Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: Zen Women Chapter 7, Pages 135 - 147

  1. #1

    Zen Women Chapter 7, Pages 135 - 147

    Hello All,

    This week we’re looking at the life of Ryonin Genso, and wow, what a life! We see in the beginning what a difference it can make when someone lives in an atmosphere of support for their zen practice.

    Eventually Ryonin did leave home and enter a convent. Here Schireson assures us that, “We do not know how her relationship with her children continued; we know that it did continue.” On the one hand this is just a factual statement. On the other hand, I wonder why she felt the need to clarify in this instance.

    Do we think differently of a mother who leaves her children for practice, than we do of a father who does the same? Of course the Buddha left his wife and son but his story ends with the whole family happily practicing together. What if it didn't?

    Ryonin wanted a more rigorous practice than she found in the convent. Her intention to study with a recognized zen master led her to a male monastery. Here we come to the classic situation where the seeker must prove they are sincere and serious. Sitting outside the temple gate for a week is one thing. Cutting off an arm or burning one’s face is quite another.

    Do you agree with Schireson when she characterizes Ryonin’s self-disfigurement as giving up attachment?

    Why is the responsibility on Ryonin to destroy her beauty? Why isn’t the responsibility on the monks to deal with their worldly desires through practice?

    Do you think it’s true that “Monks need to cast off their attachment to competence and physical power, while nuns cast off their attachment to their lovely physical appearance”?

    Lots to think about. There’s no doubt that Ryonin had a very strong practice! And she became a wonderful Abbot. What did you think about this weeks reading? Please share, and if you haven't commented before, jump into the discussion!

    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
    I have to say I was a little troubled with this and I'm not sure I thought Schireson was as strong enough in her condemnation as I perhaps thought she should be. I suppose it is a way of giving up on attachment but it surely should be, as you say, for the monks to deal with their attachment to beauty than to have someone painfully mutilate themselves.

    Maybe I'm very naive but I'm not also 100% convinced many women go into practice attached to their beauty, do they? Maybe they do. I would say in that regard, at least today, men and women will be equally attached to how they look, or at least adverse to what they might think looks silly in shaving our heads etc.

    But despite my seemindly negative comments I also really enjoyed the reading. She seemed an amazing character.

    Gassho,

    heiso.

    StLah

  3. #3
    Thanks Heiso,

    I agree!

    As for attachment to one's beauty, speaking for myself, I've always been the plain brown haired girl. Oh but my hair was lovely! Everyone remarked on it, and it was my one big vanity. It was very scary and liberating to shave it off, and I love my fuzzy head now, even though I know it's not so alluring. Surprisingly, I still get compliments and appreciative glances, and I think it's because I look happy! I don't think about it much.

    Actually I think I've been more attached to competence in my work than I ever was to beauty. Go figure.

    Gassho
    Byōkan, short round and plain
    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
    Quote Originally Posted by Heiso View Post
    I have to say I was a little troubled with this and I'm not sure I thought Schireson was as strong enough in her condemnation as I perhaps thought she should be. I suppose it is a way of giving up on attachment but it surely should be, as you say, for the monks to deal with their attachment to beauty than to have someone painfully mutilate themselves.

    Maybe I'm very naive but I'm not also 100% convinced many women go into practice attached to their beauty, do they? Maybe they do. I would say in that regard, at least today, men and women will be equally attached to how they look, or at least adverse to what they might think looks silly in shaving our heads etc.

    But despite my seemindly negative comments I also really enjoyed the reading. She seemed an amazing character.

    Gassho,

    heiso.

    StLah
    I'm going to go out on a limb and admit that I am probably more interested in beauty and fashion than the average unsui. But I accept this about myself. I used to think I could never be a good practitioner while enjoying these things, but I feel differently now. I was really inspired by this guy because I feel much the same:

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

  5. #5
    I keep a framed image of Mugai Nyodai above the altar here in the hut; I have I admired her for the story and poem about the moon falling out of her bucket -- many years passed before I read that she burned her face, like Ryonen, in order to study with monks. It has been said that this is why one side of her face sags a bit in the memorial statue.

    The responsibility certainly lay with the men in the monastery, but as someone who had to prove my "femininity" to be allowed to transition, and who chose to do so rather than wait for society to become enlightened, I admire her all the more; her resolve was such that she could play the solid iron flute upside down while monks around her could do no more than be "distracted" from their practice and blame it on someone else.

    Photography_of_Mugai's_Statue.jpg

    ACtC-3eh7mib5eSYEybUoKRoctCS3Z-cekCTVXsWEVz_UNi-T2iYTEr_TyvSZRUg9w21vsqu6qFHsPrgTvdbBWCMKpTmqDNk.jpg

    gassho
    ds sat and lah
    Last edited by Shōnin Risa Bear; 04-14-2021 at 06:05 AM.
    Visiting unsui, take w/salt.

