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Shoka
07-27-2020, 02:05 AM
Dear All,

This week we will start reading Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters by Grace Schireson. There is a lot in this book, and it is particularly relevant at this moment in time as it talks about gender discrimination and inequality.

The female Unsui of Treeleaf will be leading these discussions, but we really want everyone to feel included. This isn’t just a conversation among the girls, it is a chance for all of us to come together and speak about why this topic may be important, or if it isn’t. How discrimination occurred through the years and continues. And to learn so much about the women whose names we chant during retreats.

Since the topics of discrimination and inclusion are very hot button items right now, we want to remind everyone that this is a book club. Please keep the conversation focused on the book and examples that are relevant to this topic. Also please remember to use right speech, and attempt to assume that what people say is meant with good intentions. Let’s all come to the table with an open mind, ready to share and learn from one another.

With all that said, this week we will be reading the Foreword, Preface and Chapter 1. As is typical for the book club most weeks we will be throwing questions out to help start the conversation, but feel free to bring up anything else in this section that grabs your fancy or you want to discussion.


Does “Oneness” answer the question of discrimination?

Schireson talks about 4 ways to work through difficult passages of Buddhist canon, which do you apply or how do you work through portions of Buddhist scriptures which can be considered misogynistic?

In hearing stories of old Zen Masters, do you believe they are all “Manly Man” as Schireson describes them?



Please talk amongst yourselves here too, comment on each other’s comments, and allow time for others to comment. This is a book discussion group, so let’s make it a conversation.

Gassho,
Shoka
Sat

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Meian
07-27-2020, 08:26 AM
Is it too late to hop onto this? I have a strong interest in this topic.

Gassho, meian

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Kokuu
07-27-2020, 10:21 AM
Is it too late to hop onto this? I have a strong interest in this topic.

Meian,

This is the first part so you haven't missed anything.

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-

Kokuu
07-27-2020, 02:34 PM
Thank you for beginning this, Shoka! I am really looking forward to both the reading and discussion.

As regards this question, "In hearing stories of old Zen Masters, do you believe they are all “Manly Man” as Schireson describes them?", I do not think that all of the old Zen Masters were Manly Men.

My own inspiration comes from figures such as Ryōkan who come across as a gentle hermit figure, happiest when playing with children or practicing calligraphy in his hut. Keizan Jokin also seems to have had his most significant relationships with women, including his mother, and the wife and mother of his patron.

There is also this story about Hakuin in which he is said to have ended up caring for an infant for some time:


A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter's accusation, he simply replied "Is that so?"

When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. "Is that so?" Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.

For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. "Is that so?" Hakuin said as he handed them the child.

Some of the old Zen masters certainly could be characterised as manly men, or at least strong men, but I do not think that is the case for all by any stretch.

Having a tradition solely resting on a male lineage is, however, clearly unhealthy, regardless of whether the men were all manly or some were artistic and/or nurturing. Just as gender imbalance is unhealthy so, I believe, are gender norms. While we find some gentle and soft male Zen ancestors, I think that we will read in this book of many women who were strong and fearless, at odds with the usual stereotype of femininity.

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-

Cooperix
07-27-2020, 04:19 PM
Shoka,

Thank you and the women Unsui of TL for this reading and discussion. I look forward participating in this important topic.

Gassho
Anne

~st~

Onka
07-27-2020, 07:07 PM
Is it too late to hop onto this? I have a strong interest in this topic.

Gassho, meian

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You and me both Sister! I've been looking forward to this.
Gassho
Onka
st

Onka
07-27-2020, 07:13 PM
Thank you Shoka and the other female identifying Unsui.
I've been looking forward to this book club read for some time and thank you for the reminder about right speech and assuming folk have good intentions. This Anarcha-Feminist has been known to lose control of her rage-o-meter, but I'd say I've come a long way in a year... or not.
Gassho
Onka
sat today

KristaB
07-27-2020, 09:33 PM
Hi all,
I am looking forward to this discussion! I have noticed two references to this book/discussion not being for 'girls only.' I find it most interesting that when a topic is about women we must assure people that it is of interest to all. It is something one sees in our wider culture as well. The default is that books by and about men are of general interest and that books by and about women are of interest to women only. Curious, isn't it? Do you think the perception would be different if the title was different, say "History and Lives of Zen's Matriach's?" Maybe.

As far as "Oneness" answering discrimination, I think it's a no and yes. On the relative level: no, but on the absolute level, yes. We are taught that the two can't really be separated, and neither are they the same, is that right? Since we must function in the relative world, address it we must. And if we were to deny there is discrimination based on "Oneness," then we must deny the experiences of many people in this world. I prefer to think of Oneness as a total symphony of many notes, all the notes, not just one-though it may sound like one note sometimes.

