Women Ancestors

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Welcome. Can you all hear me? Has this kicked in? Okay. This is the conference on recognizing our women ancestors, and this conference has been a long time in the making. For many years has been working on trying to both know of and Here, to America, I have been sensitive to women's and teachers in our traditions, or parallels in traditions. Maybe I'll hold it. That's too much.


So, in some ways, this is several years ago, Linda Ruth Cutts, before she was Abbott, Abbess, to the Abbott's Council, our elders, people in the community have been practicing for a long time, suggesting that we recognize our women ancestors in the liturgy, which hadn't really been done. So, we started that several years ago, chanting the Acharyas, and finding other ways to include our women ancestors in the liturgy. And then a couple of years ago, and I think everyone was relieved and pleased with that step, about a year and a half ago, I think Mio Leahy over here, thank you Mio, said, well that is fine, but maybe there's a way we can include people closer into our lineage, which we don't know


about. Our Zen ancestors, the Acharyas, were before Zen became Zen, so to speak, and maybe there must have been women ancestors that we don't know so much about, and we should know about. And so, in previous years, we'd had Miriam Levering come. Actually, you first came when we did a conference on the Vinaya, Compassion and Action, and you wrote about women in, was it Taiwan? Yes, the extent to which the ten voodoo dharmas, the ten chi rules, which in some ways were seen as limiting women's philanthropic practices, were maintained and supported. And then, several years ago, we brought her here to talk about Chinese women's Zen ancestors, which she'll talk about today. And then, over the years, Joan


Sutherland, who has done a lot of work on women who appear in koans, both the traditional collections and the collections which are not so prominent. In fact, I think it was Miriam who said, on the front page of the Buddhist newspapers, there's not that much about women, but on the back pages, there's plenty of information, and we need to publicize and get that information out. So, that's part of what we'll do today. And then, Paula Arai, who came several years ago, too, who has studied in several nunneries there, and has a lot of information about women practicing in Japan, and about the many courageous and creative teachers there are, both traditionally and currently. So, we have a big day today. We have a lot of information to present. So, this is the plan for today. I'll stop speaking


very soon. And then, Miriam will talk for about five minutes on Chinese women ancestors and ancestors, and we'll try to cut it at that point and have a very short question and answer, maybe just ten minutes worth. I know we probably could spend the whole day with it, but just the most burning question. We'll have plenty of time for questions and discussion tomorrow. We'll have a 15-minute break. Then, Joan will talk about the koans and women in koan traditions. And then, we'll have another very short question and answer period, another 15-minute break. And then, Paula will present on Japan, both at the time and currently. So, there's a lot to cover in just 40 minutes. And then, we'll have ten minutes of discussion. And then, Paula will talk about her new book, Women Living Zen,


which has really a lot of information about nuns in Japan. We still have some books of hers for sale. They've been selling like, I don't know. She'll be willing to stay and sign books that we have. And tomorrow, at 1.30, we'll have a panel of the three visiting teachers and our two abbesses. Paula has some tape of some ceremony that the nuns do in Japan, which we'll discuss. We'll have plenty of time to discuss it when it's come up today. And we'll close. We'll probably spend the last part of the afternoon discussing a kind of ceremony, a kind of closing ceremony of appreciation for our Zen ancestors. And then,


we'll do the ceremony. So, that's the big picture. Of course, anything might happen, but that's the starting plan. And I think, rather than waste any more time, is there any questions? I really appreciate being here today with you all. You are the very people that


I most want to communicate with and learn from and share experiences with in the whole world. So, it's just a tremendous honor and privilege to be here with you. For years, I've been trying to learn something of the women who became teachers and Dharma heirs in the Chinese Chan tradition. I just sort of started with that because those were the texts I was familiar, or a little bit familiar with. And as you can imagine, for years, my male colleagues regarded this as kind of total waste of time. So, it has been thrilling to me to find people here at the San Francisco Zen Center and others in communities and other Buddhist communities around the country and now other places as well that, in fact, can incorporate some of the information that I have found into


their practice. And so, I'm just thrilled to see that happening. Actually, I'm going to start, I think, with a topic that's a little bit different from simply telling you about the Chinese women ancestors. I'm going to start with a paper that I wrote as a response to the last time I was here at this center about the subject of lineage and chanting the ancestors in the daily ritual, the daily ceremonies. Before I start with that, though, let me find out one or two things about you. How many of you are associated with San Francisco Zen Center or one of its many offspring? Great. How many of you are associated with a Rinzai-based tradition, a Linji or a


