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 Transmission and Lineage

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Transmission and Lineage   Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:38 am

I am going to start a new topic - regarding the transmission and the Zen lineage and how both these mega-stories are used and abused.

This is attributed to Hui Neng, the Sixth Zen Patriarch:

Yin-tsung asked the Sixth Patriarch “How is the legacy of the Fifth Zen Patriarch demonstrated and
transmitted?”

I said, “There is no demonstration or transmission; it is only a matter of seeing [original] nature, not a matter
of meditation and liberation.”

Yin-tsung asked, “Why is it not a matter of meditation and liberation?
I said, “Because these two things are not Buddhism; Buddhism is a non-dualistic teaching.” hui-neng


Hui Neng says in this account, that Zen is only a matter of seeing. Zen has nothing to do with "transmission" or even "liberation" -- just seeing here and now.

For more discussion.

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Nicky



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:37 am

GOOD , GOOD .
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Ol'ga

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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:22 pm

Josh paraphrased Hui-neng:

Hui Neng says in this account, that Zen is only a matter of seeing. Zen
has nothing to do with "transmission" or even "liberation" -- just
seeing here and now
.

Heh? What ELSE does one ever ever see but here and now? Even when you remember yesterday, or plan tomorrow, it still occurs in the here and now. In fact, there is no seeing in the here and now without relating what you see to what is stored in your memory, true or false.

The actual quote is better:
...it is only a matter of seeing [original] nature,...

I would even drop the word 'original'. There is only one nature, immutable, yesterday, today, and always, not subject to time, not in time. Perhaps there was some context to Hui-neng's conversation - which is now lost. All that remains are some cryptic statements, and a bunch of anecdotes about kenshos (which, in my opinion, are worse than useless, because they mislead). I am not saying that Buddhism does not have the truth because I don't know that. It appears to me, though, that any teaching, any methodology of teaching, is largely or totally lost - in Zen tradition, at any rate. After all, if memory serves, Zen is a corruption of the word zazen, 'dhyana' in Sanskrit (I don't know Pali). I believe, though, that zazen is not sufficient for one to come to know one's nature, even if zazen has great value. I don't think many of you, friends, will agree with me here.
Today I read what happened in Throssel Hole - the suicide of Rev. Wilber, and the subsequent horrendous treatment of Robert.
How could this happen? Koshin, Daishin, Eko. This is NOT only about Jiyu. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark...
Luv to everybody,
Ol'ga




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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Fri Apr 15, 2011 10:18 pm

I don't think true Buddhism is about transmission or lineage, either one. Both point to a process outside one's self, where others take on an evaluative role, whether they are qualified to evaluate or not, and where a pedigree is supposed to carry weight due to the renowned names involved. Who cares what lineage is claimed? Does this bolster the public perception of the value of someone's comments or actions?

I have come to the realisation, for myself, that Buddhist training is a solo journey. No one can look inside a person's heart and see/know where another person is on the path. Transmission . . . why is it needed? What does it tell you that you don't already know?

L.
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Howard

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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Sat Apr 16, 2011 2:12 am

Hi Lise

The concept of true Buddhism seems mostly about what we like of Buddhism if we approve of it and about what we dislike about Buddhism if we disapprove of it.

For me meditation allows each moment to shine so that is what I call true Buddhism. Most of the rest of Buddhism seems like sales promotionals, Sangha control and spiritual empire building. but....what if each moment shines for someone else through the discipleship, transmission & lineage that is not part of my true Buddhism?

It seems unlikely that my path just happens to be the truth, the light and the way so maybe all
buddhists (and the various vehicles they traverse their path with) is really what true Buddhism is.

Cheers
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Sat Apr 16, 2011 10:32 am

Jcbaran wrote:

Hui Neng says in this account, that Zen is only a matter of seeing. Zen has nothing to do with "transmission" or even "liberation" -- just seeing here and now.

Can you define what you mean by transmission and lineage?
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Sat Apr 16, 2011 11:03 am

Howard wrote:

It seems unlikely that my path just happens to be the truth, the light and the way so maybe all buddhists (and the various vehicles they traverse their path with) is really what true Buddhism is.

I agree, and I didn't mean that my view is the only correct idea of "true Buddhism". I should have clarified that I meant only "what is true Buddhism to me". I don't understand the idea of other people deciding when one's spiritual understanding has reached a certain depth; my view of Buddhism doesn't require (or allow) others to take on that type of role. Someone "formally acknowledging" another's kensho, granting transmission/ coloured tassels/titles . . . I'm at a loss to understand how those things relate to awareness and the here-and-now.

