Buddha Dharma & Why I Am Keeping My Hair. ~ Maggie Marie Genthner

Via Maggie Marie Genthner
on Nov 6, 2013
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hair cut

In my early 20’s, I took Bodhisattva vows with my dad at Furnace Mountain.

I was given a dharma name Satya Bama (sanskrit) or Myo Shen (Korean). It means bright truth, which I suppose is a little weird because apart from yoga postures, I don’t really study sanskrit or Korean. There was a certain amount of cultural appropriation to be viewed.

Cultural appropriation is basically the taking on of other culture’s customs, religions, etc. for our own purpose without an even give and take.

This happens all the time. 

From New Age, pseudo Native American spirituality to Caucasian monks talking with fragmented English,  it has become ok to play dress up in whatever cultural customs that strike our fancy. This is fine for short periods of time and if done with innocence.

I, however, think that there is a time and place where you have to drop it all and make your own customs, rituals, myths, beliefs and meanings.

I sat with one of my favorite Zen Masters, the late Daido Lori, in Boulder, Colorado. He talked about practice as a weaving of one’s own ritual and experience into something that brings clarity and peace.

His story was of a young man who was in conflict with his father. The young man desperately wanted to share his blossoming zazen practice and heal a wound, but the man’s father had passed.

It was hard to find peace because the worlds seemed so far apart.

Daido Lori asked him what his father liked to do. The young man replied that he drank. Daido Lori suggested that he buy two beers, sit at his altar, place one beer on the altar and begin a conversation with his deceased father.

I think there is a point when spiritual beliefs and practice need to start being inclusive vs. exclusive. This is an example of that merging.

How can we relate to everyone and share our practice in a way that meets them where they are?

So what does this have to do with the title Buddha Dharma and My Hair?

Recently, I have been looking at becoming a Buddhist Nun. I feel like it is part of my familial lineage to have this kind of seeking in my life. My Dad is a Zen teacher and my mom is a practitioner. I was born into this nest of Buddhahood.

While this may be too much information for you, I am going to share anyway. I was conceived at a Zen meditation retreat on a horse farm in Kentucky.

The biggest restriction I have in the process of this research is:

1) Where are all the strong and vibrant female Buddhist leaders?

2) What does shaving my head have anything to do with understanding my Buddha nature, i.e. the true nature of self (all of ourselves).

So many centers want you to shave your head, and I don’t have anything against women who want to do this. I, however, feel like it is completely unnecessary to show devotion to a practice. Buddha had a purpose when he cut off the privilege of his hair; it was something of personal significance.

 I like my hair. It is a symbol of femininity. Why would I want to cut that off?

 While I know this is going to trigger some people, I am going to say that it’s an outdated ritual that has nothing to do with enlightenment. It is more about submission and control.

If I would do that, then I suppose I would also do other things I am told to do. Am I right?

 No thanks. 

While I think we must have real reverence for the teachers who are willing to open their hearts wide to the masses and share spiritual practices and wisdom traditions, I am ultimately looking for a radical shift in these ancient wisdom traditions as they merge with the west. I am looking for teachers to stop making it about preferences, and rigid paths.

The Dalai Lama himself recently said in a talk, “Even I have to be non-attached to Buddhism.”

It is not working. It is creating more separation and confusion when so many hearts could be opened by these wisdom practices.

I think the worthiness of receiving life-changing teachings has more to do with a sincere heart, a good state of mind, and less to do with our willingness to sacrifice and live outside of our cultural scope. If it feels good and we feel called, that is another story, but it never makes one better because we are willing to shave our head and wear monk robes.

I have resolved to be a nun in the world—only in the sense that I bring light to places, honor my reverence to practice and to being kind to myself and others—not allowing my mind to be controlled, being able to think for myself, and always listening to my heart.


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Assistant Ed. Kerrie Shebiel/Ed. Bryonie Wise


About Maggie Marie Genthner

Maggie Marie Genthner has been a traveling yoga teacher for the last six years. Her favorite place  to teach was Bali, Indonesia, where she fell in love with the jungle and scooters. In her free time, Maggie Marie hula hoops, walks her dog, makes meals for her friends and envisions a world that she want to bring children into. She is also a labor Doula and Life Coach. Check out her website for more information.


6 Responses to “Buddha Dharma & Why I Am Keeping My Hair. ~ Maggie Marie Genthner”

  1. Temple says:

    Thank you for sharing 🙂 You might like to check this out ~ http://www.balancedview.org ~ <3

  2. Missus Welch says:

    I agree that it's unnecessary. If you don't want to do it, don't do it!
    As sole minister of our local organization and a kind of Buddhist missionary (except for the preaching part) in a part of the world where Buddhists are rare – rural Texas – I keep my hair very short just so I can be identified. (I also like the total lack of fuss except for a quarterly haircut given to myself by myself with home clippers and a #3 comb.) When called for, I wear the kesa and robes, just so people can see what they look like. What I hope people see and remember, appearances aside, is my kindness. That's what matters.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    Being a nun means different things to you and being an actual nun. Nuns in the real sense take vows which must be kept, as in the school of Ngagyur Nyingma. In order to be a nun one must maintain samaya to whom they have received vows and samaya to your self. Without adhering to maintaining the vows you are not a nun. If you like the idea of being a nun without the vows then fine but then you have no nun's vows. Being a female Buddhist practitioner does not require you to be a nun even at the highest levels of teaching and practice. Enlightenment is not only for nuns and monks. On the contrary, in the school of Ngagyur Nyingma the majority of practitioners who have liberated from samsara were/are lay practitioners,so it is said.

  4. Padma Kadag says:

    Oh…also…both the men and women kept their hair uncut…when a vow was taken to not cut their hair.

  5. Suzie says:

    My question is this: can you keep your “femininity” without having an attachment to your hair, or does femininity = hair? Perhaps it’s not just letting go of something personally significant, but finding freedom in saying that what is of personal significance is not tied to one’s hair? I support your right to keep your hair if that is what you choose—of course! But I’m curious as to what "hair" really means to you, and what it would really trigger in you if you cut it off. You're amazing, hair or no hair!

  6. Maureen says:

    depends on the tradition, but here's a Tibetan Buddhist view that may be beneficial.. shaving your head has nothing to do with Buddha Nature though, lay people have Buddha Nature too!! http://www.thubtenchodron.org/BuddhistNunsMonasti
    and lots of great women Buddhist "leaders' – Tenzin Palmo, Thubten Chodron, Pema Chodron, Robina Courtin, Sharon Salzberg, Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Geshe Kelsang Wangmo