I admit at one time I did think of Zen as suffering from the manly man thing. My first and only introduction to Zen many years ago was Kapleau Roshi's Three Pillars of Zen. And while many of the ideas of Buddhism really intrigued me and rang true, I was pretty intimidated by much of what I read. The stick? Oh, heck no! The striving for kensho, the testing of koans, and dokusan descriptions--all seemed very macho and convinced this introvert that Zen was not for her. At that point I had not read any other literature or poetry, so I avoided Zen for years afterwards. It wasn't until I actually met some Zen practitioners that I came around.

Sorry for the many sentences!
Gassho,
Krista
st/lah

Shōnin Risa Bear
07-28-2020, 01:22 AM
I was put off Zen for decades by the well-documented disappointing behavior of a certain male roshi in the U.S. I guess I was attached to the notion that someone who'd received transmission would not have done that ... so when I rediscovered my longtime friend Catherine as Kenshin seven years ago, I immediately felt there was a way forward for me -- happy to be rereading this with everyone. _()_


gassho
shonin sat/lah today

Meian
07-28-2020, 02:43 AM
I am grateful to the women clergy of Treeleaf for leading this discussion.

I recognize the rules, and may sometimes choose silence. I have had my share of tangles with male teachers. However, it can go both ways due to the imbalances of our society, and the cultural norms and gender expectations we enforce on each other, consciously and otherwise.

This will certainly challenge my perceptions.

Gassho, meian

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RobD
07-28-2020, 05:19 AM
Apologies in advance for breaking the three sentence rule... :)

There's already so much to consider in these first couple of chapters, but so as to not get in over my head, I'd like to start by simply sharing one particular passage that I keep revisiting (from page 26):

"The Great Mother, or the embodiment of female spirituality, highlights issues of interdependence, relationships, and sexuality. While the Buddha and his followers emphasized the cooling of passion, the life of nonattachment free of desire, women more often concern themselves with the hands-on engagement with life's messiness."

This passage would seem to support the need for a more balanced approach to Buddhist practice: the cool, detached attitude toward life on the one hand, and the warm, compassionate engagement with the world on the other hand. I expect that this will be addressed further as we go deeper into the book.

When I read this section, I can't help but think of Dipa Ma, the 20th century lay Buddhist teacher from India that had a major influence on the Theravada/Vipassana movement here in the U.S. While she practiced in a different tradition, her approach had a very direct, Zen-like flavor to it in many ways. She was certainly fierce in her own dedication to practice, but she balanced that fierceness with a warm, loving attitude toward others that is often lacking in many of the classic (male-centric) Zen tales. That said, I'm eager to read about other women from the Zen tradition and how each of them embodied the practice in their own unique way.

This looks to be a great opportunity to face myself in the mirror and identify my own shortcomings as a self-identified feminist (especially with regard to Buddhism). I'm sure that my opinion of myself in that area is far greater than it should be. :)

Thank you all for this opportunity to discuss and learn.

Gassho,
Rob

-st-

Cooperix
07-28-2020, 03:48 PM
Hello,

Krista, I think this is a very astute observation:
I find it most interesting that when a topic is about women we must assure people that it is of interest to all. It is something one sees in our wider culture as well. The default is that books by and about men are of general interest and that books by and about women are of interest to women only. Curious, isn't it?


A nun of even a hundred years standing shall respectfully greet, rise up in the presence of, bow down before, and preform all the proper duties toward a monk ordained even a day.

I must say rule #1 of the Eight Special Rules took my breath away. (p.5). How could that be? These were supposedly awakened men that made up these rules. I understand it was cultural, but the abolitionists of the early 19th century who tried to rid this country of owning another human being were also under the influence of cultural dictum. Somehow they managed to think for themselves... it is possible.
But, it gives me the deepest respect for the women who took this vow in order to become a follower of the Buddha. I bow to these sacred ancestors who had a head start on ego-shedding!

Wow!
Gassho,
Anne

~st~

Hoseki
07-28-2020, 09:21 PM
Hi folks,

These are just some idle thoughts. My apologies if they don't seem to go anywhere.

I find myself agreeing with Krista's post a fair bit on the oneness business so I don't really have much to add.

But I wanted to add that I find the macho man aspect actually a turn off. I'm personally drawn to Stoic figures but more to the quiet enduring aspect (Yoda) rather than the tough guy aspect (Worf from Star Trek.) If that makes sense? Now I'm neither stoic nor macho and honestly I don't think I will ever be like that. Which is something that can be hard for me sometimes. Over the winter holidays my brother balked at me when I said I didn't watch Game of Thrones because it was too violent. It hurt.

