Faith arises from mystery like the peppermints from the bottom of your grandma’s handbag.
Go straightaway and read this newest story of mine, which isn’t my story at all, but theirs retold.
Here’s what got me there. Some years ago the service liturgy at my Zen Center was appended so that when we recite the names of all the male enlightened masters in my Zen lineage (81 generations and counting) we chant the following dedication at the very end:
And to all our female ancestors whose names have been lost or forgotten.
Because, as a matter of housekeeping, we have lost or forgotten their names. That’s what can happen in patriarchal institutions of all kinds, which is what all kinds of institutions are. The women are no less integral or involved in keeping house, their names are simply lost or forgotten. Ahem.
When we first started to chant this invocation, at my teacher’s insistence by the way, I heard it as I suspect my own daughter hears the invocations I recite:
Then one day I started listening to the words. All. Our. Female. Ancestors.
What immediately came to mind was just that. All. Our. Female. Ancestors. The ones whose names I know and the ones whose names I don’t. Like my Grandma Tate or my Grandma Patschke, whose own given names I scarcely knew. Was it Irma or Erma? Cordelia or Cornelia? Alverno or Alvina? Heddie or Hattie? Did I know them at all when I knew them? Did I know anything at all of their lives of love and loss, betrayal and forgiveness, cynicism and faith? Do I know them yet?
Lately I’ve been drawn to the voices of women, voices unsung and voices unheard. I want to listen. I want everyone to listen to women of found faith and women of lost faith. Women of faith forsaken and faith restored. That’s what drew me to this story, her story, that I posted some months ago. That’s what drew me to this story, their stories, the one that runs today. Please read this one and share it, sing it, heal it, love it, as only we can. We have all waited so long for the listening.
And if you wonder or worry why I would place any article of mine in a magazine entitled Killing the Buddha (interestingly enough, it is based on a Zen teaching), the answers are easy. First, these open-eyed editors heard the deep timbre of an ancestral song and asked to broadcast it. Second, in a world of misguided institutions and ideologies, eradicating the false altar of a misunderstood and misappropriated Asian male deity is nothing other than the ultimate kindness. Like when grandma plumbed the recesses of her Sunday purse to proffer a peppermint candy, soothing your cough during a horrendously long sermon in the steam of a mid-summer Sunday in Central Texas. A miracle, I tell you.
That a group of wild-eyed religious iconoclasts would respond to this truth with such immediacy and sensitivity is evidence of the bottomless, benevolent mystery of God’s handbag. All my grandmothers have carried the very same bag. Whether you know it or not, so do you. From it, miracles come.