Women On The Path is an upcoming film by The Yogini Project. It will tell the stories of women the world over who are genuinely practicing Buddhism in a variety of contexts, from accomplished teachers and yoginis to women at different stages of the path. The women to be featured are from very diverse locations, which include India, Brazil, Tibet, Argentina, Nepal, Russia, Spain, New Zealand, Germany, North America, and Hong Kong.
Established by Dharma Eye’s founder-photographer Michael Ash, who is also its creative director, The Yogini Project is dedicated to supporting women in Dharma practice. Through media projects that provide inspiration and encouragement on the path to tangible retreat support in the form of the Yogini Fund, the project aims to serve Buddhist lay women around the world. The Yogini Fund is slated to launch in the fall of 2017, following the release of Women On The Path.
“The intent for The Yogini Project is fairly simple: to provide a platform for images and stories of women who are authentically self-empowered through genuine spiritual practice,” says Michael Ash. “We wish to provide healthy role models of empowered women for the daughters of today and tomorrow. People often ask, ‘Why was The Yogini Project created by a man?’ The answer is simple: I have a daughter. And I can clearly see the potential within her. Buddhism teaches us about interdependence and that things arise due to causes and conditions. And so I want my daughter to come into a world that supports her, that provides positive causes and conditions for her to realize that potential. And she is not the only one. There are so many daughters today, with the same potential and the same wish to be happy. And so for all daughter beings, the project comes forward.”
The Yogini Project was formed in 2011 with the blessings and guidance of Tsoknyi Rinpoche, a great Vajrayana master who is known for having guided the foremost yoginis in Tibet in his previous incarnations. The formal inception came shortly after a Nature of Mind retreat with his brother, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, in Hong Kong in April 2011. “I never spoke to Mingyur Rinpoche directly about the project,” says Ash. “But virtually all the details—from structure to intent to the actual projects themselves—came during silent retreats with him. In this way, I consider him as actually one of the founders and guides. Without these retreats, the project might never have come to be.”
Since the summer of 2012, TYP has been conducting featured interviews with some of the foremost female teachers of today, including Her Eminence Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, Sangyum Kamala Rinpoche (Chatral Rinpoche’s consort of 50 years), Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, Traleg Khandro, and Ani Choying Drolma. This series has recently been extended with interviews in Hong Kong with Khandro Trinlay Chodon and Ani Zamba (one of the first Western Buddhist nuns, who is a practitioner of over 44 years and a recognized teacher herself in Asia and Brazil).
TYP has also created and continually expands a comprehensive multimedia website (see the link below), which is widely recognized as the primary hub on all things women in Dharma. Its social media presence has been strong, with over 26,800 members and a daily reach of 37,000 to sometimes over 400,000 per day.
“It’s just timely,” Ash says. “Or rather, it’s just time. The majority of practitioners in the world today are women. And they are practicing committedly in Buddhist communities and other contexts around the world. After the limitations in practice for women in traditional contexts, when the Dharma spread to other parts of the world the question was raised again and again, ‘Where are the women?’ Well, the answer, now at least, is ‘they are everywhere.’”
“We created The Yogini Project as a media platform to tell this good news. The purpose of the media and the film especially is to share these stories. The premise behind The Yogini Project is that women in dedicated Buddhist practice have something unique to give to the world—it’s not exclusive. There is something special here. And so we wish to provide a channel for the gifts these women have to give, from teachings to stories to simple blessings and compassion, from accomplished yoginis to yoginis on the way.”
The Women On The Path film follows up on The Yogini Project’s recent release of “Dakini As Art”—art galleries dedicated to the dakini in and as art, and to female practitioner-artists around the globe. “‘Dakini As Art’ really shifts to the inner feminine principle, the dakini, whereas our mother website for TYP focuses on the outer, the yogini, on actual women in practice,” Ash says. “It serves to elicit and draw forth awareness of the dakini, in art and in life. These two sites have been very important as a base, providing in-depth information and building a wide network of awareness about Buddhist women. The film is the pivotal project. It’s the one where we vividly bring forth the stories of the amazing spectrum of women in practice, from traditional to modern contexts, from significant teachers to warm-hearted, humble practitioners.”
The film is slated to be made in locations worldwide in five phases over the next two years. The first phase will feature interviews filmed in locations in India and Nepal this winter, with 7 to 30 potential interviews, depending on funding. The later phases will be in South America, Europe, North America, Tibet, East Asia and Australia/New Zealand.
“We feel this film can have real benefit, that it can really change lives for the better. These are stories to be told and heard,” concludes Ash.
The Yogini Project is currently running a 37-day crowdfundraiser to support the first phase of filming on the StartSomeGood platform. You can see more, support by becoming a co-producer of the film at a significant or basic level, and share via: http://startsomegood.com/womenonthepath.
For further information, see: