born Joyce Adele Pettingill in Beloit, Wisconsin. Her parents were active
American Baptists. She started college at the University of Wisconsin
where she met her husband, Ben Ting Fun Lum. They moved from Madison
to Los Angeles as Ben started work as an aerospace engineer at MacDonald
Douglas. Their daughter Chrystine was born and she finished her degree
at UCLA, receiving a B.A. in English. In 1969 they were divorced. She
received two M.A.s: one in Secondary Education and the other in Comparative
She met her teacher, Thich Thien-An, and began her studies of Buddhism
in 1969. At the same time, she helped Dr. Thien-An establish the International
Buddhist Meditation Center, Chua Vietnam in Los Angeles, the first Vietnamese
temple in the U.S., and the College of Oriental Studies.
In 1973 she became a Buddhist atthangha sila. In 1975 she spent her
weekends at Camp Pendleton as a Buddhist chaplain and in 1976 took full Ordination as a Bhikshuni
in the Vietnamese Zen tradition. Then in 1979 she completed her D.Dh. degree in Buddhist
Studies from the University of Oriental Studies.
Since Dr. Thien-An's death in 1980 she has been the Abbess of the International
Buddhist Meditation Center and was one of its founding members. She
oversees the running of the Center, performs ceremonies, teaches, and
is involved in Interfaith work and InterBuddhist work and has been active
in the Interreligious Council of Southern California.
She is an original founding
member of the Buddhist-Catholic
Dialogue in Los Angeles and represented the Buddhists in presenting
gifts to His Holiness Pope John Paul II on his trip Los Angeles in 1987.
She is a past president of the 'American Buddhist Congress', served as
vice-president of the 'Buddhist Sangha Council' and 'College of Buddhist
Studies' and was a founding president of 'Sakyadhita', the International
Association of Buddhist Women.
Ven. Karuna is profiled in, "Meetings with Remarkable Women: Buddhist
Teachers in America," by Lenore Friedman. And contributed a chapter
to a recent book edited by Karma Lekshe Tsomo, "Buddhism through American
Women's Eyes." She edited "Zen Philosophy, Zen Practice," by Thich Thien-An
and co-wrote the booklet "An Early Journey: Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue,"
with Dr, Michael Kerze. Rev. Karuna coauthored Buddhist Concept of Mind
with Dr. Havanpola Ratanasara,
as yet unpublished and edited Buddhist Concepts by American Disciples,
contributing many of her own writings.
She was an active member of the Buddhist community in Los Angeles. She
played an important part in the first Grand Ordination to be given completely
in English with Ven. Thich Man-Giac presiding in 1981. In 1994 she and
Ven. Dr. Ratanasara presided over the first Grand Ordination, with both
bhiksus and bhiksunis, giving ordination on all levels, ordaining in
all three traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana. In 1997 she gave
her second Grand Ordination, sharing the role of Uppajaya with the Ven.
Dr. Havanpola Ratanasara.
2004 Ven. Karuna Dharma and the IBMC hosted the third Grand Ordination
of Western Bhikkhunis and Bhikkhus.
In Nov. 2012, Ven. Karuna Dharma retired after 32 years as Abbess... She now lives in Northern California, close to family and friends.