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Lions Roar : March 2018
I’m a woman who is starting to learn about Buddhism. Can you recommend some books by, for, and about Buddhist women? There are so many good choices, including books by all the great women teaching Buddhism today. Besides those, here are a few you can start with, divided into different categories: Teachings: Buddha’s Daughters: Teachings from Women Who Are Shaping Bud- dhism in the West (Andrea Miller, Shambhala); Woman Awake: Women Prac- ticing Buddhism (Christina Feldman, Rodmell). Women in Buddhist History: The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women (Florence Caplow & Susan Moon, Wisdom); Women of Wisdom (Tsultrim Allione, Snow Lion); First Buddhist Women: Poems and Stories of Awakening (Susan Murcott, Parallax); Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom (Sallie Tisdale, HarperOne). Lives of Contemporary Buddhist Women: Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind (Maura O’Halloran, Wisdom); Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist (Jan Willis, Wisdom); Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master (Amy Schmidt, BlueBridge); Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo’s Quest for Enlightenment (Vicki Mackenzie, Bloomsbury). Feminist Analysis: Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism (Rita M. Gross, SUNY Press). Why do Buddhist monastics shave their heads? Since ancient times in both East and West, hair cutting and shaving of heads has been a mark of renuncia- tion, of leaving behind a worldly life. Hair can be one of the main sources of vanity, self-image, and attach- ment to worldly things (just think of all the attention paid to haircare products). So cutting it all off is both a literal and symbolic act of giving up something precious. Continuing to do so for as long as one is a monastic or renunciate is both a reminder to oneself and a signal to the rest of the world of giving up clinging to worldly things. When Prince Siddhartha, who became Gautama Buddha, left the luxurious life of the palace to lead the life of a wandering ascetic, he cut off his hair and beard and did not wear his hair long for the rest of his life. Buddhist monastics follow this example, and the rules for doing so are contained in the pratimoksha, the set of rules at the center of the code of Buddhist monastic discipline, the vinaya. ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at firstname.lastname@example.org FRANCISHAAR ROBERT AITKEN, ROSHI ROBERT AITKEN (1917–2010) was a pioneering Amer- ican Zen teacher and leader in Buddhist political activism. A lifelong resident of Hawaii, Aitken was introduced to Zen after he was captured by Japanese forces during World War II. While detained in an internment camp, he was given a copy of the book Zen in English Litera- ture, which had a life-changing effect on him. Amaz- ingly, its author, R. H . Blyth, was later interned in the camp himself and became a mentor to Aitken. After the war, Aitken traveled frequently to Japan and studied with prominent Zen teachers such as Soen Nakagawa, Haku’un Yasutani, and Koun Yamada. He became one of the first Americans to receive dharma transmission in the Harada–Yasutani lineage. In 1959, Aitken established the Honolulu Diamond Sangha with his wife, Anne Hopkins Aitken, and trained several generations of Zen teachers. A pacifist known for his progressive views, Aitken cofounded the Bud- dhist Peace Fellowship to support nonviolent activism and environmentalism. Robert Aitken, Roshi died at age 93 in Honolulu. The Diamond Sangha is now led by a teachers’ circle of Ait- ken’s dharma heirs and their successors with more than twenty affiliated groups in the U.S ., Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina. Aitken’s writings on Buddhism, Zen practice, and ethics, such as Taking the Path of Zen, Original Dwelling Place, and Mind of Clover, are an important part of the West- ern Buddhist canon. His classic Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird has recently been reissued. LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2018 35 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE