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Thread: Zen Women: Chapter 5, pages 64-74

  1. #1

    Zen Women: Chapter 5, pages 64-74

    Welcome back everyone! If you are just joining us feel free to catch-up or just jump in where we are.

    This week we will look at Chapter 5 pages 64-74. I do want to give a warning for the first pages of the chapter there is discussions of eating disorders. If you would like to skip that section start instead at page 68 the first paragraph, which begins “Xinggang’s formal training with old Master Cixing…..”

    This section of the chapter takes us through the life of Chinese Dharma Heir Zhiyuan Xinggang. The author asks many questions throughout, comparing her path through training with some of the same challenges female practitioners encounter today. As such I’m going to highlight a few quotes which really struck me from this section.

    “Because the Zen school is based on meditation practice, it is not dependent on literacy or knowledge of scriptures. Mastery of meditation does not favor males or females and is not inherently related to educational advantages, power, influence, physical strength or wealth.”

    “The questions of what to do when the institution fails to turn toward its blind spots, or when the rules and committees fail us, needs to be addressed by each practitioner. For practice to deepen, we need to understand that disappointment and problems are part of our growth”

    “She believe that seeking liberation, which we associate with renunciation and hardship, is actually joyous. Xinggang offers this kind reminder for Zen trainees and other spiritual practitioners: the hardship we experience is not a result of the practice or its inevitable physical difficulties. Our suffering is caused instead by our inevitable human desires for having things our own way, and by our addictions to worldly pleasures that only result in more suffering.”
    Having recently finished Ango, do you relate to the experience of giving up something as being joyous?

    Please reflect on the above, or whatever strikes you from this section.

    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
    香道 笑花
    Kodo Shoka

    Please don't take anything I say as anything more than just a normal person's thoughts on the topic. I'm just stumbling through life trying to be helpful, but really don't know much.

  2. #2
    I will join in the discussion when the book arrives - I ordered it last week - and then I'll catch up on the reading.

    Stewart
    Sat

  3. #3
    The story of Xinggang was inspiring. I don't think I could go through the koan practice, but I loved the quote "Abandoning the Way to seek out pleasure is like throwing away food and seeking hunger!"

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  4. #4
    Thank you, Shoka. I am so glad we have returned to this book, which offers so much. I was just thinking of it in relation to Eikyō's question on another thread about balancing her own needs with the expectations of society and relatives and that seems like a question which is far more pressing for women than men even now.

    What interested me most about Xinggang's story was the response of Master Yuanwu in sending her back to her mother to complete her duties. I am wondering, in light of her lifelong question, "Where is the place where I can settle myself and establish my life", if her teacher was not hoping that it was not necessary to be in a monastery in order to find that place, and by sending her back to her mother she might let go of any initial disappointment and resentment and discover freedom through adherence to societal norms as well as by rejecting them.

    Of course, that may be a wholly positive reading of the situation which was actually no more than Yuanwu according with gender norms at that time.

    Also, I love her poetic response to the first koan:

    Before my parents had been born
    Emptiness congealedd, clarity complete,
    From the start there is nothing lacking:
    Clouds scatter due over the blue heavens.



    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    Last edited by Kokuu; 01-29-2021 at 05:37 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.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Shoka View Post

    “Because the Zen school is based on meditation practice, it is not dependent on literacy or knowledge of scriptures. Mastery of meditation does not favor males or females and is not inherently related to educational advantages, power, influence, physical strength or wealth.”

    “The questions of what to do when the institution fails to turn toward its blind spots, or when the rules and committees fail us, needs to be addressed by each practitioner. For practice to deepen, we need to understand that disappointment and problems are part of our growth”

    “She believe that seeking liberation, which we associate with renunciation and hardship, is actually joyous. Xinggang offers this kind reminder for Zen trainees and other spiritual practitioners: the hardship we experience is not a result of the practice or its inevitable physical difficulties. Our suffering is caused instead by our inevitable human desires for having things our own way, and by our addictions to worldly pleasures that only result in more suffering.”
    Having recently finished Ango, do you relate to the experience of giving up something as being joyous?
    Thank you for leaving this open for discussion, Shoka! It may take some folks a while to catch up as there is so much going on in the forum.

    Yes, Zazen practice does not favor a certain gender, (nor priest or lay). For those of us practicing Soto Zen, it is perhaps what makes it so approachable. And, as a lead-in to the next quote about what to do when the institution fails to turn toward its blind spots... for me, it is baffling how anyone practicing true Zen wouldn't be determined to save sentient beings by allowing every individual of every circumstance to practice it as fully as they are able! I am so grateful to be part of Nishijima's legacy, which (whether it was intended or not) enabled the benefits of my own practice of the Dharma to be experienced by my family and the community that I serve. There is sometimes a real disconnect there in the Zen world, which is ironic (IMHO) in an institution that teaches non-discriminatory thought.

