gave ourselves to the Path.
And the Path broke us apart.
What we feared most
is now seen for what it is.
All that broke apart
was the darkness
we had for so long
been calling our whole world.
Audience: Can you do the audio book?
Pamela Weiss: [laugh] We’ll work that out. It’s beautiful. Isn’t it? These are the words that there’s something in them that is more than words, right? Capturing something
Audience: Understanding the depth of it all.
Pamela Weiss: There’s a, I think what you were describing, it’s like, there’s, there’s a sort of technical process of translation. And there is during the retreat that we were just on, Anandabodhi, when she read a bunch of the poems from the front of the room, described them as heart translations. And I feel like that’s a good capturing of it because they, the, the poems are capturing something more than just the words or the literal meaning it’s capturing the heart of it. And to do that for any of us takes, uh, a lot of sweat and effort and going back 150 times, but it also takes, you know, walking in the woods and something comes right. It’s, it’s a combination of those things. And that’s great lesson, whether we’re translating poetry or raising children or going to work every day.
Audience: And That’s why he’s a poet and not just a translator.
Pamela Weiss: Um, you’ll you’ll, you are going to hear a lot of that. You’ll have to Get used to it. That’s why you are a poet and not just a translator. Yeah, yeah,
Yeah. Opse somebody is having a drink. [referring to a dog in the room] So I have one more question, but I want to see if it, oops. See if anybody else has a question.
Audience: Do you know when this book is coming out?
Pamela Weiss: February,
Mathew Weingast: February of 2020,
The first free women. Great, good. Um, so one of the questions I had Matty was that these are the first free women. These are, I think, of as poems of awakening, their, their voices describing their path, practice and wakening. And I’m curious, what themes or surprises you got, as you read about these awakening experiences? Like, was it what you thought? Was it completely surprising? Was it some combination?
Mathew Weingast: I think one of the coolest things, and it was something that we kind of hear about, but it really kind of, um, it really kinda came on from spending so much time with these poems, um, was just seeing, um, how different, what different places everyone started from. Like there were women who were grew up in fabulously wealthy families and there women as poor as it could possibly be. Um, there are women with relatively happy childhoods and they were women with terrible childhoods. And then when they talk about, Oh, and with most of the poems, if they’re, you know, many of the poems are at least somewhat narrative. So they talking about, Oh, at some point I left home or maybe they just talking about, since they home, they have this life, they enter the path. And then that path is also all things to different women, there are some that say, Oh, as soon as the path, as soon as I left home, I totally got it. Um, and there are others that say specifically for 25 years, I didn’t have one single moment of peace. That’s like, wow. 25 years is a long time to be in robes and to be living as a monastic and not even one single my one single moment of peace and all that time, it kind of put into perspective to me, like, you know, like, wow, like, you know, like sometimes my practice is also difficult, but like, wow. That’s, I mean, it’s pretty inspiring to think of what it would take to stay on the path for 25 years without having these, those little like Oh, like, okay. Okay. Okay. Um, and then, and then, and then when they do have their breakthrough, which in many cases they describe, it looks totally different for one than it does for another, for some that looks like this, and for some, it looks like this for some, they hear things for some, they see things for some, like they remember things and for some they’re just like, that was it. It was over for some, it looks like amazing and fireworks. And for some it’s just as the plainest thing you could ever imagine. Um, again, this is something that we all talk about, you know, but really like when you see 73 examples of this, none of with none of them are the same. So like, at least for me, especially like in my earlier days of practice, it was like, that’s what the practice is supposed to look like. And when I get there, I’m going to look just like that and sound just like that. It’s going to be like that. And there’s just, the evidence is overwhelmingly against that path.
