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Attaining the Marrow Through Reverence
(Teachings on Dogen by Soto Zen Women Priests)
(ed. by Eido Frances Carney), Citation from
by Grace Jill Schireson
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Dogen recounts many historical examples of Buddhists who respected a teacher without regard to his/her/its appearance, tenure, status, profession, position or gender. Dogen narrows the field of these apparently discriminatory categories and devalued teachers down to just nuns. Because Dogen was fluent in Chinese, and because he had studied in China, Dogen could draw on his experiences and his knowledge of Chinese historical Chan (Zen) literature for examples of female Zen masters and their exemplary male disciples. This was a particularly forceful argument in the newly forming Japanese Zen culture that looked to China for guidelines, admired Chinese culture, and believed in respecting and honoring Zen's Chinese ancestors. In Raihaitokuzui, Dogen cited two specific historical women Zen teachers, Moshan (ca. 800) and Miaoxin (ca. 880), both of whom had received their teaching empowermetns from well recognized Chinese male teachers. He cited their teaching stories, which extolled their authentic "thusness," as expressed in their dharma words and actions. [...] Moreover, Dogen described and praised the men who recognized these women teachers and their consequent awakening upon receiving these women's teaching. Dogen found these monks' willingness to receive women teachers' "thusness" inspirational, and he confirmed the monks' awakening, under their women teachers' instructions to be authentic.
In the last section of Raiahitokuzui, Dogen put forth the most basic of Buddhist teachings to refute the exclusion of women as teachers, pointing out that we must not only put aside personal pride and prejudice, but also note the delusions of our own contemporary culture. Once again, Dogen expressed his teaching on the equality of awakening in basic Buddhist terms and in terms of how Buddhists should consider the common practices of their society in the light of Buddhist wisdom.

Dogen asked:

"Why are men special? Emptiness is emptiness. Four great elements are four great elements. Five skandhas are five skandhas. Women are just like that. Both men and women attain the way. You should honor attainment of the way. Do not discriminate between men and women. This is the most wondrous principle of the Buddha way."
(Translation: Tanahashi)
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(Zen Master) DOGEN ZENJI'S (道元禅師)
(Gender Inclusive) STUDIES OF THE WAY (學道) | INDEX
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