Bhikkhu Analayo spent many years poring through the voluminous discourses of the Pali canon, trying to unravel an enduring mystery. What, he wondered, was the Buddha’s true view on the ordination of female monastics, or bhikkhunis?
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By Michael Haederle
The weathered bronze statue of Shinran Shonin, the thirteenth-century Japanese religious reformer, gazes watchfully across Riverside Drive toward the Hudson River, greeting visitors arriving for Sunday-morning services at Manhattan’s New York Buddhist Church. Taking their seats in rows of chairs, they will spend the next hour chanting together in Japanese, singing Western-style hymns in English accompanied by piano or organ, listening to a dharma talk, and lining up to offer a pinch of powdered incense at the altar.
The last thing he wanted to do was speak English.
Shohaku Okumura had studied Buddhism and the thirteenth-century writings of Eihei Dogen at Tokyo’s Komazawa University, then taken priest’s vows and entered training at Antaiji, a Soto Zen temple in Kyoto headed by his late teacher, Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. But because many Americans and Europeans were studying there, Uchiyama urged him to study English. When Uchiyama retired in 1975, he asked Okumura and two brother monks to move to the hills of western Massachusetts to help build a new Zen center.