Rinzai-based tradition? Okay. So, let me, I think this paper will situate for you something of, at least the way I see, how it came to be that we don't know more about our women ancestors, and also something of a suggestion that I would like to make to Zen communities about what to do about this. In Buddhist Women on the Edge, which I'm sure many of you have read, Buddhist lay teacher and author Sally Jiko Tisdale tells of her frustration and pain as other members of her religious community, usually males, tell her that she should forget about her gender and the gender of others, not make an issue of the apparently gendered nature of practices and representation in ritual, because to a Buddhist, gender doesn't really matter. The reality, she wants to say,


is that here in this practice community, gender does matter. Male voices respond that the problem lies in her own dualistic attitude, her attachment to conventional categories. Stop making male, stop making female, and the problem will go away of itself. Here, her fellow practitioners say, we are not men or women, gender is just an illusion. In the absolute, the vast, the one, she writes, my concern, the concern of many women, that sexism is deeply harmful and must be addressed, is a chimera. Femaleness and maleness are simply social constructs to be let go, to let go. She tells of her own experience, and I have let them go. Sometimes the particular construct falls away entirely, and we are truly not many. We are truly bound. He is not he, and I am not she,


and we sit together in intimate silence. Then my dharma brother weeps beside me in the zendo, and when I breathe in, I breathe in his outward flowing breath, and when I let my breath go, he and I side together. We are unstirred by the relative, by the moving, evanescent world. Then we stir again. Stirring, not stirring, to, not to. Femaleness and maleness come into the world, along with everything else, in a cycle of ignorance and movement and change, shaping the world and being shaped in return. Gender is not illusion. Gender is karma, she concludes. As karma, it is both illusion and reality. As in the case of racism and poverty, it is a reality that needs to be understood and addressed as we live together. Skipping a little bit ahead here, I want to turn to the subject of lineage. Turning to Chan and Zen


Buddhism, one of the fundamental ideas that are at the heart of what we may call Chan-Zen theology is the idea that one can rely on there having been a transmission of awakened mind down to one's present teacher and to oneself through a lineage of awakened teachers. In early Chan, various authors went to considerable trouble to name the members of the lineage through which awakened mind had been transmitted from Shakyamuni Buddha in India to Huineng or Eno, as you know him, the sixth Chinese patriarch. Authors of genealogical histories in the Five Dynasties and the Song Dynasty in China continued to work on recording and constructing the transmission lineage, the family tree rooted in Shakyamuni Buddha, that authorized the claim to awakened insight in all of the contemporary members in all of the branches. In Japan, Zen teachers and


their students continued to emphasize that participation in a true lineage meant that in one's present teacher, one faced a mind identical to that of Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Every morning at the San Francisco Zen Center, the assembled group of priests and lay people chants in gratitude the lineage of teachers who have transmitted the awakened mind of Buddha from Shakyamuni to the present students, invoking the presence of these ancestors to receive the homage of the group. From Shakyamuni Buddha to Mahakasyapa, from Mahakasyapa over 28 generations to Bodhidharma, all this is very familiar to you, right? The Indian patriarch who brought the transmission to China, from Bodhidharma to Huike, from Huike to Sung San and so forth to Huineng, from Huineng to Qingyuan Xingzi and so forth to the Soto ancestor Dongshan Liangjie, right? Tozan Ryokai, and then to Furong Daokai, from Furong Daokai to Rujing or Nyojo,


from Nyojo to Dogen, from Dogen to Suzuki Shunryu Roshi, the founder of Zen Center. If you look at the chart that I've set before you there, you'll see on that reproduced a small but crucial part of that lineage, starting with Tozan Ryokai at the top and proceeding down to Dogen Kigen Zenji in the extreme left-hand corner. Why such emphasis on the lineage of teachers, guru and disciple, guru parampara in the Chan Zen tradition? Now here's a subject on which I'm hoping you'll enlighten me, of course. We all know that part of the reason for it is a practical problem. If you're trying to learn something that you can't ultimately teach yourself or can't be sure that you have learned yourself, that you have mastered yourself, then you need to know that your teacher is a good teacher,


a master of what you seek to learn. There might be as many people claiming to teach as there are websites, right, with the same degree of expertise or misinformation. Some teachers are able to recognize and enable the desired realization and some are not. How does one know which is which if one's a beginner? It's important to know what one teacher has learned and from whom. The idea of a transmission lineage as a way of assuring the authenticity of teaching and practice and of authorizing the current teacher seems such a simple and practical idea, but in fact in the Chan Zen tradition it's also a theological idea. If you'll excuse the loose way I'm using theological here, right, a sort of foundational idea. An article of faith that grounds practices in an important way. This is clear from the way in which it resists alteration even in the face of a number of challenges. For example,


what happens if you know that the lineage of the teacher is fictional? Scholars in the 20th century have pointed out that the claims of authors in early Chan and in later periods in China to have traced their lineage back to Shakyamuni do not withstand historical scrutiny. In recent decades it's come to be accepted that the notion of a single unbroken line of transmission from mind to mind from Shakyamuni Buddha to Bodhidharma and similarly from Bodhidharma to Huineng or Eno are at least to some extent fictions. These fictions were very useful to heirs of these lineages in the Song dynasty in China, the period I study, which seems to be the time when these fictions were most greatly elaborated. They authorized members to claim back the street from Angakuji as a sub-temple of Angakuji and around Meiji era when women were allowed to get divorced by law it became an unnecessary