I'm hoping to find out about some Nun's who exemplify compassion and wisdom without the bluster (macho business.)

I would also like to say, in my opinion, Shakyamuni (Buddha) was just a person. One whom I feel indebted but a person none the less. Sometimes when I think of the precepts I realize how open ended they are. But they need to be open so they can handle new situations. They provide a continuity to our behavior but because they are open ended there will be things that might not be addressed. Usually stuff that we think to be normal or common sense. The idea that women shouldn't vote strikes me as ludicrous but it was the norm where I live about 100 years ago. So I'm all for praising the Buddha but I'm open to disagreeing with him.



Gassho
Hoseki
Sattoday

Onka
07-30-2020, 08:43 PM
Does “Oneness” answer the question of discrimination?
Schireson talks about 4 ways to work through difficult passages of Buddhist canon, which do you apply or how do you work through portions of Buddhist scriptures which can be considered misogynistic?
In hearing stories of old Zen Masters, do you believe they are all “Manly Man” as Schireson describes them?

Good morning comrades.
Firstly, thank you again to our female identifying Priest's and Unsui who are guiding us through this book.
Secondly, thank you to all female identifying members of Treeleaf Sangha and our broader Buddhism family.
Thirdly, thank you to all female identifying folk eveywhere who've come before me.
Finally I wish to remind folk that I am a new practitioner of just over 12 months with only a cursory understanding of our history lef alone our herstory.

The question of oneness in no way negates discrimination. I believe in oneness but within the understanding of interconnectedness of all folk and all things living and seemingly inanimate. Within Buddhism in times past I'd suggest that oneness was used as an excuse for discrimination. Today I'm sure that this is still a factor because we can't ignore the fact that misogyny is a thing and that we live in patriarchal societies for the most part. In saying that I'm not suggesting all Buddhist male identifying folk are misogynists but it is fact that no one can leave all of the societal baggage they've accumulated or been taught at the Zendo door. So today I'd suggest that ignorance plays more of a part in discrimination than finding excuses within Buddhist doctrine and history.

In regards to the four propositions the author proposes for how students work through difficult passages in the Buddhist canon I can take a bit from each.
I think that the historical Buddha was a man of wealth and privilege who at an age well after years of social, moral, ethical and political indoctrination decided that he needed to find some life lessons for himself. Yes, he became pretty switched on. Yes, so much so that I decided to try to live according to the basic teachings he gave upon the Oprah lightbulb moment he had.
I take a critical analysis approach to anything I read and that includes Buddhist stuff. With that being said you can't excuse misogyny or the internal politics of Buddhism from the time of his death until today, but you can contextualise it. Going forward misogyny and the erasure of female identifying teachers will not be tolerated.

As for the "manly men" description I'm doubtful. I think there would no doubt have been a culture of bullying and intimidation and a liberal dose of misogyny but that hardly makes someone a manly man. I'd suggest that discipline and indoctrination from within monasteries would no doubt mold men into men prone to maintaining a malecentric approach to teaching and recording of history but again this does not make a man a "manly man".

I'm really looking forward to the male identifying members of this Sangha offering their thoughts. It's my experience that most people have blind spots to discrimination of some kind.

Gassho
Onka
Sat today

Heiso
07-31-2020, 10:20 AM
I'm late to the party but am looking forward to reading this and thanks to Kokuu for the gentlest of pokes to get involved. I'm also grateful to our female priests and unsui for leading us on this and look forward to hearing from the many different voices in the sangha.

Gassho,

Heiso

StLah

Shoka
08-01-2020, 12:44 AM
Having a tradition solely resting on a male lineage is, however, clearly unhealthy, regardless of whether the men were all manly or some were artistic and/or nurturing. Just as gender imbalance is unhealthy so, I believe, are gender norms. While we find some gentle and soft male Zen ancestors, I think that we will read in this book of many women who were strong and fearless, at odds with the usual stereotype of femininity.

Gassho
Kokuu
-sattoday/lah-


Deep bows Kokuu, so well said. I agree, for the most part I don’t feel the same as Schireson in that I find the stories I have heard of women ancestors to be very relatable. And I also find plenty of men who are down to earth and just guys without bluster.



Hi all,
I have noticed two references to this book/discussion not being for 'girls only.' I find it most interesting that when a topic is about women we must assure people that it is of interest to all. It is something one sees in our wider culture as well. The default is that books by and about men are of general interest and that books by and about women are of interest to women only. Curious, isn't it? Do you think the perception would be different if the title was different, say "History and Lives of Zen's Matriach's?" Maybe.

