Sunday, February 5, 2012

Is Zen really a male practice?

It seems that in American Soto Zen a lot of progress has been made in terms of awareness of gender inequality, and also progress in terms of having female priests, role models etc.

But I have been thinking of how gender differences may deeply inform our view of Zen practice itself.   Without having to turn to social or psychological theory, it is clear to me that in our EDZ practice, the women are more social.  The women's retreat is huge and there seems to be no need for the men to have their own retreat.  This warmth and desire to connect may reflect the proclivities of our female gender.

Obviously Soto Zen comes from a male dominant Japanese culture. I would suggest that the very spirit and energy of our practice reflects that gender difference.  Zen is considered cool, unemotional, and controlled. These traits are generally considered male.

Although women can fully practice in this manner - and it is a beautiful practice - our desire for warmth and connection has led to what many of we women call "warm hearted zen."  And this is the practice that most strongly appeals to me.

So I am suggesting that we deconstruct how we view Zen practice itself, based on gender difference.

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