Buddhist Scholar and Dharma Teacher Rita Gross in Hospice Care After Major Stroke

By Craig Lewis
Buddhistdoor Global | 2015-11-03 |

Renowned Buddhist scholar, Dharma teacher, author, and gender activist Rita M. Gross has been in hospice care at her home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, since last week, having suffered a major stroke.

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, she was hospitalized after last week’s far more severe stroke, which Buddhist teacher Judith Simmer-Brown described as “life-altering.” Simmer-Brown added: “According to the neurologist, her speech and cognitive areas of her brain have been profoundly affected and it is unlikely she will be able to recover.” (Lion’s Roar)

Barbara Ryan, head of practice and study at Mindrolling Lotus Garden in Virginia, where Gross was a teacher, said, “Our sangha is very sad about what has happened. Khandro Rinpoche has asked people to accumulate the Vajrasattva mantra. We’ve been doing prayers since we heard.” (Lion’s Roar)

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Born in 1943, Gross has long been a vocal proponent of gender equality and interfaith dialogue. She is also a passionate advocate of the importance of historical study in providing context and grounding for Buddhist practice. Gross has extensive experience as a professor of comparative studies in religion and is 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 is non-sectarian, and she has taught at Zen and Vipassana centers as well as Tibetan Buddhist centers. Gross is one of six lopon (senior teachers) appointed by Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche to teach at Rinpoche’s Lotus Garden Center in Virginia and is 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.

A close friend and student said that Gross has become much more comfortable since being discharged from hospital: “[She] became more calm almost as soon as she was in her own place again. Our dear friend is at home now, with all her thangkas [traditional Tibetan paintings], rupas [statues] and, of course, her beloved cats.” (Tricycle)

See more

Prominent Buddhist Scholar Rita Gross Suffers Massive Stroke (Tricycle)
Buddhist teacher and feminist Rita Gross suffers “life-altering” stroke (Lion’s Roar)
Rita Gross (Wikipedia)
Rita Gross: “Buddhism and Feminism have always shared a voice” (Buddhistdoor Global)
Gender Studies Symposium 2013 Keynote by Rita M. Gross (YouTube)
Rita M. Gross (homepage)

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