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 Transmission - Is it helpful?

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H Enida



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PostSubject: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:33 pm

Recently, in response to my comments regarding the OBC making changes that would safeguard its participants, I was told by a senior monk that determining what would be good to do must be considered in regards to preserving our spiritual practice, which may be abstract or unappreciated by those unfamiliar with its later phases.  I assume the monk was speaking about transmission (and I was not offended about being called unappreciative or that things are too abstract for me to be familiar with its later phases J).  From what I can gather from the comments, substantial changes cannot be made because of the reasons behind and practice of transmission.

I would be very interested to hear others’ views and input on aspects of transmission, as it relates to the dysfunctional structure of the religious organizations that venerate it, and how that might keep the OBC stuck in particular.

Several aspects immediately come up for me:

Because it is a special ceremony outside of the scriptures, it would seem to exacerbate the “specialness” of a student by the teacher.  I actually saw it over and over again as a monk.  This would fall right into the problem that has been brought up many times here and through Faith Trust of the ego that can form around that.

Why is it sacrilegious to talk about transmission beforehand and why can’t anyone talk about it afterwards to anyone who hasn’t been transmitted?  It was definitely a taboo topic when I was a novice monk and many teachings were withheld from novices until after you were transmitted and were never offered to lay trainees.

How is OBC view and practice of transmission different than other Zen organizations, even Soto Zen which we are no longer a part of?

It seems that everyone in the OBC is transmitted eventually, but other Zen teachers may only transmit one or two in their lifetimes, and only after many, many years of training with the teacher.  Why the difference?

I wonder if any organization that has a hierarchy of recognized understanding inherent in its practice, such as passing the lineage through transmission, naturally excludes and ostracizes many of its members as a result.

What do others think?
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Mar 26, 2014 7:25 pm

H Enida wrote:
Recently, in response to my comments regarding the OBC making changes that would safeguard its participants, I was told by a senior monk that determining what would be good to do must be considered in regards to preserving our spiritual practice, which may be abstract or unappreciated by those unfamiliar with its later phases.  I assume the monk was speaking about transmission (and I was not offended about being called unappreciative or that things are too abstract for me to be familiar with its later phases J).  From what I can gather from the comments, substantial changes cannot be made because of the reasons behind and practice of transmission.

I'm interested in whether she or he was talking about transmission or something else.  It's hard to know how to interpret what you're saying without being clear on what the monk was talking about.

Do you mind if I ask, were you speaking with this person or reading comments they sent you?
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Mar 26, 2014 7:37 pm

Hi Lise,

It was a written correspondence, and as I related, transmission was not mentioned specifically, just "later phases" which I interpreted, because of the nature of the answer and our practice of passing on the teaching from master to disciple.

It has brought up a lot of thought for me about that aspect of our tradition and whether it actually creates some of the hierarchy that is not necessarily helpful in this day and age that has been discussed here and elsewhere extensively.  I am also interested in the many ways transmission is viewed in other zen traditions in comparison.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Mar 26, 2014 7:43 pm

Transmission is supposed to be a mutual recognition of Buddha by Buddha. The teacher recognises the Buddha nature of the disciple and that the disciple can recognise the Buddha nature of the teacher, and vice versa. There is no magic, the disciple is recognised as having understood the nature of the world and is certified as being in the transmission lineage of the teacher.

As I said there is no magic in this, there is no mysterious Truth transmitted. How can there be the truth lies all around us, open to all at all times. What is transmitted is the certification of the lineage of recognition.

In traditional Soto Zen the whole of the truth is found in shikantaza, just sitting, as an exemplar of the whole matter of just being in all things.
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Mar 26, 2014 7:49 pm

Understood Mark.  My question is why is it treated so mysteriously then, the secret teachings, etc.  There always seemed to be this carrot in front of us that there would be teachings we could have once transmitted, but not before.  In looking online, it looks like transmission is treated on different levels by different lineages too, some more based on understanding, while others simply adding the student to the lineage.
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Mar 26, 2014 8:52 pm

My apologies if this is too blunt, but dangling a carrot in front of the donkey tends to keep it plodding mindlessly in harness, right? Keep the reward just a little out of reach, hard to say when you might get it, or if you will, but at least you can think about it and try to catch up to it . . . while listening to the magic, allure and mystery built up around it by those who have it and are holding it in front of you . . .

As Mark describes the recognition of Buddha by Buddha, wouldn't this be the most private occurrence? For what is certification needed, or transmission silks or whatever piece of adornment is given afterwards? What purpose is served by the display?

I will be back to try again to discuss this when I'm less tired and have more of a filter operating between my brain and typing fingers.


Last edited by Lise on Thu Mar 27, 2014 7:57 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : removing unnecessary snark)
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maisie field



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:11 pm

I think this is another example of the institution (the monastic sangha) reinforcing itself,creating an exclusive/inclusive membership.

I experienced something a bit similar with psychoanalysis.You can't be an analyst until you have been analysed.Your analyst decides when you have completed the analysis.You have learnt to see the world in a particular way,speak a special language,and you are allowed to join the elite of analysts.It is a good way of reinforcng the institution, and controlling who is in and who is out.There is no rationale ,except that decided by the internal membership.It boils down to personality,some people being favoured for personal reasons.Just plain people politics.
A friend of mine wrote a really good article about this,looking at if there were any objective criteria ("competencies") that you could identify to distinguish a good analyst.
She concluded this was very tricky-asking how do you disentangle personality from talent/skill?

I would recommend a good hard look at those monks with whom you feel rapport,for whom you feel admiration,and try to list their qualities objectively.

I have met some lovely people who are transmitted monks.I can't tell you the difference between them and some lovely people who aren't.Why?

I know my answer......

best
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:15 pm

H Enida wrote:
Recently, in response to my comments regarding the OBC making changes that would safeguard its participants, I was told by a senior monk that determining what would be good to do must be considered in regards to preserving our spiritual practice, which may be abstract or unappreciated by those unfamiliar with its later phases.  I assume the monk was speaking about transmission (and I was not offended about being called unappreciative or that things are too abstract for me to be familiar with its later phases J).  From what I can gather from the comments, substantial changes cannot be made because of the reasons behind and practice of transmission.

Enida, did you understand the monk's comments to mean there is an inherent conflict between adopting safeguards for practitioners and the "later phases" of OBC spiritual practice?  I realise you can't answer this, but I wonder if it means they feel they must be free of any restraint in regards to how people are treated, who is held accountable, what is the ethical code applied?

Why would the latter stages of anyone's training, monk or lay, not be compatible with providing basic levels of protection to those involved in it? Is it because they believe "a master" must be completely free to do what she or he wants to do with someone they are considering for transmission?

If this is not the case, why do the monks of Shasta Abbey seem so resistant to accepting rules for themselves about how they treat people, especially other monastics?
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Thu Mar 27, 2014 11:49 pm

Lise - that IS what I understood, that changes have been modest to date and that any changes would have to be made in consideration of those later phases.  You have restated my question exactly.  

The hierarchy is inherent in the spiritual practice by the very nature of the master-disciple relationship.  We heard so many stories of how RM Jiyu pushed her disciples to the very edge of their ability to accept what was happening and some did, again and again, and others just left.  Often these stories were told to me in spiritual counseling as a way of encouraging me to accept Eko's and other senior monks' behavior, that I must just trust and train with it and that it wasn't the important thing.  

If a novice was given the ability to bring their teacher to task for anything that seemed abusive, it would greatly interfere with the relationship.  The Order rules about the relationship are very vague and were not well studied or relied upon when I was there, and have not fundamentally changed since, even after everything we could see that can happen because of the unequal power in the relationship.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 11:38 am

Regarding those "later phases" of training brought to mind a quote from St. Maxumus, The Confessor, (Eastern Orthodoxy, Byzantium) as to what the monk might actually really have meant:

"You should know that you have greatly benefitted when you have suffered deeply because of some insult or indignity, for by means of the indignity self esteem has been driven out of you."
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:19 pm

Good quote, breljo, it does remind me of what I am asking about.  There was an element of that in my experience, and so many have posted here about the same.  As a novice, the response to me again and again was to whack my point of view with the ego-quashing kyosaku.  It seems a fundamental aspect of our monastic tradition that bleeds over into the four-fold sangha relationships unawares - my teacher and others told me on more than one occasion that the laity have no idea what monastic training is like and would not understand its subtleties and reasonings.

The Shasta monks visited St. Gregory Palamas Monastery monks in Etna, California several times, who visited Shasta in return and established a friendship between the two.  Their practice is based on "obedience" and the benefits of coming from that reference point.  We asked questions of their Abbot and he described the practice and its ultimate letting go of "self esteem/ego" to the spiritual life.  Interesting parallels.....
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:45 pm

the concept or practice of humiliating people - driving self-esteem out of them - is ultimately beneficial.. IS IT TRUE?  Does it work and by "work" - what do we mean?

And by the way, this kind of humiliation process is not just practiced in some religions and cults, but also in totalitarian political systems, the military, and even in some corporations.  Surrender and submission are taken to extreme - and what results do they produce?  and when we say results, we need to look with both eyes - just as a drug has side effects - what are the side effects of constantly beating people down to destroy this "ego" - and to annihilate self-esteem?  And not just look at the various promoted "success stories" - but look at everyone who practiced this or who was subjected to this.  What are the real results, in daily life?  Forget ideals or wishful thinking or myth.  And, also you have to set aside the accepted story that those who left failed someone.  It was there fault.  That's the big lie- the system is perfect and if it doesn't work for someone, they didn't do it right, are broken, resistant, precept breakers, weak, and all the rest.  Old stories. 

Obviously, I have come to my own conclusions about this - from my own experience - from my years of Buddhist practice - and from counseling / talking to so many people from hundreds of spiritual / guru / cultic situations.  And people on this site have their own unique take on this, no doubt.

And by the way, there are many Buddhist teachers who say that having a healthy ego is actually essential to sane Buddhist practice.  They talk about loving yourself and accepting yourself - and not brutalizing yourself or anyone else for that matter.  Imagine this... a totally counter opinion.  They don't see this buddhist practice as some form of war, as attacking your self with a stick - beating yourself - the kyosaku metaphor.  Where did the Buddha hit people with sticks?

