Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Liberal Studies

First Advisor's Name

Lesley A. Northup

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kiriake Xerohemona

Third Advisor's Name

Laurie Shrage


Zen, Soto, women, ritual, Americanization, Dogen, feminine, practice, rituals, American

Date of Defense



The purpose of this thesis was to explore the history and rituals of Japanese Soto Zen nuns and American Soto Zen ordained women in order to examine the motivations behind each group’s practices and distinguish the differences in the intent and practice of American Soto women’s rituals, specifically their reactions to the influence of feminism, and the effects of American syncretization in order to identify if a schism or a continuation is occurring within the Soto Zen tradition. Along with a survey of published research, interviews were conducted with two scholars and prominent ordained Soto practitioners–eight female and three male. Findings suggest that while maintaining strict adherence to specific orthodox rituals, American Soto women also reinterpret Soto traditions and adapt new practices to address the needs of American women’s practice. Findings further indicate the effects of American syncretization in nurturing a legitimate albeit uniquely American expression of Soto Zen.