I'm aware of the troublesome part of deciding that we know for ourselves what is true: Denny Merzel's tom-catting vehicle of spirituality is no doubt "true Buddhism" to him, and Trungpa, Maezumi and others had their own versions that were pretty unsavoury. But then good and evil aren't separate are they -- so perhaps it all really is Buddhism in the end?
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Sat Apr 16, 2011 11:19 am

Lise wrote:


I don't understand the idea of other people deciding when one's spiritual understanding has reached a certain depth; my view of Buddhism doesn't require (or allow) others to take on that type of role. Someone "formally acknowledging" another's kensho, granting transmission/ coloured tassels/titles . . . I'm at a loss to understand how those things relate to awareness and the here-and-now.

I'm aware of the troublesome part of deciding that we know for ourselves what is true: Denny Merzel's tom-catting vehicle of spirituality is no doubt "true Buddhism" to him, and Trungpa, Maezumi and others had their own versions that were pretty unsavoury. But then good and evil aren't separate are they -- so perhaps it all really is Buddhism in the end?

I believe the system of transmission is meant to serve as a protection for the Sangha. Ideally it's not just recognition of kensho or "depth", but of a person's maturity so that others may feel confident in that person's integrity. Of course a system is only as good as the people who employ it and clearly it fails in some cases, deteriorating into status seeking, etc, but the intent is good. I would agree that the journey is essentially a solo trip, however if you're going to teach others it's good to have some kind of system of certification. We see this employed in all professional/teaching fields. Of course it's not perfect in the universities any more than the zen centers. When considering the imperfection of these systems it's worth considering whether it would be better or worse if they weren't in place.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Sat Apr 16, 2011 11:32 am

I am going to write more about transmission when i get the time. But clearly, evidence shows us that this transmission system / scheme is a very mixed bag, it means many different things, is part of an established religious system, and is clouded in mystification and grandiosity.

All the evidence proves that the "unbroken lineage" from the Buddha was made-up in China in the ninth or tenth century as a marketing / promotional myth to give special stature to the meditation schools at the time. This is not to say that there were not some great teachers, that the Dharma didn't come from India and so on, but this transmission story was an early form of marketing - our sect is better than your sect.

more on that later.

jb
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Sun Apr 17, 2011 9:51 am

Isan wrote:


I believe the system of transmission is meant to serve as a protection for the Sangha. Ideally it's not just recognition of kensho or "depth", but of a person's maturity so that others may feel confident in that person's integrity. Of course a system is only as good as the people who employ it and clearly it fails in some cases, deteriorating into status seeking, etc, but the intent is good. I would agree that the journey is essentially a solo trip, however if you're going to teach others it's good to have some kind of system of certification. We see this employed in all professional/teaching fields. Of course it's not perfect in the universities any more than the zen centers. When considering the imperfection of these systems it's worth considering whether it would be better or worse if they weren't in place.

Isan, I hadn't thought of the teaching angle, but some mark of validation does make sense in that context at least, and yes, only to the extent that the certifying group doesn't allow their process to become corrupted. I expect many in academia become tenured or receive full professorship for reasons unrelated to their knowledge or performance; and I have heard stories here (offline) of monks being transmitted or given the Master title for political reasons, or because one of them was thinking of flying the coop and the new title was a sort of pre-emptive move by the other seniors to keep that person in place a little longer.

Better or worse to have certification at all . . . good question. I guess it may not matter to those who know it doesn't stand as proof of a teacher's wisdom or correct behaviour. For those who do place their faith and trust in it as something they can count on to be true -- that seems quite dangerous to me.

On transmission -- I don't know if anyone can speak to this question but I am interested in the purpose of it, and reasoning behind it. Is it the idea that someone has not (possibly cannot?) possess or attain certain knowledge unless another gives it to them?
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Sun Apr 17, 2011 11:26 am

In Three Zen Masters, John Stevens relates this story: [Ikkyu] took to meditating throughout the night on Lake Biwa in a boat borrowed from a fisherman. One midsummer night in 1420, as the twenty-six-year-old Ikkyu drifted across the still lake, a crow cawed raucously. In that instant Ikkyu had a profound realization. When Ikkyu went to tell Kaso, his teacher sneered, "You may be an Arhat, but you are still no master!" Ikkyu responded nonchalantly, "Being an Arhat is fine with me. Who needs to be a master?" Kaso was pleased. "Then you really are a master!" he said.
I keep my Ikkyu nearby.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:51 am

