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 What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?

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Lise
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PostSubject: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Mon May 24, 2010 12:08 pm

Does anyone have experience with this? Is there a recognized end to the relationship, some type of formal acknowledgement, or is it less structured than that? I've been wondering if disciples have a chance to meet with the master, tie up loose ends, say goodbye?
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Mon May 24, 2010 8:28 pm

I expect that Eko would have met with the monks he ordained prior to his announcement of departure. And I would guess that the Senior Council has been very careful to further clarify the situation. It is not uncommon in Buddhism for a monk to have as many as three masters: ordination, training as a junior monk, and transmission. However, I don't know what the OBC will suggest or require in terms of a formal relationship with a new teacher.
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Tue May 25, 2010 9:11 am

It sounds like a monastic disciple might have the support of other masters, then. That's interesting -- I didn't know there could be more than one.

I wonder about lay disciples. I imagine there would be some advance notice to them also -- hope so. I never got to the point of having a master myself. I have issues around authority and wasn't sure I could open up fully to somebody, trust completely, take their direction without reservation. I thought then, and still do, that people risk a lot in making that kind of a connection with a teacher. I'm not saying it isn't worth the risk or that there aren't great rewards, when it works out. But nobody says much about the master terminating the connection, voluntarily or otherwise -- I would think it's as devastating as a counselor terminating someone's therapy or some other beloved or respected figure stepping away from a relationship. I hope the people closest to this are getting support.

I was pretty good friends at one time with one the monks before she went into the Abbey. As she went from visitor to lay resident to postulant to ordained (in a very short time), she seemed very caught up in hero worship of the Abbot, who was her master. She said once that if it weren't for him she probably wouldn't stay at Shasta Abbey. I worried back then that if she lost the connection to this charismatic figure, would she regret having given up so much to follow him -- I hope she's doing ok.
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Wed May 26, 2010 11:16 pm

Lise, as always, your thoughts and questions just seem to cut through to the heart of the matter!

I increasingly feel that the central, too often missed principle of spirtitual practice, is (once again, with apologies!) the reality of paradox--an issue that has two equally important aspects that appear to be contradictory.

The master/ disciple relationship is, by nature, the very essence and manifestation of paradox.

On one hand, the disciple must be willing to fully accept and consider the teaching of the master. On the other hand, the entire purpose of the relationship is to help the disciple recognise the true master--within the depths of her or his own Awareness itself.

And yet another related paradox: the importance of unconditional acceptance of another (in this case, the Master--but ultimately all beings)--while simultaneously trusting in the integrity of one's own perception of what is right and true.

The purpose of a true Master is to facilitate this recognition. Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett never once failed to do this for me--perhaps because I was (almost) always willing to simultaneously see both her enlightenment and her shortcomings--without seeing a contradiction.

I believe it is the duty of the disciple, as an expression of gratitude (again paradoxically) to preserve the master's teaching--without passing on her or his shortcomings.
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Thu May 27, 2010 12:24 am

(Oops--just recognized a few points you raised that I failed to address. What follows are only my own opinions. What is important (for all of us) is the truth we discern through our own experience.)

Always trust your own reservations--they are the prerequisite for trusting (your own) insight itself.

Masters, counselors, friends, and family, always terminate the connection in some sense--either by dying or by walking away. And yet, the essence of the connection (I would suggest) always remains.

I hope and trust that your friend is doing well. When the proximate master departs, the (next) true master appears.
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Thu May 27, 2010 12:48 pm

I see what you're saying -- it's not like the disciples would expect that even their relationship with a master is safe from impermanence. Of course, knowing something in the abstract is not the same as living it.

Another thought is buzzing -- kind of a tangent. I remember the monks saying, about the community, "we're like a family". I'm not sure I agree. In the family models I've seen or experienced (healthy ones), people have latitude to make decisions about their lives that might not match up with the family's hopes and objectives, but they remain a part of the family, even if their decisions turn out badly. With the Shasta community, my impression is that people are "family" up until their decisions run counter to what the group would have them do. Since starting this forum I've heard from a couple of former monks who had this in common: they were cut off completely after going back to lay life, even though they left in an orderly way, without drama or breaking rules. They were told to stay in touch, but no one on the inside kept contact with them. If true, this seems to be a precarious and unreliable notion of family --

Sorry for the ramble -- sometimes I use this forum to think aloud (or through keys tapping). I hope Rev. Eko can be in touch if he wants to be.


