Martine Batchelor and Son'gyong Sunim
A rare and vivid narrative of a Buddhist nun's training and spiritual awakening.
"Martine Batchelor's account of her ten years of study in various monastic institutions
throughout Korea, many of them served under the most eminent teachers
of her day, makes for fascinating reading. . . . It is a splendid spiritual memoir.
Those of us who have profited from Ms. Batchelor's earlier studies will now be
inspired by seeing how her personal journey unfolded. It is a story she tells with
grace and good humor."
Jan Willis, author of Dreaming Me: An African American
"[The] edited translation of Son'gyong Sunim's autobiography, which was dictated
to Ms. Batchelor between 1980 and 1982, is an absolute treasure and provides
extremely valuable first-hand information on the life of Korean nuns during the
Japanese occupation period and the 'purification movement' that followed. The
tales of her training under such renowned, almost legendary, teachers as
Man'gong, Hanam, Kobong, and Kyongbong sunims are utterly fascinating. . . .
Nothing like this has ever before appeared in a Western language."
Robert Buswell, author of The Zen Monastic Experience
In this engagingly written account, Martine Batchelor relays the challenges a new
ordinand faces in adapting to Buddhist monastic life: the spicy food, the rigorous
daily schedule, the distinctive clothes and undergarments, and the cultural misunderstandings
inevitable between a French woman and her Korean colleagues.
She reveals as well the genuine pleasures that derive from solitude, meditative
training, and communion with the deeply religiouswhom the Buddhists call
Batchelor has also recorded the oral history/autobiography of her teacher, the
eminent nun Son'gyong Sunim, leader of the Zen meditation hall at Naewonsa. It
is a profoundly moving, often light-hearted story that offers insight into the challenges
facing a woman on the path to enlightenment at the beginning of the twentieth
century. Original English translations of eleven of Son'gyong Sunim's poems
on Buddhist themes make a graceful and thought-provoking coda to the two
Western readers only familiar with Buddhist ideas of female inferiority will be
surprised by the degree of spiritual equality and authority enjoyed by nuns in
Korea. While American writings on Buddhism increasingly emphasize the therapeutic,
self-help, and comforting aspects of Buddhist thought, Batchelor's text offers
a bracing and timely reminder of the strict discipline required in traditional
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Martine Batchelor is the author of several books, including The Path of Compassion, Meditation for Life, and Principles of Zen. She lives in France.
5 x 8, 136 pages