It’s going to look different for every single individual. This, I would say this was by far the takeaway. That’s absolutely positively going to look different for everybody. And that we also are not gonna know what it’s gonna look like for us. Um, it’s just like time after time, after time, after time after time, this is the lesson. And it seems like a major thing that they were trying to pass down was to say, it’s going to look like that for her and like this for her and like that for her and for you, we just, don’t
Pamela Weiss: One of the stories that Anandabodhi shared on the retreat. And also I got to spend a day with her over the weekend, um, is that there were four principle disciples of the Buddha two male, two female. And, um, the two female disciples, Upalavanna and Khema were very, very different. So Khema was this kind of brilliant, shiny mind, bright, fast, deep, maybe, I don’t know what else to call it. Like what we would think of as smart, like really smart and Uppalavanna was much more of a mystic. She was, um, she had magical powers. she’d like that. And so it’s a beautiful to think of the two of them side by side as, um, examples of what you’re pointing to. Very, very different personalities, very, very different styles, very very different flavor of both practice and waking up that, um, it’s such an important message that we understand that to be the case. Yeah. Anything else?
A great question. Um, he asked why they’re the first three women. Um, they’re not, um, um, the, this, uh, the Therigata was the first collection because it’s anthology of multiple authors. So it was the first collection of women’s literature that ever existed in any world literature. Um, and these were the first Buddhist women. Um, they weren’t the first free women. Um, if nothing else, even if you just want to talk about strict Buddhist terms, there were Buddhists before our Buddha who got in enlightened back in those times, this was actually an ongoing conversation through the whole title thing, um, became like this massive thing, but, and one of the objections was, and I think rightly so was isn’t it possible to awaken outside of the Buddha, outside of Buddhism, you know, and before the Buddha came along, wasn’t it possible for women and men to awaken in, whatever we think that means. To me, it seems like the answer is obviously yes.
You know, Buddhism does not have the market cornered on awakening and way before the Buddha, at least I believe firmly that like people were waking up in all kinds of ways and all kinds of religions. So who knows. So, yeah, so the title is inaccurate, you know, but for me it was more like, um, it was kind of getting at the experience of freedom a little bit, um, because they were the first Buddhist women. And to some extent I actually had, um, the title that I wanted was first the, “the first free woman” in the singular. Um, my editor really didn’t like that because she thought it was confusing because there’s more women that are talking here and why only one singular. But to me it was the experience of freedom. The experience of it is that it feels like the first. We all have Felt this, like during practice or even just walking around and [inaudible] the experienced of freedom, the experience of some of these experience of mindfulness. It always feels new. And it always feels like, wow, like this is it. You know, like, this is what it feels like. And, um, it was like, Oh, now I get it for the first time. Now I understand it. I didn’t get it back then. So to some extent it was more of the experiential quality of it. And, you know, um, that kind of idea. And I know some people are going to take the title to kind in a fundamentalist Way and I can say is I tried my best to make everyone happy.
Pamela Weiss: So maybe we’ll close with one more Poem. You could, um, yeah. Sit in a nice, comfortable way. And you put your notes down and just let the words wash through you. This poem is called, um,
[see side by side comparisons]
walking in circles
with an empty bowl.
Leaning on my staff
in the middle of the road,
my whole body shaking with hunger,
what little strength
I had left—
As I was
I was the spoonful of rice.
You can’t miss, even if you try.
Pamela Weiss: So I want to give a deep thanks to Matty for coming on his last night in San Francisco before hopefully wonderful relaxing travels.
Mathew Weingast: Yeah. I’m flying to Nepal tomorrow on a one way ticket. Wish me luck.
Pamela Weiss: And, um, uh, he told me that, Anandabodhi will be the, like I was reading the poems tonight that she will be the primary voice after the book comes out of sharing the poem. So maybe we’ll get her to come when, uh, after it comes out. And, um, thank you all for coming and listening and asking. then we’ll just do a short, uh, dedication as we bring the evening to a close. So taking a moment to offer, to open our hands and open our hearts to freely and generously share any goodness, any merit, any benefit that may have come from our gathering to share the Dharma, to bring the voices of our sisters alive, may all of that be given out to the many, many beings all across the world by the power and truth of our practice together. May we together with all beings awaken and be free. [bell]