I do think that you can push someone to the breaking point - and they might - a few people - certainly not most people - have some kind of breakthrough - you can call it a kensho if you want - but some kind of big snap.  And in that moment, you think - well, it worked!!!!! But that is only one moment - and what worked?  what are all the side effects of living in humiliation and practicing this kind of emotional war against people - to break them - make they miserable?  There is the rare breakthrough, but then there are all the folks who become deeply miserable, sad, disconnected, who feel they are going through the motions, playing the game, sliding back, not breaking through, and so this kyosaku keeps striking day and night, inside and outside, and simple love and compassion are nowhere to be found.  How many people flee and end up in psychotherapy for years and have deep feeling of failure and guilt?  Well that is an expression of this system - and not because there people "didn't get it" or failed.  This is the fruit of that tree.

And with the OBC, you had this intersection of Japanese militant Zen and Kennett's shadows and behavior - and bingo, what a distortion field this is - so confusing for the people in it.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:19 pm

There is nothing to transmit. There is nothing to gain. There's no such thing as an "advanced" form of anything. The OBC is dangling the carrot, but you are the one chasing it. What are you chasing? Stop! You are Buddha! Buddha transmits Buddha. Everything is always transmitting. Everything is Buddha. Did Eko "transmit" anyone? No! Buddha recognizes Buddha.

To keep the business of Shasta Abbey open, they have to sell something. If you go shopping you are trying to buy something you don't have. It would be great if you went to buy something and they said, "All I will say is that you ARE Buddha. That is all." Then you could say "Okay, I am Buddha," and walk away. If you believed it, you wouldn't need anything else.

But the OBC/Shasta Abbey sells all the bells and whistles and a lot of fear to go along with it. Because if you tell them, "okay, I've got it, I'm Buddha. Thank you very much, I'll be leaving now," they will say "Wait! Stop! You better be careful! Now that you know you are Buddha, you have to do x, y, and z. And if you really want to be Buddha, you need to be a monk and get the 'advanced training package' AND you should be really really grateful that WE told you you are Buddha...", etc...

Be Buddha, meditate, and live your life. That is all.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:08 pm

Josh wrote:

Where did the Buddha hit people with sticks?


Yes, where can we find that in the scriptures.


Diana wrote:
"...And if you really want to be Buddha, you need to be a monk and get the 'advanced training package' AND you should be really really grateful that WE told you you are Buddha ...", etc..."

Also:  "Because we can sense your karmic difficulties and see the harm you have caused yourself and others in this lifetime and past lifetimes, you must cleanse your karma and you can only do this by giving up self and remaining here, looking for nothing else. You cannot plan your life and you need nothing more than what is right in front of you".

Meaning, these people must run out the hours of their lives at Shasta Abbey; no other choice is possible for cleansing their particularly bad allotment of karma. 

I hear this kind of stuff is still being sold there - hard to comprehend.

At some point I hope someone feels comfortable describing what took place during their transmission, and what they think of that now, in looking back.  Wouldn't it be good to demystify this thing?  What's the worst that could happen if someone talks about it?  A lightning bolt from the Cosmic Buddha cleaves them in two, as they finish typing?


Last edited by Lise on Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:32 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typos)
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:47 pm

I was in the middle of replying to Josh's and Enida's posts when the doorbell rang, lost the whole thing and now am completely distracted. Anyway, some good thoughts here, good conversation.
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maisie field



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 3:31 pm

Yes Diana-
it's the business end that tells you most about this "ego-lessness" nonsense.
Ego is buddha,because everything is buddha.
But it helps you to control and keep your lay disciples if you can keep peddling the idea that they are lacking,because there is something wrong with their egos...

Of course we all have an ego.It is part of the structure of a human being's personality,just as arms and legs are part of the physical structure.
The twaddle that gets talked about this drives me to distraction.
A strong ego is a flexible ego.The most resilient people can absorb and transform criticism,and can tolerate the frustrations inherent in life-the challenges Buddha talked about,because they have strong,flexible, adaptive egos.
-we can't get what we think we want,a basic koan.The child can't endure frustration.The adult has learnt to see that frustration is inevitable,and her ego grows strong through adaptation to this reality.A contented person isn't contented because she got everything,she is contented because she can defer gratification,accept reality,accept being a part,not the centre, of life.
Little and others like him have weak egos-unformed personalities-for one reason or another.These narcissists crave the strength and integration they see in others-they are envious.Their relations are parasitic,because they didn't develop ego strength in childhood..They can only want what in fantasy they think others have.That is the motivation for controlling, sadistic behaviour,and for exploitation.
Thats how I see it anyway.
But that's all a bit off the point.
Transmission-what is it?
Is there a mysterious truth?
Or is it just a way of keeping out the riff-raff?

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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 6:18 pm

            I did not experience the transmission ceremony as I had only recently completed head novice when Eko disrobed and we were asked to find another teacher.

            I was in the monastery for several transmissions though, and it was shrouded in mystery and many of the seniors in the monastery were called on to help.  The novice to be transmitted would spend the week before tirelessly preparing their silks by hand, tracing the bloodline from the Buddha through to the present day teacher, similar to the ketchimyaku given at Jukai.  I am sure there were other things required of the novice too, but I was not privy to them.  The night of the ceremony, after all the novices were in bed, the ceremony would happen late into the night and in the morning the master and student had shaved eyebrows, and the student would be literally walking on air.  There was definitely a feeling of accomplishment and connection to their teacher about it all, and it was quite compelling for those of us that hadn’t gone through it.

  
            I was not privy to the reasons behind the different aspects of the ceremony as I did not have that portion of the Priest Book that explained the ceremony or their meanings.  If the ordination ceremony is any example, I am sure it was quite elaborate and full of teachings.  I was told it was a deeper ceremony of taking the Precepts.  I too would hope someone could explain more fully here, but I somehow doubt it.....
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:46 pm

I don't know, I think there is probably at least one person out there who might describe what they remember. I would like to see the Priest Book in its entirety; wonder if anyone has a copy.

A couple of people have written to me saying that the prohibition against talking about transmission is still so strong, they can't do it. I asked if their reluctance is based on respect for the experience itself and what they feel it meant to them, which I can understand, or are they still under a kind of spell of obedience since they were told to keep quiet about it. The latter I can't understand. No one at the Abbey holds power over them anymore. 

Ok, I've lost the battle of restraint. Parts of this transmission ritual sound very like the stuff that goes on at university with the sororities and frats ...  late night ceremonies, secretive words, doing stuff to peoples' heads.

[From now on, your Delta Tau Chi name is . . .   Flounder .]

I'm off to the pub.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:10 pm

Diana wrote:
To keep the business of Shasta Abbey open, they have to sell something.
The original title of Jk's first book was 'Selling Water by the River', a traditional maxim for describing zen teaching. Of course the price of water by the river should be very low. So if you are asked for a high price by telling you of mysteries, or 'I have more understanding than you so you must be subservient', or any of the myriad other tricks of the trade, of course all in the name of skillful means, then you are being conned. Just as you would be if I stood by a river and tried to sell you my 'special' water at great price. No just mindfully go about your ordinary daily life and enquiring diligently into it and sooner or later it will all fall into place.

Enida describes the surroundings to the transmission well. And the great danger is the 'specialnesss'. This is the 'stench of the holy' which has to be overcome or it becomes the start of even greater delusion and dualism, where I have the truth and insight and you don't. There is nothing mysterious, or even intrinsically private about transmission. In the Dekoroku the first transmission, between Shakyamuni and Kashapa, takes places publicly and in the commentary it says:
Quote :
You should understand Shakyamuni's wink clearly. There is no difference between your ordinary wink and Shakyamuni's. Further there is no difference between your talking and smiling and Kashapa's talking and smiling.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Mar 29, 2014 12:40 am

Greetings, noble ones.  I will horn in on this conversation and add an introduction later.

I began a reply to this post yesterday, thought better of it, and now will continue because of several comments asking for someone to describe their transmission experience.  I would be surprised if anyone who is still serving as a priest would break the silence around the transmission ceremony.  This silence is pervasive across all the Soto Zen lineages, not just at Shasta Abbey because that silence protects the legitimacy of Zen transmission.  The preparations Enida (hi, Enida) described are the same in other Soto Zen traditions, of which I am a member.  The ceremony during which transmission occurs is a private ceremony that takes place in the middle of the night and is simply not to be spoken of.  Yes, there are secret teachings that are transmitted.  And yes, SOMETHING is transmitted.  Like all the previous gates through which the student passes, the impact may not be immediately felt and the effect of the impact continues endlessly.  And, whether a monk has left Shasta or not, my inclination would be to always recognize that person as a transmitted monk.  In the other Soto lineages, once a priest has been transmitted, the okesa can never be revoked.  One can disrobe voluntarily, but the okesa no longer belongs to the teacher.

My experience is that my okesa acquired a new weight as the responsibility of transmission settled onto my shoulders and I felt my small self's complete insignificance in relation to the vast power of the Dharma.  I do not feel special as a result of transmission -- what I feel is a greater responsibility to provide access to the Dharma and to care for the suffering of the world.  And that's not to imply that others who have not received transmission do not feel this responsibility.  It's just that, for me, the responsibility has a different weight/feel to it now.

Thank you so much for this forum and for everyone's thoughtful and honest responses here.  I am honored to participate.  I will post an introduction now.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:35 am

No secrets
No weight

No mind
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Mar 29, 2014 1:15 pm

Here is a link to Wikipedia that describes some of the ceremony, although I don't know how accurate it is and certainly isn't imbued with the teachings one might experience- just a brief explanation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shihō
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:40 pm

Below is from the Antai-ji website. http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/201005.shtml

I posted a reference to this essay last year sometime, but it is good to repost it here for this discussion.  By posting this, I don't necessarily agree with everything said here - this is one person's take and opinion -  but this is useful since it goes into some details and is counter to some of how Kennett / OBC thinks about transmission. Also, this is from a current westernized Soto Zen temple in Japan - a temple that interacts with the established Soto system.  Definitely worth reading. 

I am happy to talk more about transmission and the transmission ceremony since this is such a core aspect of the grand narrative of Zen and of Kennett - and what does it mean - in myth and in reality - and how do we unpack to make sense of it.  Worth exploring.