place to go for divorce. Cornelia, you were with me, we went and it's a beautiful temple and it has a very sweet feeling of the women who have practiced there and in fact Angakuji, I think, because of the connection was one of the only temples where we went on tour and as I went in because my hair was very short and I was wearing a ruckus, they recognized me as a nun and said, oh you're a Hama-san, please come in, no charge. It's very much alive, I hope that we'll all go there again. Is the mirror still there? Thank you. They have a lot of artifacts there and there's a lot of literature on Tokai-ji and also wonderful stories about the women who left their husbands and the levels of the law that they went through to get their wives, the husbands, very powerful husbands went through


to get their wives back and Tokai-ji was the highest, it was protected by the emperor and there were very few instances of these very powerful men ever getting them back once again. They had to stay for about two years practicing before they left. Thank you for that. I'm delighted to hear it's still standing. I'd heard that it had burned and just the gardens were left, so that's wonderful. Everything burned. Yeah, right, at one time or another. I think one of the frustrations a lot of women feel is not being able to find God these wonderful stories and I know that they're there, colored koans, they're there if you dig around in history, if you dig around in the literature. Now there's a wide range of books on women in Buddhism. One can find these stories there but it's much more difficult to find, for example, the stories that you've told. Where would you send people? What would you suggest? Because I think that there are a lot more women ancestors than most of us know. Yeah, I've been collecting these koans for a long time.


I did give San Francisco Zen Center a collection. Do you have that? Dana, that's available? Just ask Dana. That's a sort of initial thing and I'm hoping to put a book out at some point with all the stories. I think in general, the pre-and pre-Zen literature presented not only that you have to become a woman or something, but in the next birth. Generally, the feeling was hundreds of thousands of births, an indefinite number of births. I think that's the classical Buddhist presentation, but I think it has to be, you know, we have to maybe have some insight into it. Well, it's more the stream we're interested in, the stream or the destination of the stream. It just returned to look to the spring.


We're talking about this. I'm not sure if it's a positive or negative. That's an elaboration. Thank you for your confusion. I'm sure a lot of people who sat in the software distributor about the anorexia and self-immolation and that kind of thing. It seems to me, though, at times there has been something of a trend or a theme in Chinese Buddhism which involved a real severe kicking of the body, chopping off fingers, writing sutras in the blood. So I'm assuming this comes from a similar era from what you're describing? Yeah, I don't know about the writing in blood. I do know that they would tie sticks of incense to their fingers


and let them burn down and take the finger out, you know, and that both men and women did that. The self-immolation seems to have been particularly done by women. Is this some Song dynasty? No, no, no. This is pre-Tong. Oh, way back. Yeah, yeah. So it was a very troubled and sort of chaotic time in Chinese history. Thank you very much. Thank you. So another 10, 15 minutes later. Thank you. You're welcome. Like, like, How's it? I can't, I can only, I can't look at the people on the couches.


Is that what you're telling me? Oh, I can turn this way. Oh, okay. Okay. Well, like Mary Levering, you two are the audience that I care most about. That it's the people matters for their life. Cutting in and out. The, how's this? Does it have anything to do with the wire in my pocket? I don't think it needs to be turned up.


It's just the angle. How are we doing now? Can I, is this is okay? Okay. Just let me know anytime. Yeah. If you keep your head straight forward, or keep, or keep my shoulders aligned. Okay. Okay. I'll just go straight. The, being that this is Mother's Day weekend, I should let you know that in, in many ways, the whole reason I got into looking at Japanese Buddhist women is because of my mother. She was my first clue.


She's Japanese. She was my first clue that Japanese women are not just subservient. They don't have a sense of themselves being inferior vis-a-vis men. And that there was a resilience in facing whatever obstacles were there and responding with creativity, not responding with, oh, pity me, I can't do this, but finding a way to figure out how to do it anyways. Even if the external form looked like it may be subservient, it looks like it may be a reflection of them not being on a par with men. That was not their attitude inside. It was always understood as a device, as a method. And so when I met my first Soto Zen nun in India, Kito Shunko Sensei, I was delighted.


I didn't know that there were any living Soto Zen nuns in Japan. This was in 1987. All the texts that I had read, and this should be a clue for any of you who do translations or reading in English, bear in mind that when things are translated from Japanese into English, by and large, Japanese is not as gendered a language as English. So things that are not gendered in Japanese get gendered in English. So with just a slight stroke of the pen, you whitewash out all the women. But that was not the effect in the original Japanese. And he inherited the dharma from Hakujo. This story holds two messages. First, there's the message that a woman may be her self-awakened and informally be useful in a teaching capacity to a man. But second, whether because of society, whether because of karma, as a woman she's not suited


to take a position of authority as a formal teacher. And in the later stories about this important master, she drops out entirely. At that point, male teachers, by and large, had male students. This is down to the time of this text, around 960. And male students, male teachers. And for a long time, the texts show us only one woman, Moshan Liao Ran, who also appears in their Aihai Tokuzui that Linda Ruth talked about this morning. Only one woman, Moshan Liao Ran, teaching a male student. Nonetheless, it was also the case that more and more male teachers had women students. And there came to be women teachers and Dharma heirs connected to this main lineage that men were keeping track of through a male teacher. The Moshan Liao Ran is said to have taught the monk Zhixian.


