Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 161 – Pamela Weiss

For episode 161 of the Metta Hour, Sharon is in conversation with Buddhist teacher and author Pamela Weiss.

Pamela is among the few Buddhist teachers authorized to teach in two traditions—Zen and Theravada. She is the only layperson in the Suzuki Roshi Soto Zen lineage to receive full Dharma Transmission. 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. She is currently a member of the Spirit Rock Teacher Council and a guiding teacher at San Francisco Insight, and in 2020 released her first book, A Bigger Sky: Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism.

This conversation begins with Pamela sharing how she came to the path of Buddhism and meditation. She shares her path as a student of Zen and also Insight Meditation, and how the two lineages balanced each other out in her life. Sharon and Pamela discuss what inspired her to write her book, and the sharing of her own personal story, intertwined with more ”feminine” aspects of the teachings.

They discuss at length the role that women in monastic life in the Theravadin tradition, and the role that cultural context plays in Buddhism. Sharon & Pamela also share how it has been for each of them to write books that are autobiographical in nature, and how it is to share their personal history on the written page. The conversation closes with Pamela leading a short guided meditation.

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A Tale of Two Traditions: Zen & Theravada

Welcoming Buddhist teacher and author, Pamela Weiss, to the Metta Hour, Sharon invites her to explore the potent catalysts which brought her to the spiritual path and meditation practice. Outlining her journey into Buddhism, Pamela shares the nuances of becoming authorized to teach in both the Zen and Theravada (Insight) traditions.

“My roots are in Zen because that’s where I started, and I feel really happy to have extended into learning Insight Meditation. It kept me from being overzealous, and it really stretched and opened me. In some ways, I feel being in two traditions can be confusing; on the other hand, I feel it gives me perspective and helps me see through-lines—the essential parts of the teachings.” – Pamela Weiss

For more Pamela Weiss on her personal dharma of fierce, feminine Buddhism, join her on Ep. 44 of The Road Home
Personal Dharma: Faith in A Bigger Sky (6:45)

Prompted by Sharon to speak about the intentions and insights behind her new book, A Bigger Sky: Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism, Pamela shares how she was inspired by Sharon’s book, Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, to offer written dharma teachings that felt much more personal. Touching on themes of faith, doubt, and the fierce feminine, Sharon and Pamela describe the transformative two-way power of sharing authentic personal stories from the heart.

“I was so hungry to hear the human side of the teachings and the impact of the teachings. It’s still true that I’d like to hear it from other people. More and more, I see the impact of how door-opening and tenderizing it is for people to hear about the dharma in a very personal way.” – Pamela Weiss

“The style in which I wrote and my wish to bring forward a more feminine expression of the dharma—those were hand-in-glove. I was writing a very personal story, and that was a way of expressing a more feminine, personal, intimate version of the teachings.” – Pamela Weiss

Women in Buddhism: Awakening a Fierce Feminine (12:42)

Relaying personal stories highlighting the misogyny, bias, and male-domination instilled presently and historically throughout almost all world spiritual traditions, Pamela and Sharon speak to the awakening of a fierce feminine in Buddhism and beyond.

“I didn’t even know. It was the water I was swimming in. It took me a while to start to wake up to realize: Where are the women? Where are the women’s voices? Where are the women’s perspectives?” – Pamela Weiss

Sharon speaks about the vulnerability and authentic sharing from her friend and mentor, Ram Dass, on Ep. 372 of Mindrolling
Guided Meditation on the Feminine (50:25)

To close the conversation, Pamela shares a guided meditation on the feminine aspects of reality.