Dogen Walked Into a Bar

There's a joke I love that makes the men around me uncomfortable. It goes, "A feminist man walked into a bar it was so low." This is because we expect so little of men, and so when one says anything approximating respecting basic human rights, we fall all over ourselves.

I am currently finishing up my master's degree in East Asian studies, and writing my thesis on women in early Sōtō Zen communities. When I started out to write this paper, I thought I would focus on Dōgen and women. Some of my research I've already posted online, like the last post about Ryōnen.

As we all know, Dōgen had several female disciples and wrote favorably about them. In particular, he praises Ryōnen in the Eihei Koroku (Extended Record). He also argued that women have equal capacity for spiritual development and awakening in the Raihaitokuzui (Bowing at the Attainment of the Marrow) chapter in the Shobogenzo, as well as in Bendōwa (Points to Watch on Practicing the Way). As I wrote abo…

Ryōnen, Dōgen's First Female Disciple

Maruyama Kōgai (丸山郊外) was born in 1946 in Gunma Prefecture.She graduated from Waseda University, and then went on to receive her graduate degree from the Sōtō Zen affiliated Komazawa University. She is a nun in the Sōtō Zen tradition, who ordained relatively late in life, at the age of 36.[1] She completed her monastic training at Aichi Senmon Nisōdō (愛知専門尼僧堂), the all women’s monastery in Nagoya. She received dharma transmission (shihō,司法) from Suigan Yōgo Roshi, the former abbot of Sōjiji. Yōgo Roshi was also the head instructor (shike 師家) at Nisōdō for twenty years, and is known in America for his tutelage of Jiyu Kennet, the first Western woman to practice in a Japanese monastery. Maruyama Sensei is a research fellow at the Sōtōshu Institute for General Research (曹洞宗総合研究所). She has written widely on a variety of Buddhist topics, including a book focusing on Chinese Zen masters. However, her most common topic is the history of Sōtō Zen nuns, in particular Ryōnen, Dōgen Zenji’s (12…