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Thread: Zen Women, Chapter 10: Pages 210-218

  1. #1

    Zen Women, Chapter 10: Pages 210-218

    Hi all,

    We switch gears a bit to talk about the work nuns do to support themselves and their convents. Nuns have never found it easy or even possible to follow the Buddha’s original instructions for ordained monastics not to support themselves and their Sanghas using any other means besides begging. Even today, convents are given much less financial support than monasteries from institutions such as the Japanese Soto-shu. In order to support themselves, convents have relied on various means: some teach nuns traditional arts such as calligraphy and flower arranging, through which they transmit Buddhist values to the families they teach. Others have pursued caring for children and the needy, creating orphanages, schools, and many other general caregiving resources. One respected nun, Weiju, who was not allowed to ordain until her male relatives had died, even opened a public bathhouse with an inscription that inspired those who passed through to ponder her teaching.

    Do you think these practices of service are compatible with the Buddha’s original teachings? How is the relationship of service valuable to both the individual Zen practitioner and the community as a whole?

    Nothing exists, so what are you bathing? If there is even the slightest bit of dust, where does it come from? Say one profound sentence, then you can enter the bath. The ancient spirits can only scrub your back; How could I, the founder, illuminate your mind? If you want to attain the state that is free from dirt, You should first let all parts of your body sweat [make effort]. It is said that the water can wash off the dust, Yet how can people understand that the water is also dust? Even though you suddenly wipe out [the distinction between] water and dirt, You must still wash it off thoroughly when you come here.

    What are your thoughts about Weiju's teaching?

    Last edited by Kokuu; 07-19-2021 at 09:35 PM.
    清 道 寂田
    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
    Thank you, Jakuden.

    It is sad to read that nuns and their convents have been not been as financially supported as their male counterparts and the monasteries which they train in, but their acts of service in order to support themselves may well be a fortunate outcome of this lack of support. Acting as caregivers and surrogate parents for orphans they are, as it is said in this part, able to embody the bodhisattva vow completely and quite literally save many beings.

    No sentient beings exist, yet we vow to save them all. There is no dust or place for dust to land yet just as all things are empty, so is each part of this world a shining jewel. We express the truth of this wholeness by washing this body here and now, and feeding those who need feeding, taking care of each thing according to its needs. A monk asked Yun Men, “What are the teachings of a whole lifetime?” Yun Men replied, “An appropriate response.”

    These actions of Buddhist nuns both express the dharma perfectly and perform a service for the community. Whereas it is hard to compare to what was happening in male monasteries, this fullness of practice is perhaps something to aspire to for all.

    In recent times in Nepal, a Tibetan Buddhist monk called Lobsang Phuntsok returned from the west, where he was teaching dharma, to found an orphanage based on Buddhist principles - Jhamtse Gatsal - finding his practice through the same kind of work that Zen convents were doing elsewhere. There is a short film about this work called Tashi and the Monk which show that it is not just nuns engaging in these social activities.

    Last edited by Kokuu; 07-19-2021 at 09:42 PM.

  3. #3
    Given all we've read and what I know I don't know why I was so suprised to read that nuns are still so badly funded. But as Kokuu mentioned, there seems to have been benefits for thei local communities as the nuns have take the vow to save all beings literally and found opportunities to express their practice in everyday life. I think we can learn a lot from them.

    I loved reading about Weiju and her bathouse - that reminder that water can also be dust so we shouldn't become attached to our zen teachings, and that awakening is a continual process.




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