Last edited by Lise on Thu May 27, 2010 3:53 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : fix typo)
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Sun May 30, 2010 7:43 pm

Lise, I agree with your take on family. In your quote of the comment, "we're like a family", the emphasis would have to be on the word like! For the larger Buddhist Sangha, spiritual practice and the openness that comes with it, is the shared link. This remains true with the Abbey and the other OBC communities--but with the additional sharing of the institutional culture that traces back to RM Jiyu-Kennett's teaching. One of her fears was that monks who left the Order would spread negative criticism and foster doubt in others--and so she tended to discourage both monks and lay members from having contact with them. I think that this position, like a number of her fears and beliefs, have become part of the "institutional culture". (This would confirm observations that you've made in other comments you have posted on this issue.)

However, it seems to me that fear-based institutional policy leads to a kind of collective constriction and a mental shutting down, that ultimately back-fires. Rather than shielding others from doubt, I think that it actually serves to foster doubt. This would be serious enough for any community or institution engaged in an intentionally beneficial activity. For a religious institution engaged in spiritual teaching and practice, the stark contrast between the ever increasing openess and insight experienced within Awareness itself--and an institutional culture of fear-based constriction--is a contradiction that becomes devastating.

Once again (I've tried to say this in various ways in other posts), I think that by recognizing not just dysfunction, but the underlying dynamic itself, it becomes possible to transform the fear, and restore the well-rounded paradox of original teaching that gets lost whenever it is used to support a one-sided, dualistic, institutional position.
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:53 pm

Kozan wrote:


However, it seems to me that fear-based institutional policy leads to a kind of collective constriction and a mental shutting down, that ultimately back-fires. Rather than shielding others from doubt, I think that it actually serves to foster doubt.

This is true. To me, secretive or taboo topics give the impression someone is being wronged, otherwise, the facts ought to be share-able; they should stand up to scrutiny. I never got far with questioning. I wasn't able to "just trust" on every issue, which was the monks' all-purpose answer. I've never handled the rest of my life that way and wouldn't choose to do so here either.

I'm starting to get the importance of recognizing the institutional dynamic -- the fear-based influence you've mentioned -- so it can be named and examined. Makes me glad once more this is an open forum, where the OBC might see this and start giving it some thought. You can bet these kind of comments will never be dropped into the guesthouse Suggestion Box --
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:03 pm

Yes--my hope as well!
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:58 pm

Lise and Kozan, You are being very polite and measured in your analysis of the OBC. I must admit, at this point, that it was Peggy Kennett that led me back to my spiritual path, but that I became increasingly disturbed with the OBC Institution and aspects of Peggy's personality that are parroted by some monks. A small example of this would be how the monks always say "Hello, Friend!" This is refered to as "Abbey Speak" by some.
On another point, I question whether the OBC is really a good teaching vehicle for Soto Zen. I don't think I ever really learned how to meditate until I began going outside the OBC way of teaching meditation. All the monks ever did was to parrot Peggy rather than trying to explain it in various different ways and the checking the effectiveness of the teaching as is done in most teaching.
I think that OBC needs to drop all it's pretences that it holds the truth and take up the Korean Zen attitude of "Don't know". They need to start looking at other American Zen Institutions. They also might benefit from getting out of the Monastery, getting jobs and seeing how Zen applies to
life as it really is, then they can teach with real authority.
I remember once seeking the advice of a monk on how a Buddhist deals with people in the work place that deliberately undermine you in order to get your job. The monk was just blank faced and had no answer.
This seemed to be the standard response when I needed some concrete advice, a blank face, unable to even understand real life after raking leaves at Mount Shasta for 20 years, a very mellow monk with no real life experience.
Please excuse me if I sound strident in my comments, but I have had extensive experience with 2 religions and am very impatient with clergy.

John
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PostSubject: Re: What happens to the master/disciple relationship when a master leaves?   Thu Jun 03, 2010 8:37 pm

John, your question makes me think of a comment I might have gotten from one of my favorite monks (Yes I had favorites. Guilty as charged.) He wouldn't have given a direct answer either -- you know they want people to figure it out themselves. He might have said "well as a Buddhist, how should you deal with people in the workplace who DON'T undermine you in order to get your job?" The point being, does there need to be a difference? You can still take action to fix the problem (talk with your manager or HR, etc.), but that doesn't mean you must deal with the offending person in an un-Buddhist or different way, or let the situation knock you off-center.

I understood that most of the monks, at least in Shasta, did have careers and other worldly experience before going in. And life inside a monastery is still "real life", from which they can draw analogies to the secular world -- they have jobs too and have to get along with peers, superiors and subordinates. I don't see it as being very different --
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