And Dogen tells this story. Dogen's comment is that Zhixian's Dharma father was his official teacher, Rinzai. And his Dharma mother was the woman teacher, Moshan Liao Ran. So Dogen said Zhixian had a Dharma father and a Dharma mother, right? Dogen's comment might be seen as a slight opening in the direction of a more complex application of the metaphor of family to the Chan-Zen situation, right? If Dogen's statement had even been construed as a genealogical possibility, the lineage chart of Zhixian's descendants would be more complex. For those descendants would have a grandfather and a grandmother. But the Song Dynasty compilers of the Chan family tree stuck to the notion of a family tree. They saw Zhixian as a single teacher transmitting the Dharma in a single patriline.


They saw Zhixian as Linji's Dharma heir and attributed no heirs to Moshan. Excuse me one second here. Beginning, at the beginning of the 13th century a genealogical Chan text, a sort of compilation of the lineage and the way in which the awakening was transmitted in that lineage, recognized 16 women as Dharma heirs of Song Chan teachers as full members of the lineage who received the flame of awakening and were trusted to be qualified to transmit it. Some of these women had Dharma heirs of their own who were recognized by later genealogical histories. This fact has implications for the Caodong school. If we look at the chart that you have in front of you here, the ancestral lineage,


the single patriline from Bodhidharma and Huineng to Dogen, we notice that if one were to chant a bit more of the family tree beyond the single line, one would become aware of the presence of women. Starting from Tozan Byokai, we go down through quite a number of generations until we reach and a very, very important Caodong master who was responsible for the revival of really an almost dead school, Fuyou Dokai. His great contribution as historians in the school have chronicled it is that he had three outstanding men Dharma heirs who really put Soto Zen on the map. But he also had, as you can see looking at this chart, a woman Dharma heir, the nun Dao Shen.


And furthermore, perhaps more importantly, his excellent men Dharma heirs had women Dharma heirs of their own. Dao Shen had two Dharma heirs of which one seems to have been a man and another a woman. Komoko Hojo had a very important woman Dharma heir, the nun Hui Guang or Eko Ni. And Sherman Yuan Yi had another important woman Dharma heir, Fo Tong. Now it happens that the line of transmission in which Dogen found himself did not have women to my knowledge yet while it was in China. In Japan things of course are going to be a little different. In any case, let me tell you a little bit about these women who appear on Dogen's family tree.


Hui Guang, for example, she headed a very important nunnery at the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty at the very end of the Northern Song Dynasty. She was honored by the emperor for her eloquence in preaching and teaching. She received a purple robe from the emperor that is she was one of those who were invited to preach to the emperor. Periodically the emperor would have such ceremonial preaching occasions in which to honor eminent monks and nuns, mostly monks of course. And she was invited to one of these and asked to preach to the emperor at court and was given a purple robe as a sign of this honor. The second single sheet that I've given you contains about reading through the history which I'm actually writing and I think


I'm not looking for some reason change here I still don't have a it's ember in I am I without the yeah at UTK, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. So, the second speaker is Joan Featherman, who is a professor at the Mississippi Great Institute. Thank you Michael. Good afternoon. It's wonderful to be here and I want to thank Zen Center for


putting this great event on and I'm really delighted to be hearing Miriam and Paula's work. I think it's tremendously important and I want to give them grants so they can keep going and a babysitter. I'm going to talk a little bit about what the Koan tradition can tell us about women in our lines and traditions and I think that one of the things that looking at it from the Koan way can give us is that we're not just observing our tradition but we're actually seeing from inside our tradition and looking at looking out as well as at. And I want to suggest three ways of seeing that can happen in the Koan way and some of you may pick up a correspondence to the Trikaya, the Three Bodies of the Buddha here. The first thing that Koans can do is that they can


dissolve our limitations, the limited ways that we think and feel based on our habits and our opinions and our judgments and they present a bigger perspective, sometimes quite suddenly, so that all of a sudden the small focus, the narrow focus of our everyday minds is just expanded to something much larger and more mysterious and we find ourselves in the territory where we don't know. Sometimes the Koan can feel like it pushes us into eternity and sometimes it sort of beckons and welcomes us in. An example of a Koan that perhaps beckons us into eternity is this, here is the stone drenched with rain that points the way. That's the whole thing, isn't that beautiful? Here is the stone drenched with rain that points the way. Can you feel the


invitation in that, that sort of to let go of that which is small and constricted and usual and see if there's another way to experience things. In terms of the ones that push us, I want to give you a contemporary Western Koan, they do indeed exist. An interviewer asked the great French writer and theater person Antonin Artaud, if your house were on fire what would you try to save? And he said, I'd save the fire. Okay, so that's a push, that's a push. What does that mean, you know, what does that mean? So that's the big perspective, that's Koan's ability to get us out of the habitual and to bring that sense of the bigness of things to us. The second way of seeing through Koans is to see through the eyes of the ancestors. We get to hear the ancestral voices in the Koans


