Portrait of Luminary International Buddhist Society founder and abbess, Venerable Master Wu Yin/Photo courtesy of Luminary International Buddhist Society

A First in America: Buddhist Master Teacher coming to Sravasti for historic trainining

Fifty Buddhist nuns from nine countries will converge at Sravasti Abbey north of Spokane for Living Vinaya in the West, an historic, 16-day training program. The training begins tomorrow and continues through Feb. 8.

The Abbey will host eminent Master Venerable Wu Yin, founder and abbess of Luminary International Buddhist Society (LIBS) in Taiwan, and six senior nuns from her Society to teach on the Vinaya, the code of Buddhist monastic discipline. The course is believed to be the first such training offered in the United States for Western nuns, according to a press release.

Until now, Western nuns have traveled to Taiwan and other Asian countries to receive Vinaya training in a foreign language and with limited translation.

According to press a press release, Wu Yin has been a bhikshuni (fully ordained Buddhist nun) for nearly 60 years. LIBS, the organization she founded, provides study programs for nuns and laypeople, text translation, and publishing. Under Master Wu Yin’s guidance, LIBS has become one of the most respected centers in Taiwan for education and training of bhikshunis.

One landmark of the Living Vinaya in the West course is linguistic, in that Sravasti Abbey and LIBS are creating resources in English for Western monastics, which  is crucial for rooting the Buddha’s teachings—the Dharma—in the West.

“Since the Buddha’s time, ordained monks and nuns have been charged with preserving the teachings and spiritual practice taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, founding teacher of Buddhism. He stated that where a community of four or more fully ordained monks or nuns practices the monastic code, his teachings would live long in the world. For that reason, Buddhist monasteries are necessary for the teachings to thrive. Sravasti Abbey was founded on that basis, and the Living Vinaya in the West course aims to help Buddhist nuns in their spiritual practice,” a press release from Sravasti Abbey reads.

According to a 2012 Pew Charitable Trust report, 1.2 million Buddhists live in the U.S, and the religion is still new here. Chinese immigrants founded the first recorded Buddhist temple in 1853. Today, however, the majority of American Buddhists are Caucasian. Numerous centers and temples serve lay Buddhist practitioners of all ethnic backgrounds, but Buddhist monasteries are few. For example, Sravasti Abbey is the first monastery in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in the U.S. specifically for Western nuns and monks, where teachings and practices are carried out in English.

Master Wu Yin and nuns from LIBS have been key in supporting the development of Sravasti Abbey through their association with American bhikshuni Thubten Chodron, founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey.

Nuns from three Buddhist traditions—Chinese Mahayana, Tibetan, and Theravada—will gather from Europe, Asia, and South America as well as the U.S. and Canada to attend the course.

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.

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