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Thread: Was the first Japanese Zen student a woman?

  1. #1

    Was the first Japanese Zen student a woman?

    Hi all

    We know that the lineage of Zen ancestors is rather male dominated but it is possible that the first Zen student from Japan was a woman, and an empress.

    This is from one of Taigen Dan Leighton's notes to Dōgen's dharma hall discourses in the Eihei Kōroku (on p317).

    The Saga empress, Tachibana Kachiko (786-850), sent a Japanese monk to China to bring back a Chan teacher, as she had heard about Chan from the great Japanese Shingon school founder Kukai (also known as Kōbō Daishi, 774-835), who has visited China. The monk she sent found the national teacher Yanguan Qian, who sent to Japan his disciple Yikung. Yikung first taught at a subtemple of Tōji, the great Shingon temple in southern Kyoto, founded by Kukai. Later the saga empress founded a temple, Danrinji, in the Arashiyama section of Saga in the west of Kyoto. Yikung was the first abbot.

    Danrinji could be said to have been the first Zen temple in Japan, although Yikung later returned to China without having established any enduring Zen lineage in Japan. The empress Tachibana Kachiko herself became a nun. So the first Zen practitioner in Japan was a woman. Danrinji was destroyed by fire in 928. It was reconstructed in 1345 as Tenryuji, which was one of the main headquarters temples of Rinzai Zen and still remains in western Kyoto.

    Anyway, Jundo is currently reading a book on Zen history so may denounce the above as baloney but I thought it was an interesting observation on the early Japanese encounters with Zen.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  2. #2
    I have no idea but, coincidentally, I was reading this today.

    From the Keizan wikipedia page:

    Following his mother's example of teaching Buddhism to women, Keizan gave the first Sōtō dharma transmission to a nun to his student Ekyū. Keizan had helped Ekyū by giving her copies of Dōgen's writings transcribed into Japanese to make it easier than Chinese for her to follow.[6]

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  3. #3
    Hi Shinshi

    That is interesting!

    I just read through the lineage of women ancestors and she is definitely listed:

    * Kontō Ekyu Dai osho, first among Sōtō women heirs in Japan


    I am not sure about Empress Tachibana as there is a listing for Tachibana no Someko. However, Wikipedia lists her name as Tachibana no Kachiko (or Empress Danrin) and a Google search returns nothing for Tachibana no Someko

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    Last edited by Kokuu; 11-17-2019 at 09:26 PM.
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post

    I am not sure about Empress Tachibana as there is a listing for Tachibana no Someko. However, Wikipedia lists her name as Tachibana no Kachiko (or Empress Danrin) and a Google search returns nothing for Tachibana no Someko

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    Tachibana no Someko appears to be a different person, from the 18th century, including in materials from the San Francisco Zen Center and this influential book on the topic. Search "Someko" here and find page 174 ...

    https://www.amazon.com/Zen-Women-Bey...s=books&sr=1-1

    The only other Tachibanas listed there ("Tachibana" is something of a family name) are the following, although no particular Zen connection is stated (pages 61-62) ...

    https://www.amazon.com/Zen-Women-Bey...s=books&sr=1-1

    I did find the following online ...

    Tachibana Kachiko (786-850)
    The Saga empress, she sent a Japanese monk to China to bring back a Chan/ Zen teacher, as she had heard about Chan from the
    great Japanese Shingon founder Kukai (Kobo Daishi), who had visited China. The monk she sent found the national teacher
    Yanguan Qian, who sent to Japan his disciple Yikung (n.d.; Jap.: Giku). Yikung first taught at a subtemple of Toji, the great
    Shingon temple in southern Kyoto. Later, the Saga empress founded Danrinji in the Arashiyama area in western Kyoto, where
    Yikung was the first abbot. Danrinji (destroyed by fire in 928) could be said to have been the first Zen temple in Japan,
    although Yikung later returned to China without having established an enduring Zen lineage there. But the first Japanese Zen
    practitioner was a woman, Tachibana Kachiko, who became a nun.
    http://www.greattreetemple.org/wp-co...-Ancestors.pdf
    I am sorry, very little other information.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    I found a paper that references this information as coming from the Genko Shakuso. Unfortunately I can't figure out how to copy it here.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

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