101 Zen Stories: If You Love, Love Openly

Mahapajapati Gotami- the first Buddhist Nun

Eshun (義順, 1362-ca. 1430) was a nun and the younger sister of Ryoan Emyo– the founder of the Saijoji temple. Despite being beautiful, she never married and was resolute in her pursuit of living a pure life.

Soon after the inception of Saijoji temple in 1394, Eshun asked Ryoan to ordain her. He declined the request on the basis that her presence would corrupt the monks of the temple. Determined to convince her brother, she decided to dress in plain clothes and shave her head. She even bruised her face with a hot poker so as to diminish her beauty. As a result, Ryoan gave in and ordained Eshun.

Even with her scarred face, she was irresistible. Several monks of the temple secretly fell in love with her. Insisting upon a private meeting, one of them wrote her a love letter. She did not reply.

After the conclusion of the master’s lecture the following day, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written her the secret letter, she said: ‘If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.’

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