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Thread: Zen Women Chapter 6, Pages 87-98

  1. #1

    Zen Women Chapter 6, Pages 87-98

    Hi everyone,

    We will keep moving forward, please jump in and join the conversation even if you have not posted in previous threads!


    The introduction to this chapter describes the convent, which is not a part of Zen Buddhism in the West. Would you like it to be? Why? How might practice in a convent provide nuns a chance to address issues more likely to be associated with a female identity?

    In the next section, we hear from women who address a particularly female aspect of practice: becoming aware of and working with the attachment to physical self-image and seductive power, which even today may be the way ego and social position become elevated. Grace Schireson says, “Rarely do we witness the female self-image as an object of seduction so clearly described.” How do you feel about the writings of Nanduttara, Ambapali, and Vimala?

    Feel free to use the above questions for discussion, or talk about whatever piqued your interest in these pages.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    She/her.
    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).

  2. #2
    That was a very interesting section and, as a man, I have no comment about whether women would want to or benefit from their own separate practice spaces.

    One observation - Tokeiji, the divorce temple in Kamakura is mentioned a few times. I've visited it twice as part of general sightseeing in Kamakura, an old capital of Japan that is saturated with Zen temples. In contrast to the nearby Engakuji (which it was under) it is secluded and domestic. The male space of Engakuji is massive with huge gates and halls - big enough to hold a rock concert in its grounds. It screams of the ego needs to the political establishment that sponsored and supported it. The female space of Tokeiji is up a narrow flight of stairs up a slope that is above the road. It is quiet, relatively unvisited and feels built to a human scale.

    Stewart
    Sat

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    The introduction to this chapter describes the convent, which is not a part of Zen Buddhism in the West. Would you like it to be? Why? How might practice in a convent provide nuns a chance to address issues more likely to be associated with a female identity?
    I think it would be useful to have convents available for those who with to practice in a female-identifying only setting. Same goes for male-identifying. However, it would be good if those places were open to those who identify with the setting and are not merely biologically so.

    Gassho
    Sat, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  4. #4
    Another really interesting reading. Like Stewart, it's probably not my place to comment on whether female identifying people would want their own practice spaces but I do like the idea of convents having traditionally been a place for female empowerment and social action.

    I don't think I'd ever considered the fact that self-clinging might look different in women than men so it was useful to have that pointed out to me, especially with the examples of the early nuns.

    Gassho,

    Heiso

    StLah.

    Sent from my RMX2001 using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Thank you, Jakuden, for this thread, and to those who responded. I don't know if I would feel comfortable in a convent. I think a strength of Western practice, and especially Treeleaf, is the safe place for diverse perspectives to be shared, a different way of undercutting ego-clinging. Reading this section made me grateful to live in this time and place.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)
    I have a lot to learn, take anything I say that sounds like teaching with a grain of salt.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Onkai View Post
    Thank you, Jakuden, for this thread, and to those who responded. I don't know if I would feel comfortable in a convent. I think a strength of Western practice, and especially Treeleaf, is the safe place for diverse perspectives to be shared, a different way of undercutting ego-clinging. Reading this section made me grateful to live in this time and place.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    "Undercutting the ego-clinging" I think says it best. It's great to recognize the differences and unique struggles to each individual, but I too appreciate the diversity of Treeleaf and how it really embodies the non-separate nature of reality.

    Gassho,

    Bokuchō
    SatToday/LaH


    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    Masterful avoidance of the sensuality question guys I suspected that might be too much of a mine field even for Treeleaf!

    Seriously though, lovely thoughts and keep ‘em coming... I will post the next section in a bit.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    She/her.
    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).

  8. #8
    I am grateful for the manner in which this book juxtaposes the unique characteristics female-identifying individuals might bring to Zen with the manner in which their practice is still authentically that of the Dharma.

    In order to practice with impermanence, self-clinging, and suffering, we each have to learn to drop our particular conditioning. In the relative world, teachers use skillful means to awaken their students. If female-identifying individuals and their historical conditioning did not exist, the need to learn to drop attachments to physical appearance and attainment of respect and power through seduction and sexuality would probably not be a thing. However, in the convents, this becomes a valuable practice, among others. I suspect that because we wish to be more inclusive toward a gender that has been traditionally suffered from persecution and suppression, we are reluctant to admit that there are more aggressive elements of greed and egoism that also need to be dealt with.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    She/her.
    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).

  9. #9
    My local temple in the nearby valley does short sesshin. They try to keep them single sex. However, the last time they didn't recognize my name when I booked for the 5th time and that I was was male and applying to a female only practice session by mistake. They didn't turn me away but my presence did seem to alter the dynamic with one woman 'accidently' popping up near me quite regularly, sitting next to me, lurking near my door etc. The poor dear had no idea how much time and effort she was wasting.

    Stewart
    Sat

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Stewart View Post
    My local temple in the nearby valley does short sesshin. They try to keep them single sex. However, the last time they didn't recognize my name when I booked for the 5th time and that I was was male and applying to a female only practice session by mistake. They didn't turn me away but my presence did seem to alter the dynamic with one woman 'accidently' popping up near me quite regularly, sitting next to me, lurking near my door etc. The poor dear had no idea how much time and effort she was wasting.

    Stewart
    Sat



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    She/her.
    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).

  11. #11
    I thought this section was really thought-provoking and John Steven's description of the ideal female courtesan showed a different side of women's life at this time as we are looking at the experience of nuns, with some of those nuns having gone through a time when they relied on their bodies and looks for their employment and status but later realising the brevity of having such an idealised youthful form.

    In the UK, the Triratna Order has a tradition of separate male and female retreat centres alongside the more usual all-inclusive practice spaces. Many people report enjoying some time at these and feeling more comfortable in single-gender environments. Not everyone feels that of course but the option seems good.

    Ambapali is an important character in the Pali Canon, or at least I consider her so, and if anyone wishes to read in full the poem on the body attributed to her from the Therigatha (Words of Elder Nuns) I include it here:

    Black was my hair, the color of bees, curled at the ends;
    with aging it's likened to fibers of hemp —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's[2] words.

    Fragrant was my hair, full of flowers like a perfume box;
    with aging it possesses the smell of dog's fur —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Thick as a well-planted grove and comely with comb, pin and parting;
    with aging it's thin here and there —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Braided well, adorned, black masses beautified by gold;
    with aging has the head become quite bald —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    My eyebrows then as though by artists were well-drawn;
    with aging they are wrinkled, hanging down —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Flashing and brilliant as jewels, black and long were my eyes;
    by aging overwhelmed no longer beautiful —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Long, beautiful and delicate my nose in the bloom of my youth;
    with aging has become quite pendulous —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Fair my earlobes, formerly as bracelets well and truly crafted;
    with aging they are wrinkled, hanging down —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Then were my teeth beautiful, the hue of plantain buds;
    with aging they have broken and yellowed —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Sweet was my singing voice as cuckoo in the forest grove;
    with aging it is broken now and then —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Formerly my throat was beautiful, polished like a conch;
    with aging decayed it is and twisted —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Round as door-bars then were my arms beautiful;
    with aging they are weak as the trumpet-creeper —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Adorned with gold and delicate signet rings my hands were beautiful;
    with aging just like knotted and twisted roots —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Full and round were my breasts, close together, lovely and lofty;
    pendulous they hang now as water-skins without water —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Fair was my body then as a well-burnished tablet of gold;
    now it is covered all over with very fine wrinkles —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Lovely both my thighs as the trunks of elephants;
    with aging they are as a bamboo's stems —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Fair were my legs adorned with fine golden anklets;
    with aging stick-like as the sesame —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    As though filled out with down my feet so lovely;
    with aging they are cracked and wrinkled —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    So was this congeries; decrepit now, abode of dukkha;
    old house with its plaster falling off —
    not other than this are the Truth-speaker's words.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    Last edited by Kokuu; 03-08-2021 at 04:25 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.

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