"Many women must have completed their studies and some must have started temples, but we know very little about the history of women in the Dharma because the translators and historians were mostly men." (1)
The first `bhikshuni` mentioned in the Ch'an literature was a disciple of Bodhidharma named Tsung-chih. Very little of her life-story is known (see). The Cheng-te ch'uan-teng lu tells us that before returning to India after many years of teaching in China, Bodhidharma asked his disciples to relate their realization of the Dharma.
Tao-fu said, "I perceive that the Buddhist path is transcending language and words and yet not separating from language and words." Bodhidharma said, "You have attained my skin."
The Bhikshuni Tsung-chih said, "What I comprehend is like joyfully seeing the `Aksobya's` Buddha-land." After seeing it once, you never see it again.
"You have attained my flesh," said Bodhidharma. Tao-yu said, "The four elements are originally empty and the five aggregates are non-existent. Not even one thing of what I comprehend is attainable."
"You have attained my bone," said Bodhidharma. Finally Huei-k'o made a bow to the teacher and stood aside in silence.
Bodhidharma said, "You have attained my marrow."
This is the story of how the Dharma was transmitted to the Second Patriarch Huei-k'o. Bhikshuni Tsung-chih was one of Bodhidharma's most advanced students. Although she was not the top disciple, the mere fact that she played a role in the scene of the Dharma-transmission is itself very significant. We might say this makes a good beginning for `bhikshunis` in the Ch'an tradition.
Sutras that accept Women as Advanced Bodhisattva and imminent Buddhas.The Vimalakirti Sutra and the Srimala Sutra belong to this category. In these two sutras the position of the female reaches its hightest peak. The doctrinal basis for this culmination lies in the Mahayana doctrines of Sunyata (emptiness), "Tathagatagarbha" , non-duality, etc. Instead of attempting to identify maleness with Bodhisattvahood and Buddhahood, the sutras in this category claim that notions of duality--either male or female, subject or object, etc.--are merely mental attachments contradicting the teaching of emptiness. The characteristics of "maleness" and "femaleness" are simply illusory and irrelevant. On this basis, the female bodhisattva refuses to undergo sexual change. When asked by Sariputra to transform herself, the Goddess in the Vimalakirti Sutra said, "I have been here for twelve years and have looked for the innate characteristics of femaleness but have not been able to find them. How can I change them?" Then the Goddess changed Sariputra into a female. This is to reinforce her assertion that every one and every thing transcends gender distinctions when one views the world as empty. This Viewpoint is concretely illustrated by Sariputra's transformation. See as well The Lotus Sutra, in Buddhism considered revolutionary in its approach to the equality of the sexes and equality amongst all people generally.
(Above paragraphs courtesy Heng-ching Shih: Chinese Bhikshunis in the Ch'an Tradition. See below)
- Chinese Bhikshunis in the Ch'an Tradition
- Man and Woman in the Teaching of the Buddha
- The Sound of One-Hand Shoe Tying
Be sure and scroll down the page to "Jenny"
- METTA ZETTY: A Modern Woman's Awakening-Experience Outside the Doctrine
- PARIS HILTON AND THE ART OF ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT
- ANN FARADAY: An Account of the Realization of Emptiness
- SUZANNE SEGAL: A Collision with the Infinite
- SEE ALSO: When Infinities Collide
- VALERIE VENER: A Near Death Experience Opens the Door to an Awakening Journey
- MO-SHAN LIAO-JAN
First Woman Dharma Heir In Chinese Zen Buddhism
- MUGAI NYODAI
Japan's First Female Zen Master
- CAPA: the Wife of Upaka the Ascetic
Outdid her husband by becoming an Arahat
- QUEEN CHUDALA
The Queen, already Enlightened, led her husband that had gone "ascetic" in his search, to Full Realization.
- ROSLYN MOORE: This Bursting Heart. Satsang leads to Enlightenment
- HERE LIES THE HEART: A Woman's Meeting With Enlightenment
- DEATH OF THE EGO: A Buddhist View
Man or woman ego? Does it matter in Enlightenment?
- A DALAI LAMA DISCUSSION: Teachers Who Have Sex With Women Students
See also the "G-Spot" link below.
- THERIGATHA: Chapter V, The Files
- The Old Woman of Taishan
Master Dogen's 300 Koan Shobogenzo, Case 29
Who was the Old Woman of Taishan? Old women appear in various koans, frequently acting as catalysts of awakening for unsuspecting travelers. They are never identified, remaining nameless, yet clearly showing some appreciation of the Dharma. The most famous of them was the Rice Cake Seller who challenged Te Shan in Dharma combat, bringing to life his doubt and facilitating the beginning of a real spiritual search which ended in his Attainment and the burning of all his Zen books and commentaries. The encounter between Te Shan and the old woman in the tea house is told, delightfully and in full, in Wu-men's commentary to Case 28 of the Gateless Barrier.
These old women in Chinese Zen history were often matriarchs whose children had grown up, or whose families had been destroyed in the turbulent times of war and famine. They no longer had any family responsibilities and many entered monasteries. In fact, Iron Grindstone Liu, a successor of Master Guishan and an important teacher, was such a Zen adept. Many other women must have completed their studies and some of them must have started temples, but we know very little about the history of women in the Dharma, mainly because the translators and historians have been men who tended to ignore the accomplishments of women. There are still relatively few women Buddhist scholars, but as more and more appear on the scene, we will find out much more about the history of Zen, Women, and Buddhism.
A little long and slightly complicated, but worth reading.
From the Women's Perspective