Lotus in the fire
May/June 2010



[size=undefined]What does it take to become a full-fledged Soto-shu priest and is it really worth the whole deal?
(Part 2: Ten points to keep in mind about dharma transmission)

(Adult practice - Part 46)[/size]
c) Dharma transmission (shiho, also called denpo)


The third step in the carrier of a Soto-shu monk is dharma transmission. As with becoming the shuso, in the case of shiho it is the teacher who decides when, in his view, it is time for the step. Again, it would be strange if the student suggests: "I think I have been ready for shiho for quite a while now, how come you haven't given me the papers yet?"

So what is the actual procedure, when and where does it take place, and how long does it take?

After doing dharma combat (hossenshiki), the student has 20 years of time to receive the dharma (shiho) from his teacher. Usually, it takes less, but there are also monks who lose their status as registered Soto-shu monks because they fail to do shiho. Nevr mind, this only means that your name disappears out of the registers in Tokyo, it does not mean that your robes and bowls are confiscated. Shiho is, unlike ordination and dharma combat, not done in the mainhall before everyone else in the sangha, but one-to-one in the abbot's quarters (hojo). The students prostrates many times, in a special sequence, first nine, then eight, then seven times... in between pieces of text are recited. Finally the teacher gets off his high chair, that the student had been circling around, and the student takes the seat while the teacher pays his respects to the student this time.

Usually the procedure takes time at night, and at one point both student and teacher check the documents that the student had been writing in the week (or weeks) before. They use a candle for this, so if the ceremony took place in broad daylight, this part of the ceremony would not make much sense. Probably the fact that it is done one-to-one and at night time has to do with the story of the transmission of the dharma from the fifth to the sixth patriarch in the Platform sutra. Or at least that is my guess. Besides teacher and student, there are no other eyewitnesses and no photographs are taken. So the documentation papers that serve as proof of the transmission are the only material evidence of what took place. Of course, the dharma is not "inside" these papers, but it is not in the head either. The subjective feeling of the student, that he "got it" from the teacher alone is not enough. Therefore the material evidence is of utmost importance. Writing these documents on three (or - in the lineage of Sawaki Roshi - four) sheets of silk paper is what takes most time and concentration.

You receive these three sheets of silk paper from your teacher, together with a sutra book-style manual that explains the procedure in medieval Japanese. The teacher receives the materials from the Soto-shu headquarters in Tokyo, who charge 16.000 Yen for them. The teacher has to apply in advance to the Soto-shu headquarters, and they send the expensive paper with their seals on it to the temple. Necessary requiries are of course that the student has not only ordained but also been the shuso for a practice period during which he performed the hossenshiki. After the empty papers arrive, the student has to write the documents of the transmission in his own hand. Normally you have about a week to write, although that may depend. I have heard of students who get a whole week off to prepare the documents. In the case of Antaiji, you do not get any time off, so you have to cut down your sleeping time while doing all the farm work etc during the day. In my case, it took me considerably longer than a week to write all the stuff. Of course, you write with a calligraphy brush and you have to take great care NOT to mess those silk papers up, because the head quarters will not send you any extra papers, unlkess you pay another 16.000 Yen.

If you do not finish the writing of the documents in the course of one year though, your teacher has to apply anew and pay for three new sheets of silk. It goes without saying that each of the three papers serves a purpose, because there are three different documents to be written. They are called sanmotsu in Japanese, which literally means "the three things". These are

a) Shisho (the scripture of transmission, the names of the anscestors arranged in a circle - the dharma has passed on from to Shakyamuni to yourself, and now you give it back to Shakyamuni. There is a small piece of papaer, propably originally written by Sawaki Roshi, with some comments. This paper is also copied by the student when doing dharma transmission at Antaiji.)

b) Daiji (the great matter, a cryptic symbolization of the content of the teaching. Again, there is a small extra sheet of paper that explains about the meaning of the symbols.)

c) Kechimyaku (the blood lineage, looks quite similar to the blood line transmission that you already wrote at the time of ordination) Actually, in the lineage of Sawaki Roshi (and maybe other lineages as well) a student is told to write a fourth document on an extra sheet of paper, which is called
d) Hisho (the secret document, which is encoded, but the code for decyphering is on the same paper, so once you hold it in your hands it is not so "secret" anymore.)

Each of the documents comes in a separate envelope. They are signed by both teacher and student and stamped by the teacher in a similar manner like the kechimyaku at the time of ordination.

A few things that are important to know about shiho:

1) Denpo and shiho: Transmitting and receiving are two sides of one coin
Dharma transmission is a mutual thing. It can only happen when both teacher and student agree that this is the time and place for it to take place. When the student is not ready to receive (shi-ho), there is no way for the teacher to transmit (den-po). If the teacher is not willing to transmit, there is no point for the student to claim he "got it". Dharma transmission is nothing subjective, it does not happen "in the mind".

2) Once or never
Dharma transmission can happen once, and only once, or never at all. Multiple dharma transmission is nonsense. If you receive dharma transmission from one teacher, from then on that is your one and only teacher, your real teacher (jap. hon-shi). The multiple lineage holders that you hear of in the West are [banned term]. Therefore it is important that both sides, but especially the student, make sure that this is the right time for them to make this important step.

When a teacher offers dharma transmission to a student, the student not only has the right to refuse, he actually must refuse if he does not feel that this teacher is his teacher for life. It happens from time to time that a "Zenmaster" suggests that you leave your present teacher and follow him. It has happened to myself a number of times here in Japan. So be carfeul. Because after shiho, you can not change your teacher anymore, as you could still change the jugoshi (ordination teacher) before shiho. The only thing you can do to cut the connection with your teacher (hon-shi) after shiho is to disrobe. After that, you may ordain as a novice monk again.

You can inherit the dharma of one and only one teacher. In the past, monks where allowed to receive transmission from several teachers. The monk who had most dharma transmissions was considered to be the most enlightened and had the best chances to become the abbot of Eiheiji. This was changed by the eminent Soto monk Menzan to the rule that lasts to the present day: Only one transmission from only one teacher. Multiple dharma transmission in present day Soto-shu is considered nonsense. You hear of that a lot in America though, where some peopleclaim to be "both Soto and Rinzai". Are they authorized by both Soto and Rinzai, as they actually exist in Japan today? No, in reality they are NEITHER Soto NOR Rinzai, but their own hybrid brand. That is OK, it is just a different thing. They play a different game with different rules. To me, saying that you have transmission from three different teachers in a way is like saying that none of these transmissions is for real. Because if only one of them was for real, why bother to shop around for the other two?

3) Who are you?
Dharma transmission defines who you are as a Zen monk. It is like your DNA. The documents of the transmission (that - among other things - list the names of the Buddhist ancestors from Shakyamuni Buddha up to yourself) are unique, there are not two Zen monks with identical documents. When you receive dharma transmission from teacher A, it will never be the same as dharma transmission from teacher B. And the dharma transmission you will eventually give to your students will not be the same either. You can only transmit the dharma YOU received from your honshi, nothing else. In fact, this is a little complicated: It is the dharma you received from your teacher, but it is not HIS dharma anymore, it is YOUR dharma now. It would not be the same if you had reveived it from another teacher, but it would not be the same if someone else had received it from the same teacher either. The transmission you could have received from teacher B would not have been the same as that from teacher A.

And: The transmission that you reived from teacher A is not the same as the transmission your dharma brothers and sisters received from the same teacher A. Why? Because the receiving side is also part of the "DNA". The dharma is not only defined by the teacher, but quite as much by the student. Therefore, when you transmit the dharma to your students, not a single one of them will receive the same dharma, each of them will receive their unique dharma. Although it is not just "in the mind", it is neither like a material object being passed on from teacher to student.

To use two examples that Dogen Zenji gives:

Dharma transmission can be like pouring milk from one cup to the other. No oil, liqour or lacquer must be added, Dogen says in the "Kesa kudoku" chapter of the Shobogenzo. It would not be milk any more. He allows for the addition of water though. This dilution would make the milk thinner, but it would not change the colour, the flavour or taste. If we were Homoepathics, we might even claim that this process is a "potentization" of the original milk. I would like to change Dogen's metaphor a little and say that dharma transmission is like the pouring of clear water into clear water. Old water that dates back from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha is mixed and "potentized" each new generation. Still, it must never be mixed with oil, liquor or lacquer. It must be 100% water, but half of it is your original water, half of it is the water transmitted from your teacher, containing one drop of each generation dating back to the time of the Buddha. And even that is only half-right: In reality, it is 100% YOUR water, and it is at the same time 100% of the Buddha's water. When you transmit it on to your students, it is still YOUR dharma, but at the same time it is 100% your students dharma now.

That leads us to Dogen Zenji's second example from the Gakudoyojinshu. The teacher is like a skilled carpenter, the student is like a piece of wood, he says there. It depends solely on the carpenter what can be made from the piece of wood. Even low quality wood will turn into a piece of art when the right carpenter works on it. This is an important teaching for anyone who is in the position of a teacher: When your students do not develop in the way you wish, do not blame it on them, balme it on yourself. Otherwise you are like a carpenter who says": "Who built this crooked house? There must have been something wrong with the wood!"

For the student, though, there lies a danger here: You might think that the responsibility for your practice does not lie with you, but with your teacher. You might ask: "How come that after three years I am still not enlightened? Why do I still suffer? What makes me miserable? Maybe I should look for a different teacher!"

No, it is not only the teacher who defines the student, it is also the student who defines the teacher. YOU create the teacher just as much as the teacher creates you. Sariputra, Maudgalyāyana, Mahakasyapa, Subhuti and Anada, even Devadatta all studied with the same Shakyamuni Buddha, but at the same time the all had a different teacher, i.e. the Shakaymuni they created through their teacher-student relationship. None of the twelve deciples of Jesus saw the same messiah. Judas met a different Jesus than Peter met. And Paul, who never met Jesus in person at all, created most of the "messiah" we know of today.

To use a different analogy:

If monk's ordination is like asking a girl out on a date for the first time, dharma combat ceremony might be like her letting you have sex for the first time (she is quite conservative and might let you wait for some years). Finally, she might ask you: "Will you marry me?" If you answer in the affarmative, what follows will be shiho. You fill out papers at the town office and are registered as an officially married couple. As with shiho, the reality is not in the registration form. That you love each other as a couple is something you will have to proof to each other in the years to follow. It would be strange to say: "We have not seen each others in years, have not exchanged a word, but we are still a married couple!" In that case, you are only married on paper.

