Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Buddhist Studies | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Aoyama Rōshi’s legacy and her place in the Buddhist world are unique. Situated within a notably patriarchal tradition, she has been a leader in the struggle for gender parity in contemporary Japan. Due to her unflagging efforts, nuns in the Sōtō Zen tradition have now achieved unprecedented visibility and independence. According to religious studies scholar Paula Arai, the leading contemporary scholar of Sōtō Zen laywomen and nuns, “the nuns now control their own religious training, enjoy educational and ceremonial rights, and have ... appropriate titles and religious robes” (Arai 1999, 74). Today, at Aichi Senmon Nisōdō, Aoyama Rōshi not only directs the leading training program for Zen nuns in Japan, but also conducts regular classes and meditation programs for laypeople. Every Sunday, she opens the monastery to the public and delivers two talks, along with sessions of zazen, formal oriyoki meals, and, periodically, tea meditation (chazen) (Arai 1990, 38). By training a generation of highly qualified nuns and dedicated female teachers from Japan and around the world, she has ensured the continuity of a monastic lineage that was believed to be in precipitous decline. As a lineage holder, she epitomizes three generations of twentieth-century female Zen practitioners who have valiantly embodied, and thereby preserved, the tradition.


Table of Contents

Foreward | i

Leveraging Notability | v

Mae Eleanor Frey | 1

Janet McKenzie |17

Miranda E. Shaw | 41

Beatriz Melano | 61

Bertha Mae Lillenas | 79

Yvonne V. Delk | 97

Ida Weis Friend | 123

Shundō Aoyama Rōshi | 141

Margaret Peoples Shirer | 163

Ellen Margaret Leonard, CSJ | 179

Contributors | 209


Original Publication Information:

"Nurturing the Seeds of Zen: The Life and Legacy of Shundo Aoyama Rōshi." In C. Hartung (Ed.), Claiming Notability for Women Activists in Religion. New York: Alta, 2020, pp. 179-199.