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“Mountains, Rivers, and the Whole Earth”: Koan Interpretations of Female Zen Practitioners

Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation, Flanders, Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies, Ghent University, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Religions 2018, 9(4), 125;
Received: 27 February 2018 / Revised: 4 April 2018 / Accepted: 9 April 2018 / Published: 11 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women in Buddhism)
Though recent years have seen a critical reappraisal of Buddhist texts from the angle of performance and gender studies, examinations of Zen Buddhist encounter dialogues (better known under their edited form as “koan”) within this framework are rare. In this article, I first use Rebecca Schneider’s notion of “reenactment” to characterize interpretative strategies developed by contemporary female Zen practitioners to contest the androcentrism found in koan commentary. Drawing on The Hidden Lamp (2013), I suggest that there are two ways of reading encounter dialogues. One of these, the “grasping way,” tends to be confrontational and full of masculine and martial imagery. The other, the “granting way,” foregrounds the (female) body and the family as sites of transmission, stressing connection instead of opposition. I then argue that these “granting” readings of encounter dialogues gesture towards a Zen lineage that is universal, extended to everyone, even to the non-human.
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Keywords: performance; gender; encounter dialogue; koan; Zen Buddhism performance; gender; encounter dialogue; koan; Zen Buddhism
MDPI and ACS Style

Van Overmeire, B. “Mountains, Rivers, and the Whole Earth”: Koan Interpretations of Female Zen Practitioners. Religions 2018, 9, 125.

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