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Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom Paperback – March 13, 2007


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Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom + Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters + First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061146595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061146596
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,066,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Known for her books and essays but less well-known as a lay Buddhist teacher and consulting editor to the magazine Tricycle, Tisdale unites her spiritual and feminist concerns by breathing life into historical women of Buddhism. The book constructs a female lineage (line of teachers) for Zen Buddhism, including ancestors known through mythic tales and through Indian, Chinese and Japanese traditional writings. So much of women's history is unwritten that Tisdale "reimagines" the past in a series of stories about individual women who taught and practiced Buddhism. Some sketches are as beautifully done as brush paintings, apparently simple yet the result of skillful rendering of details selected to summon up an unknown and far removed life. Tisdale's descriptive writing is especially imaginative ("Their waters are endlessly broken by canoes and rough sailing boats, and endlessly renewed"). Occasionally, the book is confusing; the Western eye only slowly negotiates the Japanese names that can pile up in any given story of a woman and her family, teachers and temples. Although not a book for beginning students of Buddhism, this compilation of gracefully written stories helps American Buddhism put its egalitarian stamp on the evolving wisdom tradition that originated with the Indian prince Siddhartha 2,500 years ago. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

When Tisdale began practicing Zen Buddhism 25 years ago, she had no sense of sexism within the religion. Years later, however, she realized not only that women were excluded, particularly from monastic life, but also that the huge body of Buddhist literature was written about men, by men, and for men. Women's experience as Buddhists, therefore, needed to be recorded and their history reclaimed. Through extensive research, Tisdale discovered numerous influential female Buddhists who had been recognized in their time but excluded from the written record, so she made it her mission to restore a lineage of women Buddhists and developed this beautifully crafted volume. Tisdale's personal experience and thorough study of Buddhist literature enabled her to recast stories and historical accounts as engaging and accessible portraits. Although her intention initially was to highlight women's contributions to Buddhism, the universal wisdom and enlightened thinking preserved in this collection transcend gender. Janet St. John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Written by a practitioner who is also a feminist.
Annette Seidenglanz
I found myself in tears as I read may of the stories.
Amazon Customer
I am not trying to belittle the authors hard-work.
Mahendra Sagar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Women who practice Buddhism generally notice, sooner or later, that nearly every Buddhist historical figure they study and read about is...not a woman. For some women this is disillusioning, heart-breaking, completely discouraging. Until recently, if she asked her teacher about it, he/she would likely say, "I know dear, it's too bad. There must have been great women teachers, but we just don't know who they were. Records weren't kept about them." Now, with this book, no teacher can say that, and women can begin to feel that they have ancestors too. Sallie Tisdale did an immense amount of historical research - her biographies and stories are based on solid fact - and then she took the brave step of "re-imagining" these women's lives - some of them unspeakably hard - so we can feel them as living, breathing women. Her re-imagining is also based on solid historical knowledge. She brings the women alive. I found myself in tears as I read may of the stories.

I'm only sorry she chose not to footnote her work - it would have helped the skeptics to realize the historical accuracy of her biographies, provided a great resource for others, and helped to separate the "re-imagining" from the more solid material. I've been doing research on many of these women myself, and I'm realizing that really only the emotional material, or the background, is imagined. There is a solid basis for every story or dialog in the book.

A readable, entertaining, beautifully written, and important book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mahendra Sagar on September 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book based on the five-tar reviews of others and am sorely disappointed. I have only reached Chines Ancestors section and am already overwhelmed with errors and issues I have found so far.

(1) This book is just the latest salvo in the feud between Mahayana and Theravada, by choosing to ignore Theravada sources and relying on Mahayana-only (?) Sutras. Depicting Ven. Mahakasyapa as a dullard and Ven. Sariputra as a child that needs frequent instruction should have been over with in the 4-5 Centuries CE - no need to continue it now.

(2) Ven. Ananda and others calling Lord Buddha by name as "Siddhartha" - simply never happened, ever. In fact, here is an excerpt from the canon: Lord Buddha stated "So I said to them, 'Don't address the Tathagata by name and as "friend."' - MN 26
In fact, in Indian tradition, an honorific is always added before or after the name if you have to call an older/elder by name.

(3) The Mythical Ancestors are just that - myths and nothing further so that is mostly a figment of imagination.

(4) The Ven. Uppallavanna story is not complete in itself since it omits the "running away, having a duaghter, abandoning the daughter, and then being co-wife with daughter to the same husband" part completely. That is what is called suffering and something that changes one.

(5) The Sukha story states "Sukha means Bright and Lustrous" - I have never seen this anywhere and would like author to provide reference. On the other hand, Pali canon (and Sanskrit) repeatedly uses the word sukha to denote pleasant feeling.

(6) The Ven. Patachara story sttes that she became a never-returner needing no more lives. This statement is wrong on 2 counts. One, Ven.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Miller on May 15, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an incredibly valuable resource for information and inspiration for women who are seeking spiritual role models in Buddhism. One should be mindful of the theological and transcendental imagery used in the earlier stories and it might be a good idea to have a general background in the way sutras were written. The only detriment to the entire book is when the author uses homely and colloquial language in an attempt to make the stories more accessible. It's not necessary and takes a little away from the book's impact.
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Loved Tisdale's touch at presenting these women's lives in a light hearted, poetic way that illumines the teaching of each without having to play the Old guard feminist card! Feel so proud of my zen grandmothers' wisdom, grace and humor- not to mention their down to earth grit-after reading Women of the Way!
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