Nuns in the West II



























Photos and Reflections

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Nuns in the West II / A Reflective Report

Sr. Jeanne Ranek, OSB

Sister Jeanne Ranek, OSB, member of Monastic

Interreligious Dialogue's board of directors and

coordinator of Nuns in the West II, provides a

reflective report on the gathering of Buddhist, Hindu,

and Catholic nuns that took place at the Hsi Lai

Chinese Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights,

California, May 27—30, 2005.

"It was a dance." Thus did one participant describe

the dialogue experience that occurred at Nuns in the

West II. Christian, Buddhist and Hindu, they came and

listened and shared. The hope that we could go

deeper this time was not disappointed. With trust that

respect and openness could be sustained, nuns

delved into vulnerable spaces and asked the risky

questions that led in some instances to resonance

across our vast differences, but often to a quandary or

impasse because of those differences.

Sponsored by Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (MID)

and graciously hosted by the Hsi Lai Chinese Buddhist

Temple in Hacienda Heights, California, Nuns in the

West II gathered 26 nuns for interreligious dialogue

May 27—30, 2005. They were...


Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron – Tibetan Buddhist

Venerable Il Aha – Zoge Order in Korea

Venerable Dr. Karma Lekshe Tsomo – Tibetan


Venerable Yi Chao – Chinese Buddhist

Myokyo, Osho – Rinzai Zen Buddhist

Venerable Man Yuan Shih – Chinese Buddhist

Venerable Dr. Karuna Dharma – Vietnamese Zen


Venerable Miao Yu – Chinese Buddhist

Venerable Tien Lien – Vietnamese Buddhist

Venerable Miao Zhong – Chinese Buddhist

Venerable Gyalten Thartso – Tibetan Buddhist

Venerable Dr. Yifa – Chinese Buddhist (Host)


Pravrajika Saradeshaprana – Ramakrishna Order


Sister Catherine Cleary – Benedictine, MID Board


Sister Rosemary Huber – Maryknoll, Advisor to MID


Sister Rita Keegan – Maryknoll

Sister Joan Kirby – Religious of the Sacred Heart (UN

Temple of Understanding)

Sister Jeanne Knoerle – Sisters of Providence

Sister Virginia Matter – Benedictine, Former MID

Board member

Sister Barbara McCracken – Benedictine, MID Board


Sister Sarah Schwartzberg – Benedictine, MID Board


Sister Katherine Ann Smolik – Benedictine

Sister Mary White – Benedictine

Sister Bridget Dickason – Benedictine

Sister Malia Dominica Wong – Dominican

Sister Jeanne Ranek – Benedictine, Coordinator and

MID Board member

Group Profile

Six Buddhist, one Hindu, and eight Christian nuns had

participated in the first Nuns in the West gathering in

2003, and several were participants in other MID-

sponsored dialogue events, including the Gethsemani

Encounters and the Benedict’s Dharma Conference.

Diversity of traditions and religious orders

characterized the participants. Five branches of

Buddhism, one Hindu order, and five Christian

religious orders were represented. Eleven Christians

and seven Buddhists had earned graduate degrees.

Christian participants were significantly older and

represented more years as a nun than their

counterparts. At least seven of the non-Christians

grew up in a different religious tradition or none; only

one of the Christians was reared in a different religious


All the non-Christians wore distinctive garb, whereas

only one Christian wore a religious habit. More of the

Buddhist and Hindu participants live in monasteries

(11 at least part of the time) than Christians (only five).

Christians arrived from 19 states, including Hawaii.

Buddhist and Hindu participants represented only two

states and Canada; most are residing in California at

the present time. However, a reverse pattern appeared when looking at countries of origin. All

Christians were native to the USA, while among Buddhist and Hindu nuns, countries of origin

included China, Taiwan, Canada, Korea, England and the USA.

The Dialogue

Billed as an experience-based reflection, the dialogue did indeed elicit the personal stories of

individuals, complete with the joys and struggles of grappling with issues of contemporary monastic

life in the West. But the dialogue did not stop there. In the attempt to understand one another and

respond to queries, participants tapped into the philosophies, theologies, anthropologies and

psychologies within each tradition to attempt to pass over into another’s consciousness in order to

understand a different worldview. Often, taken-for-granted concepts failed to negotiate the gulf

between us. At times, the group simply embraced an impasse. We learned that we could bond with

one another on some mystical level and as friends even as we felt at an impasse because of our

disparate worldviews and lack of common concepts.