and because they're not high canon, they're not sutras or commentaries on sutras, but initially were rather casual actually, they were the scribbled anecdotes of things that actually happened. Or they were snatches of folk songs, bits of poetry, popular poetry at the time, so some of the popular culture comes in through the Koans as well in a way that they don't other places. Because of this, we get the voices of women more strongly than anywhere else because it's not the high canon. It's not, as Miriam shows, you know, the places that we tend to sort of disappear after a couple of generations. So the voices of the ancestors, particularly the of the women ancestors, also the common everyday voices, the songs and the poetry. Another Koan is a verse from a Japanese folk song that goes like this, In the sea of Ise, ten thousand feet down, lies a single stone. I want to pick up that stone


without wetting my hands. So that was just a folk song of the time that someone heard and thought, you know, what would it be to practice with this? So big picture, voices of the ancestors. And then the third way of seeing that Koans invite us to is what it has to do with our own practice and our own story. When we hear a Koan, what's our first reaction? Do we love it, hate it, feel indifferent towards it? Does it make us anxious? Do we get excited? What happens? We just notice that and we stay with that and are mindful of our reactions. What's really difficult? You know, the most valuable Koans are the ones that you get stuck on forever. There's really something there to learn. And in a different sense of stick, where do you stick to it? If you hear a Koan, at what point does it kind of light up for you?


And that's the place that you attach to it. Sometimes that can mean that's what you're doing in your practice. Sometimes it can mean that's something to explore that you haven't yet. And in those cases, our doubts and our questions can be as important as our certainties. So here are these three ways of looking at Koans. And I want to start with one, and then I'll do more of the historical overview. But I think it's really important perhaps to get a sense of them. So this is a Koan that comes from the Kamakura period in Japan. This one's from the 13th century. And this beginning of the Kamakura period was really the time when Chan was becoming Zen, when Zen was becoming something within Japanese Buddhism. So it's an extremely important moment. And we have actually a fair amount of information about the monastic women of that time, the nuns and the convents and the abbesses.


And this is a story of one of them, about a nun named Mujaku. And Mujaku had come to the convent because she was made a widow quite young, and she couldn't get over her grief. So she came to Zen with a question, and she came for refuge. What do I do with my grief? How can I get over this? So she was looking for refuge, maybe escape, maybe an answer, hard to know. So she came to Buko, the teacher of the nation, who was one of the Chinese teachers who came over to Japan. And she asked, what is Zen? And I think in that question is all of her longing. Why is life like this? Why do we suffer? Why is there tragedy? And is there refuge? Is Zen a refuge? What is Zen? I think all of that is contained in the question. And Buko responded, the heart of the one who asks is Zen. It is not to be got from the words


of someone else. So that, the heart of the one who asks, just this grief, just this question, just this wondering and wanting refuge, that's Zen. It's nowhere else, and it's nothing else. So that's a koan in and of itself, that we could take up that question, the heart of the one who asks is Zen, and look into that deeply in our own lives. What is the state of our own heart? And how is that Zen? How is that the great stream of the ancestors? No other than that, no other light than that, no other refuge than that, someplace else, no other perfection, but just this, just your heart. Later, one of the great teachers in this particular line of women wrote a poem, her awakening poem was, heart clouded, heart unclouded, rising and falling, all the same body.


Whatever rises in your heart, whether your heart is sunny and like an open meadow, or cloudy and dark and confused, heart clouded, heart unclouded, rising and falling, all the same body. So, the story goes on, and this is great because that in itself is one kind of koan, the very short, epigrammatic kind. And then there are also the longer stories, so this story continues. And the nun asks, then what is the teacher doing that he gives sermons and they are recorded? He's just said you can't get it from the words of other people, so she says, well what are you doing talking about it then? Sort of good question, I think. And a description of skillful means, but I think in a way he's saying this is the heart of the teacher. The heart of the teacher is to show a deaf person by pointing, to show a blind person by knocking. This is my heart,


what is your heart? And at that moment the universe intervenes to help, and a deer near the Hakugando stream gives a cry. And the teacher asks, where is that deer? Where is that deer? There's a wonderful koan where a teacher asks his attendant to bring in the rhinoceros fan, and the attendant says, I can't bring it to you, it's broken. And he says, well then bring me the rhinoceros. Same thing, where is that deer? The nun listened, so she's there, you know, something's happening, she's listening, she can't quite say anything yet, but that's all right. And the teacher gives a shout. He's answering his own question, right? Where's the deer? Right here in this shout, which I won't do with the microphone on, that would be unkind. And then he asks again, who is this listening? You who are listening, who are you? So he brings


it in even closer, even more intimate. There's the cry of the deer, and then who's listening, and are those different questions? And then things shift, and at these words the nun had a flash of illumination, and she went out. And I kind of had this image of her sort of wandering out, and you know that way you get into about the third or fourth day of Sashin, you know, where it wouldn't be a good idea to go and try and do the grocery shopping because you might sort of stand in front of a pile of tomatoes for an hour or two. So she goes out, and at the water pipe from the Hakugando, she takes up a lacquered wooden bucket for flowers. As she was holding it full of water, she saw the moon's reflection in it, and she made a poem, which she presented to the teacher. The flower bucket took the stream water and held it, and the reflection of the moon through pines lodged there in purity. So it's nice, you know, but there's a way in which she's still holding that bucket at arm's length, you know. What is this purity? Why does it have to


