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Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters Paperback – October 27, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 086171475X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861714759
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"So here's the thumbnail review: read this book." (Buddhadharma)

"Encouraging, inspiring, and profoundly useful. A kind of Blue Cliff Record for our own time." (Jane Hirshfield)

"An exceptional and powerful classic with great depth, humor, and clarity." (Joan Halifax, abbess of Upaya Zen Center)

"This book changes everything! Zen Women is about all of us. It resets the common understanding of Zen history with eye-opening stories. A must-read." (Pat Enkyo O'Hara, abbess of the Village Zendo)

"These pages come alive with the power to inspire." (Sojun Mel Weitsman, abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center)

"Full inclusion of women is the single most revolutionary development in religion for our time. This book is crucial for anyone who wants to understand contemporary spiritual practice." (Norman Fischer, author of Sailing Home)

"Men and women alike will weep to read these stories of generations of Zen women who risked everything-sometimes even their lives-to study the Dharma. This book should be required reading for truth seekers of every faith." (Lewis Richmond, author of Work as a Spiritual Practice)

"With passion and verve, this inspiring work is a significant step towards filling the gaping holes in Buddhist literature on women's practice. Read it, laugh, and weep-and most of all, feel empowered." (Wendy Egyoku Nakao, abbess of the Zen Center Los Angeles)

"Fascinating and delightful. This book will overturn many long-held stereotypes about Zen." (Ruben L.F. Habito, author of Living Zen, Loving God)

"Zen Women opens, onto millennia and across continents, women's places in Zen. The word beyond in the subtitle charges us to pass by the common yet limiting images of our possibilities as Buddhist women and move toward those that make us proud and ready to build an American Zen. Schireson is making a new record for the future. She seeks to resolve contradictions and missing stories in the record not by claiming victimization of women and calling for restitution but by revising the record and reinterpreting the Zen lineage for our own time. The stories function as case studies of women's social engagement and encouragement for women's leadership in the sangha and in society." (Inquiring Mind)

About the Author

Grace Schireson is a Dharma teacher in the Suzuki Roshi lineage empowered by Sojun Mel Weitsman, abbot of Berkeley Zen Center. She has also been empowered to teach koans by Keido Fukushima Roshi, chief abbot of Tofukuji Monastery in Kyoto Japan. Grace is the head teacher of the Central Valley Zen Foundation and has founded and leads three Zen groups and a Zen retreat center, in California. Grace is also a Clinical Psychologist who has specialized in women and families. Married for over forty years, she has two sons and three grandchildren.

More About the Author

Grace Jill Schireson (nee Rosenberg) was born in Los Angeles in 1946 and attended UC Berkeley from 1964-68. She married Peter Schireson in 1968 in a ceremony performed by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. She and Peter immigrated to Canada during the Vietnam war where they joined a spiritual commune and lived in a tent on Lasqueti Island and then Calvert Island and had two sons. After the Carter amnesty, Grace and Peter returned home and she resumed practice with Sojun Mel Weitsman of Berkeley Zen Center and completed a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has worked with children, families and women's groups before retiring from clinical work to teach Dharma full time.

She moved to the family ranch in North Fork, California in 1995 where she started multiple Zen meditation groups in the foothills and California's Central Valley. She enjoyed horseback riding and cross country skiing until called to sit down and share the stories of Zen's female ancestors gathered from her trips to Japan to study with the gifted Zen master, Keido Fukushima Roshi of Kyoto's Tofukuji monastery. She has also co-founded the Shogaku Priests Ongoing Training Institute, a Zen priest training seminary, for teaching Zen priests and sangha leaders the skills necessary for leading Western sanghas. She lives with her husband of 40+ years, Peter Schireson, and enjoys (the never often enough) visits of children and grandchildren at her Zen retreat center, Empty Nest Zendo.

Customer Reviews

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It's informative and quite well written.
crowtales
Grace's work "Zen Women" is a very rich exploration of what women bring to - and take from - Zen Buddhist practice.
Amazon Customer
We practice together, we read the book together, shared the deep understanding and wisdom of it.
Reginald

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Issa on November 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the first bhikkhunis to Bodhidharma's woman disciple, this book takes another look at Zen's rich history, making a strong argument for the inclusiveness of Zen practice, as opposed to the (often) exclusiveness of its institutions. Also interrogates the notion of a typically theatrical machismo as the only true expression of Zen practice.

