The Zen Priestess and the Snake
The Zen Priestess and the Snake: A Woman’s Path of Transformation and Healing Through Rediscovery of the Great Mother Tradition
Roshi Ilia Shinko Perez
8 x 10, 172 pages, illustrated / Available June 2020
The Zen Priestess and the Snake is the powerful true story of a woman inspired by her visions of the Sacred Feminine. Her experiences of encountering the Mother Goddess gave her the strength to overcome the challenges she faced as a woman in the Zen hierarchy, until finally she overcame patriarchal barriers to find her true home as an American Zen Master.
Roshi Shinko steps outside the conventions of traditional Zen Buddhist books to share her personal journey from her colourful childhood in Puerto Rico through her upbringing in Fascist Spain to her role as co-founder and Abbess of the Maitreya Abbey retreat center in Colorado. She also shares her research and her spiritual insights and practices, inviting the reader to consider an awakened feminine viewpoint on Zen in America. Shinko makes a case for bringing the wisdom of the Sacred Feminine back into Buddhism and leads us through centuries-old practices derived from the Mother Goddess tradition, teaching us how to incorporate these practices into contemporary spiritual life.
The Zen Priestess and the Snake appeals to all genders and faiths, including those who identify as spiritual but not religious. In these turbulent times, it shows how the denial of the Sacred Feminine within religious systems has not only oppressed women and minorities, but also created a disconnected society that exploits Mother Earth, leading to our current climate crisis.
What others are saying about the book
The Zen Priestess and the Snake is the journey of a deeply spiritual woman through the rigors of patriarchal Zen training, to the discovery and honoring of the sacred feminine. I trust her voice, she is genuine and this is an important book. Lama Tsultrim Allione, author of Women of Wisdom, Feeding Your Demons, and Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine
What happens when the sacred feminine erupts within a woman who is practicing in Zen’s patriarchal lineages, expressed especially through its male-centered stories, leaders, and institutionalized forms that have long oppressed the feminine? In this compelling book, Roshi Shinko Perez recounts her irresistible spiritual journey as the sacred serpent of The Great Mother uncoils itself in the inimical terrain of the Zen patriarchy to find its full expression. With the keen eye of an archaeologist, Roshi Shinko recounts the trauma of personal and collective oppression of the feminine. Her spiritual journey gives rise to The Great Heart Way for integrating emotional energies and, in this book, she sets forth the Goddess Practices as a skillful means for bringing the sacred feminine home. This book is a must read for all those who long for the sacred feminine, for those who don’t know that they are longing, and for those who seek full integration of The Great Mother within themselves for the benefit of all beings and the Earth. Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Abbot Emeritus Zen Center of Los Angeles and co-author of The Book of Householder Koans
Roshi Ilia Shinko Perez is Western Zen’s Lady of Light, revealing the shadows we Zen practitioners still carry from old patriarchal traditions. Using her own life experience as teacher, she reminds us to honor the feminine, revive our connection with the Earth, celebrate rather than dismiss our intuitions and emotions, and choose the Path of Heart over the Path of the Samurai. Roshi Eve Myonen Marko, co-author of The Book of Householder Koans
At a time of global upheaval and collective suffering, this book is a cup brimming with peaceful power. Roshi Shinko excavates and lifts up the hidden feminine wisdom jewels in her beloved Buddhist tradition, skillfully melding the dharma with ancient goddess teachings and setting it all in the matrix of her own richly told story of growing up in Puerto Rico as a girl on fire with the gifts and challenges of an awakened heart. Mirabai Starr, author of Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss & Transformation and Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce & Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics
This lively and valuable book, The Zen Priestess and the Snake, is essential reading for those who wish to enter the secret world of the divine feminine – where we are served a lush banquet of spiritual training from Mother Mary, The Zen Tea Ladies, Tibetan Dakinis, and the ancient Goddesses of Mesopotamia. We meet these amazing female spiritual teachers through their intimate relationships with the author, Zen Roshi Shinko Perez. Shinko encountered these spirit guides while galloping her mare along the ocean, painting in full color, and through practicing Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. We not only travel with her and the unearthed goddesses of archaeology and Buddhism, but we are offered practices to join these beings and heal ourselves in the vast sky of awakening. Grace Schireson, author of Zen Women: Beyond tea ladies, iron maidens and macho masters and Naked in the Zendo
For Zen to become the enlightening and healing tradition that we so urgently need today, it must outgrow its patriarchal roots and embrace the sacred feminine. Shinko Roshi is one of the pioneers showing us the way. A deep bow to her and this book, which blazes a new trail. David Loy, author of Ecodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis
Shinko Roshi’s intimate memoir movingly traces her recovery of the Sacred Feminine in her life through Zen practice, artistic expression, and shamanic teachings from old Tibet. Against the backdrop of her Puerto Rican roots, her Spanish childhood, and her adult American journey, she resolves to heal the damaging effects of patriarchy by teaching goddess practices for American Buddhism. Judith Simmer-Brown, author of Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism
…a fascinating book, a powerful perspective on the zen and the feminine. Roshi Joan Halifax, Abbot Upaya Zen Center and author of Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet
In The Zen Priestess and the Snake, Zen teacher Shinko Perez – abbess of Maitreya Abbey in Colorado – tells the story of her discovery of the Divine Feminine in her life and describes the way in which she helps others cultivate that awareness. The biographical portion of the book is a fascinating tale which also demonstrates the limitations of some aspects of traditional Zen training. As she writes, the majority of the teachers with whom she studied “had, metaphorically speaking, a guidebook that was passed down from male to male. Women’s experiences and insights were absent from this book.” The Zen Priestess and the Snake corrects that imbalance. Richard Bryan McDaniel, author of The Story of Zen
One of the most passionate and tender explorations of the divine feminine that I have ever read. Essential reading for all those who love the Mother and believe as the Dalai Lama that the world will be saved by awakened women. Buy this fierce and tender beautifully written book and learn from its hard earned luminous wisdom. Andrew Harvey, author of The Return of the Mother
About the Author
Roshi Ilia Shinko Perez is the Abbess of Maitreya Abbey in Berthoud, Colorado and co-director of Great Mountain Zen Center. She received Dharma Transmission in the White Plum Lineage from Roshi Gerry Shishin Wick in 2004 and the Seal of Approval (Inka) in 2015 from Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao Abbot Emeritus of Zen Center of Los Angeles. She has led numerous retreats in both the United States and in Spain and has guided many students in their Zen studies.
Roshi Shinko pursued her Zen training while raising two sons and running her family import business. She holds a Master’s Degree in archeology from the Universidad Autonoma of Madrid, Spain, where she grew up. She was a professor of Spanish Literature at Caribbean University College, Puerto Rico, for seven years, has taught Zen Buddhism at Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado, and is co-author of The Great Heart Way: How To Heal Your Life and Find Self-Fulfillment.
A devoted animal lover and horse rider, Roshi Shinko is also an artist, a writer, a gardener, an environmental activist and an animal rescuer. Her art works including her visions of the Sacred Goddess illustrate this book.