For my part I added that this isn’t a conversation just for the girls, because there are definitely times when you want to have a conversation about topics such as discrimination with just the group that is the minority or just the group that is causing the discrimination. Often you see groups being split for conversations surrounding gender discrimination.

With that in mind, I wanted to make it clear that this conversation was open to all. So no one felt like they shouldn’t speak out of respect for giving space to those who might feel more harm from this conversation.




As far as "Oneness" answering discrimination, I think it's a no and yes. On the relative level: no, but on the absolute level, yes. We are taught that the two can't really be separated, and neither are they the same, is that right? Since we must function in the relative world, address it we must. And if we were to deny there is discrimination based on "Oneness," then we must deny the experiences of many people in this world. I prefer to think of Oneness as a total symphony of many notes, all the notes, not just one-though it may sound like one note sometimes.

It would be lovely if we could all live in the absolute world, and didn’t need to address the issues that a relative world creates through divisions. But as you said we live in the relative world and so we must acknowledge it exists.







I would also like to say, in my opinion, Shakyamuni (Buddha) was just a person. One whom I feel indebted but a person none the less. Sometimes when I think of the precepts I realize how open ended they are. But they need to be open so they can handle new situations. They provide a continuity to our behavior but because they are open ended there will be things that might not be addressed. Usually stuff that we think to be normal or common sense. The idea that women shouldn't vote strikes me as ludicrous but it was the norm where I live about 100 years ago. So I'm all for praising the Buddha but I'm open to disagreeing with him.

Hoseki,

I agree, whenever I read really old texts which talk about rules or requirements, I take them as being written by someone for that time and culture. There is so much in Buddhism that is left open for us to decide how to do something. That when there are very specific things laid down as “rules”, I tend to allow for the fact that Shakyamuni was a person, living in a time, trying to do what was best for the people he encounter then.

I love reading the entire vinaya (rules for monks) because there are some really silly ones in there. Like don’t toss your food in the air and don’t play with your food. I often imagine Shakyamuni with a hundred people following him around and him getting so annoyed by their behavior that he added all these rules, because he couldn’t go into towns with that many people tossing food in the air and making a mess.





Within Buddhism in times past I'd suggest that oneness was used as an excuse for discrimination. Today I'm sure that this is still a factor because we can't ignore the fact that misogyny is a thing and that we live in patriarchal societies for the most part. In saying that I'm not suggesting all Buddhist male identifying folk are misogynists but it is fact that no one can leave all of the societal baggage they've accumulated or been taught at the Zendo door. So today I'd suggest that ignorance plays more of a part in discrimination than finding excuses within Buddhist doctrine and history.

So very true. My office is forming a committee to talk about equality, discrimination, etc. And I truly believe that they don't understand how much exists in our workplace because they just ignore it.



I think that the historical Buddha was a man of wealth and privilege who at an age well after years of social, moral, ethical and political indoctrination decided that he needed to find some life lessons for himself. Yes, he became pretty switched on. Yes, so much so that I decided to try to live according to the basic teachings he gave upon the Oprah lightbulb moment he had.

I like the phase “pretty switched on” is that the Australian version of “woke”.


I'm late to the party but am looking forward to reading this and thanks to Kokuu for the gentlest of pokes to get involved.

You are perfectly on time!


Thanks everyone for your contributions to this discussion.

Gassho,

Shoka

Meitou
08-01-2020, 06:19 AM
I struggle constantly with the idea of 'oneness' in regard to the treatment of women in Buddhism, I wonder how many men do the same.

I'm not concerned with manly men per se, but I am concerned about how women are measured against any standard rather than their own merit.
These two ideas were the most thought provoking for me in this chapter.

Gassho
Meitou
Sattoday lah

RobD
08-01-2020, 02:28 PM
I struggle constantly with the idea of 'oneness' in regard to the treatment of women in Buddhism, I wonder how many men do the same.


I also struggle with this same issue, as I would (naively, I suppose) expect that through multiple experiences of "oneness', the equality of all beings would be seen as incontrovertible.

However, it appears that it is not that easy to erode our karmic tendencies that affect our decisions/behavior in the relative world.

I see this as evidence that we cannot expect to just have an earth-shattering enlightenment experience and all will be well; we also need to continue to work (perhaps even more so) on directly changing our relative-world views/thinking/biases.

Gassho,
Rob

-st-


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Jakuden
08-01-2020, 02:42 PM
I also struggle with this same issue, as I would (naively, I suppose) expect that through multiple experiences of "oneness', the equality of all beings would be seen as incontrovertible.

