This landmark presentation at last makes heard the centuries of voices of Zen’s women.  Through exploring the teachings and history of Zen’s female ancestors, from the time of the Buddha to ancient and modern female masters in China, Korea, and Japan, Grace Schireson offers us a view of a more balanced Dharma practice.

Reviews of the book


From Miriam Levering’s Forward: “You could not find a more useful or more inspiring book on this subject…What is exceptionally rich about this book is the way in which Grace brings together her psychological insights into women’s motivation and circumstances, most especially the obstacles women face and the ones they create, on the one hand, and on the other her insights from her experience as a Zen student and teacher.”

Lewis Richmond, Zen Teacher and author of Work as a Spiritual Practice: “Men and women alike will weep to read these stories of generations of Zen women who risked everything—sometimes even their lives–to study the Dharma. In Buddhist iconography, wisdom (Prajna-Paramita) is a woman, and after reading this groundbreaking, closely researched, and deeply felt treatise I would say that courage is a woman too. This book is required reading not just for Buddhists but for truth seekers of every faith.”

Norman Fisher, poet and Zen priest, and author of Sailing Home: “The product of more than ten years of research and reflection, Zen Women uncovers the long history of women practicing Buddhism, and reflects deeply on that history in the light of contemporary psychology and religious practice. Since full inclusion of women is the single most revolutionary development in religion for our time, this book is crucial for anyone who wants to understand contemporary spiritual practice. Grace Schireson has here given us her mind, her heart, her wisdom, and a lifetime of passionate experience.”

Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D., author of The Self-Esteem Trap: “If you have struggled with the Gender Koan — Does gender matter? — in any aspect of your life or community, this lovely book is for you. Grace Schireson cracks open the puzzle of gender in ways that will warm your heart and change your perception. Not only does she give us the history of gender in Zen, but she guides us through our tendencies to say “this” or “that” about what it means to be female or male. Her views are subtle and wise and her style is elegant. I strongly recommend this book to all who travel the path of the Dharma in the twenty-first century.”

Sojun Mel Weitsman, Abbot of Berkeley Zen Center: “This book is the result of many years of personal experience and and research in a field that has until now been entirely overlooked. It is a tribute to Schireson’s unflagging determination to bring forth and honor these women who’s contributions have been largely ignored over the entire history of Zen. She has made these pages come alive with their stories that have the power to inspire both women and men with acknowledgment and acceptance of their equality that has been going on in the West for the past sixty years.”

Pat Enkyo O’Hara, abbess of the Village Zendo: “This book changes everything! Zen Women is about all of us. It resets the common understanding of Zen history with eye opening stories. A must-read.”

Wendy Egyoku Nakao, abbess of the Zen Center of Los Angeles: “With passion and verve, this inspiring work is a significant step toward filling the gaping holes in Buddhist literature in women’s practice. Read it, laugh,and weep – and feel empowered.”

Rubin L. F. Habito, author of Living Zen, Loving God: “Fascinating and delightful. This book will overturn many long-held stereotypes about Zen.”