Rita M. Gross—an author, dharma teacher, professor, and longtime Tricycle contributor—suffered a massive stroke last week. She is currently in hospice care at her home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
A passionate voice for women’s equality, interreligious dialogue, and the value of historical study as a way of enriching religious practice, Gross earned her PhD in 1975 from the University of Chicago in History of Religions. Shortly thereafter, in 1977, she took refuge vows with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, formally entering the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. In 2005, her teacher Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche empowered her as a lopon (senior teacher).
Her first article for Tricycle, “After Patriarchy,” an excerpt from her groundbreaking work Buddhism After Patriarchy, appeared in the magazine’s sixth issue in the winter of 1992. Since then, the magazine has regularly featured Gross’s work, distinct for its blend of spiritual warmth and academic rigor. Gross’s most recent feature article, “Man-made Obstacle,” which appeared in the Summer 2014 issue, tackled the contradiction between those impediments that Buddhism has implored followers to overcome (worldly concerns, sensory pleasures, and so forth) and those it has deemed insurmountable (regrettably, womanhood).
Gross experienced a mild stroke while traveling in India last spring. After undergoing a regimen of physical therapy, she seemed to be making a recovery. However, her recent, far more severe stroke left her hospitalized and she was soon put on hospice.
A close friend and student of Gross’s told Tricycle that Gross “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 [paintings], rupas [statues] and, of course, her beloved cats,” she added.
The Tricycle editors are grateful for Rita’s work, which has enriched our pages. But more important than her helping make Tricycle a better magazine is her achievement—through equal parts instruction and provocation—of helping make readers (ourselves included) better thinkers and practitioners.
Update (11/12/15): We received news this morning that Rita Gross has passed, at peace and without appearing to suffer. The body was treated in the traditional Tibetan manner and will be cremated after three days. Rita had requested that her ashes be sprinkled into the Lotus Pond at Mindrolling, Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche’s retreat center in central Virginia.