However, it appears that it is not that easy to erode our karmic tendencies that affect our decisions/behavior in the relative world.

I see this as evidence that we cannot expect to just have an earth-shattering enlightenment experience and all will be well; we also need to continue to work (perhaps even more so) on directly changing our relative-world views/thinking/biases.

Gassho,
Rob

-st-


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I think this gets to the point. When we talk about climate change, we say "sit with the wholeness of the warming world, then get up and do something about it." When we talk about poverty, we say "sit with the completeness of all in poverty and difficult circumstances, then get up and do something about it." When we talk about suffering due to inequality, gender and race biases, we sit with the Oneness of all beings, but then we need to get up and deal with its very real effects in the relative world.

Gassho,
Jakuden
SatToday

Risho
08-01-2020, 06:00 PM
Finally got my book!

Does “Oneness” answer the question of discrimination? Nope this involves listening and dialogue. There is a truth to oneness, but I feel too that this can and has been used as an escape from the deeper question and issue at hand.

Schireson talks about 4 ways to work through difficult passages of Buddhist canon, which do you apply or how do you work through portions of Buddhist scriptures which can be considered misogynistic?
If I had to choose, I think the 4th as Shireson says, but I think Shakyamuni Buddha was just a human with the same foibles as all of us, but he was exceptionally introspective. And although he was flawed, think about how far ahead of his time he was particularly with his attitude juxtaposed with the the caste system that was (and still is) a strong part of his culture. I think when it comes to anything in our history, it's important to put it into context and to use the wisdom to apply to our own lives.

In hearing stories of old Zen Masters, do you believe they are all “Manly Man” as Schireson describes them? I think that (and I'm going to try my best to paraphrase the excellent Joseph Campbell) that human beings communicate and build our own reality through stories. And an important psychological part of those stories is "the archetype". The Bodhisattva ideal is an archetype of sorts. It's not real, but it's an ideal that we try to bring into and live up to in our day to day reality. This is the same as Buddha; we are Buddha but only when we live that. I know I fail to live up to that every day.

That being said, these stories of Zen Masters are likely "hagiographies" (Jundo introduced me to that word). They are highlighting and making these masters look like super humans because I feel they are trying to inspire. I love having heroes to look up to. I think we also lose something with that too; we forget that we should not try to mimic but rather emulate those heroes.

Now that being said too, I think it's important that we all have heroes; so I look forward to this book and learning about the female ancestors and learning about my own blindspots and prejudice both of which I have many.

Gassho

Rish
-stlah

Heiso
08-03-2020, 02:49 PM
Just catching up - on the issue of 'oneness'- this kind of reminded me of people saying that all lives matter in the face of the black lives matters movement. At first it sounded a bit of a cop-out but then I realised if it maintains the status quo then it's much worse than that.

On manly men - I have to admit, I'd never considered zen masters to be macho 'manly men'. I'm with Kokuu in taking inspiration from the gentle hermits but maybe, as RobD said, this is an opportunity to face myself in the mirror and recognise that even those characters are problematic if they are treating women as equals.

Gassho,

Heiso

StLah

RobD
08-03-2020, 03:54 PM
Just catching up - on the issue of 'oneness'- this kind of reminded me of people saying that all lives matter in the face of the black lives matters movement.


Heiso,

Great analogy!

While we can acknowledge the oneness/equality/equity of all beings on one level, that doesn't mean that everything is necessarily just fine as it is on the relative level.

Inequalities and injustices must be singled out in order to effect change.

Gassho,
Rob

-st-


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Geika
08-03-2020, 07:28 PM
Just catching up - on the issue of 'oneness'- this kind of reminded me of people saying that all lives matter in the face of the black lives matters movement.

I had thought the same thing!

Gassho
Sat today, lah

Meian
08-05-2020, 03:35 PM
I haven't gotten far in the book, but i keep thinking of the practical question -- whether all the "women priests" had used the women's bathrooms during the retreat (paraphrasing). That summed up a lot for me. In lofty talk of oneness, metaphysics, and theory, there is the reality of overlooked voices and an entire population being excluded in the guise of "we are all women."

It reminded me of my autism assessment when the male doctor informed me that there was no difference between men's and women's psychology or neurology, therefore autism presents the same way in both genders. Um, nope and that's excluding many voices.

Gassho, meian, st lh

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Cooperix
08-05-2020, 05:36 PM
Mein, Geike, RobD, Heiso,

YES! I didn't feel 'at one' with the boy who abused me.

gassho
A.

~lahst~