Ethan Nichtern – The Road Home – Ep. 44 – Fierce Feminine Buddhism with Pamela Weiss

Author Pamela Weiss joins Ethan Nichtern for a conversation about fierce feminine Buddhism, patriarchy in spiritual traditions, and what it means to be a lay practitioner in the world.

Pamela Weissis the first and only layperson in the Suzuki Roshi Soto Zen lineage to receive full Dharma Transmission, and is among the few Buddhist teachers authorized to teach in two traditions—Zen and Theravada. After living as a monastic at Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery for five years, she completed comprehensive training through Spirit Rock Meditation Center to become an Insight meditation teacher. Pamela is also an executive coach, entrepreneur, and pioneer in bringing Buddhist principles and practices into the workplace. Learn more about her offerings at

Full Dharma Transmission

Ethan welcomes Pamela and asks about her spiritual journey. Pamela talks about how her entry to spiritual practice was born out of physical suffering. She then details her path to becoming the first non-ordained lay practitioner to receive the full dharma transmission of the Soto Zen lineage. 

“I could have ordained as a priest in order to do the dharma transmission, but I felt strongly that my actual life has been much more of a life engaged in the world than a life engaged in being clergy and attending to a retreat center or a temple. I just think it’s what is needed right now.” – Pamela Weiss

Fierce Feminine Buddhism (17:21)

Ethan asks Pamela about her book, A Bigger Sky. Pamela talks about what the phrase ‘fierce feminine Buddhism’ means. She and Ethan discuss patriarchy in the various Buddhist traditions.

“We live in a world that is very strongly tilted masculine, and that plays out in our dharma centers.” – Pamela Weiss

Francesca Maximé explores undoing patriarchy on ReRooted Ep. 18
Lay Practitioners (28:12)

Ethan and Pamela explore Buddha as a myth versus Buddha as a human. They talk about the place of myth in Buddhism, and creating some new myths for the modern world. Pamela provides more insight on the lay path of awakening, and how living as a lay practitioner in the world means living the Bodhisattva Vow. 

“There’s a way in which the difficulties that come at us can become the grit that shines the pearl, it can become the stuff of our maturation or our transformation.” – Pamela Weiss 

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