    The third quote illustrates one of the key aspects of female-identifying practice, which is referenced gratifyingly often in this book. Xinggang brought a positivity to her teaching, framing things in reference to joy. (We at Treeleaf may take it for granted a little, in that our Roshi is secure enough in his masculinity to emphasize the positivity of "going beyond" what we perceive as hardships in life during Shikantaza, instead of hitting us with a stick.) But, to answer Shoka's question, I think most of us that gave up something for Ango do recognize that the liberation of being able to put down an attachment, even temporarily, feels good!

    Perhaps what struck me most, though, from Xinggang's story, was its familiarity with my own experience of growing up with a wish to defy family expectations, and then raising two girls. It was very poignant to hear how all through history we were forced to use passive-aggressive resistance and self-destructive behaviors--like refusing to eat--to get power over our own futures.

    Looking forward to hearing others' comments.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday
    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).

  6. #6
    Oh no, I missed this, I'm behind already! I'll catch up tonight.

    Gassho,

    Heiso

    StLah

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Heiso View Post
    Oh no, I missed this, I'm behind already! I'll catch up tonight.

    Gassho,

    Heiso

    StLah
    Heiso,

    The next section is short. Take your time.

    Gassho,
    Shoka
    Sattoday

    Sent from my SM-G986U using Tapatalk
    香道 笑花
    Kodo Shoka

    Please don't take anything I say as anything more than just a normal person's thoughts on the topic. I'm just stumbling through life trying to be helpful, but really don't know much.

  8. #8
    Ah, passive-aggressive, my favorite life strategy. For Ango I "gave up" gaslighting and backbiting, but the joy was mixed as I did not give them up as successfully as I had hoped.

    gassho
    doyu shonin sat and a little bit of lah today
    Visiting unsui, take with salt. 莫妄想

  9. #9
    I found this section fascinating, and it really shines a light on how ingrained in life traditional gender roles really are, and how hard these roles can be on people who don't feel like they're a good fit. Passive-aggressive resistance can also manifest with the same symptoms as depression, anxiety, etc. and it seemed like following the spiritual path was a way to defy these roles even further. I applaud Xinggang's tenacity and willingness to find her own calling amidst a male-dominated society and spiritual path. I have very much enjoyed this book so far, and while society as a whole has been moving in a more inclusive direction, religious and spiritual paths tend to evolve more slowly as there is so much dogma and tradition involved. I appreciate Treeleaf for being so inclusive and caring, and I'm very proud to be a part of a Sangha that cherishes the sameness yet diversity of all of it's members.

    Gassho,

    Bokuchō (Josh W.)
    SatToday/LaH

  10. #10
    I'm going to leave this thread open through the end of this week for anyone who is catching up.

    After that we will start closing threads weekly again.

    Gassho,
    Shoka
    sat
    香道 笑花
    Kodo Shoka

    Please don't take anything I say as anything more than just a normal person's thoughts on the topic. I'm just stumbling through life trying to be helpful, but really don't know much.

  11. #11
    “Because the Zen school is based on meditation practice, it is not dependent on literacy or knowledge of scriptures. Mastery of meditation does not favor males or females and is not inherently related to educational advantages, power, influence, physical strength or wealth.”

    In terms of the difference between genders then yes - that seems a good point and is true today.

    But, before that, Schireson is contrasting Zen to the other schools. She seems off when stating that the distinctive aspect of Pure Land Buddhism is the Lotus Sutra. First, that would be Nichiren Buddhism. Second, the nembutsu is the distinctive stress of Pure Land. That is why Pure Land was so succesful among the poor / ordinary people - just call out in faith on Amida Buddha once and you will be taken to his Pure Land on death. The nembutsu can be recited during housework, field work or any other manual occupation. In contrast, Zen requires 'spare time' in order to sit, which then would have been the preserve of the few wealthy folk around. 'Spare time' for the vast majority of people is a modern luxury and is probably why Zen can spread among the laity in the West today.

    Stewart
    Sat

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Stewart View Post
    That is why Pure Land was so succesful among the poor / ordinary people - just call out in faith on Amida Buddha once and you will be taken to his Pure Land on death. The nembutsu can be recited during housework, field work or any other manual occupation. In contrast, Zen requires 'spare time' in order to sit, which then would have been the preserve of the few wealthy folk around. 'Spare time' for the vast majority of people is a modern luxury and is probably why Zen can spread among the laity in the West today.
    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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