There is a new Women in Buddhism book out now called, “Seeds
of Virtue, Seeds of Change, a collection of Zen Teachings” edited by Jikyo
Cheryl Wolfer. I think there are
27 Women Zen Teachers contributing.
Some of them have big names like Jan Chozen Bays, Eijun Linda Ruth
Cutts, Joan Halifax, Wendy Egyoku
Nakao, Pat Enkyo O’hara, all women who have been published and many lead a
large Zen center. There are also
many teachers who share their beautiful dharma that we may not have heard
of. My lineage has quite a few
represented. My transmission
teacher Joen Snyder-O’Neal with a story that sounds just like her, intimate and
heart-felt. From Minnesota, there
is Myo-O Habermas-Scher, Hoko
Karnegis, and my contribution. In
Katagiri-Roshi lineage, we can add Teijo Munnich and Meiren Val Szymanski. And more!
Just having started reading through the book, even the first piece, “The Authentic
Tea Bowl before Birth” by Wendy Egyoku Nakao, stuck with me. It is an exposition of the koan by the
What really struck me was how we work with dukkha or our
suffering. Often I have heard that
the role of the Zen Teacher is not actually “to teach” or to “try and fix
people’s problems” or to “help”.
But rather to encourage and allow the practitioners who come to see them
to receive their karma, to befriend their particular suffering, and to use the
principles of buddhism to work within those conditions. To, by our practice, turn samsara into
nirvana in each moment of our lives.
As soon as you “fix” one problem, the next arises. And, of course, in the end, as Buddha
said, There is old age, illness and death. Our practice becomes a journey of seeing from a different
point of view, moment by moment, for the rest of our life. It is not a destination or a particular
manifested form. It is
acknowledging the mystery in “things as they are.”
In Egyoku’s piece and in the koan, the precious, ancient tea
bowl is shattered by the “wild women.”
Moon-Heart, a Zen student, was serving tea
to her special guest, Abbess Eko of a nearby temple and Mushin, a dharma heir
of the Abbess, stopped by. Mushin was a “wild women” and carried a bone instead
of the usual ceremonial stick.
In the midst of appreciating the exquisite
bowl, Mushin smashed the bowl with her bone and shattered it into pieces. “Now, said the wild women, “Look at the
Authentic Tea Bowl that exists before birth?”
blanched, gasped and nearly fainted.
The Abbess of the temple said calmly, “I gave you this tea bowl, but
now, I would like you to give it back to me. Before you do, gather the pieces, glue them, and fill the
cracks with gold. Then have a box
made for it. On the cover of the
box, write the name of the bowl, which I now give as “The Authentic Tea Bowl
Before Birth.” I will reverently
pass this bowl on to my Dharma descendants.
I ask you: What is the Authentic
Tea Bowl Before Birth?
Egyoku writes about the koan: page 9
In Shattering – whether it is an individual
or a community – there is a great possibility for truth telling in all of its
myriad dimensions. Don’t squander
it! To see this opportunity is to
see into the beating heart of this koan.
is a Japanese custom that cracked or broken pottery is glued back together and
the cracks filled with gold leaf.
What is this gold of one’s life?
Do we hide our cracks and scars and try to render them invisible? This koan challenges us: these are the very attributes that
express our uniqueness as a Dharma vessel. When our self-centered agenda is forgotten and grasping
stops, Buddha’s light shine through.
This is poignantly expressed in the words of Leonard Cohen’s song: “ Ring the bell that still can
ring. Forget your perfect
offering. There is a crack in
everything. That’s how the light gets in.” When the bowl
is shattered, when things fall apart, Look!”
are called forth to live in full accord with what has been revealed, with life
as it is. The liberating openness
of not-knowing is precisely the wholeness of life all together. This wholeness calls us to bear
witness: What is this piece? What is that piece? Meeting this piece, meeting that piece,
we practice the great wisdom of inclusion. Each of us, individually and communally, continually gathers
the pieces and affirms the wholeness of life. Each of us, individually and communally, continually grows
new hands and eyes, grows in wisdom, grows in love. Each of us, individually and communally, is the gold in the
cracks. All of our thoughts, words
and actions, may they be loving actions serving the wholeness of life.
Labels: Seeds of Virtue Seeds of Change, The Authentic Tea bowl before Birth, Wendy Egyoku Nakoa, Women in Buddhism