Friday, June 20, 2014

Part of themselves returned

Here's a thing of beauty from Tricycle, a magazine I find I'm appreciating more all the time. It's a lineage chart of all the women teachers in Zen. It was created among convert Zen Buddhists in Canada. Sort of like Judy Chicago's "Dinner Party," but compiled by a male teacher, Peter Levitt. He was "roused from a dream" in 2007 when asked the question of the missing women posed by Rowan Percy, a woman who was approaching her jukai, the ceremony of Dharma transmission. Traditionally in Zen, the jukai is represented by giving the new member a lineage chart - all men.

At the jukai ceremony, in which Percy received the precepts, a women ancestor document was given to all of Levitt’ s students, male and female. “I folded them in exactly the same way and size as the male lineage papers, and bundled them together,” says Levitt. “Both the men and women who received it were crying. They felt like a part of themselves had been returned.”

The article about this isn't super-scholarly - Tricyle is a magazine for practitioners, after all - but it tells this important story well. Tricyle includes work by eminent scholars, too. For instance there's Robert Buswell and Donald Lopez' lovely series "10 Misconceptions about Buddhism," whose latest (#8) takes on the idol of the Four Noble Truths:

the four truths are not true for everyone. Anyone who has not achieved at least the level of stream-enterer is called an “ordinary person” or “common being” (prthagjana)—sometimes also called bala, meaning “childish” or “foolish.” We ordinary persons are foolish because we don’t know the truth. Specifically, we don’t know that existence itself is suffering, that suffering has an origin, that suffering can be brought to an end, and that there is a path to that state of cessation. We may know it intellectually, we might know it well enough to list it correctly on the midterm, but this does not make us noble. Only the person who has direct insight into the four truths is noble. And it is only for such people that the four truths are, in fact, true.

Good stuff! I wonder if I'll be able to follow Tricycle in China.

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