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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
melissa myozen blacker 95 a habit of hiding my own strength, he quickly recognized similar leadership qualities in me. His no-nonsense unwillingness to buy into my lack of self-confidence helped me develop my capacity to become a teacher, eventually enabling me to receive transmission from him. Even then, it has taken years for me to integrate my gender, my per- sonality, and my dharma understanding. I have been inspired by the examples of other women Zen teach- ers, and I have learned a great deal from many of them about how to be a woman of the way. But the help I received from these wise and compassionate women was always tempered by the fact that many of them were dealing with similar issues, such as being disrespected for their strength and power or recovering from (or denying) their own histories of abuse by their male teachers. Other women sangha members have also been helpful. Through candid conversations with sangha sisters and female teachers, experiences that once seemed per- sonal have been revealed as all too common. And so I looked to the koan stories that have inspired my heart since I first began practicing Zen. When I first engaged in koan prac- tice as a young student, there were very few examples of women teachers in the traditional collections. More recently, some helpful guides in this area have been published, including Grace Schireson’s Zen Women, which offers stories about the scattering of women whose stories were recorded in Zen histories. Many of these women are merely unnamed background characters, “old grannies,” as one male teacher describes them, or women who sell tea by the side of the road. Often, they seem to exist solely in relationship to men, val- ued for their capacity to challenge male teachers. The Hidden Lamp, a collection of stories edited by Florence Caplow and Susan Moon, gathers many more examples of women teachers from the last two and half millennia, with commentaries by contemporary women teachers. Iron Grindstone Liu was the first named Zen woman I came across in my studies, decades before these two books were published.