Synopses & Reviews
It is tradition in Zen monasteries to chant a lineage of male teachers from the Buddha's time to the present day. As Buddhism took root in the West, increasing numbers of American Buddhists began to ask: What about the women?
Scholarly research has uncovered accounts of extraordinary women Buddhists, many of whom were recognized by their contemporaries for their powerful practice but excluded from their place in history. Drawing on these discoveries, several Buddhist centers have created women's lineages of their own, and it is this bright thread of untold legend that Sallie Tisdale follows in this groundbreaking work. By rescuing some of the most significant and inspiring tales from obscurity, Tisdale traces women Buddhist masters and teachers across continents and centuries. She draws upon historical, cultural, and Buddhist records and her own Buddhist practice to bring to life these narratives of ancestral Buddhist women. Women of the Way offers timeless wisdom and little-known stories that invigorate our understanding of women's contribution to Buddhism.
In meditation, we place ourselves on the Buddha's seat. I believe that there we can recite any lineage in gratitude with awe, bewilderment, humility, and love. As long as we practice, none of our ancestors are dead our fathers are alive, our mothers are alive. The breadth and depth of teaching is seen when we expand our ancestry this way. Every line is our line, all ancestors are our ancestors. from the introduction
"Known for her books and essays but less well-known as a lay Buddhist teacher and consulting editor to the magazine Tricycle, Tisdale unites her spiritual and feminist concerns by breathing life into historical women of Buddhism. The book constructs a female lineage (line of teachers) for Zen Buddhism, including ancestors known through mythic tales and through Indian, Chinese and Japanese traditional writings. So much of women's history is unwritten that Tisdale 'reimagines' the past in a series of stories about individual women who taught and practiced Buddhism. Some sketches are as beautifully done as brush paintings, apparently simple yet the result of skillful rendering of details selected to summon up an unknown and far removed life. Tisdale's descriptive writing is especially imaginative ('Their waters are endlessly broken by canoes and rough sailing boats, and endlessly renewed'). Occasionally, the book is confusing; the Western eye only slowly negotiates the Japanese names that can pile up in any given story of a woman and her family, teachers and temples. Although not a book for beginning students of Buddhism, this compilation of gracefully written stories helps American Buddhism put its egalitarian stamp on the evolving wisdom tradition that originated with the Indian prince Siddhartha 2,500 years ago." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“An enlivening and indispensable volume.” Jane Hirshfield, author of Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women
“Tisdales descriptive writing is especially imaginative.” Publishers Weekly
“A well-written, deeply moving collection of stories…. Fanciful and eminently readable.” Buddhadharma
“With her frank and thoughtful writing style, Tisdale takes the reader on a philosophical adventure….” East West Woman
“[A] beautifully crafted volume. The universal wisdom and enlightened thinking preserved in this collection transcend gender.” Booklist
“A much-needed account of feminine teachers and leaders in Buddhism.” Kansas City Star
In this groundbreaking work, Sallie Tisdale traces women Buddhist masters and teachers across continents and centuries, drawing upon historical, cultural, and Buddhist records to bring to life these narratives of ancestral Buddhist women.
About the Author
Sallie Tisdale is the author of several books, including The Best Thing I Ever Tasted and Talk Dirty to Me. She is a consulting editor at Tricycle. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Harper's, the New Yorker, New Republic, Allure, Outside, Vogue, Tin House, Antioch Review, and Creative Nonfiction. Tisdale is currently training as a priest at Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon.