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Thread: Zen Women Chapter 10, Pages 218-232

  1. #1

    Zen Women Chapter 10, Pages 218-232

    The rest of this chapter is concerned with the stories of two nuns who followed the Path in notably different, but (for me at least) deeply inspirational ways. Both women followed paths that presented themselves almost entirely because of their situations as female practitioners, weaving stories that are just as much Zen as any ancient Koan, but with their unique circumstances as background.

    Eunyeong Sunim spent her life from childhood trying to keep the temple of her teacher, Pomunsa, from succumbing to the Japanese occupation. From begging to fundraising, she continually doubled down against the abuse and punishments of the officials, filing multiple lawsuits and establishing an independent Korean nuns order to escape from the governance of monks. Her struggle was personally painful and difficult. Eventually when the occupation ended, although the nuns had been instrumental in maintaining Korean monastic standards including celibacy, they were not given any of the head monasteries. Eventually Eunyeong died of poisoning, although whether it was suicide or not was never determined.

    Otagaki Rengetsu lost children, husbands and home in her early life. She was an enormously prolific artist who expressed her Zen practice in her art in a manner that I found deeply resonates with me perhaps more than any of the nuns we have learned about so far. Schireson states: “Rather than claim, as a Zen master might, that she had severed all attachments through committed Zen practice, she exposed her longing with a Zen voice… Rengetsu’s way—giving away her teaching without collecting and labeling it as Buddhadharma—seems to be the way that Zen women have offered themselves—with little recognition of a collected work.”

    In the world of Zen, do you agree that it can be a teaching to express and admit feelings of sadness, tenderness and pain, where it might be viewed by some practitioners as lacking in equanimity?

    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
    As a craftsperson (esp. potter), I've admired her for a while. I especially like the story of her teaching people who were forging her work how to do better copies of her signature so that they could earn a better living. Mirrors her attitude to the dharma perfectly.

    Sat today

  3. #3
    Thank you, Jakuden!

    The story of Eunyeong Sunim is inspiring! How many of us would keep going for twenty-five years even if we know that the cause is just? Sometimes Zen might seem to counsel us to accept things as they are and make the best of them, but this story shows that this is not always the case and sometimes we have to make a stand, surrendering ourself to something we know to be right. In the end, Eunyeong became abbess of the temple, but even had she not, would all of that effort be in vain?

    Just as Stewart knows Otagaki Rengetsu from her pottery, so I am drawn to her from her poetry. In addition to those provided in Zen Women, this is one of her tanka:

    Leaking from the rock
    in an old temple,
    water barely trickles –
    the voice
    of the lingering dharma.

    I like that the stories of Eunyeong and Rengetsu are very different, yet they both demonstrate a full-hearted expression of the dharma.


  4. #4
    I also found both these stories inspiring for different reasons.

    Eunyeong's relentless pursuit of justice showed, as Schireson mentions, that letting go of self clinging dies not mean we can't take a stand in the face of injustice.

    And something about Otagaki Rengetsu really struck a chord with me. There was something subtle but powerful about the way her life and art reflects the dharma and how the dharma is inseparable from our day to day life. As Schireson said, we're reminded that no matter how corrupt the world is, we can inhibit it with our deepest intention to live a meaningful and beneficial life - that seems really relevant now.




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