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Zazenkai – Women in Zen Series, Chan Master Miaozong
Saturday October 15, 2022
Zazenkai, A Day of Zen
Join Valerie as she continues the Women in Zen series, turning to the life and teaching of Miaozong, dharma heir to Dahui.
Learn more about Miaozong while giving your mind and heart a day of repose, sitting with our online community; reconnect with the source of who you really are. For those who are new to the practice, a Zazenkai or Day of Zen is an opportunity to taste the fruits of extended silent sitting. Sitting with others online, following the schedule, receiving guidance—all offer support for taking your practice to a new level.
9am-Noon: Sit and dharma talk
1-3:30: Sit and Q&A
Cost is $50 or an amount you can reasonably afford. Your payments make these events possible. Thank you for your support.
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Chan master Miaozong (1095–1170), a laywoman who later became a nun, was renowned in the Buddhist world of twelfth-century China. Part of the reason she was respected in her own time and in later centuries was because her awakening and authority to teach was recognized by the great Linji Chan master Dahui Zonggao (1089–1163). Dahui could be called the third founder of Chan, after Bodhidharma and Huineng.
Miaozong was the granddaughter of a prime minister, Su Song (1020–1101), and was therefore born into a socially privileged, but also very constrained, position. Had she done what was expected of her, she would have lived confined to the women’s quarters of family compounds. At the age of fifteen, having never heard of Chan, the future Miaozong had a transforming insight when she focused her mind on the questions, When we are born, where do we come from, and where do we go when we die?
After calling out the dualism of her first teacher Master Yuan, Yuan said of her, “You are a real lion cub,” indicating that he thought she was on her way to becoming a full-grown lion.
Miaozong became a nun in her later years. In Dahui’s telling, Miaozong began Chan studies at the age of thirty, as a laywoman, and that when she attained full awakening under Dahui, she was forty-three and still a laywoman. Her biography says, “After a long time in concealment, she put on the robe of a female monastic.”
She accepted the abbacy of a prominent women’s monastery when she was sixty-seven or sixty-eight. She lived to age seventy-five, but retired from the abbacy before then and returned home. Even as a nun in retirement she was well known, even famous, in the large world of monastic and lay Chan practitioners.