Venerable Myokyo-ni. OBITUARY
the Gardian Newspaper.
Rinzai Zen Buddhist nun, the Venerable Myokyo-ni, died aged 86
29 2007, was head of London's
Zen Centre. Head
of London's Zen Centre and a
pioneer of Buddhist practice in the west, she was a formidable
presence in the British Buddhist world.
Schloegl, in Leitersdorf, Austria, she took a PhD in physical
sciences at Graz University. She came to Britain in 1950 as
a lecturer in mineralogy at Imperial College, London, and soon
after joined the Buddhist
Schloegl enrolled in the society's Zen class led by the judge,
Christmas Humphreys QC, who had founded the society in 1924.
His teaching was characterised by enthusiasm and intellectual
excitement rather than lengthy periods of meditation.
Schloegl went to Japan and trained at Daitokuji monastery, Kyoto,
for 12 years, making her part of the first generation of westerners
to undertake intensive Zen training in Japan. Founded in 1319,
Daitokuji is the head training monastery of a subsect of the
Rinzai school of Japanese Zen. Its practice included intensive
zazen (sitting meditation), contemplation of koans, and strict
adherence to monastic forms. Others who underwent such training
have written graphic accounts of its rigours - sitting on the
shins all day till they vomited, beatings for minuscule infractions
- but Schloegl was reticent about passing on her experiences.
Her path in negotiating monastery life may have been eased by
studying with Ruth Fuller Sasaki, an American woman who was
already accepted as a Zen priest and ran a training temple for
foreigners within Daitokuji.
In 1966 Schloegl returned to England for nine months and started
a zazen group at the Buddhist Society, which continued until
she returned permanently in 1972. Once she was back in London,
she lived as a lay woman, and stayed at Humphreys's St John's
Wood house, leading classes there and at the Buddhist Society.
the group was formed into the Zen Centre and when Humphreys
died in 1983 he bequeathed his house to the centre. It was eventually
inaugurated as Shobo-an, Hermitage of the True Dharma, and it
served as the centre's main administrative location and training
activities at the Buddhist Society then came under Schloegl's
direction and a group of her students assumed a dominant role
in the society's affairs. (Fairlight, a second training temple
near Luton opened in 1996 and she lived there from 2002.)
22 1984, Schloegl was ordained at a ceremony conducted by Soko
Morinaga Roshi, head monk during her time at Daitokuji, who
gave her a monastic name. Myokyo, meaning "mirror of the
subtle", was the name he had previously given her in Japan,
while "ni" means "nun".
wrote several books that describe Zen practice in a straightforward
way, and she translated from Chinese a key text, The Zen Teaching
of Rinzaiby by Lin Ji, the school's founder.
teaching was very different from that of Humphreys she agreed
with him on the need to understand the basics of Buddhist teaching
before embarking on Zen; and like Humphreys she stressed that
Zen was part of Buddhism, as all schools were true to the same
principles: "Many schools; one way."
trip to Japan she had undergone Jungian analysis, and she spoke
of Buddhist practice as a means to the transformation of the
psyche and the aspiration of the heart towards wholeness and
compassion (without losing sight of "the shadow").
the traditions she had encountered at Daitokuji, Myokyo-ni was
strict with her students, saying: "[The hardships] are
there to quell the fires within us." Some students took
to this regime and a band were loyal to her over many years,
a number becoming monks and nuns. Others balked at her approach,
finding it overbearing.
who knew Myokyo-ni encountered her strength of character - sometimes
fiercely insightful, sometimes deeply compassionate. Especially
in dokusan, the formal interviews between student and master
that can be occasions for direct encounter, she could embody
an uncannily powerful presence.
Myokyo-ni (Irmgard Schloegl), Zen Buddhist teacher, born January
29 1921; died March 29 2007.