Buddhist Scholar and Dharma Teacher Rita Gross Dies After Major Stroke

By Craig Lewis
Buddhistdoor Global | 2015-11-13 |
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Renowned Buddhist scholar, Dharma teacher, author, and gender activist Rita M. Gross passed away at her home in Wisconsin on Wednesday, following a stroke in late October.

Buddhist teacher Judith Simmer-Brown announced: “Rita Gross died peacefully today at her home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Following the instructions of her teacher, Ven. Khandro Rinpoche, her body has been washed and perfumed with saffron in the traditional Tibetan manner and her Wisconsin friends will sit with the corpse for the specified three days before it is cremated. Rita asked that her ashes be sprinkled into the Lotus Pond at Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro, Rinpoche’s retreat center in central Virginia.” (Lion’s Roar)

Earlier this year Gross experienced a mild stroke while traveling in India, which affected her ability to walk, but by October she appeared to be making a good recovery after undergoing intensive physical therapy. However, the stroke she suffered later in the month was more severe.

Born in 1943, Gross was a vocal proponent of gender equality and interfaith dialogue, and a passionate advocate of the importance of historical study in providing context and grounding for Buddhist practice. She had extensive experience as a professor of comparative studies in religion and was acknowledged as a trailblazer in the field of feminist theology. A Dharma teacher authorized to teach in several Tibetan Buddhist lineages, her approach to Buddhist instruction was non-sectarian. Gross was one of six lopon (senior teachers) appointed by Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche to teach at Rinpoche’s Lotus Garden Center in Virginia and was also a senior teacher of Shambhala Buddhism.

Gross was named head of Women and Religion, a newly created section of the American Academy of Religion, in 1974. In 1975, she earned a PhD in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago with the dissertation “Exclusion and Participation: The Role of Women in Aboriginal Australian Religion,” described as the first ever dissertation on women’s studies in religion. In 1976, while still identifying as Jewish, she published “Female God Language in a Jewish Context” (Davka Magazine 17), an article that Jewish scholar and feminist Judith Plaskow described as “probably the first article to deal theoretically with the issue of female God-language in a Jewish context.”

In 1977, Gross took Refuge with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, formally entering the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Before retiring, she was professor of Comparative Studies in Religion at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire in Wisconsin. Her most recent book, published in 2009, is A Garland of Feminist Reflections: Forty Years of Religious Exploration.

See more

Buddhist teacher and feminist Rita Gross dies following stroke (Lion’s Roar)
Buddhist Scholar and Dharma Teacher Rita Gross in Hospice Care After Major Stroke (Buddhistdoor Global)
Rita Gross: “Buddhism and Feminism have always shared a voice” (Buddhistdoor Global)

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