On the other hand, what if you say: "Maybe we are not officially married, but we have been together for quite some time now and really love each other. We can have sex and everything, we can even have kids without being legally married, so why get married in the first place? We can do without!"

Maybe you can do without, but most people (maybe including her) will not view it as the same thing. They will ask: "If you really love me (or her) as much as you claim, why not take responsibility and marry me (or her)?"

Or, as is usually the case, if she (the master) is the one who is not so enthusiastic about getting married to you, maybe she does not love you as much as you would like to think? Maybe it is only in your head?

On the other hand, you have those who can not get married often enough. But not only do you hear from teachers with "multiple transmission", you also hear of teachers who call themselves students of Zenmaster A, but if you look at their credentials, they have dharma transmisson from Zen master B, who comes from a completely different lineage. There are dozens of others, who call themselves the last or best or only true deciples of Sawaki Kodo Roshi (for example), but never received any documentation for that. They claim to have received some "mind to mind transmission", but that "transmission" exists only in their mind, nothing more. It is like you inherit a Chinese noodle shop, but you advertise yourself saying: "In reality I am offering French cousine, it just happens to say "Blue dragon" on the door, that is all!"

From my perspective, there is nothing wrong with Chinese food or French food or Japanese food, this or that lineage of Zen, you should just make clear what you where trained to cook. You can even train with different cooks at different times of your life, or be an auto-didactic cook in your own right, but when it comes to opening your own restaurant, it might be a good idea to decide what food you want to offer. Just throwing all the spices together will not make an "ethnic dish". If you offer French cousine, get qualification for that. If you run a Chinese noodle shop, get trained for that.

It is as if these people were saying: "I am married to this girl here, but the woman I really love was someone else. Unfortunately, she never got around to asking me if I would marry her, but in her heart she loved me more than anyone else!" Or it is like telling the new girl you are dating that the marriage ring on your finger is just symbolical and really means nothing.

On the other hand, if a teacher tries to disown a student whom he has given shiho, going so far as saying that he is not a true Buddhist, is like a wife that tries to divorce her husband saying: "I never loved you in the first place, I just married because you insisted on it."

4) This is the start, not the goal
Dharma transmission is not the last and final step in a student's practice. Quite the opposite, one might call it the real first step on the way of practice. The way has just begun, but now the student has decided which exact way he wants to follow to the end. But all the real hardships still lay ahead of him. To use the example of boy-meets-girl again: At this point of time they have decided that they are made for each other, so to speak, they want to get married and have kids. Hopefully, that does not mean that the romance is over. It just means that both are prepared for the real struggle to begin.

5) The documents
Proof of the dharma transmission is put in black ink on three (or four) pieces of white silk paper. The paper is not a substitute for the transmission itself, but without the paper, no transmission. The documents are like the sign you put under the marriage papers. You can not say: "Maybe I was married to someone else and had kids with him, but I let him marry me only because he was the richest man in town at the time. My real sweetheart was this cool guy whom I met when I was still in high-school, he whispered "I love you sooo muc" in my ear just before he died. In reality, HE is my real love." Unfortunately, that is exaclty what many people have to say about their teacher.

I would recommend: "Marry the girl or boy you love! Or do not marry at all!"

Some may say: "I never had the intention to marry anyway. The idea is so old-fashioned! I will just enjoy myself and spred my seeds like that." In a way, it is true that the instituion that marriage and shiho represent are quite narrow and old-fashiond. "Unnatural" in a way. I would be surprised if Shakyamuni gave dharma transmission to anyone. Probably the idea never occured to him. It seems to be more of a Chinese concept that you can be the "dharma heir" of one and only one master. But, just as the instition of marriage, which is so un-natural and inconvenient sometimes, it still has survived for some reason to the present day. There must be some reason why proper shiho is still held in high regard. When I look at the cases of some "Zen-masters" and their students, I think I begin to understand why.

Love is not in the paper, but it does make a difference if you are legally married to a woman or not, even if it does not make a difference to you. And it also does make a difference if you get "married" deep in the jungle in Thailand for the x-th time, or in a chapel in Las Vegas, or officially registered at the town hall.

The papers can not replace the marriage, they are no guarantee for a happy marriage. But there is a difference between being "married in your mind", or in black and white.

6) Once and forever
Dharma transmission can never be erased. Married persons can get a divorce, but the fact of child birth can never be denied. Once you have transmitted the dharma, you can not claim it back. Once you have received it, you can not return it. But even stupid things like this can sometimes be seen in the "Zen" world.

7) Transmission of what?
What is transmitted when dharma transmission takes place? Just the paper, or some philosophical understanding, or a mystical experience? What is the real content of the transmission? At the transmission ceremony itself, the papers are checked between teacher and student, and many prostrations are done, the student pays respect to the teacher, the teacher pays respect to the student. This is the recognition of the transmission that took place long before the ceremony itself. In fact, it has nothing to do at all with the paper, with philosophy or with mystical experience. The 24 hours of the daily life shared by teacher and student are the content of the transmission, and nothing else.

8)When does it happen?
Dharma transmission does not (or at least: SHOULD NOT) happen "on a whim". In Antaiji, when you receive shiho after, say, eight or nine years, you will have sat for 15.000 hours of zazen with your teacher. Not only that, you also shared many thousands of meals with him, worked together in the fields for thousands of hours, spread manure, cut grass and wood together, side by side, you sweat together in the summer and froze together in the winter. You cooked for him and filled the bath tub for him, you know how he likes the temperature both of his soup and the bathing water. You also shared many drinks, probabaly. In each of these activities, the dharma is transmitted. None should be left out. Of course, things like weraing the o-kesa, the formal robes, or using o-ryo-ki, the eating bowls, and finally the writing of the shiho documents itself are part of this. Each single one of these day to day activities is of the utmost importance. As with marriage and child birth again, if you do not know each oter and have lived to gether for a long, long time, how can you make a lifetime commitment? Dharma transmission does not happen simply because you sat through a few dozens of "Zen retreats", finished all the "recommended reading" by your teacher and maybe spaced out once or twice on your bicycle on the way to work (which you mistook for enlightenment). Having received the dharma should never be confused with just having an attitude.
Using the Confucius quote again:

At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I had no more doubts; at fifty I knew the mandate of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart's desire without transgressing the norm.


Although you do not have to be at the age of forty to receive shiho (most people are usually younger, but also many much older), this is the point where you have no more doubts about the direction of your practice and who your teacher is. Not only that, you are also able to teach others now and point them a direction. But you are certainly still far away from the state where you can just "follow heart's desire without transgressing the norm". This has also sometimes be misunderstood and led to a lot of trouble in the past, especially sex and drug and money related problems. So maybe we should add another point:

9) Authorization as Zen master?
Dharma transmission does not make you a zen master (what is that anyway? We will see soon...). It does not make you an osho (Japanese for "teacher") either. It is the first of three steps (shiho, ten-e and zuise), at the end of which you will officially be promoted to the rank of osho. In Japanese Soto-Zen, there more than 15.000 people with this rank. It is not as special as you might believe. If you have only shiho but not performed zuise yet, you are not regarded as a teacher of Zen. That, of course, does not man that you can not share your practice with others. Even if you are not a teacher, you can and should share your practice with others.

And what is a Zen master in the first place?

A Zen master, in Japanese, is a zenji. This title is reserved for the founder Dogen Zenji and all the abbots of the two main temples, Eiheiji and Sojiji. So at each time, there is usually only two zenjis alive, unless there is a zenji living somewhere in retirement (like Itabashi Zenji, who is the third zenji alive right now). So, to become a zenji is not impossible, but it is a long way and shiho alone is certainly not enough. Calling yourself a Zen master just because you have shiho is a joke.

So how about roshi? Is someone with shiho considered to be a roshi?

Again, shiho alone is worthless without ten-e and zuise (which I will write about in the following months). But even with ten-e and zuise, you are not a roshi. What is a roshi? Literally, it is an old master. Someone in America once famously said: "Anyone who calls himself a "roshi" and succeeds in making others call him "roshi" too, is a roshi!"

That is probably true in America. And it is also half-true for Soto-shu in Japan, in so far as there is no official rank of roshi. You can and will not be authorized as a roshi by the headquarters. So indeed, everything depends on whether people (usually your students) are willing to call you "roshi" or not. What makes it more complicated in Japan, though, is: If you call yourself a "roshi" here, people will see it as a clear sign that you are not. They will think you are deluded egomaniac, and probably they are not so wrong. If, on the other hand, you claim: "I am a total fool!" - they will say: "At least he has realized as much as that!"

So in Japan, the rule goes:

"Anyone who succeeds in making others call himself a "roshi" without calling himself a "roshi", is a roshi."


A little more sophisticated than the Americanized version of the roshi, but the idea is essentailly the same: Try to make others think of yorself as someone important.

Anyway, having shiho has nothing to do with either being a zenji nor a roshi. Does this mean that it is not so big of a step to make after all? Is it quite meaningless if and when and where you receive shiho? Not at all!

First, if you claim to be a teacher without having shiho, than you should do so without referring to any lineage. It is pretty bad style to say: "I represent this and this lineage, unfortunately my teacher forgot to give me the papers!"

So although shiho alone is not much, no shiho at all qualifies you for nothing but being a dharma practioner in your own right, a follower of the buddha way who may practice on his own or along with others. You may even teach the dharma, but you should not pose as an authorized representative of a lineage or school. Believe it or not, that happens all the time. If you teach without shiho, you should make clear that you are not part of one of the existing schools, but the founder of your own school (which is OK of course, as long as you state so).

10) Is dharma transmission a guarantee for spiritual attainment, or anything?
No, dharma transmission is no guarantee for anything. It only shows that the person who gave the transmission - and only that one person - was convinced that the student was qualified as a teacher. Could he have been wrong? Yes, he could have been wrong. Therefore, if you want to make sure that a teacher is actually a good teacher, you should not only ask if he or she has dharma transmission or not. The question is: Where does this dharma transmission come form? What lineage does it represent? And even more important: What practice did accompany it? What kind of student was the teacher before he or she became a teacher? What is his or her practice now?

On the other hand, is it possible that somebody is a good teacher but has no dharma transmission at all? Yes, that is possible. Shakyamuni Buddha had no dharma transmission. At least from no historical existing person, and that is the kind of transmission we are talking about here. Still, he is a teacher. OUR teacher, because we made him OUR teacher. But such cases are rare. If you meet a person who claims to be a teacher but has no dharma transmission, you should look even closer at who that person is, what he or she is actually teaching and how he or she is actualizing it in their daily life.

