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Poems of the First Buddhist Women as Vehicles for Reflection Today
Dates: Oct 05, 2020 - Nov 09, 2020
Online Course

Instructor(s): Georgia Kashnig, Charles Hallisey

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The poems of the first Buddhist women still delight, surprise, and teach. Even across expanses of space, time and translation, these “inspired utterances,” as the sixth-century Buddhist commentator Dhammapala called them, enable us to see things that we have not seen before, to imagine things that we have not dreamed before. They are literature in the way that Ezra Pound meant when he said, "Literature is news that STAYS news."

This six-week online course will be devoted to reading these poems, the Therigatha, as vehicles for reflection today. The women of these poems were theris, “senior ones,” among the earliest ordained Buddhist women, and they wrote these poems, “gatha,” as expressions of not only their own enlightenment, but their lives in the fullest sense. We will do close readings with a number of these poems, paying attention to their expressive, imaginative, and emotional content, as well as how they create space for personal reflection and integration. Ultimately, we will look to these women’s utterances as answers to the question: How do we become free?


Online Course: Our intention is to build sangha and provide meaningful virtual interactions with each other and teachers in our online courses. When registering for an online course, please note that you should plan to commit to attending all scheduled sessions. The schedule of Zoom meetings for this course (shown in US Eastern Time) is as follows:

Meeting Schedule: Mondays between October 5 and November 9, 7:30 – 8:45 PM EST

Meeting Dates: Monday October 5, 12, 19, 26, November 2, 9

Please check the time of the group meetings in your timezone here, and please note that sessions will not be recorded.

  • Georgia Kashnig is an independent scholar whose research focuses on the East Asian Buddhist world, and Japan in particular. She received a Master of Theological Studies in Buddhist Studies at Harvard Divinity School and a Master of Arts in Regional Studies, East Asia at Harvard University. Georgia has been a practitioner in the Soto Zen tradition for about fifteen years. She spent three years training at Buddha Eye Temple in Eugene, Oregon, where she received Zaike Tokudo ordination from Ejō McMullen. She is currently training to become an interfaith chaplain.

  • Charles Hallisey is Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures at Harvard Divinity School where he teaches about Buddhist scriptures and Buddhist ethics as well as Pali language and literature. His translation of the Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women was published in the Murty Classical Library of India in 2015.


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