Paula Arai to Teach Topics in Buddhist Women: Zen

Gesshin Claire Greenwood  |  February 11, 2024

We are excited to announce that Dr. Paula Arai will be offering a class on women in Zen next fall on Tuesdays from 2:10pm-5pm, beginning the first week of September and running through December 15, 2024. The full title is Topics in Buddhist Women: Zen (HRHS-4560). Everyone, including auditors and special students, are encouraged to enroll. Women, people of color and LGBTQ+ folks are strongly encouraged to join. Cost for auditors is $850.

In exploring a range of historical and cultural lenses through which to examine Buddhist women, this course aims to expand our perspectives and increase our flexibility in interpreting events and texts. It will broaden the range of worldview assumptions regarding how cosmological orientations undergird aims in life; drive the practices engaged to reach those aims; and frame the nature of self in a range of historical and cultural contexts. Therefore, a more specific goal for the course is to try and see the world through the eyes of various people in sundry Buddhist contexts.

Questions posed in the class include: Who is understood to have agency? In what contexts? In what ways? What is the concept of practice? What is the concept of enlightenment? What is the relationship between practice and enlightenment?

Reading material will be broad and diverse, ranging from Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War by Sister Chan Khong, to essays on medieval Buddhist nun convents, to Zen koans for facing climate change.

In the video below, Dr. Arai chats with Communications director Rev. Gesshin Greenwood about the importance of studying women in Buddhism.

 To register for this class as an auditor, email our registrar Helen Tagawa at