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:07 pm

and the follow-up essay from Antai-ji about the additional levels of Soto priesthood -- in the West, most Soto groups are not connected to the Soto Zen establishment and system in Japan, so most of this is functionally irrelevant, but useful to understand the extended tradition and background.

Lotus in the fire
July/August 2010




[size=undefined]What does it take to become a full-fledged Soto-shu priest and is it really worth the whole deal?
(Part 3: Ten-e and some words about Zui-se)

(Adult practice - Part 47)[/size]
We have now reached steps 4 and 5 in the carrier of a monk. In a booklet that arrived the other day from the headquarters in Tokyo, I found the picture below that divides the carrier of a priest into ten steps, starting with birth and ending with death. In this curriculum, the two steps are treated as one. After you complete them, you have the rank of osho:


What does ten-e and zuise mean?

Ten-e literally means "to turn the robe", i.e. to change dress. Unsui (training monks) are allowed to wear only black robes and black o-kesa. When you ordain, your teacher has to send a picture taken at the ceremony to the headquarters in Tokyo to have the ordination certified. In the past I gave some of the monks who ordained at Antaiji brown kesas at ordination, and as a result the were not recognized as Soto monks. This is strange, because o-kesa stems from the Sanskrit word kasaya, which obviously refers to the mixed, rusty-brown colour the monks robes are traditionally dyed in. Anyway, I had to take another picture with my students in a different, black robe, and voila!, they were recognized as proper Soto monks.

Now, ten-e is the point in the carrier of a Soto monk when you are finally allowed to wear a yellow-brown robe. The conditions are that you have finished dharma transmission (shiho) and are at least 20 years old. You had to be at least 16 to become a head monk (shuso), and in theory you could receive dharma transmission as a teenager. But you are not allowed to wear the brown robe before the age of 20.

This is interesting, because at the time of the Buddha - and even now in the Theravada tradition - you have to be at least 20 years old to take full ordination as a bikkhu (monk). Could it be that ten-e in Soto-shu is something like a full monk's ordination? At least in theory, the answer is no. The precepts for novices, in Japanese shami-kai exist also in Soto-shu, but they are only given to kids below the age of 10. If you ordain and are over 10 years old, you are - at least in theory - a full fledged monk. But in practice, I think, the regular tokudo-shiki (monk's ordination, also called priest's odrination sometimes) is something like a novice ordination, while the steps of dharma transmission, ten-e and zuise finally make you a proper monk. But that is only my personal impression, it is not the official Soto-shu point of view.

If you are over 20 years old, you can do ten-e any time after you have finished shiho. Your teacher has to send in a document called ten-e-suikyojo. If your teacher has already died, you can send in a document by yourself called ten-e-shiganjo. After a little waiting, the headquarters will return a document called ten-e-kyojo, i.e. the permission to change the robes and wear a coloured o-kesa.

After receiving this permission, you have two years of time to pay respect to the two main temples, Eiheiji and Sojiji, where you act as the "abbot for one night". This is called zuise and this is the first time you wear the yellow-brown o-kesa. If you do not perform zuise within two years after ten-e, you lose the permission to change the robes, i.e. you have apply a second time.

There are regulations for ten-e after your teacher has died. Are there regulations for shiho in the case your teacher dies? Naturally, you can not receive shiho from your teacher after he has passed away. Dharma transmission in a dream is not recognized. How abot dharma transmission on the deathbed? In fact, this kind of dharma transmissonm can be recognized, but only under certain conditons: If the teacher lies on the deathbed, he or she can transmit the dharma without the usually decorum and the one-week preparation of documents, but with a simple prostration of teacher and student (called shi-shi-menju-no-hai in Japanese). Still, witnesses are necessary. it is not enough to claim that your teacher whispered the words into your ear, unheard by anyone else. The witness needs to be a Soto-shu priest who is on the board of the temple (i.e. the sekinin-yakuin) and at the same time a doctor needs to issue a medical certificate as proof of the critical condition of the teacher at the time of the shi-shi-menju-no-hai. Even in this case, there are objective criteria for dharma transmission to take place. It never happens just "mind-to-mind".
But let us return to the topic. The picture below shows what colour of robe you can wear at what stage of your monk's carrier:

As a joza (ordained monk before hossenshiki) and zagen (ordained monk after hossenshiki, but before zuise) you can waer only black o-kesa over a black koromo (outer Chinese style robe). On the night that you pay respect to Eiheiji and Sojiji, you can wear a coloured o-kesa for the first time. Usually it has the yellow-brown colour shown in the picture. Your koromo is still black. After zuise you are promoted to the rank of osho and eventually you might become the resident priest in your own temple. At that point, you are allowed to wear a coloured koromo as well, but not the fancy colours like red, yellow or purple which are reserved for the higher special ranks (about those, later). As osho, you can also wear a special hat named after the founder of tea ceremony, Rikyu. I do not own one, but this store sells them for 12.600 Yen a piece:



Nice, isn't it? The higher the rank you climbed, the fancier the hats. They get more expensive too! The picture below will give you an idea how you might look once you have reached the top of the ladder:



You are promoted from one rank to the next whenever you finish one of the steps in the carrier of a monk:

After ordination, you are a joza.
After being the shuso for a three-month training period, you become zagen.
After finishing zuise, you are promoted to osho.

After you become the head priest at your own temple and hold a practice period there for the first time (with one student acting as the shuso), you will finally reach the highest rank of dai-osho.
These four ranks are pretty straight forward and depend on nothing but your performance as a monk under your teacher, and then as a head priest. These ranks are called hokai in Japanese, which literally means "dharma ranks". Apart from these "dharma ranks", there exist eight special ranks, sokai in Japanese, which means "priest rank". Promotion from sokai to sokai is a little more complicated and depends on the school education you received and the amount of time you spend in an offivially recognized training monastery. The lowest sokai is that of a third rank priest. I do not know anyone who has that rank, it does not entitle you to become a priest. When you ordain, you do not have a sokai at all. You get promoted after you trained in an officially recognized monastery and then complete zuise. Everyone I know gets promoted at least to the 2nd rank priest, which is the second lowest rank. The list below shows how long you have to stay in a training monastery to be promoted to the rank of 2nd rank, 1st rank or sei-kyoshi.

If you graduated from university, you can become a 2nd rank Soto priest in 6 months (or 1st rank in 2 and a half years, sei-kyoshi in 4 and a half years). If dropped out of high-school, you need 3 years to obtain the same rank (or 6 years for 1st rank, 10 years for sei-kyoshi). To be promoted to the higher ranks above sei-kyoshi, you first need to become a sei-kyoshi and then wait for someone at the top to recommend you for promotion. For the promotion to the rank of gon-daikyoshi, you need to be at least 55 years old. For dai-kyoshi, you need to be 60 and there is a maximum number of 180 people inside Soto-shu who can have this rank. The famous Aoyama Shundo roshi recently became the first woman in the history of Soto-shu to be promoted to this rank. There are only 30 gon-daikyojo, and only the two abbots of Eiheiji and Sojiji possess the rank of daikyojo. Sounds complicated? It is! What changes when you get promoted? Nothing much, except the colour of the kesa and koromo you are allowe dto wear, and the special hat of course. Also, the annual contribution you have to make to Soto-shu depends on your sokai

As a simple training monk, you pay nothing.
As 3rd rank kyoshi, you pay 4.000 Yen (about 35 bucks with the strong Yen of 2010).
As 2nd rank kyoshi, you pay 10.000 Yen.
As 1st rank kyoshi, you pay 15.000 Yen.
As sei-kyoshi, you pay 30.000 Yen.
As gon-daikyoshi, you pay 150.000 Yen.
As daikyoshi, you pay 210.000 Yen.
As gon-daikyojo, you pay 300.000 Yen (about 2700 bucks in 2010).
No-one knows, if or how much the daikyojos pay.

You have to make these annual contribution through the temple at which you are registered until you die. After your death, the temple has to produce a deat certificate to be exempted from these contributions (this can become important, as Antaiji for example has to pay contributions for a nun (1st rank) that ordained with Sawaki roshi more than half a century ago and hasn't been heard of for decades. Still we are billed for her contributions every year, and that hurts if you have no parish and therefore no income from funerals).

OK. So much for whining about the bureaucratic stuff. Some words about the "officially recognized training monasteries". These are called sodo in Japanese, literally a monk's hall. Antaiji consideres itself a sodo, but we are not an officially recognized one. That means that you can train here for as many years as you like, you will not be promoted to any rank (except osho, if you receive the dharma transmission - about which we learned two months ago). If you want to become a full-fledged priest who can take over a Soto temple in Japan, you have to spent at least a couple of months to a couple of years in one of thirty something training monasteries in Japan. The most famous ones are Eiheiji and Sojiji, but from Hokkaido to Kyushu, there many other alternatives. Eiheiji and Sojiji have more than 100 traing monks staying there (usually for not more than a year or two), while most of the others have less than ten monks living in the monastery. All of them except two are for men, the nunneries are in Nagoya and in Niigata prefecture. The time done in these places is called ango, it will be the topic of another article. But in two months, first let us get back to zuise, becoming the head abbot of Eiheiji and Sojiji for a night.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:45 pm

and another essay on this whole process - from Antai-ji also:

Lotus in the fire
November and December 2010




In the September issue we had a look at what kind of kufû (effort) a real-life Japanese Zen-master does during zazen, in this case when it comes to improving the posture and dealing with sleep. Now let us get back to the steps in the carrier of a monk inside Japanese Soto-shu, including the little absurdities and all. Step 5 is called zuise which isn't easy to translate. Zui means "auspicious", se is "the world". Originally, it seems that it meant the same as shusse, i.e. to get promoted to an office, to make a carrier step. Maybe it can also be interpreted as "to make an auspicious announcement to the whole world" or something along those lines. To use the boy-meets-girl example once more: If they fall in love with each other at tokudo and get engaged at risshin, then shihô might be something like proposal (which happens only between the two of them, with no-one else involved), ten-e is something like going to town hall and changing one's name (the monk changes his robes, making the dharma transmission official) and zuise is the big wedding to which every one in the family gets invited.

