The Sakya Jetsunmas–The Hidden World of Tibetan Female Lamas

The recording of the livestream is available here.

Event Description:

Do you know any Tibetan female lamas?  Do you know that, one of the most eminent female lamas, lives in Richmond, B.C.?  Jetsun Kushok Chime Luding Rinpoche. Would you like to learn about her life and her lineage in the Tibetan Buddhist Sakya Khon family which, has existed for over a millennium?

Please join us for a lecture about extraordinary Tibetan female lamas, daughters of the prestigious spiritual Khon family of Sakya, Tibet. Professor Elisabeth Benard will discuss her trailblazing book, The Sakya Jetsunmas: The Hidden World of Tibetan Female Lamas, the first full treatment in any language of the important role of remarkable women in the history and development of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. This work helps fill a significant gap in the underreported and sometimes repressed history of women in Buddhism. This hidden history is of particular importance in the development of Buddhism in the West, where both women and men have been asking for material on the role of women in Buddhist history.

Decades in the making, this volume took Professor Benard to Tibet, India and Nepal to collect oral histories and archival documents that were in danger of being lost. The narratives in her book present the voices and stories of and about women that would have been lost were they not preserved in The Sakya Jetsunmas. Please come to hear about the lives of these great Tibetan female lamas and their influence in Tibetan Buddhism.


Lecturer profile:

Elisabeth Benard became interested in Buddhism at the age of twelve, when her father, returning from a trip to China and Japan, put Buddhist statues on the family’s library shelves. Since these statues conveyed both serenity and strength, her curiosity was piqued.  This initial fascination led to a lifelong interest in Asia, especially in Asian religions. After completing her doctoral research in Sarnath and Varanasi, India, she graduated with a Ph. D. from Columbia University. She has lectured widely in the United States, including at the Smithsonian Institute and Asia Society, as well as in Canada, Europe, India, and Japan.

Benard is a professor emerita of religion and was the Director of the Pacific Rim/Asia Study Travel Program at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. As the Director, she taught and traveled with 25 students to six or seven Asian countries for the nine-month scholastic year. Being able to share her love of Asia and to transform the students in global citizens, she considered this as the “best job ever.” Fortunately, she was able to take seven groups of students during her career. The University of Puget Sound awarded her the Faculty Global Engagement Award. Benard has received many grants, including a Luce Foundation Grant, three NEH Summer Institute Grants and the Khyentse Foundation Ashoka Grant. She is the author of Chinnamasta: The Aweful Buddhist and Hindu Tantric Goddess (Motilal Baransidass, 1994, 2010), co-editor of Goddesses Who Rule (Oxford University Press, 2000), The Sakya Jetsunmas: The Hidden World of Tibetan Female Lamas (Snow Lion Publications, 2022) and numerous scholarly articles.


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