Lineage Delusions: Eido Shimano Roshi, Dharma Transmission, and American Zen (re-posted from the Sweeping Zen website)

By Erik Fraser Storlie

In August 2010 The New York Times exposed the persistent failure of both the Zen Studies Society of New York and the larger American Zen Buddhist community to address Eido Shimano Roshi’s forty year history of sexual abuse of women – and the desire, even now, to excuse or “explain” him. Equally distressing were Robert Aitken’s posthumous letters, recently made available, revealing that Aitken, a deeply respected founder in American Zen, had lied for decades about Shimano’s misconduct in order to protect, as Aitken explained it, “the American Dharma.”

Were this an isolated case, it would not matter very much, except, of course, to the victims. But it’s an old and discouraging story in American yoga and meditation communities. In forty-six years of Zen practice I’ve observed Asian (and now Western) swamis, tulkus, roshis, rishis, dharma heirs, lineage holders, and masters of various stripes, as well as their disciples, explain that the master’s fiscal extravagance, alcoholism, cruelty, sex addiction, violence, and even rape is – of all things – “a teaching!”

We are told that the master “dwells in the absolute,” or is a lineage holder in “crazy wisdom,” or can raise the kundalini energy, or read our chakras and past lives, or help “burn up” our karma, or is offering to share our wife, husband, girlfriend, or boyfriend so as to assist us in breaking our unfortunate attachments – all of this, of course, to stretch us beyond our parochial notions of right and wrong and bring us to the ultimate attainment enjoyed by the master himself (the master almost invariably being male).

We have seen some dwellers in the absolute require absolutely better automobiles and accommodations, while their disciples labor at low wages in community businesses; we have seen some destroy their health with alcohol, while another infected students with AIDS, deluded that his spiritual “power” would block viral transmission. Shockingly, governing members of his organization knew his secret, yet did nothing to warn potential victims.

This is a Mad Hatter ’s tea party, where hierarchical robes and titles, sadomasochistic austerities, and subterranean libertinism mix together in incestuous “spiritual communities” filled with distrust and rivalries – all this in a scramble for the summit of some distant “spiritual” mountain. This would be comic if it weren’t tragic.

And it is tragic.

It is tragic because countless Americans hunger for genuine meaning – meaning unavailable in the toxic mimics offered by game shows, professional sports, “reality” TV, ugly politics, “free-market” competition, and unimaginably wasteful wealth accumulation at the top.

Yet meaning is available – above all in the penetrating explorations into the mysteries of consciousness we undertake in meditation and yoga. And the most important thing we can bring to these inquiries – and to those we hope to further in these inquiries – is our sincerity and selflessness.

The Shimano scandal reminds me of why, some years ago, I refused the opportunity to become a Zen “dharma heir.” I refused, knowing that, without this title, despite forty years of training and practice, I would never be a recognized Zen meditation teacher. The offer was generous. But to have accepted would have been tacitly to endorse a credential that conferred great authority – yet was given at the pleasure of a single person and based on a fantasy.

The doctrine of dharma transmission hangs on four overlapping assumptions, all of which must be true to establish its credibility. The first two are beyond proof, and the third and the fourth obviously false.

The first, that the historical Buddha attained a mind of absolute perfection, is pure poetry – fascinating, mysterious – and if accepted, accepted simply as an article of faith. Did the Buddha have such a mind? A wonderful question! Maybe he did. Or maybe, somewhere in the cosmos, he’s still exploring, expanding, and perfecting his infinite wide-awake seeing. Or maybe all of us are, exactly at this moment, his eyes opening again and again – and wider and wider as our practice deepens.

The second, that the Buddha’s disciple Mahakasyapa also attained this perfect mind and that the Buddha recognized it, depends upon the first. Perhaps, indeed, a perfect being could recognize and attest to the perfection in another perfect being.

The third, that an unbroken chain of such “mind to mind” transmissions has descended, generation after generation, in a known lineage, down to today’s living dharma heirs, is simply false on historical grounds. As Edward Conze , the great scholar of Indian Buddhism noted, “much of the traditions about the early history of Ch’an are the inventions of a later age” – inventions befitting a Chinese culture that deeply honored family lineages traced through renowned ancestors.

