Rev. Myokei Shonin

By Rev. Myokei Caine-Barrett

Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women, or Daughters of the Buddha, is the leading organization of women [and men] committed to transforming the lives of Buddhist women around the world. The goal is to unite women of various countries and traditions around the world to promote their welfare and facilitate their work for humanity. I have been a member since I first became a Nichiren Shu priest.

I learned that Sakyadhita would hold its 13th Conference, “Buddhism at the Grassroots,” in India from January 5-12, 2013, and determined to find a way to attend. I wanted to ensure the presence of Nichiren Shu on the world stage of Buddhist women and also take the opportunity to do a pilgrimage to sacred sites in India, the birthplace of the Buddha.


Stupa Odaimoku di Grdhrakuta (tempat Buddha Sakyamuni membabarkan Saddharma Pundarika Sutra)

The 13th Sakyadhita conference was held in Vaishali, Bihar Province, the Buddha was a frequent visitor. This is [also where Mahaprajapati the Buddha’s stepmother and foster mother ] was ordained and women became part of the sangha. Vaishali was the site of the second Buddhist council held after the Buddha’s death and of one of King Ashoka’s lion pillars. A Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagoda is also located in Vaishali. Nearby Kohlua is the site of the Buddha’s last sermon.

The conference focused on issues relating to women in Buddhism. In attendance were approximately 600 women, from 32 countries around the world, including China, the Himalayas, Mongolia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia,Turkey, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Germany, and Japan The conference focused on the status of bhikkuni ordination, support for nuns around the world, the development of monasteries for women in Tibetan lineages, and ,additional topics relating to aging gender, and faith.

We journeyed to Venu Vana, the site of the first monastery donated by King Bimbisara; Nalanda University ; the world’s first Buddhist university and Vulture Peak. I cannot describe my great joy in approaching the top of Grdhrakuta while hearing the sound of the Odaimoku chanted by a young priest. I encountered several Odaimoku stupas dedicated to various individuals associated with the Peace Pagoda there and the small temple along side of it. From the stupa, it is quite a walk to Vulture Peak, the place where the Lotus Sutra was first preached.



We traveled then to Bodhgaya, a city filled with temples from all different countries and traditions. We had an audience with the 17th Karmapa of the Kagyu lineage. Our primary goal was to visit the Mahabodhi Temple where the Buddha attained enlightenment, so we too could sit under the bodhi tree. This was a place of incredible serenity and peace; yet, thousands were there paying homage to the Buddha.

Our next stop was Varanasi to visit Sarnath and the Dhamekha Stupa Sarnath is where the Buddha first taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to the five ascetics with whom he had previously practiced. Dhamekha Stupa was erected by King Ashoka to commemorate the first teaching at Deer Park.

We traveled on to Lumbini and spent several hours simply trying to cross the border into Nepal. It was immediately evident that Nepal was different from India as the air was cleaner and the sky very visible. It was like an awakening. Lumbini is where the Buddha was born. There is an active dig at Maya Devi Temple and photographs were prohibited. The grounds are quite peaceful and the sound of chanting Korean practitioners was quite remarkable there.



From Lumbini we traveled on to Sravasti where the Buddha spent the greater part of his monastic life. Sravasti, is the location of Jetavana Monastery the Anandabodhi Tree and the Angulimala Stupa. Many of the faithful are visible here as scores of visitors come to these sites to pray and chant. Our last stop was Lucknow to board planes to return to Delhi for our trips home. We had spent a week traveling five to seven hours a day by bus. India is a really beautiful country and there is something very appealing about it.

There is also great poverty and suffering and many parts of the country seem unchanged from centuries ago. The presence of the Lotus Sutra was evident, and reinforced for me the rightness of following its teachings. While I, was locked into the tour planned for us. I was always aware of the presence of the Odaimoku at nearly every location on this journey. The interaction with other women following different traditions allowed me to know the truth of the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra.


Dhamekha Stupa

The equality of women in the Lotus Sutra is unquestionable, but this is not the case for all Buddhist practitioners. It is said that one either loves India or hates it. Going there was the trip of a lifetime which required a great deal of perseverance and determination, but the result was well worth the effort.