Having said that, the author has no axe to grind, preferring to invite these women to the table of Zen's official history and, whenever possible, let them speak for themselves, rather than simply lament (and lay blame for) their often historical exclusion.

Excellent, incredibly important book.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Devoted Reader on November 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Grace Schireson's Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters is a must read. It is a thought provoking, honest reflection and engagement with Zen history. Without being heavy handed or dismissal of the tradition, she re-envisions a honest critique of the prevailing assumptions about Zen. These assumptions revolve largely around the male monastic interpretation of Zen that have excluded the reality of the experience of women in Zen practice. By re-thinking the role of women in Zen, Schierson allows for a more inclusive, original, and creative approach to Zen. I highly recommend her work. She shares many wonderful stories about the women that made great sacrifices to practice Zen. It will be an empowering read for women and men, and those of us that may have intuitively felt something was missing from Zen, and knew there was more to this wonderful practice.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Truth Seeker "Stephanie" on July 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
Someone just mentioned this book as a potential book to read in my Zen community. This is what I posted in response:

"I actually had problems with that book, to the point I had to just stop reading it. In my opinion, the author has a clear agenda and I disliked her constant dismissing of the stories of female teachers in the lineage as being too masculinized. I thought it belittled and did a disservice to what few women teachers in Zen history that we have stories about. As a woman who enjoys being female yet who is drawn to things or acting in ways that our culture stereotypes as male or masculine, I don't think that I am somehow not an authentic female because of it. I respect and admire the stories of the tough Zen women and "iron maidens" that have gotten passed down through the generations. While some of the author's research was compelling, it was lost in the constant criticism of these stories as not truly representing women. I, for one, relate to these stories! But by the author's account I don't really count as a real woman so that doesn't matter.

So I consider "Zen Women" to be more of a feminist polemic... more fit for a Women's Studies class about theories of gender constructions in narrative histories... than any sort of record or reverential account of our female Zen ancestors. I sort of like to imagine one of these "iron maidens" whacking Grace Schireson over the head with a kyosaku.

I far prefer Sallie Tisdale's book Women of the Way as a record of women's stories in the lineage. It includes early Indian Buddhist women ancestors but also includes many Chan and Zen female ancestors... without the annoying critical interpolations that bog down Zen Women."

So keep in mind what you're getting when you buy this book. If you want to be inspired by stories of female Zen ancestors, you may be disappointed, as I was. The author has no more respect for these women than the patriarchs who ignored and neglected their stories.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. Hunsaker on December 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The gift of this book is to us, the readers. Grace Schireson has devoted herself to Women's Zen practice. ( Read 'women' as anyone disenfranchised.) These stories, many haven't been told before, give us a flavor of what it has been like to be a woman finding her way in a male dominated practice. They are grouped into chapters by focussing on founders, convents, sexuality, work, dharma heirs, family. This way we get to see our own lives in the lives of the historical women. Their stories are still alive for us. We can let the energy from the past guide in our lives now whether we are lay practitioners, nuns, priests, from other traditions, whoever we are we have lessons to learn from these women who came before us.

Grace Schireson helps us learn in her fun, factual, forward, fascinating style. Yes, a Great Gift to give to us and a Must Read for women and men who want to continue a path of empowerment
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Susan Moon on May 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm grateful to Grace Schireson for providing us with a much needed history of women in Zen. As a woman, mother, Zen teacher, psychologist, she brings a broad understanding to the neglected history of women in Zen, and how family life has been part of women's practice. I particularly appreciated the stories of specific women, like Rengetsu, the 19th-Century Japanese woman who became a Buddhist nun after her husband and children died, and who later supported herself selling pottery. Her celebrated and beautiful teapots were infused with her grief. In the same way, says Schireson, Zen women's practice has been deepened by their heartfelt connections to loved ones.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Baika on May 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Grace Schireson shines her light on (in this exceptional account of) women in Zen history. In what could have been a portrayal of women as victims (again) instead, is an uplifting illumination of the female expression of enlightenment as something not separate from her true nature. The Zen woman's teaching is something different than the usual image we have in our heads of a Zen Master, yet equally as effective. This book shifts the focus from our standard of the past, to a rich new world of teachings. Awaken!
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