this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

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Sunday, 11 May 2008


Traditionally women have not been allowed into many places of worship. Traditionally many still are not. There are all kinds of taboos and rules (in some cases common sense) in religions in terms of what a woman can wear, in how she can pray, and in when she can pray. That is obviously not a comprehensive list, but these rules are generally restrictive and prohibitive, and comparative rules are generally not applied to her male counterpart. Tenzin Palmo , the British woman who wrote A Cave in the Snow details how frustrated she was when she could not find any of the information she needed when she went to Nepal to study because of how she was perceived and treated as a woman. It was deemed that she didn't need to learn the intricacies and mysteries of the religion she had entered due to her sex; maybe it was deemed that she was not worthy of gaining such knowledge, even though she was recognised as a reincarnated master. Or maybe it was her life journey to meet these challenges. Who knows?

A friend of mine recently went on a retreat in Thailand, and found the women were required to do all the cleaning, preparing of food, were expected to prostrate themselves whenever the priest passed. She said the tasks and expectations did not seem evenly distributed between gender. As the work itself, of course, needs to be done, and humility is often expected in religions, it is the imbalance that is frustrating, not the actual tasks and expectations themselves. Her story is not an unusual one, and of course this imbalance is not only applicable to spiritual life.

So, I have a fondness for Zenkouji temple, in that it has never barred women. It was founded in 644 AD, so this is quite surprising. It is run by a high priestess and priest from different Buddhist sects in alternating years. Maybe this is why there are so many guardians around the grounds protecting children and women, and maybe this non-discriminatory attitude goes a long way towards explaining its popularity. Of course it also houses a hidden image that is said to have been made by Buddha himself in the 6th century B.C, which was gifted to Japan in 552 A.D, and this adds to the temple's popularity as people journey to the place where it is held in the hope of finding salvation as detailed here , which does not make it so different from a Mecca or a Lourdes. However, the fact remains that apart from being open to both sexes, it is also a non-sectarian temple and (from the same site as detailed above) It is not affiliated with any one particular sect of Buddhism so all are welcome, regardless of gender, creed or religious belief .

I think one of the readings that can be applied to the many jizo that surround the place is 'womb of the earth' - so I sense a warmness and welcome-ness to the place, even if this might only be in my own mind's eye and heart.

The main hall at Zenkouji

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is something that is so true about women in the church. Also how they are to show so much more respect to "Men" in general. Even here Rose,to a certain extent. In the Catholic religion though they actually pray for "Mother Mary" to save them,because she is a woman and is considered an itercesser to God. A mother will often go to the father and ask him to be gentle on the child! Just kind of funny. I could say more, *i wonder why nuns are treated "less than"?*

this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr