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Thread: Zen Women Chapter 7, Pages 118-129

  1. #1

    Zen Women Chapter 7, Pages 118-129

    Hi All,

    Let’s get into chapter 7, pages 118 through 129. We’ll learn about nuns who studied with male teachers, beginning with Chinese nun Miaodao and her teacher, Dahui. Some thoughts:

    Once again we see that rules are (meant to be?) broken! The prohibitions against women and men practicing together were clear. Schireson credits the deep wisdom of the Teachers, and the dedication of the students, in disobeying “the letter of the Buddhist law while maintaining the spirit of bringing forth the Dharma.” In our times, it feels pretty easy to rationalize breaking old rules that we see as discriminatory. Where do you think the line is, when it comes to breaking the rules of Zen practice? When is it ok, and when is it not ok? How do you make these decisions in your own daily practice?

    I was particularly touched by the description (page 124) of the teaching relationship of Dahui and Miaodao. Dahui helped Miaodao to see that her aspiration for practice was, in itself, something she could rely on in times of doubt or difficulty. If you’re here and reading this, you have this aspiration as well. How do you honor and care for bodhichitta as it arises in you? What do you rely on when practice is especially hard?

    I love the way that Dahui’s wise insight into the undifferentiated nature of beings allows him to see that people of all natures can and should be trained, while at the same time acknowledging that the training must take into account the specific aspects of a persons life.

    What did you like about this weeks reading? Or dislike? Did anything surprise you? Please share and discuss!

    Note: we’re almost to the halfway point of the book this week, and next weeks reading will be a short one, so now is a great time to catch up, or to jump in if you’ve been wanting to! All are welcome.

    Gassho
    Byōkan
    sat + lah
    Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.

  2. #2
    What an intriguing section.....the rules were broken to allow Miaodao to reach her potential and Dogen ends up quoting her many years later. Rempo Niwa broke the rules and allowed Nishijima Gudo to ordain and receive dharma transmission while working in a salaried office job. From a recent podcast, it seems that Nishijima was allowed to wear a bald cap in the photos sent to Soto HQ to prove that he had a shaved head as required by the monastic code. I would think there would be many other examples of broken rules in the line of transmission. As to when that is skillful, I really have no idea except to say that both rules and breaking them can both be important. Where would Star Trek be without Spock lecturing Kirk on the Prime Directive and Kirk breaking it anyway?

    Stewart
    Sat today

  3. #3
    Oh, Stewart, I had forgotten about Nishijimas bald cap! Haha, thanks for reminding me.

    Yep, everything always comes back to Star Trek. The Prime Directive is a great example. How did Kirk make those decisions? Well, often it was to save some beautiful girl. I guess we could call that the Bodhisattva vow taking precedence over the rules.

    Gassho
    Byōkan
    sat + lah
    Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.

  4. #4
    The old archetypes Spock / Kirk in tension. Or, as it get phrased in other traditions, the Mosaic (law) / Abrahamic (personal experience). I would think all traditions need both. Only rules would kill the spirit but only spirit would result in chaos.

    Stewart
    Sat

  5. #5
    I think that is really interesting: to that acknowledge while laws (or rules/customs) are often necessary it is equally valid to acknowledge that they can't always account for the reality of a situation and so need to be bent or broken.

    I also thought it was fascinating that Dogen ends up quoting Miaodao a century later, although given the examples we have of her teachings I'm not surprised. That was one hell of a put down: '...even if it were true you were fluent at arguing...'! I wonder if Dogen got his shit stick references from her too?

    I'm not sure how I care for any bodhichitta that arises. It sounds a litle trite but I think I just keep sitting, keep turning up, and keep reading. I guess I've been doing this long enough now to realise that there will be peaks and troughs in my enthusiasm for practice and not to get too discouraged when my brain is telling me to walk away and try whatever is shiny and exciting this week.

    Gassho,

    Heiso

    StLah

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Heiso View Post
    ... It sounds a litle trite but I think I just keep sitting, keep turning up, and keep reading. I guess I've been doing this long enough now to realise that there will be peaks and troughs in my enthusiasm for practice and not to get too discouraged when my brain is telling me to walk away and try whatever is shiny and exciting this week.
    Thanks Heiso,

    this doesn't sound trite to me at all. Sounds like the key to a constant practice!

    Reading about these Zen women and their teachers has really given me a deeper sense of gratitude for those who came before, and the way their practice supports our practice today. It's one more reason to show up. And I've no doubt that our practice today holds the foundation for future people to keep sitting and keep showing up.

    Gassho
    Byōkan
    sat + lah
    Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.

  7. #7
    There was a brief part of this section that said:
    Dahui used Miaodao's training as an encouragement to both his male and female students, as if to say to men: 'You see, even this woman, a being whose ability you might question, can find her way using this method. The mind of Buddha is found in every person'
    I sort of understand that given the times this was seen as very inclusive and open-minded, but this little part in particular conjures up images of 1950's ultra-sexist advertising "So easy my wife can do it!" type of response. Perhaps it's viewing it through today's lens that causes it to hit the ear so strangely. Otherwise, I found this section quite lovely, especially the later exchanges with the non-fluent argumentative monk.

    Gassho,

    Bokucho
    SatToday/LaH

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Bokucho View Post
    ... I sort of understand that given the times this was seen as very inclusive and open-minded, but this little part in particular conjures up images of 1950's ultra-sexist advertising "So easy my wife can do it!" type of response. Perhaps it's viewing it through today's lens that causes it to hit the ear so strangely...
    Thanks Bokucho,

    yes I agree, it feels icky. Even knowing the context it still strikes the ear rather harshly! This, I suppose, is the teacher sort of meeting the students where they are, in the hope of showing them a way forward, beyond dualistic thinking and the commonly held prejudices of the day.

    I've noticed a few times in the book where the author slips (just a little) into gender stereotyping. I think we all do from time to time, even when we're making a conscious effort to avoid it. These old habits can be very deeply ingrained. I do look forward to a day when words like: strong, ambitious, vulnerable, sensitive, tough, beautiful, etc., are just what they are, without conjuring any gender in the mind. And for me, this is part of the refuge of Zen practice; resting in the knowledge and experience that we are not one, and not two.

    Gassho
    Byōkan
    sat + lah
    Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.

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