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Dōgen and the Feminine Presence: Taking a Fresh Look into His Sermons and Other Writings
  • Michiko Yusa, Western Washington University
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  • Dōgen,
  • Nyojō (Rujing),
  • Myōchi,
  • Nun Ryōnen,
  • Nun Eshin,
  • Nun Egi,
  • Empress Danrin (Tachibana no Kachiko),
  • Queen Māyā,
  • “Raihai Tokuzui” (in Shōbōgenzō)

Dōgen’s gender-egalitarian stance on women to attain awakening in their zazen practice is well known. At the same time, a nagging suspicion lingers on among some scholars that he grew increasingly misogynistic in his old age. In this present study, which focuses on Dōgen’s sermons compiled in the Record of Eihei (Eihei kōroku), the Shōbōgenzō, and other writings related to women, we find that even after Dōgen moved to Eiheiji, his stance on women remained consistent. Not only did he readily respond to his female disciples’ requests to give special sermons in memory of their parents, but also positively saw women’s presence in the development of the Buddhist tradition. Through this study it also becomes clear that Dōgen came to embrace a more flexible view on filial piety in his later years, as he deepened his reflection on this matter—the sense of gratitude one feels for one’s parents is concomitant with nurturing one’s compassion. The aspect of compassion that sustained Dōgen’s life of teaching begins to loom large. It was his Chinese master Nyojō (Rujing) who emphasized compassion as the pillar of the zazen practice. Two sermons Dōgen delivered on the anniversary of his father’s death, moreover, have given the scholars new information concerning his parentage. The focus on the aspect of "feminine presence” in Dōgen inadvertently (or naturally?) leads to the heart of Dōgen’s own identity.

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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women in Buddhism)


(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women in Buddhism)

Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.
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Citation Information
Michiko Yusa. "Dōgen and the Feminine Presence: Taking a Fresh Look into His Sermons and Other Writings" Religions Vol. 9 Iss. 8 (2018) p. 232
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