This blog gathers in one place all available stories of female Zen practitioners in Tang Dynasty China.
Sadly, only about fifty such stories have appeared in translation. If you discover additional stories, let me know and I'll add them to the collection. Thanks!
Of the women in these stories, only a few have names (and most of these are from the Sung Dynasty, not the "golden age" of the Tang). Most were simply called "a nun" or "an old woman."
Zen Women categorizes the stories in three natural groups:
Teaching All Beings
A few Tang women assumed either formal or informal teaching roles. While some of these women were named, most were not.
Equal to All Beings
Some Tang women, by virtue of their wisdom and strong centers, engaged freely in dharma discourse with male peers. While not necessarily teachers, these women were certainly equal to their male counterparts.
Learning from All Beings
Most Tang women, of course, were represented as students of the great teachers. This is how everyone begins.
While most of the cases in this blog date from the Tang Dynasty, a few come from earlier periods. I’ve also included several involving Zen Master Yüan-wu, the Sung Dynasty teacher who commented extensively on The Blue Cliff Record collection of kung-ans.
I offer this blog as a way to widen the gate of Dharma and weaken barriers to practice that arise from attachment to gender.
May these cases inspire and encourage modern women to cultivate practice in their own lives. Likewise, may this collection help men let go of ancient and subtle stereotypes. And may we together open our hearts to all beings.