hold it in purity? What's that about? So the teacher glances at it and says, none, take the Heart Sutra and go. And so some interval passes, we don't know how long, it could have been a couple of hours or it could have been years, but she keeps going and she keeps getting sent away. And then one day she's back at the stream, and she's holding that lacquer bucket, and the bottom falls out of it, and the water goes whooshing out. And as that happens, she awakens completely and goes more deeply than that first opening. And she writes, the bottom fell out of Chiyono's bucket. Now it holds no water, nor does the moon lodge there. Okay, so all that purity stuff wiped away. No bucket, no water, no Chiyono, no stream, you know, just this. And then her story was taken up as a koan by women in this lineage. And a couple of generations later, a woman wrote a third verse, adding to Chiyono's two verses.


And she wrote, the bottom fell out of the bucket of that woman of humble birth. The pale moon of dawn is caught in the rain puddles. So she goes even further. After emptiness, after everything is wiped away and there's nothing, we come back and the pale moon, that light of enlightenment is caught in the rain puddles, is everywhere in the world, held in the world, yeah? So that's that coming back in to our lives. So, let me go back and give you a little bit of the historical information that we can glean from the koans. And please know that what I'm about to say consists of a linked series of gross generalizations, because that's really all we have time for. So please take them in that spirit, okay? There's kind of a way in which in the big arc of things, the history of women in Zen


is like the famous poem, before realization, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers. With realization, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers. And after realization, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers again. In early Buddhism, in the period when Buddhism had been imported from India and was meeting with the indigenous Chinese traditions and something new was being made but hadn't appeared yet before Chan, this was really the time of mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers, in the sense that men are men and women are women and women are inferior, period. That's all she wrote. And the belief was that women were not able to be enlightened in women's bodies, that the best you could do would be to practice really hard and have a lot of good virtue and you could be reborn as a man and then you could become enlightened. And at that time, the idea of


virtue and purity was an extremely important value for women. That's the primary value for women in the monasteries. With the coming of Chan and Zen, we sort of enter that mountains are no longer mountains, rivers are no longer rivers phase, in the sense that, as Miriam was talking about earlier, everything's empty. There is no gender. Nothing of that matters. During that time, the primary value changes from purity or virtue to insight. And I'll talk a little bit more about this later. Zen in the West is mountains are mountains again and rivers are rivers again, in the sense that I think we are saying that things like gender do matter. They matter because they add richness. They matter because the particularities of form are important and valuable and we can learn from them. And to exclude the wisdom of women or the wisdom of


people with disabilities or the wisdom of people of other races, all of that is to lose something. So those distinctions do matter actually now in a positive sense in that it's good to hear all those voices. And we've moved from, we've begun to move from a primary value on insight to one in which openheartedness is included to a much greater extent. So, in this pre-Chan period, and also among other schools during the time of Chan, when virtue was the important value for women, they could work hard, they could become great teachers, they could influence emperors, they could have lineages and all of that. So, the idea of good practice at that time was following strictly the monastic rules. That was


the important thing to do. And also certain devotional and scriptural practices like memorizing sutras and scriptures and being able to recite them. Nuns often went to homes when someone had died and would recite scriptures on behalf of the dead person. So, the nuns who could speak the fastest were the most popular because it cost the people the least amount to hire them. So, you'll get these biographies of nuns that will talk about all of their wonderful sort of insight attainments and then it will say, and she could say the Avatamsaka Sutra in 10 days. So, the emphasis on the rules of conduct led to some of the same problems that it did in the convents of the West. Anorexia was a terrible problem and women were literally starving themselves to death in the convents in China in the same way that they were in the convents in Europe. It was this idea that they would eat less and less to become purer and purer. Yeah, so pure you're dead.


And there was one woman who finally was existing only on pine resin and she was wasting away. And her teacher said to her, eating is not an important part of Buddhist practice. And she recognized that she developed this kind of fetishistic relationship to eating and that if it weren't an important thing then she could do it, you know, and it wasn't any longer a problem. And so, she regained her health and went on to become actually a great teacher. So, I am grateful for that intervention. The other thing that happened in addition to the really serious anorexia was self-immolation. The women would again practice anorexia and they would eat only incense powder or essential oils with the idea of turning themselves into a pure torch. And then they would set themselves on fire and recite scriptures as long as they could. I mention this because I think it's important that we know, you know, that that too is part


of our heritage. But also to say that when Chan and Zen come in and replace the focus on morality and rules of conduct with an emphasis on insight, this is a really good thing for women. Because if things are based on purity, women are always going to take the hit. Because we, in patriarchal cultures, you know, we carry the shadow of the body for the culture. So, we can never be pure enough. You know, we're always going to be one down and always trying to struggle with that. So, as much as we perhaps feel that we've gone a little too far in the insight direction and that Zen can be kind of chilly in that way, let's remember that at the time it was, at least theoretically, tremendously liberating for women. Because insight is genderless, you know. And theoretically, again, and Miriam obviously adds the commentary on this, theoretically anyway, a woman of insight could do anything a man could do.