The fourth, that every such transmission from master to disciple over the last 2500 years was genuine, is contradicted by the behavior of Shimano himself – and, sadly, of any number of Asian and American teachers.

Stated simply, the doctrine of dharma transmission is just one more among the many attractive delusions held by human beings. Unfortunately, adherence to it gives the dharma heir a very powerful – and potentially dangerous – authority within the community of Zen practitioners, much as does the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession in the Roman Catholic Church, where the recent child abuse scandals illustrate the dangers of priesthoods that claim an authority beyond the ordinary and human. Those in such positions are sorely tempted to protect each other, ignoring or covering up the harm done by their colleagues.

So long as American Zen relies on dharma transmission as a credential, there will be one Shimano after another – and dharma heirs who will go to great lengths to protect the master that conferred authority upon them. For if the master who has declared me awakened has erred, if he does not, indeed, “dwell in the Absolute,” then my own credential is called into question – along with my prestige and authority in the community and my ability to confer this power upon others.

Even if the magical claims of dharma transmission are discarded and it is recognized as an ordinary human institution, it still should not be retained as a method of training Zen meditation teachers. No truly meaningful credential can be conferred simply at the pleasure of one person. Indeed, as a method, it creates toxic interpersonal dynamics in communities, for the future recognition or preferment of a student is entirely dependent upon pleasing a dharma heir, or a presumptive dharma heir. If I wish to rise in this hierarchical system, I must pay court to the dharma heir and his or her favorites, and as a courtier in such a system, I can never openly acknowledge my self-interested pursuit of attention, for my goal is always, theoretically, “spiritual” development. Yet, of course, my ability to please a dharma heir and receive, in my turn, recognition and/or authorization will give me status and even employment opportunities. The dynamics of court, courtier, and courtship create endless distortions of human behavior even in ordinary institutions – a business, political party, or college. These run wild when the king, queen, pope, or dharma heir has imputed “special” powers. Anyone connected for a length of time to a Zen Center can cite examples.

Of course, many Zen teachers will refuse to discard this false credential. Those with the courage to act can take comfort from the Buddha’s words in The Mahaparinibbana Suttanta, words that E.A. Burtt suggests bring out “one major and authentic note” among the various presumed “final” teachings attributed to the Buddha.

As the Buddha prepares for death, Ananda begs him to leave “instructions as touching the order.” The Buddha responds that he has nothing more to offer. He has taught freely to everyone, his teaching is complete, and the community must now find its own way forward.

“What, then, Ananda, does the order expect that of me? I have preached the truth without making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine; for in respect of the truth, Ananda, the Tathagata has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher, who keeps some things back.”

Then the Buddha hints at the possibility of a coming power struggle, suggesting wryly that if any person now thinks he should run things, he should just go ahead and try. “Surely, Ananda, should there be anyone who harbors the thought, ‘It is I who will lead the brotherhood,’ or, ‘The order is dependent on me,’ he should lay down instructions in any matter concerning the order.”

To illustrate the absurdity of such thinking, the Buddha even goes so far as to insist that he, himself, does not “lead” the order. “Now the Tathagata, Ananda, thinks not that it is he who should lead the brotherhood, or that the order is dependent upon him. Why, then, should the Tathagata leave instructions in any matter concerning the order?”

The Buddha is said to have said many things. But these words ring true. Monks seeking to establish governing hierarchies modeled upon patterns of royal or imperial lineages must have lamented their inclusion in the canon. These words were, to the hearers, most probably unforgettable – told and retold in the community too many times to be expunged. If they are indeed authoritative, the Buddha himself never had any notion of the creation of a lineage of dharma heirs.

We must move beyond dharma transmission and construct approaches by which teachers of American Zen Buddhist meditation can be prepared effectively – and transparently. There are many models in a myriad of professions, both religious and secular. I would suggest that for Zen in America to speak to people, to become more than an odd, idiosyncratic subculture, it must draw sustenance from America’s deep roots in the democratic and egalitarian. English Dissenters brought the first churches to these shores. Their polity was congregational, where the minister served at the pleasure of the congregants. The minister was understood to be as susceptible to error as any in his flock.

Having moved beyond the fairy tale of dharma transmission, Zen communities can begin work on truly thorny questions. Why did so many of the Asian “masters” who came to America, especially during the Sixties, behave in ways that to the objective beholder seem narcissistic, even sociopathic? What was their experience coming to maturity in monasteries and ashrams? Were they damaged in some way as children? And how, today, can the traditional Hindu and Buddhist emphasis on “non-attachment” be meaningfully taught in an America where many suffer “attachment disorders” – an inability to receive or return love?