In Japanese Soto-shu, zuise is done twice, once at each of the main monasteries (Eiheiji and Sôjiji). In Japanese, it is also called ichiya-no-jûshoku, which means "abbot for one night". Only after you have been the abbot of both Eiheiji and Sôjiji for one night each are you considered an oshô, i.e. a teacher. As we saw in the July issue, oshô is the third out of four hôkai (dharma ranks), only surpassed by dai-oshô ("great teacher"). There are seven sôkai (priest ranks) among oshô anddai-oshô, which depend, among other things, on the elngth of your carrier and how long you practiced ango at a formal training monastery. As we have seen, becoming an oshô entitles you to were a colourd (usually brown) kesa robe and a fancy hat.

If my memory is right, you have about two years to complete this step after ten-e, but the interval between doing zuise at Eiheiji and Sôjiji respectively must not exceed one month. Being the "abbot for one night" at Eiheiji and Sôjiji is easier than it sounds. You only have to make an appointment beforehand at both places. They are open all year round, all though zuise might not be possible on certain days. They will send you information about when to come, including a dress code. You will also be informed that you have to pay 50.000 Yen on arrival at each Eiheiji and Sôjiji. That is about 1200 US dollars (Nov. 2010) altogether, plus travelling expenses. But then again, it is something like the equivalent to a wedding ceremony.

If you thought that being "abbot for one night" means that Eiheiji's or Sôjiji's chauffeur is waiting for you with a limousine at the train station, you are wrong. You have to get to the temple gate by yourself until the appointed time in the afternoon. I went from Antaiji to Eiheiji in the summer of 2000 with our temple's offroad bike. The monk in charge looked surprised when I told him that I was "tonight's abbot" and looking for a parking lot. I had to change dress in a public toilet in fromt of the gate, as the "abbot for the night" is supposed turn up in koromo and rakusu, not the filthy samu-e I was wearing. After paying my 50.000 Yen at the front desk, I was shown to my room. Being the "abbot for one night", I expected to be shown to the best quarters in the temple compound. And the room I was led to was quite spacious, but to my surprised three other oshôs-to-be were already in there. Altogether, we were four abbots for the night. The rest of the day was spent rehearsing for the next mornings ceremony. Not only were we not giving the keys to the monastery, we did not even see the real abbot (who was - at the time - about 100 years old). Of course no-one was waiting for our orders, rather we were expected to follow what we were told. It turned out that being "abbot for one night" meant nothing but filling the space of dôshi at some of the next morning's ceremonial rituals. This turned out to be farely easy, because as the only foreigner I was placed last and just had to follow the movements of the three Japanese before me.



The biggest treat you get for your 50.000 Yen is the fancy meal following the ceremony in the morning. I hear that the unsui that work in Eiheiji's kitchen get up at one o' clock in the morning to prepare this meal for the "abbots". The whole affair ends with a photo session. Fortunately, my seniors at Antaiji had warned me that I would be billed another 50 dollars for the photographs, so I avoided having my pictures taken by the professional Eiheiji camera-man. If you bring your own camera, you can ask one of the unsui to take a snap shot of you. When you leave before lunch time, you will receive a whole bag full of memorial goods depending on the day, ranging from stuff like kotsu sticks, tea bowls and silk handkerchiefs to books authored by the real abbot of Eiheiji or Sôjiji. My bag even contained a set of postcards! I was reminded of one of those fukubukuro grab bags they sell at Japanese department stores at New Year's.

A couple of days later, the procedure at Sôjiji was more or less the same, except for minute details. Traditionally, the monks turn anti-clockwise after offering incense at Eiheiji, while they turn clockwose at Sôjiji. Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, they will tell you that. Also, they wear their kesa in a different way. Both the Eiheiji and Sôjiji way of putting on the kesa do not make much sense when you wear the nyohô-e in the tradition of Sawaki Rôshi. To my surprise, the monks at both Eiheiji and Sôjiji had never seen a nyohô-e, nor had they any clue of how to put it on. I somehow had to figure out how to adjust the nyohô-e to their idea of how it was supposed to look.

One of the lessons to be learned not only at zuise but throughout practicing in a Japanese setting is this adjusting to different circumstances. Amost never will people ask for your opinion. Alomost always will people expect you to listen to what they have to say. And that even goes for the "abbot for one night". I would not be surprised if even the real abbot would spend most of the day just following the instructions of his assitants. Following others makes up for about 99% of practice here in Japan.

At Sôjiji, I was not alone either. Masanori, who had been with me at Eiheiji the previous week, was with me again. His name was written with the same two characters that form the shôbô of shôbôgenzô, but for some reason he preferred the secular Japanese reading (each Sino-Japanese character can be read in at least two ways, a Japanese kun way and a Sino-Japanese on way). We had met and talked at Eiheiji, and at that time he had told me and the two other "abbots" that he was working at a friends company in Tokyo. Just as the other two Japanese, he was born as a temple son and his father expected him to take over the family time as soon as he would retire, but as it was a small temple in the mountaineous Nagano prefecture, he had to work while his father would take care of the temple. Being only the two of us in Yokohama (which is part of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area), he told me that in fact he was not working as an employee, but as a professional pachinko player. "I can make so much more money playing pachinko than performing funerals, I don't even know if I want to return to Nagano at all", he said. At night, he wanted to show me China town in Yokohama. He asked the unsui who was in charge of us: "This foreign monk here is still hungry. Is there a way for us to leave the monastery at night and examine Yokohama"s night life? After all, we are the abbots tonight and maybe you would like to join us?" The unsui asked us to wait for some minuetes as he would consult with his seniors. After he came back, he told us politely: "Having been here for less than a year, it would not be considered appropriate for me to company you outside. Also, I am obliged to tell you that it is not permissable for the abbots for one night to leave the monastery compounds. But, just for your information, the third door on teh left side of this hall way is not locked at night. It connects to the garden and from there, you can get to the subway station. Training monks use it as a kind of emergency exit."

I do not know if we were the only "abbots for one night" who used this "emergency exit", btu a friend told me that the following year he found a printed manual for the "abbot for one night" in his room in Sôjiji, that stated that leaving the monastery over night was absolutely forbidden. But then again, the fact that something is forbidden in Japan does not mean that it is not practiced.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Mar 30, 2014 3:08 am

There is nothing quite as corrupting as power ,importance,and authority.
Western temples or centers too have systems of rising in rank positions of authority people with little experience telling people 'under' them off, saying this is not the way to behave ,teachers who need pupils who will reward commitment with  stupid title or different coloured garments, This type of passing on is all to do with establishing something for personal ends which was never really there in the first place and has nothing to do with zazen
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:45 am

Jcbaran wrote:
Below is from the Antai-ji website. http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/201005.shtml

I posted a reference to this essay last year sometime, but it is good to repost it here for this discussion.  By posting this, I don't necessarily agree with everything said here - this is one person's take and opinion -  but this is useful since it goes into some details and is counter to some of how Kennett / OBC thinks about transmission. Also, this is from a current westernized Soto Zen temple in Japan - a temple that interacts with the established Soto system.  Definitely worth reading. 
 
Thanks for the info Josh.  Can you say how some of it is counter to how Jiyu Kennett thought about transmission?


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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:23 am

I have a general question that might be able to be answered along with Isan's -  how it does work for someone to "stand in" for a teacher who can't be part of the transmission ceremony? I think I've read here that some SA monks were transmitted by a surrogate during a time when Kennett was ill or otherwise unavailable. Isn't the ritual supposed to be a personal exchange between the actual teacher and student?
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Mar 30, 2014 12:37 pm

I think that is the question.
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PostSubject: TRANSMISSION-WHO'S IN CHARGE?   Sun Mar 30, 2014 12:54 pm

H Enida wrote:
Lise - that IS what I understood, that changes have been modest to date and that any changes would have to be made in consideration of those later phases.  You have restated my question exactly.  

The hierarchy is inherent in the spiritual practice by the very nature of the master-disciple relationship.  We heard so many stories of how RM Jiyu pushed her disciples to the very edge of their ability to accept what was happening and some did, again and again, and others just left.  Often these stories were told to me in spiritual counseling as a way of encouraging me to accept Eko's and other senior monks' behavior, that I must just trust and train with it and that it wasn't the important thing.  

If a novice was given the ability to bring their teacher to task for anything that seemed abusive, it would greatly interfere with the relationship.  The Order rules about the relationship are very vague and were not well studied or relied upon when I was there, and have not fundamentally changed since, even after everything we could see that can happen because of the unequal power in the relationship.

Yes H Enida,

The elaborate arcane ritual,the late night tryst,the lengthy "weeding out" process,none of this was able to prevent an emotionally and morally bankrupt individual from rising through the hierarchy and wreaking havoc in the OBC.

Isn't it sad-ritual is so helpful on one level,because it enables us to transcend our individuality,to "stand for" something.When we behave "as if" we are buddha,we can represent buddha,without claiming to be an individual buddha.Ritual,rehearsed forms help this,giving us a framework which can be shared with others.This is wonderful.
Yet so sad that such harm can be done.
It's the elephant in the room,the truth that cannot be spoken,that these rituals occur within an environment where there are no real social checks and balances-no social reality at all.No accountability,no justice no rights.

I am sorry you have experienced this bullying.
Thank you for your thoughts.
And of course we need to be able to exercise moral discernment,wherever we are.It is our birthright.

It is good to think critically.That also is our birthright.It is a valuable ,essential feature of modern life,the claim to citizenship,the claim to live free from fear.
I thought Kennett exemplified this freedom.
That's my big disappointment.




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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Mar 30, 2014 1:04 pm

Lise wrote:
I have a general question that might be able to be answered along with Isan's -  how it does work for someone to "stand in" for a teacher who can't be part of the transmission ceremony? I think I've read here that some SA monks were transmitted by a surrogate during a time when Kennett was ill or otherwise unavailable. Isn't the ritual supposed to be a personal exchange between the actual teacher and student?
 
If transmitted surrogates were not capable of acting as the actual teacher in a transmission ceremony, then there would be no point to transmissions.
Zen has nothing special over any other sincere intent to follow the Buddhist path towards sufferings cessation. Each school simply reflects whatever universal truths it's ancestors found helpful to point the way along that path. Transmission just happens to be one of Zen's.


