Fairport, Penfield women ordained as Buddhist teachers

by Claudia Vargas, Democrat and Chronicle, August 11, 2008

Rochester, NY (USA) -- After years of traveling around the country to Buddhist retreats, viewing Webcasts and listening in on conference calls, two Rochester-area women were ordained as Buddhist teachers Sunday by a Tibetan Buddhist.

Sue Kochan and Jan Cook, both local businesswomen, said Sunday they felt like they were "coming out of the closet" spiritually.

Kochan, 45, of Fairport, and Cook, 57, of Penfield, have been Buddhist practitioners for many years but within the last five years have been studying under the Dharmata teachings of Anam Thubten Rinpoche, a Dharmata Buddhist from Tibet who is now based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"To be able to be within a sanctioned lineage that goes back all the way to Buddha. ... I'm very happy," Cook said at a retreat prior to the ordainment ceremony Sunday night at the First Unitarian Church on South Winton Road.

Rinpoche was in the Rochester area for the weekend hosting a few retreat sessions at Nazareth College and to ordain Kochan and Cook as Dharma teachers, which he called "a big event in Buddhist history."

"Men have been ruling the Buddhist tradition for a long time," Rinpoche said. "It's time to invite women to be part of (the tradition) and be leaders."

Though he did not know how many female Buddhist teachers there are throughout the country, he said in his Dharmata lineage, it is rare to have Western women ordained as Buddhist teachers.

But he added that female teachers are very trustworthy and all Buddhist traditions need more of them.

Rinpoche has known Kochan and Cook for several years and said he has no doubt they will help people and guide them spiritually. He added that he hopes "the village" can be enlightened by them as well.

"Buddha's path is really needed right now," he said. "It transcends all '-isms.'"

Both women said that as official Buddhist teachers, they are hoping to share what they have learned through their journey by leading retreats, teaching people about Buddhism and working more of the Buddhist philosophy of loving, kindness, compassion and being of service into their professional lives.

"I expect I'll be sharing it more now," Kochan said about the Dharmata tradition.