Posts

Zazen and Menstrual Blood Hell

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In medieval China and later Japan, a Buddhist cult developed around a sutra called the "Blood Bowl Hell." At that time, people believed women were inherently impure due to menstrual blood and pregnancy, and so this sutra described a special hell for women in which, I kid you not, women were trapped in giant pools of menstrual blood, abused by demons, and forced to drink the blood. Women believed that if they carried around copies of this sutra, or were cremated with copies of the sutra on their bodies, they would be able to escape the Blood Bowl Hell. There are some pretty fun illustrations of this hell.

Many religions and cultures have viewed women as inherently impure, and Chinese and Japanese Buddhist culture was no different. Throughout the Buddhist world, it was widely believed that women could not attain enlightenment and needed to be reborn in the body of a man to achieve salvation, and different traditions and institutions have different takes on this. What's int…

Failure is the Mother of Success: What Editors Have Taught Me About Life

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In Japan there is a phrase 失敗を繰り返すことで、成功に至る、which means something like "repeated failure leads to success." In China and Taiwan there is a similar phrase, "Failure is the mother of success." And within Zen communities especially, you often here the phrase "100 misses, one bull's eye." In one of her essays, Aoyama Roshi described how she requested a famous Zen master make a calligraphy for her that just said "100 misses." No bull's eye. Just the misses.

I've been thinking about this recently as I plan and brainstorm my next book. For nonfiction books, the first step towards publication is querying agents or publishers, and then submitting a book proposal. While I am excited to write and put my ideas out there, I know that I will inevitably get rejected many times before I get accepted. This this is how life works, and professional writing, all the more so!

The first article I ever published took over a year to pitch, write, edit, and p…

(Beyond) A Day Without Women

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Today is International Woman's Day, and I'm striking for the Day Without Women. I was unsure whether or not I was going to strike (is it a privilege? Don't I owe it to my students? Won't I get penalized?), but was encouraged to by my Feminist Theory professor, an incredible and inspiring woman who literally wrote the book on intersectional feminism. You can listen to her NPR interview here. She cracked everyone up the other day in class when we were talking about "post-feminism." There are some think-pieces out there about moving "beyond' intersectional feminism and "beyond" online activism. She was like, "We've got so much work to do! Can we please figure out intersectionality first before we move beyond it?"

There are so many good essays to be written about the importance of this day and how we can build from it-- how to better fight for trans women, women of color, women in prison-- but fuck, guys (I mean folk? I mean y'…

Medicine Buddha

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There is something about 2am. I work until 11pm then stumble into bed at midnight, after a day of teaching and studying. I'm asleep immediately but wake up at 2am with my heart pounding, in a panic. There's no story, only sleeplessness and my beating heart. Or I work until 11 and then can't sleep. I'm too wired from a day of looking at screens, a day of thinking thinking thinking, reading, pushing. I lie in bed until 2am, my heart pounding, and then take a melatonin.

When I am at a monastery, insomnia is never a problem. Waking up at 4am and then doing physical labor all day does wonders for your sleep patterns. But for those of us who live in houses, who work 9-5 jobs, the reality is that our existence is a constant barrage of tasks, errands, thoughts, anxieties, screens, meetings, and more screens. It's like driving for hours in a hot car. When you get out, the heat follows you. It takes a long time to cool down.

In Tokugawa era Japan, Soto Zen priests popularize…

Sex, Zen, and Rock n' Roll

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As many of you know, my posts have slowed down over the last year as I moved back to the U.S, wrote a book, got engaged, started graduate school, etc. I've been extremely busy, but I want to start writing more often in this blog, because writing is my link to society, and increasingly, it is the thing I identify with most. The other day, my therapist looked me in the eye and said, "You are a writer. Your other work is to pay the bills," which I thought was a) pretty direct for a therapist, no? I mean, isn't she just supposed to nod and listen to me talk? and b) pretty incredible and validating. Okay, this is the last time I'll mention my therapist on this blog, I promise.

Over the last few weeks I've been trying to start up a sitting group again, as well as apply to the Soto Zen Buddhist Association. I'm not really sure what the SZBA does, and I'm 90% sure it's just a group of my friends that gets together once a year and hangs out without me (ple…

Buddhism and Human Dignity

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This week, one of my editors wrote to ask if I would like to do a second draft of an article I wrote several months ago about racism in Buddhist circles. I responded that I would like to, but I do not have time.

The truth is, I'm tired of debating with white Buddhists in America about why human dignity matters, about why we have a responsibility to speak and act against oppression. In the past week I have seen furious online debate among white men about... well, I'm not really sure. Whether or not Buddhist communities should ban Trump supporters? Only that's not really what the debate is about, because no one in an administrative branch is making that claim.

I am tired.

I am tired because I stay up late at night thinking about whether or not I need to stockpile Plan B, because even though my partner and I do not want children, I lie there thinking about a time, a nightmarish time in the future in which I have been raped but am not legally allowed to have an abortion. I th…

Get Unstuck

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It's Friday morning; I have 50 midterms to grade, a book to read, two Japanese tests to study for, and a Chinese Buddhist story to translate, so that must mean it's time to write a blog!

My blog has been slowing, slowing down in the last eight months and a large part of that has been adjusting to being in America. What do I have to say about Zen practice in this country-- a country in which we have deemed Japanese monastic forms unnecessary? Then I fell head long into Serious Relationship Land and this has complicated my own understanding of my practice even more. For so long I thought that true practice meant living in a monastery, or at least, living in poverty while dedicating my life to the Way. It meant not having things, it meant being alone.

And what of those ideals now? I'm sitting on a comfy couch as I write this. I'm drinking coffee. The air conditioner is going and an air purifier is going and my partner is on a conference call. I have a refrigerator chocke…