Karma Lekshe Tsomo is a professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of San Diego, where she teaches Buddhist Thought and Culture, Women in Buddhism, and Dying, Death, and Social Justice. She holds Ph.D. in Comparative Philosophy from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, with research interests in women in Buddhism, death and dying, Buddhist feminist ethics, Buddhism and bioethics, religion and politics, Buddhist social ethics, and Buddhist transnationalism. She integrates scholarship and social activism through the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women and Jamyang Foundation, an innovative education project for women in developing countries. Her publications include Women in Buddhist Traditions; Buddhist Feminisms and Femininities; Into the Jaws of Yama: Buddhism, Bioethics, and Death; and numerous edited works on women in Buddhism.
Venerable Tsomo is an inspiration to all Buddhists interested in living a socially conscious life and is known around the world for her warmth, knowledge, and clear approach to teaching and speaking about life, Buddhism, and social activism. She co-founded Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women, which hosts the Sakyadhita Conference, the largest and most important meeting of Buddhist women in the world. Karma Lekshe Tsomo studied at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala, India for 15 years. She obtained a BA from Berkeley and a Ph.D. from the University of Hawai‘i in Comparative Philosophy.
Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a specialist in Buddhist studies, has taught at USD (University of San Diego) since 2000. She offers classes in Buddhist Thought and Culture, World Religions, Comparative Religious Ethics, Religious and Political Identities in the Global Community, and Negotiating Religious Diversity in India. Her research interests include women in Buddhism, death and dying, Buddhist feminist ethics, Buddhism and bioethics, religion and politics, Buddhist social ethics, and Buddhist transnationalism.
She began her movement to give nuns access to education in a time when it was treated as a waste of time and frowned on by most. After becoming ordained in 1977, she soon realized the dire situation of women in Buddhism, which ultimately led to her lifelong pursuit of Buddhist feminism.
“Most Buddhists seem unaware of the critical role women can play and do not seem to care about women’s disadvantaged status. Buddhists seem to believe their own propaganda that women and men are equal in Buddhism, and are blinded to the blatant inequalities that currently exist.” – Ven. Karma Lekshe Tshomo
She founded the Jamyang Foundation, based in San Diego. It is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of education for women and girls. The foundation provides 13 study programs and full scholarships to more than 500 students. It also founded four primary schools for Marma Girls in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
She is one of the founding members of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women. (Sakyadhita: Daughters of Buddha). National branches of Sakyadhita have been established in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Korea, Nepal, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. An international conference is held every two years whereby laypeople and nuns gather to share their experiences and research to improve the lives of Buddhist women all over the world.
She integrates scholarship and social activism through the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women and Jamyang Foundation, an innovative education project for women in developing countries, with 15 schools in the Indian Himalayas, Bangladesh, and Laos.