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Women in Korean Zen
Lives and Practices

Martine Batchelor and Son'gyong Sunim

Cloth $14.95    |    0-8156-0842-X    |   2005

A rare and vivid narrative of a Buddhist nun's training and spiritual awakening.

"Martine Batchelor's account of her ten years of study in various monastic institutions throughout Korea, many of them served under the most eminent teachers of her day, makes for fascinating reading. . . . It is a splendid spiritual memoir. Those of us who have profited from Ms. Batchelor's earlier studies will now be inspired by seeing how her personal journey unfolded. It is a story she tells with grace and good humor."
dash Jan Willis, author of Dreaming Me: An African American Baptist-Buddhist Journey

"[The] edited translation of Son'gyong Sunim's autobiography, which was dictated to Ms. Batchelor between 1980 and 1982, is an absolute treasure and provides extremely valuable first-hand information on the life of Korean nuns during the Japanese occupation period and the 'purification movement' that followed. The tales of her training under such renowned, almost legendary, teachers as Man'gong, Hanam, Kobong, and Kyongbong sunims are utterly fascinating. . . . Nothing like this has ever before appeared in a Western language."
dash Robert Buswell, author of The Zen Monastic Experience

In this engagingly written account, Martine Batchelor relays the challenges a new ordinand faces in adapting to Buddhist monastic life: the spicy food, the rigorous daily schedule, the distinctive clothes and undergarments, and the cultural misunderstandings inevitable between a French woman and her Korean colleagues. She reveals as well the genuine pleasures that derive from solitude, meditative training, and communion with the deeply religiousdashwhom the Buddhists call "good friends."

Batchelor has also recorded the oral history/autobiography of her teacher, the eminent nun Son'gyong Sunim, leader of the Zen meditation hall at Naewonsa. It is a profoundly moving, often light-hearted story that offers insight into the challenges facing a woman on the path to enlightenment at the beginning of the twentieth century. Original English translations of eleven of Son'gyong Sunim's poems on Buddhist themes make a graceful and thought-provoking coda to the two women's narratives.

Western readers only familiar with Buddhist ideas of female inferiority will be surprised by the degree of spiritual equality and authority enjoyed by nuns in Korea. While American writings on Buddhism increasingly emphasize the therapeutic, self-help, and comforting aspects of Buddhist thought, Batchelor's text offers a bracing and timely reminder of the strict discipline required in traditional Buddhism.

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Martine Batchelor is the author of several books, including The Path of Compassion, Meditation for Life, and Principles of Zen. She lives in France.

5 x 8, 136 pages

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