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Thread: Zen Women Chapter 6, Pages 107-117

  1. #1

    Zen Women Chapter 6, Pages 107-117

    Hi all,

    We finish out Chapter 6 with a discussion of the Japanese nuns, who Schireson thinks “…more often than monks, understood the bodhisattva practice to mean devotion to actual people and their everyday problems as opposed to a concept of compassion.”

    Three well-known abbesses of Tokeiji, a refuge for women seeking asylum, are introduced: its founder Kakuzan Shido, Princess Yodo, and Tenshu. The temple came into being in part because of the connection of the abbess Kakuzan to the shogunate. In later years, its existence and leadership was subject to the whims of politics and power.

    What was the essence of the teachings the “fallen flowers” at Tokeiji received over the years? What can we learn from Tokeiji and the other convents about women’s unique role in Zen?

    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).

  2. #2
    I found the story of the dharma combat between Kakuzan and the monks from Engakuji most amusing. The dagger she placed in front of them would have been her kaiken. It would have been given to her as a wedding gift by her mother so that as a samurai wife she could defend her honor or commit suicide as situations dictated. It would have had her family crest on it so carried the double threat of violence from her and her powerful backers. That she is still carrying it with her is interesting. It also makes the monk's follow up question spot on - what were you before you were a samurai? A brave and pertinent question by that monk. Respect all round.

    Stewart
    Sat

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Stewart View Post
    I found the story of the dharma combat between Kakuzan and the monks from Engakuji most amusing. The dagger she placed in front of them would have been her kaiken. It would have been given to her as a wedding gift by her mother so that as a samurai wife she could defend her honor or commit suicide as situations dictated. It would have had her family crest on it so carried the double threat of violence from her and her powerful backers. That she is still carrying it with her is interesting. It also makes the monk's follow up question spot on - what were you before you were a samurai? A brave and pertinent question by that monk. Respect all round.

    Stewart
    Sat
    I find samurai culture so fascinating! It seems to me sometimes to be an example of what Zen without Precepts would be like. Thank you for that perspective.

    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).

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    I find samurai culture so fascinating! It seems to me sometimes to be an example of what Zen without Precepts would be like. Thank you for that perspective.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday
    There was a code. It was written down in the Bushido. My favorite part says " a warrior should walk upon this earth as if he were already dead."

    Gassho,
    Juki

    sat today and lah
    "First you have to give up." Tyler Durden

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Juki View Post
    There was a code. It was written down in the Bushido. My favorite part says " a warrior should walk upon this earth as if he were already dead."

    Gassho,
    Juki

    sat today and lah
    Just to jump in for a moment to say that the samurai code of Bushido is a bit romanticized in legend and by the movies, and actually much of the samurai image is a creation of much later story writers, much like the "white hat" image of the Old West or the "chivalry" of knights of the middle ages. No, it was not Tom Cruise in "Last Samurai." The reality of history was not really so, and not always so honorable, although some aspects are true.

    Off topic really, so I will leave it there.

    Gassho, Jundo
    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-15-2021 at 10:08 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    I think the word nun carries a lot of preconceived ideas about unworldly, gentle maidens and mothers presided over by a wise old crone. In other words 'Sister Act'. The reality here would have been much harder. You don't run a refuge for abused runaway wives that involves facing down irate husbands, with their extended families backing them up, without nerves of steel, a lot of common sense and burning compassion. It makes me wonder what Kakuzan's married life had been like. She could have chosen the dignified retirement of a contemplative nun that befitted her rank but chose a different path.

    Stewart
    Sat

  7. #7
    I liked the idea, as Schireson notes, that the nuns:
    ...understood the bodhisattva practice to mean devotion to actual people and their everyday problems as opposed to a concept of compassion...
    And also how Tokeiji and Mantokuji became beacons of empowerment and women's rights - it seemed quite fitting to be reading about this now.

    Here in the UK there has been an awful series of events in which a young woman was abducted and murdered (sadly nothing new) walking home at night, allegedly by a police officer. The resulting vigil then ended in a very heavy handed police response. What this seems to have done, however, is shone a light on how women are treated and caused many of us to reflect and started a conversation on how we can help create a society in which one half the population aren't scared of the other half.

    Gassho,

    Heiso

    StLah

  8. #8
    The comparison between monks and nuns is fairly stark, whereas the monks are all about the concept of compassion, the nuns are all about the practice. It's almost like the whole "to judge ourselves on our intent, and others on their actions". It really made me think about how often I read about compassion and attempt to understand it, but may not practice it so much. It's wonderful to read about the acts of compassion undertaken by these nuns, some of which I had never really considered before. This day in age divorce is fairly common, but it's easy to forget how in ages past (and still in some places today) it can be a death sentence. The nuns harboring women who wanted a divorce, to the point of having armed guards, just goes to show the length of their compassion. In a world where they were cast as lower class or less educated, they still put into action that which the Buddha taught, it's all very inspiring and eye opening.

    Gassho,

    Bokuchō
    SatToday/LaH

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