Another huge change was in this emphasis on emptiness that I mentioned, that gender is meaningless and that there's neither male nor female in absolute reality. An example of a koan, which actually comes from a much later time because it's Japanese, but it embodies this exactly. A woman asked the Japanese teacher Bankei, I've heard that because women bear a heavy karmic burden, it's impossible for them to realize Buddhahood. Is this true? Bankei said, from what time did you become a woman? So, he's saying, show me your woman-ness, show me your man-ness, you know, show me your gender and I will take it away from you, I will honor it. It doesn't matter because you can't do it, you know, it doesn't exist, it's not something you can show. So, that's a kind of advance, I think, over the women are inferior model of things. And if now that seems like quite distant to us or not important, I'd ask you to consider


what it must have been like to come to practice in such a serious way that you enter a convent, to come with all of your aspiration, all of your longing, all of your sincerity and all of your bodhicitta and know that you couldn't resolve your questions in this lifetime, that the best you could do would be to set up the conditions under which you could resolve your questions next time. It's a very deep and profound thing, I think, and something that it's good that we've evolved from. I wanted to give you an example again of the theoretical possibilities that get opened up with Chan, where as opposed to this idea of inferiority, you have sort of taking all commerce. And I'm interested, I have so many stories of these wonderful encounters between individual teachers and individual women, and I see the split, Miriam, between what individual


teachers did in the doksan room and what the organization and the establishment did with the official version of things. And, you know, we all know that's such a common split, but I think here's a real example of it. There was a girl called the Jung Girl, and when she was 10 years old, she went to Guishan, one of the great teachers of the time. As soon as they'd risen from their bow, so Guishan and the 12-year-old bowed to each other. Oh, I'm sorry, the girl went with a nun, and Guishan asked the nun, where do you live? And the nun said, I live by the side of Nantai Lake. Guishan immediately shouted her out. Then he asked the girl, where does the old lady behind you live? The girl sauntered up to him, clasped her hands, and stood there. Guishan asked again. The girl said, I just showed you. Guishan said, go. So here you have, here's the private moment as opposed to the public moment that Miriam's speaking about. And here at least is the


possibility of even a 12-year-old girl, Guishan, one of the great teachers of the age, taking the time to speak with her. And she gets a little bit the better of him. Another thing that happens that's interesting is a loss of the devotional practice that had been common in earlier times. And I mention this because it's something that I'm still trying to work with in my own tradition. Guanyin becomes more or less female in China, as we know. But there isn't that devotional practice in Chan that there is in the folk religion or among the people. And so there's a move from worshiping her to embodying her, which again is a very profound thing. So that the koan question is, what does Guanyin do with all those thousand hands and eyes? You know, she gets up, she goes to work, she takes care of the kids, she goes to sleep at night,


that's what she does. So that movement from worshiping to embodying, I think, is a tremendously important and empowering one. And again, the loss of the devotion is a little bit, leads a little bit to chilliness. Another thing that happens in the move from India to China is greater valuing of lay practice. China being just a tremendously practical and family-oriented culture, I think. Anything that didn't develop a strong lay component wasn't going to succeed. So all of a sudden, women's life experience becomes a field of practice. And everything can be a Dharmagate. So I'll give you an example of that kind of story. This is called Yu, the Donut Maker. Yu was from Jinling and worked in the town as a donut maker. She used to visit Zen Master Longya Chi and ask him questions with the others. To teach her, the Zen Master used Linji's saying, the true person of no rank. Linji used to say, there's a true person of no rank who


is constantly coming in and out through your face. And who is that true person of no rank? So one day, Yu heard a beggar singing the song, Delights of Lotus Flowers. If you haven't heard the song of Yang Yi, how can you find Lake Tunting? Hearing this, she was greatly enlightened. So here, a beggar comes along in the street as she's standing at the kitchen window and she hears just a snatch of a folk song. And that's her turning word. The most ordinary of events has the most extraordinary of effects on her. So she threw her donut pan onto the ground. One of the many stories about women's enlightenment involving the destruction of domestic implements. Her husband glared at her and said, are you crazy? She said, this is not your realm. She went to see Longya, the teacher. Longya, seeing her at a distance, knew she had attained realization. He asked her, what is the true person of no rank?


She immediately said, there's someone of no rank with six arms and three heads working furiously, smashing Flower Mountain into two with a single blow, throwing down her donut pan, rushing to see Longya, presenting her understanding. Yeah, that's that person working furiously with six hands. And then she says, she quotes, for 10,000 years the flowing water doesn't know the spring. And thereafter she begins that my assumptions about them were shaped by Western feminism that begins that especially Asian women have been oppressed throughout history. And that was my first wrong step, but they corrected it rather quickly. They were not. When I did a survey, a national survey of Soto Zen nuns, this is 1990,