To matter much in America, Zen must undergo its own painful Protestant Reformation – the deconstruction of lineage. This will free practitioners to learn from trained and accountable teachers in the spirit of the Buddha’s final admonition: “Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves, and do not rely on external help. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Seek salvation alone in the truth. Look not to assistance to anyone besides yourselves.”
Front page photo by Mark Zastrow

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Erik Fraser Storlie (Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1976, M.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1965, B.A. University of Minnesota, 1958) began a practice of sitting meditation in 1964 with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. He studied with Dainin Katagiri Roshi, helping to found the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center. His publications include Nothing on my Mind (Shambhala 1996)), “Zen On Ice” (Quest Winter 1998), “Earth’s Original Face” (Shambhala Sun March 2001), “Sawtooth Sesshin” (Shambhala Sun March 2002), and “Notes on a Friendship with James Wright,” (Five Points: A Journal of Literature and Art vol. II, no. 3, 2007). He currently leads retreats and teaches meditation and mindfulness for the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Tue Jun 14, 2011 12:54 am

Podcast on transmission:

http://sweepingzen.com/2011/05/22/dharma-transmission-succession-a-sz-roundtable-discussion-podcast/
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:31 am



I think for for a time we have to take on a greater dillusion in order to
help see more clearly the structure of our concepts and ideas we have about our world.
I think I have always understood that in Zen and probably all relgions that in the end the whole lot has to go.
I have this image in my head of putting the whole lot in a sack, tying it up and kicking it way off into the sky.
In the end we come to no thing. As the scripture says.
I cant recall ever being told ,but my own good teacher has certainly pushed me never to rely on or get to attached to anything, whilst
holding on to her own loyalty and commitment to the tradition. Structure has great value in that way.
Its a bit like letting go whilst holdind on. Depending and non dependind both.

Can we as human beings ever break the patterns that infect every one of us.Those who are puffed up and
superiour, complacient with power over others,and with the self belief that they are right and are excusable from there actions
which exploit others, there is a great need for their exposure and others to be informed with whats truely going on,and all under the cover of being holly, what ever that means.A great need for accountability and change.
Thanks again for the postings Josh.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:17 am

If you go here and scroll down a bit you'll see my essay, now a bit dated, titled "A Note on Dharma Transmission and the Institutions of Zen." I mostly still agree with it. Two cents. Possibly even three...

http://www.boundlesswayzen.org/lineage.htm
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission and Lineage   Wed Jun 06, 2012 1:09 pm

I find myself completely agnostic on both transmission and lineage. It has been a problematic source of political power within the Zen culture, and it has proved to be of marginal value in either attesting to the insight/understanding/wisdom of the teacher or his/her ability to teach.

It does have the rather mild attribute of indicating one has persevered in some form of training for some length of time, though the training itself can be be as arbitrary and idiosyncratic as the teacher wants it to be. And it does have the mild positive attribute of indicating the culture the teacher is likely to promote.

The downside is that it usually conveys imprimatur for the teacher that is dangerously over-reaching. From direct experience, I can assert and demonstrate that authority is not wisdom. But that link has always been made in the Zen tradition. People who assume there is a link are at the mercy of random coincidence for their training.

An analogy has been made elsewhere that one would not go to a doctor who could not tell you where he got his MD, and therefore one should not accept a teacher who could not show his authorization/lineage to teach. To me that's a flawed analogy, particularly for the Zen tradition, where "training" is as undefined, ambiguous, and even bizarre as the particular person doing it. And the teachers produced have mostly been flawed and occasionally even evil.

There are no Medical Board exams to be passed, no effective boards to
review ethics or malpractice complaints, and no tallying of practice results. No school for MDs could produce such flawed and bizarre results and retain accreditation. But there is no such objective accreditation criteria for teachers -- particularly in the Zen tradition -- just the indulgence of a "master" whose conclusion has often been influenced by sex, financial gain, or personal needs.

I think people are better off being wary sans the delusion drug of "lineage" until they can see clearly whether or not the teacher has something useful and helpful to say.

Sad to say but that transmission/lineage thing often works to destroy the teacher, who assumes that by some mysterious process what he thinks is now not just "his thoughts," which need to be scrutinized and challenged, but the mind of an enlightened being at work.
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