View Full Version : Zen Women Chapter 2, Pages 20 to 34

08-09-2020, 01:34 PM
We continue on with Chapter 2, and the next two types of women Schireson describes: women who humiliated monks, and nuns and laywomen who question great Zen masters. These women’s stories seem to be preserved mostly because they were “agents of change” that were significant in the lives of notable male Zen teachers.

Do any of these stories have elements that are still familiar in today’s “Battle of the Sexes?” Which stories resonate for you, if any, and why or why not?

We regard a sexual relationship between teacher and student as a violation of the Precepts, and when we sit, we drop all categories and distinctions. Does that mean we must completely deny that gender exists, or that we are sexual beings?


08-11-2020, 08:21 PM
Yes, these stories resonate.
We are in the "official" third wave of Feminism as I understand it. I'd love it if a young person, perhaps the offspring of one of our members could convey where they say we are these days in regards to the "battle of the sexes".
The previous discussion brought about the topic of gender identity and how it can be used as a weapon by all. I think that this may be used (sometimes unintentionally) by male identifying folk to create division among female identifying folk. Again (sometimes unintentionally) this may trigger internalised misogyny in female identifying folk in turning on their sisters and others.
In most places on Earth people live within patriarchal systems. These systems when unpacked or with layers peeled back show us that the "battle of the sexes" is rigged. So entrenched that it takes more than one or a few female identifying folk to have an impact.
That some of the stories we've just read have been preserved demonstrates just how fierce in the most beautiful way these female identifying folk were.
All of the stories resonate with me because these stories can just as easily be viewed as stories from yesterday. Fierce female identifying folk are still standing up.and challenging power. The fact that these stories could be from yesterday and furthermore do physically and emotionally move me so much shows that we still have a looooong way to go before the "battle" is anywhere close to evenly matched.
Any change we see in society towards greater equality let alone changes within closed organisations like Buddhism will need a united fight by female identifying folk, non-binory folk and their male identifying allies.
As an aside I wish to add that I am warmed by the contributions of male identifying Treeleaf folk so far with this book. I consider them allies as we move forward.
While I think sexual relations between student and teacher to be an abuse of power I've stated before that we can't leave everything at the Zendo door, including our own identities be that gender or sexual in nature.
I'll give a personal example... when I sit our weekly and monthly Zazenkai I see a group Zen students, a couple of Unsui and a couple of Priests. Ostensibly all just Zen students but for me there is always more to it. When I see Jakuden and Shonin I feel great warmth, like the best hug ever. I don't just see two Zen students, I see two female identifying folk who I know understand me on another level. When I see Meian I feel a similar warmth because they understand me on a different level than Jakuden and Shonin. When I see Jundo I giggle because he's a quirky funny person but I also feel gratitude for allowing me to be a student here. I could go on but I hope my point can be understood i.e. we can't ever discard or deny all of ourselves at the Zendo door. That's not saying that we should run amok and be disruptive but it does mean that there is always time to speak truth to power.
Sat today/didn't mention anarchism once in this post lol

08-14-2020, 07:46 PM
I felt a little uncomfortable with the story about the Zen master squeezing the nun's hand and saying it was in her. The stories about Hakuin moved me. He didn't argue about being accused of wrongdoing. He didn't pull rank, and he was egalitarian toward women. Also interesting was the story about the woman selling rice cakes giving a scholar a question that left him speechless. I think Dogen wrote about that one. Dogen questioned the woman's understanding with that one. She could ask a tricky question, but we don't know if she herself would have an answer. I can see both sides of the story about the woman who went to Zhouzhou asking about the five hindrances. On the one hand, there is the history of systemic discrimination against women. On the other hand, wishing others well while accepting hardship for oneself, as in the giving and taking meditation, can be very healing and clear the mind to better respond to the reality of right here and now.


08-17-2020, 11:17 PM
I think that in true Zen fashion, gender both exists and does not exist. It's a distinction that's been made to separate us from the wholeness, but while we can sit there, gender very much influences us in day to day life. In today's society I believe that people are becoming more aware of gender and privilege, but there's still a ways to go.

One of the most frustrating things I see is looking at toys with my 3 year old boy. So many uselessly gendered products, I really don't understand why toys have to be for any certain gender or biological sex. They're toys, and they're already creating expectations in our children to say what toys and actions are appropriate for what gender. My son likes all toys, he doesn't care what color it is, if it's a doll house, fart putty, guns, Barbies, whatever. Kids like what they like and I hope going forward people are able to be comfortable with what they like and stop having society dictate what gender represents.

Sorry for the rant, it's just wild seeing the similarities between then and now, and how much has yet to change. It's easy for me or a male identifying Zen master to say that gender doesn't matter, but that's really doing a disservice to those that have been directly impacted by discrimination, and to whom it greatly matters. I thank you all for your discussion and insight, I feel like I'm really learning a lot.



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