  6. #6
    I agree with the comments above that Schireson doesn't really get to the bottom of things with the story of Ryonin. I feel there is another layer to excavate there.

    Stewart
    Sat

  7. #7
    Please correct me if I'm wrong as I'm now remembering a conservation with a Seon nun in Korea (she was working in a Buddhist book shop in Seoul) and what I've read about Chan practice. The ordination process includes or included sitting zazen while a cone of incense burns down on your shaved head - the renunciant has to sit through the pain of it burning into their scalp to prove they are of the right material to be an unsui. Since Ryonin was seeking to be accepted into the Obaku School this might be relevant as they were a recent import from China at that time, they came as refugees from the collapse of the Ming Dynasty. This MIGHT provide some context for what Ryonin did to her face.

    Stewart
    Sat

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Stewart View Post
    Please correct me if I'm wrong as I'm now remembering a conservation with a Seon nun in Korea (she was working in a Buddhist book shop in Seoul) and what I've read about Chan practice. The ordination process includes or included sitting zazen while a cone of incense burns down on your shaved head - the renunciant has to sit through the pain of it burning into their scalp to prove they are of the right material to be an unsui. Since Ryonin was seeking to be accepted into the Obaku School this might be relevant as they were a recent import from China at that time, they came as refugees from the collapse of the Ming Dynasty. This MIGHT provide some context for what Ryonin did to her face.

    Stewart
    Sat
    In many countries influenced by Chinese traditions (although not Japan, as far as I know), incense is burned on the head as part of the Ordination ceremony, leaving scars ...



    What is the meaning?

    [A]ll Chinese and Korean monks and nuns are burned at ordination, or at least were until recently.[Jundo: My understanding that it is more optional these days] The scars of these burns are highly visible in the Chinese case, since it is the head that is burned. ... What exactly happens at this point in the proceedings, and how is it described? According to [Prof.] de Groot, terms in use for burning the head at ordination in this particular monastery at the end of the nineteenth century were ranxiang (burning incense) and jiuxiang (calcination by incense). ... The ordinands knelt in front of the masters of ceremonies, who marked their heads with ink in the places where they were to be burned. De Groot notes that the following numbers of burns were administered: three, nine, twelve, and eighteen ... the number being burned at the request of the ordinand; ... The significance of the number of burns was explained to de Groot as follows: three for the Three Jewels (san bao, Sanskrit triratna); nine in the square of three, hence the power is redoubled; no one could explain the significance of twelve; and finally, eighteen represented the eighteen arhats. Again, this would seem to be an example of oral ordination lore, since I have not seen the burns explained in any way in a Chinese source.
    https://www.jstor.org/stable/3176400?seq=1
    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    How interesting! I've been thinking about these practices all week, and maybe I lack insight, but I keep coming back to the thought that throwing hot oil on one's face just doesn't feel like renunciation to me. In fact it kind of feels like a demonstration of attachment. I don't know, but I really appreciate everyone's thoughts.

    The incense thing seems milder to me (but still, ouch!). More of a ritual, like tattooing or scarification. There's no desperate edge to it. Maybe that's what I don't like about the other practices: they feel more violent, dukkha-driven, striving. I'm still wrangling with it!

    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.

  10. #10
    Byokan, I feel I know what you mean, and I agree.

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

  11. #11
    It is interesting how Shakyamuni left his wife and child and it was just something that had to be done, but a woman does it and it feels a little different, though I don't really know why. Ingrained traditional gender roles perhaps? Even to this day those traditional roles still play a significant part in society, so going back further to a time where roles were defined even more so really speaks to the courage of Ryonen to leave and pursue the spiritual path.

    I do find it a little extreme to cause self harm to gain entrance, especially if the purpose is to prevent monks from being distracted by beauty. I've never felt like I should cut off my hand so I wouldn't be tempted to scroll Reddit during a Zazenkai. However, perhaps it's my very attachment to my hand that's preventing me from "enlightenment" though it's not a hypothesis I'm willing to test just yet...It takes real commitment to disfigure yourself, but it also takes commitment to sit with distractions and learn to be with them. One seems more painful than the other, it seems.

    My favorite quote from the chapter, in reference to an unjust or unfair situation, the question: "What is my part in this obstruction, and where is my freedom?" Brilliant.

    Gassho,

    Bokuchō
    SatToday/LaH

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Bokucho; 04-22-2021 at 01:52 PM.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Bokucho View Post
    ... My favorite quote from the chapter, in reference to an unjust or unfair situation, the question: "What is my part in this obstruction, and where is my freedom?" Brilliant.

    Gassho,

    Bokuchō
    SatToday/LaH

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk


    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.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •