An award-winning journalist vividly reports her two-year, 60,000-mile global odyssey in the company of exceptional women who choose to dedicate their lives to Buddhism.
In 2011, Christine Toomey met an unforgettable group of Tibetan Buddhist nuns. After hearing their stories—of prison, extreme hardship, and ultimately fleeing across the Himalayas into exile—she resolved to learn more about the private, courageous women of Buddhism: who they are, their experience of suffering, what motivates them to seek enlightenment, and what stands in their way. Toomey’s quest took on even greater urgency with the sudden deaths of her father and then her mother, and her own search for healing wisdom in the aftermath of loss.
In Search of Buddha’s Daughters introduces us to women from around the world—Nepal, India, Burma, and Japan, as well as the US, the UK, and France—who have come to the ordained life from every faith and career: a former policewoman, a princess, a Bollywood star, and a concert violinist. Toomey meets a Harvard graduate who sometimes breaks into hip-hop moves after meditating, a Japanese nun who has written bestselling erotica, and a Nepalese order of nuns who practice kung fu for spiritual and physical empowerment.
Through insightful conversations with over thirty women, Toomey investigates Buddhism as an antidote to the problems of life in the twenty-first century, and considers the status of women today—worldwide, and within one of our oldest wisdom traditions. “In a world numbed by the amount of attention paid to violence, terrorism, and political and religious power struggles,” she writes, “I find it profoundly refreshing to come across women whose lives are dedicated to nurturing the opposite.”
“Intelligent and informative, Toomey's book reveals the hidden lives of women who have been neglected by Buddhist discourse. . . . Inspiring and necessary.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Toomey is at her best when bringing her journalist’s eyes to describe scenes and her investigative skills to portray the women she meets.”—Spirituality & Health
“Illuminating . . . As well as affording her interviewees ample room, Toomey admirably attempts to place herself in the footsteps of those she studies, adding depth to her reporting. In some ways, this story can be seen as the unraveling of Toomey’s idealized vision of Buddhist nuns. Instead of peaceful, woman-centered, enlightened people ready to offer healing to the world, Toomey finds the much more interesting story of Buddhist women throughout the world.”—Times Literary Supplement
“The book’s perspective on Buddhism is rarely found in other sources, revealing room for invention and ingenuity within the tradition, as well as a great variety in women’s experiences as devotees. A worthwhile read for those seeking accounts on the intersection of feminism and Buddhism.”—Publishers Weekly
“[An] ambitious and thoughtful book . . . Toomey paints vivid portraits of women who are emboldened in the face of gender discrimination.”—Tricycle
“Seamlessly narrated, this book reveals the varied paths available to women seeking to dedicate their lives to Buddhist practice.”—Buddhadharma
“Openness may explain why In Search of Buddha’s Daughters is so much more than a sum of its parts. With a rich and compelling narrative voice, it is a text with the power to inspire a new perspective on how to live, how to view those around us, and how to find deep and lasting happiness in what we already possess”—Financial Times
“Toomey reveals the stories of women who personify strength, perseverance and peace in the face of discrimination, sexism, imprisonment, exile and war. A profound and moving portrait of Buddhism’s little-known spiritual sisters.”—BookTrib
“Toomey’s dedication to covering her subject thoroughly is a great gift to the reader: without having to go anywhere, we are able to intimately encounter a wide breadth of lives and traditions.”—Harvard Divinity Bulletin
“In Search of Buddha’s Daughters is a gift for troubled times, a profoundly beautiful and inspiring spiritual odyssey that traces the lineages and present day lives of Buddhist nuns around the world. I am moved and heartened by these women, who dedicate their lives to the awakening of all beings, and deeply grateful, as well, to Christine Toomey, for bringing us their remarkable stories.”
—Ruth Ozeki, Zen Buddhist priest and New York Times‒bestselling author of A Tale for the Time Being
“In Search of Buddha’s Daughters beautifully depicts the quintessential personal journey to find freedom, as exemplified by Buddhist nuns. These stories of courage and inspiration may be contemporary–but they connect us to a timeless quest for a better life.”
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness
“Like all memorable nonfiction, In Search of Buddha's Daughters is about storytelling—and Christine Toomey is a masterful storyteller. What emerges, Chaucer-like, is a cycle of stories within a story that irresistibly propels readers forward. The sum is even greater than the parts and a deeply moving experience.”
—Mark Kurlansky, New York Times-bestselling author of over twenty books including Salt and Cod
“What a MARVELOUS JOURNEY shared with such sensitivity, eloquence, and heart! We meet extraordinary women through Christine’s kindness and courage—it is a privilege to read and travel with her. Everyone should try it—you will not be disappointed.”
—Professor Robert Tenzin Thurman, author of Why the Dalai Lama Matters and Love Your Enemies
“In Search of Buddha’s Daughters takes us on a journey, both personal and historical, that explores the brave and challenging process of creating change, and equality, in Buddhist monastic life. A fabulous contribution to the growing literature exploring women in Buddhism.”
—Lama Tsultrim Allione, founder and spiritual director of Tara Mandala