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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Mar 30, 2014 2:18 pm

Jikyo said:


I would be surprised if anyone who is still serving as a priest would break the silence around the transmission ceremony.  This silence is pervasive across all the Soto Zen lineages, not just at Shasta Abbey because that silence protects the legitimacy of Zen transmission.  The preparations Enida (hi, Enida) described are the same in other Soto Zen traditions, of which I am a member.  The ceremony during which transmission occurs is a private ceremony that takes place in the middle of the night and is simply not to be spoken of.  

The silence I maintain has to do with the experience having been deeply personal and private.  I’m not sure that the silence is needed to protect the legitimacy of the transmission, but it is certainly an expression of respect for what Jiyu Kennett and I shared in that moment.
 
Yes, there are secret teachings that are transmitted.  And yes, SOMETHING is transmitted.  Like all the previous gates through which the student passes, the impact may not be immediately felt and the effect of the impact continues endlessly.  And, whether a monk has left Shasta or not, my inclination would be to always recognize that person as a transmitted monk.  In the other Soto lineages, once a priest has been transmitted, the okesa can never be revoked.  One can disrobe voluntarily, but the okesa no longer belongs to the teacher.

I guess it depends on the meaning of “secret”.  Certainly the ceremony can trigger an opening and as you say there may be a deepening impact over time, but I don’t remember that the teachings themselves were fundamentally different.  Of course what is shared by each teacher with each student will be unique to some degree.  I would agree that taking off one’s robes and removing the kesa are not the same thing – there is no removing the kesa.

My experience is that my okesa acquired a new weight as the responsibility of transmission settled onto my shoulders and I felt my small self's complete insignificance in relation to the vast power of the Dharma.  I do not feel special as a result of transmission -- what I feel is a greater responsibility to provide access to the Dharma and to care for the suffering of the world.  And that's not to imply that others who have not received transmission do not feel this responsibility.  It's just that, for me, the responsibility has a different weight/feel to it now.
 
Yes, and thank you.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Mar 30, 2014 6:49 pm

Lise wrote:
I have a general question that might be able to be answered along with Isan's -  how it does work for someone to "stand in" for a teacher who can't be part of the transmission ceremony? I think I've read here that some SA monks were transmitted by a surrogate during a time when Kennett was ill or otherwise unavailable. Isn't the ritual supposed to be a personal exchange between the actual teacher and student?

Yes. During the period when RMJK was in Oakland at the BBP, extremely ill, and thought that she might be dying, she asked me to stand in for her in the Transmission of one of her disciples. I have no idea if this would have been acceptable to the Head Office, but RMJK clearly was not concerned about that. Both Mark and Howard have accurately described the principle involved.

I think that all of the excellent comments on this thread about the problematic side of Transmission have to do with the way in which the religious institution conflates the spiritual significance of transmission itself with the institutional needs that the ceremony is required to serve.

As Mark has said, the essence of the ceremony is that "Buddha recognizes Buddha"; master and disciple transmit each other. As Jikyo has pointed out, this is not necessarily experienced during the ceremony itself, but will unfold over time. When it does occur during the ceremony it (as I have come to experience and describe it) is simply a matter of teacher and disciple relaxing back into the ground of Awareness itself (aka the Dharmakaya, aka the Buddha Nature). Awareness recognizes that which is Awareness itself.

The teacher is only a gateway pointing to the disciple's own gateless gateway to Awareness itself, the source of existence itself. The Transmission ceremony can serve to confirm this for the disciple. On the other hand, this does not require a ceremony.

It seems to me that by conflating the spiritual with the institutional, the secrecy around the essence of Transmission becomes a disservice for lay practice in particular, and suggests, as the OBC and many other Buddhist traditions believe (even if they tend to keep it quiet) that monastic practice is superior. It also creates a system and a hierarchy in which domination and abuse can thrive all too easily.


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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:16 pm

Lise wrote:
H Enida wrote:
Recently, in response to my comments regarding the OBC making changes that would safeguard its participants, I was told by a senior monk that determining what would be good to do must be considered in regards to preserving our spiritual practice, which may be abstract or unappreciated by those unfamiliar with its later phases.  I assume the monk was speaking about transmission (and I was not offended about being called unappreciative or that things are too abstract for me to be familiar with its later phases J).  From what I can gather from the comments, substantial changes cannot be made because of the reasons behind and practice of transmission.

Enida, did you understand the monk's comments to mean there is an inherent conflict between adopting safeguards for practitioners and the "later phases" of OBC spiritual practice?  I realise you can't answer this, but I wonder if it means they feel they must be free of any restraint in regards to how people are treated, who is held accountable, what is the ethical code applied?

Why would the latter stages of anyone's training, monk or lay, not be compatible with providing basic levels of protection to those involved in it? Is it because they believe "a master" must be completely free to do what she or he wants to do with someone they are considering for transmission?

If this is not the case, why do the monks of Shasta Abbey seem so resistant to accepting rules for themselves about how they treat people, especially other monastics?

In the mid-eighties, RMJK shifted her long time emphasis on the importance of the disciple trusting the master, to an emphasis on the fundamental importance of the disciple having unconditional trust in the master. She did this at a point at which RM Daizui and Koshin were beginning to question some of her beliefs, decisions, and behavior. The three had a confrontation, and RMJK's view prevailed. (This event has been described elsewhere on OBCC).

Never questioning the teacher, the teaching, or OBC culture, became embedded in the culture, and now seems to be regarded as one of the 'deeper' teachings of a "later phase" of the Order's development. From recent conversations I know that a number of current monks in the Order reject this, but a majority, apparently, do not.

I would say that unconditional trust is essential. But what does this mean? Since all humans (and institutions) make mistakes, and all Buddhist teachers are human, all Buddhist teachers will make mistakes. Spiritual teaching itself is always incomplete, inevitably contains cultural bias and is therefore full of 'mistakes'. The only thing that we can appropriately have unconditional trust for is that which is unconditioned, unborn, and undying.

So, as per my comment above re Transmission, I would say, have unconditional trust in the integrity of the ground of your own (and if you have one, your teacher's) Awareness itself--and question everything.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:01 am

part of the issue with Kennett was the hard DEMAND for unconditional trust, love, adoration - towards her.  There was no option, submit, surrender, do it or else!!!!!   The "or else" was often, as we all experienced, retaliation, emotional and verbal attacks, lots of what I would call ill-will - with the goal to break the person, completely.  It was ruthless - it was unrelenting.  It was toxic.  and it had nothing to do with Dharma or Zen.  Zero.  And it was completely free of love - no matter what words were used.  To submit to this, for me, was tantamount to spiritual and emotional suicide - which became more painfully apparent the longer I stayed.

I will jump in here and write more about the whole transmission issue in the coming weeks - it's a big topic.  In the reading section, over the last few years, I posted many pieces about transmission - i highly recommend people read all the essays by Stuart Lachs.  He has real insight into the shadow side of hierarchy, transmission, zen myths, etc.

Also, there are some terrific books that look into the history of Chan/Zen - and address the thorny topics of lineage, myth creation, transmission - what it was and wasn't and how all these aspects of Buddhism were actually lived and practiced in China and Japan.  MOST of what we were taught about lineage, transmission, zen history was idealistic, romantic and false.  Such is the case for most religion in the world, and Zen was / is no different.  Also, the reality was that Kennett had no background in Soto Zen history really, the Japanese didn't share much of that with her.  And after Koho Zenji died and after Kennett cut herself off from her actual teacher, she didn't expand her Zen education by learning Japanese or studying with any other teachers or going to Komozawa University - the Soto Zen university.  In the early 60s, the Zen historians at Komozawa already knew that the Zen lineage was fabricated and much of Chan history was also suspect.  But that's another story.

Lineage actually does not matter.  Unbroken or broken - irrelevant.  Nothing is transmitted, nothing can be passed down.  It is now or never.  Dharma is a non-dual teaching and has nothing to do with transmission.  Impossible.  The Buddha didn't need to hold up any flowers.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:09 am

Essay from Stuart Lachs - Means of Authorization:  Establishing Hierarchy in Ch'an/Zen Buddhism in America -
http://www.darkzen.org/articles/meansofauthorization.htm
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:24 am

Josh, I appreciate your perspective.

I share almost all of it.

But I think that your stated position might be--incomplete.


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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:00 am

Josh's March 28th post concludes with, "And with the OBC , you had this intersection of Japanese militant Zen and Kennetts shadows and behavior, and bingo, what a distortion this is, so confusing to the people in it."

From my observation, even though on the one hand there was often voiced much condemnation and criticism of the treatment RMJK endured during her time in Japan, it appeared that on the other hand many of those same Japanese cultural and yes, militant aspects, were nevertheless also much admired, employed, interwoven and adapted within OBC training.  Because of the fact that Japan, being a small country and forever having to defend against foreign invasions, including the hordes of Kublai Khan, it seemed a natural outcome that militancy was developed to a high degree there.  Much of the code of conduct of the Samurai, such as discipline, loyalty, unquestioning obedience and a few others is incorporated in Zen practice and it seems that perhaps there may be a fear within the OBC that dilution of those traits might result in weakening or even too great of an alteration of the practice.  Although I can understand the resistance and reluctance for too much of a change and that the qualities of discipline, loyalty and austerity being commendable ones, it does seem advisable that  the use of humiliation and denigration be dispensed with, since it not only doesn't accord with what the Buddha taught but can foster discouragement, despair and demoralization for aspirants
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:20 pm

Jikyo wrote:
Greetings, noble ones.  I will horn in on this conversation and add an introduction later.

I began a reply to this post yesterday, thought better of it, and now will continue because of several comments asking for someone to describe their transmission experience.  I would be surprised if anyone who is still serving as a priest would break the silence around the transmission ceremony.  This silence is pervasive across all the Soto Zen lineages, not just at Shasta Abbey because that silence protects the legitimacy of Zen transmission.  The preparations Enida (hi, Enida) described are the same in other Soto Zen traditions, of which I am a member.  The ceremony during which transmission occurs is a private ceremony that takes place in the middle of the night and is simply not to be spoken of.  . . .

hi Jikyo -  to the extent you feel comfortable talking about this, can you discuss how silence protects the legitimacy of the transmission?  I have done some reading (not a lot) since Enida posted this topic, but I'm not much further along in understanding the need for secrecy or confidentiality.  I would think a student and teacher could have the same experience between themselves on a crowded subway platform with 50 people listening and watching; presumably they are focused on each other and are experiencing a state (or mind) of meditation that filters out whatever is not part of the transmission? 

