In these interviews, recorded by a team from studybuddhism.com, Venerable Thubten Chodron answers questions about her life and what it means being a Buddhist in the 21st century.
I had a lot of spiritual curiosity, but none of the religion I was born into, and none of the other religions that I looked at actually satisfied that. And so I abandoned religion once I got to university.
Then, I encountered the Dharma one summer vacation, when I went to a meditation course in California, and that really touched my heart, so I quit my job—I was an elementary school teacher—and went to Kopan Monastery where the lamas there were from, and that was kind of it!
The Dharma just really touched my heart. I didn’t know anything about different Buddhist traditions, I didn’t know anything about anything, all I knew was that this made sense when I thought about it logically, and when I practiced it, it helped me in my life, and so I kept coming back.
So I stayed in India and Nepal for a number of years, and then my teacher sent me to work in Western Dharma centers in Italy, France, and Singapore, and then I wound up coming back to the US.
I ordained in 1977, and there weren’t a lot of good situations for the monastics to live in, in the West, and I really liked living in a community, and I always had the thought that it would be good to have a Sangha community, really, for the existence of the Dharma in the West. As things slowly went, step by step by step, I wound up beginning Sravasti Abbey.
Of course, when I was younger, nobody would have ever thought I would have become a Buddhist nun, not even me! And certainly not my family or anybody else, but I think often our life turns out differently than we had anticipated and that there are tendencies from past lives, past-life karma, attraction that makes you attracted to the Dharma in this life, and that ripens and then your life flows from there.