one of the questions was, have you experienced discrimination? And these were nuns who had lived through a time period when the regulations were very unfair. So, any sociologist looking at the data, there's a whole sort of archetype in our history, which is the anonymous tea shop lady. And these are some of the most profound teachers, if we could work them into the lineage, and all of the anonymous tea shop ladies die, that would be the truth about our heritage. This one's a little Zen thick. So, listen to how initially the tea shop lady keeps wiping everything they say back into emptiness. She's just not going to let anything stand there between them. Magu, Nanchuan, and another monk went to call on the teacher Jingshan. On the way,


they met a woman whom they asked, which way is the road to Jingshan? The same question. She said, right straight ahead. Magu said, the river ahead is deep. Can we cross it or not? The woman said, it doesn't wet the feet. Okay, so the emptiness, just, you know, what is this? Can you cross it or not? No river, nothing to cross. He then asked, the rice on the upper bank is so good, while the rice on the lower bank is so weak. The woman said, it's all been eaten by mud crabs. You know, high, low, big, small, doesn't matter. It's all eaten by mud crabs in the end. He then said, the rain is quite fragrant. The woman said, it has no smell. And finally, he asked, I would imagine with some exasperation, where do you live, lady? And she replied, I'm just right here. So, when the three monks got to her shop, the woman prepared a pot of tea and brought three cups. She said to them, oh monks, let those of you with miraculous powers drink tea. As the three


looked at each other, no, you go. The woman said, watch this decrepit old woman show her own miraculous power. She then picked up the cups, poured the tea and went out. So, after all of this kind of wiping everything into emptiness and not allowing anything to stand at all, in the end, she brings it right back into the world and says, these are the miraculous powers. May I pour you a little bit about Japan? And I wanted to talk in particular about a temple called Tokaiji, which was in Kamakura and was a kind of amazing place. It was nicknamed the Divorce Temple or the Temple of Runaways because by imperial decree, if a woman could get refuge at Tokaiji,


she could stay there and after a year or three years, she would be divorced or released from whatever her situation was. So, it was at some times an extremely popular place and the rule was that you had to get one sandal across the threshold and then you had refuge at Tokaiji. It doesn't still exist and we don't know a lot about it except that it was painted green, which was rather unusual and that it had beautiful gardens, particularly the azaleas down by the pond. It was founded by a woman. It was founded by the wife, the widow of a regent who became its first abbot. What's wonderful about this is that there are pretty good records for Tokaiji. So, we have generations and generations of women teachers and their women students and they go on to become teachers. We have all of the koans. They developed their own practices that were different than what anybody else was doing. I'll tell you one in a second. So, we have records of


the koans, their answers to the koans, their poems, commenting on the koans. It's just a tremendously rich resource and really gives us a view into their lives. One of the practices, it was called the mirror meditation. The first abbot who founded it actually had an enlightenment experience while she was meditating in front of a mirror. So, she had a huge, more than six foot high mirror installed in the zendo. This is what women do when left to their devices. Part of the women's practice was to polish the mirror, clean it and polish it and sit in front of it and look in it. The poem I quoted to you before, heart clouded, heart unclouded, rising and falling, all the same body, was the koan written by a woman who had an awakening


experience while performing mirrors. One last story about tokeiji. It was across the street from one of the great male monasteries, Nkakuji. The women were not allowed to go across and listen to the lectures at Nkakuji unless they could demonstrate their realization at the gate. So, there was a gatekeeper who would ask you a question and you would have to answer it and then he would decide whether you could come in or not. I mean, can you imagine going through this just to go listen to a lecture? But they did. So, there was one of the women from tokeiji was described in the literature as extremely strong and extremely ugly and she was called Demon Girl. This is a woman I really would have loved to have known. So, Demon Girl goes across to the gate at Nkakuji and the gatekeeper asks her, what is it the gate through which the Buddhas come into the world? And Demon Girl got hold of his head and forced it between her legs saying, look, look.


The monk said, in the middle there is a fragrance of wind and dew. Demon Girl said, this monk, he's not fit to keep the gate. He ought to be looking after the garden. The gatekeeper ran into the temple and reported this to the master's attendant who said, let us go down and test this and see if we can get a twist in there. At the gate, he tested her with the question, what is it the gate through which the Buddhas come into the world? And again, Demon Girl got hold of his head and held it between her legs saying, look, look. The attendant said, the Buddhas of the three worlds come giving light. And she was allowed to come to the lecture. I think this is really moving to me because without her, we're not here. Without her courage and her strength and her tenacity and her unwillingness to not take this tradition as her own, we are made possible here today. So let me close with one of the most poignant koans in the


curriculum from my perspective. Linji asked a nun, welcome, not welcome? I think a big question for women in Zen. Welcome, not welcome? The nun gave a shout. The master held up his stick and said, speak, speak. The nun again gave a shout, and the master hit her. Linji wasn't singling her out. He hit everybody. But this sense of welcome, not welcome, and she just shouts. She just says, not even a question. Here it is. It's very moving to me. And I do in this weekend and everything we do want to honor the courage of those women in the past who do make us possible and honor the courage of women practicing today, which can sometimes be a difficult thing, and also honor those women who have fallen away because they couldn't find a home in our tradition.


So what I would like to do, if you're willing, is to honor all of those ancestors by shouting with that woman who came to Linji. So you know what a cot sounds like? Well,