11. Women in Buddhism

Although in Asia women and men have practiced Buddhism throughout history, there’s little doubt that the practice of men has predominated. Nevertheless, since the Buddha’s time, there have always been powerful and sincere women practitioners and teachers, who have practiced with great intensity and compassionate wisdom often in the face of tremendous societal oppression and barriers to formal study. A

s Buddhism has come to the West, there has been a flowering of women teachers in all traditions, and many scholars are studying and exploring the history of women within Buddhism. The Soto Zen teachers in America have recently recognized the role of women in our tradition by creating a document of women ancestors, honoring the women throughout history whose practice still inspires us. Whether you are male or female, knowing the stories and teachings of these courageous women can deepen your own practice.

Florence Caplow and Sue Moon, from our Everyday Zen sangha, have edited and compiled The Hidden Lamp, an essential collection of Buddhist women’s stories, with commentaries by contemporary women teachers. Collections of talks and teachings by contemporary women teachers related to our Dharma family are also listed below.

Study Guide

Please note: we are currently the process of editing and properly categorizing our teachings library. The teachings will become available here in the study guide as soon as they’re ready, please check back soon.

1. Zen Seeds | Reflections from a female priest

By Shundo Aoyama | 1991 | Kosei Publishing Company | ISBN 4333014786

Teachings by a contemporary, female Japanese Soto Zen teacher and priest.
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2. Feminism and Religion

By Rita M. Gross | 1996 | Beacon Press | ISBN 0807067857

Rita Gross’s reflections on the importance of a feminist approach to religious study and practice.
 
 

3. Subtle Sound  |  The Zen teachings of Maurine Stuart

By Sherry Chayat | 1996 | Shambhala Publications | ISBN 1570620946

Teachings by an American Rinzai teacher who brought forward a deeply feminine (but also tough!) way of practice. An important teacher for many at Zen Center.

4. Being Bodies | Buddhist women on the paradox of embodiment

By Sue Moon | 1997 | ed.Lenore Friedman and Sue Moon
| Shambhala Publications | ISBN 1570623244

Wonderful collection of personal essays on the body in practice.

5. Women Living Zen | Japanese Soto Buddhist Nuns

By Paula Arai | 1999 | Oxford University Press | ISBN 019512393X

A remarkable study of Soto Zen Buddhist nuns, based on both historical evidence and ethnographic data. Paula Arai shows that nuns were central agents in the foundation of Buddhism in Japan in the sixth century, have been active participants in the Soto Zen sect, and continue to contribute to the advancement of the sect to the present day.

6. Buddhism After Patriarchy | A feminist history, analysis, and reconstruction of Buddhism

By Rita Gross | 1992 | State University of New York Press | ISBN 0791414043

A sophisticated and essential discussion of Buddhism from a feminist perspective.

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7. Buddhist Women on the Edge | Contemporary Perspectives from the Western Frontier

By Marianne Dresser | 1996 | North Atlantic Books | ISBN 1556432038

Well-written, highly thoughtful essays from many contemporary female teachers and practitioners, exploring gender, class, race, disability, power, and female expressions of spiritual practice.
 
 

8. Women in Buddhism | Images of the Feminine in the Mahayana Tradition

By Diana Y. Paul | 1985 | University of California Press | ISBN 0520054288

Explorations of many Sanskrit and Chinese sutras and the role, image, and position of women and women’s practice in those texts.

9. Meetings with Remarkable Women | Buddhist Teachers in America

By Lenore Friedman | 2000 | Shambhala Publications | ISBN 1570624747

A collection of interviews and profiles of some of the most significant first-generation American women teachers.
 

10. Daughters of Emptiness | Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns

By Beata Grant | 2003 | Wisdom Publications | ISBN 0861713621

The poems and life stories of 48 Chinese Buddhist nuns over 16 centuries. Much of the poetry is exquisitely beautiful and imbued with the dharma, and the life stories shed a clear light on the difficulties that faced female practitioners and women drawn to a monastic life in China.

11. First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening

By Susan Murcott | 2006 | Parallax Press | ISBN 188837554X

A very important book. Translation and discussion of the poems of the Therigata, written by the first women to be ordained as Buddhist monastics during the time of the Buddha.
 

12. Women of the Way | Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom

By Sallie Tisdale | 2007 | HarperOne | ISBN 0061146595

Based on what historical evidence is known about female awakened practitioners since the time of the Buddha, Sallie Tisdale “re-imagines” their lives in the context of the historical eras they lived within. Some people object to the re-imagining, but I found it powerful and engaging. Her introduction is particularly worth reading.

13. Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters

By Grace Schireson | 2008 | Wisdom Publications | ISBN 086171475X

Biographies and stories of Zen women in China, Korea, and Japan, with commentary by Grace Schireson. An important collection of our current knowledge of historical Zen women.
 
Norman gives the tenth and final talk of "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women" on Uppalavana and Precepts to the EDZ July All Day Sitting.
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Norman gives the tenth and final talk of "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women" on Uppalavana and Precepts to the EDZ July All Day Sitting.
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Zen Earthlyn Manuel gives the ninth and last talk on "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women. on "The Possibilities in What We See."
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Sue Moon gives the eighth talk from "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women."on "Learning from the Teachings of Dipa Ma and Darlene Cohen."
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Sue Moon and Naomi Newman talk on "The Wise Old Woman by the side of the Road" from "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women."
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James Flaherty gives the sixth talk on the Hidden Lamp 2021 series to the Dharma Seminar on "Maylie Scott meets Loneliness" from "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of
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Alan Block gives the fifth talk of the Hidden Lamp 2021 series to the Dharma Seminar on "The Old Woman Recognizes Mazu" from "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries
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Norman gives his talk at the Bay Area One Day Sitting on the Zen Mirror of Tokeikji as referenced in "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women."
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Norman gives the fourth talk on "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women." on the The Women in the Charnel Ground.
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Florence Caplow gives the third talk on "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women."
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Kathie Fischer gives the second talk on "The Hidden Lamp:Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women."
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Authors and senior dharma teachers Florence Caplow and Sue Moon give their first talk on "The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women."    
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