Apart from cultural custom and the habit of perpetuating a tradition, I haven't found an explanation for why the ceremony is not to be spoken of. What would change if the participants did talk about it?
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:42 pm

The location is easy .. Why wouldn't you place your zabutan and zafu on a railway platform for something even as generic as formal meditation, let alone a transmission where it deserves a space with minimal possible distractions and the potentials of the human condition intruding..
"Hey! that's not public Kleenex, those are my silks!"   I think those platform images are now tattooed in my brain.

And Secrecy??? Why don't you have sex in public? (just guessing) What is it about the details of the intimacy you have with your husband that keeps it private.
Something as intimate as two beings meeting transcendence, whether worldly or spiritual, deserves no less.
Yeah..  tomorrow I'm probably gonna regret this post.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Tue Apr 01, 2014 4:53 pm

Lol !   You`re not losing your touch Howard.  :-)
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:40 am

My question isn't about why we do things publicly or privately - I am clear on why people don't seek out a subway platform to meditate or hold a ceremony. My point is that I thought what goes on externally doesn't negate an internal experience. If a participant discusses transmission, does this undermine the legitimacy of the exchange? I'm not clear on how it works retroactively to alter the genuine-ness of what happened at that particular moment.

In a way this reminds me of the prohibition I heard at SA about not talking to anyone else about what was said during sanzen. I once asked why, and the monk just looked at me, no answer.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 02, 2014 9:34 am

Lise wrote:
My question isn't about why we do things publicly or privately - I am clear on why people don't seek out a subway platform to meditate or hold a ceremony. My point is that I thought what goes on externally doesn't negate an internal experience. If a participant discusses transmission, does this undermine the legitimacy of the exchange? I'm not clear on how it works retroactively to alter the genuineness of what happened at that particular moment.

In a way this reminds me of the prohibition I heard at SA about not talking to anyone else about what was said during sanzen. I once asked why, and the monk just looked at me, no answer.
 
I'm also curious why Jikyo chose the word legitimacy:

silence protects the legitimacy of Zen transmission

Hopefully she will say more.  I feel that more generally there was a problem at Shasta Abbey with people being required to maintain silence about their practice.  Monks were told not to discuss their practice with anyone other than their designated sanzen teacher and this served to isolate people and prevent them from helping one another.  Perhaps the silence around transmission would not be seen as problematic if the culture in general was not repressive and secretive.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 02, 2014 11:24 am

good points, Isan.  There can be a value in keeping therapy and counseling private, confidential - for very practical reasons.  But that is up to the "client" - if the client wants to share some aspect of their counseling session with friends or loved ones, it is up to them.  But at Shasta, with the total suppression of open communication and emotional connection, all this secrecy becomes very unhealthy.  Fine to keep Sanzen mostly private, but i use the word "mostly" since sometimes it is useful to share and discuss and connect. 

In terms of the secrecy of the transmission ceremony, there is a lot we could talk about there.  It is not just about the simple ceremony - in isolation.  That ceremony - and the Soto Zen version of it - the Dogen version of all this - has a long and complex history and what Kennett knew and said about it - was minimal and idealized.  Transmission cannot be understood in simple isolation.. and I do think if people want to understand this core aspect of the Zen narrative, it is good to read up on this - look into how this whole transmission system was manufactured, created, dogmatized, idealized, romanticized, used and abused, and so on.  Wouldn't it wonderful if was this pure essential island - but it's not, not by a long shot.  And many Zen folks don't want to look behind the curtain - actually it is not really disillusioning.. and i do think getting rid of illusions is a good thing... it is the way things are. 

I want to say a little about my experience with Dzogchen - a Tibetan system of teaching that is somewhat similar to Zen.  I think i have written about this elsewhere.  The most important teaching in Dzogchen is called the "pointing out instructions."  They do NOT use the concept of transmission.  Nothing is passed from teacher to student.  The teacher / master POINTS OUT the nature of mind to the students.  It is not a ceremony.  There is no ritual.  It is considered special and private, but not really secret.  It is simple dharma teaching on how to look into your own mind / awareness and see directly.  In many cases, the Pointing out Instructions are considered very advanced and only shared with people after many years or even decades of practice.  On the other hand, there are Tibetan lamas who give these instructions much earlier - and in the case of the teacher I connected with - at the beginning - to anyone.  You just had to request these teachings and they were freely given.  My teacher was Tulku Urgyen - a truly wonderful old style lama who mostly sat on his small bed, in a small room in his monastery high above Kathmandu -  and gave these teachings to anyone who walked in the door.

And when he gave these instructions, he went into great depth and pointed out the nature of mind over and over again - he wanted you / everyone in the room - to have direct insight.  But there was no drama, just insightful simple instructions - he also used various hand gestures, but nothing magical, just helping us to look and see.  I think I spent about two weeks there and received teachings every other day.  Also, of course, he was a very awakened person, so when he gave these instructions, he was living them, embodying this - so that is certainly  a very important part of it - but not in the sense of giving you something that you don't already are / have. 

Tibetan Buddhism is famous for their highly styled rituals and some are "secret" and for many the rituals are so complex, confusing, very symbolic, they might be fun to go through, I suppose - and most of them really just initiate you into a particular meditation / focus practice using this or that mantra, visualization and text - so it is really about a particular practice.  So it is really unusual that for Tulku Urgyen, when he gave what is considered the most essential / highest / core teachings of Dzogchen, it was a simple and direct as possible.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 02, 2014 11:46 am

Yes Josh, as you implied there is the world of difference between privacy, confidentiality and secrecy. Like sanzen transmission is private but not secret or even confidential as sanzen is, at least it shouldn't be. 

As to whether any special thing is transmitted I fear we are getting close to a kind of trans v. cons substantiation. If something is transmitted that is important to buddhahood then this denies the teaching of the innateness of the Buddha nature. What is passed on, transmitted, whatever you care to call it, is the knowledge of one's lineage, and the certification of having joined it. It is a stamp of approval by the teacher of the pupil
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 02, 2014 11:55 am

These essays / blogs are from "The Zennist" - he can be quite provocative and again, by posting this, I am not suggesting that I necessarily agree with everything said here, but he makes many interesting points about the transmission process.  You can read much more of his thoughts on line.

February 10, 2011
Is the transmission ceremony garbage?
from:  http://zennist.typepad.com/zenfiles/2011/02/is-the-transmission-ceremony-garbage.html


If Zennists believe that the proof of enlightenment has to be verified by a certified teacher who then formalizes the adept’s enlightenment by means of a ceremony of transmission, it can inevitably lead to the belief that the transmission ceremony, itself, and enlightenment are one and the same.

Let me say that there is something fundamentally wrong with this picture which should be obvious.  Such a ceremony, in fact, contravenes the notion of Zen’s “Mind to Mind transmission” which is intended to mean that Mind is self-transmitting and self-verifying.  What else might transmit Mind or verify it except Mind?

However, Soto Zennists like Dogen placed a huge emphasis on ceremony.  Dogen, himself, went so far as to believe that the transmission from a teacher to his heir “must be accompanied by a succession certificate (shisho) sealed in blood” (Bodiford, Soto Zen in Medieval Japan, p. 15).  I hasten to add, that such a ceremony is alien to the main Suttas and Sutras of Buddhism.  This ceremony has more in common with Free Masonry than with Buddhism insofar as secrets are passed on.  The following underscores this.

    “The Goyuigon's record of conversations with Ejo raises additional questions. During the dharma transmission ceremony Ejo states: "There are secret affairs and oral initiations. These matters that never have been spoken of to anyone else, concern the mental attitude of an abbot, temple rituals, the ceremony for conferring the succession certificate, and the procedure for bodhisattva-precept ordinations. [Dogen had said:] 'These can be transmitted only to one's dharma heir.' For this reason only I, Ejo, have received this instruction." The learning of ritual always requires personal instruction, but a similar emphasis on secret initiations is not found in any of Dogen's writings. Dogen's composition of a Shobo genzo chapter devoted to describing the use of the succession certificate demonstrates his openness regarding the rituals of dharma transmission. If Ejo spoke these words, then the origins of the secret initiation rituals that became prevalent in medieval Soto Zen can be traced back much earlier than generally accepted” (ibid, 55).

The above is evidence that Soto Zennists believe the transmission ceremony, itself, imparts something mysterious when, in fact, nothing is imparted or can be imparted in the way of spirit or Mind.  Switching gears, one must ask, “How does one transmit absolute reality, that is, the Buddha Mind which is universal; which is present with us?”  It should go without saying that this Mind is the Buddha’s Mind.  But who can receive this Mind except one who is already on the same wavelength as the Buddha, that is, a spiritual son or daughter of the Buddha?  So far, there doesn’t appear to be any necessity for a ceremony of transmission.  One might awaken to the Buddha Mind and become instantly transmitted by reading a passage from the Lankavatara or the Lotus Sutra which was the case with Hakuin Zenji who wasn't anyone's so-called Dharma heir.

June 21, 2010
Dogen a forger? Come on!


Dogen arrived at a port in central China in April of 1223.  In June of 1225 Dogen meets his teacher Ju-ching (1163–1228).  Dogen studied with Ju-ching for just over two years.  He eventually receives shisho zu (document of transmission) from Ju-ching in the spring of 1227. Dogen spends a little more than four years in China, returning to Japan in 1227.

Before Dogen met Ju-ching he traveled through the Five Mountains (Wu-shan) area.  He was permitted to look at five Zen transmission certificates.  All this took about two years, from the fall of 1223 to 1225 when he met his teacher, Ju-ching.

So why did Dogen feel the need to look at five Zen transmission certificates, spending perhaps two years doing so?  Judging from the fact that one transmission document is smuggled out so Dogen might look at it, it would seem that these documents were of great importance to Dogen.  It strikes me odd, however, that Dogen, on a spiritual quest, would elect to spend half of his time in China looking at transmission documents!

Supposedly what spurred Dogen to go to China was the question that if all beings have the Buddha-nature, then why do Buddhas and Bodhisattvas arouse the longing for enlightenment and engage in ascetic practice?  In other words, Dogen couldn’t resolve the problem of innate versus acquired enlightenment.  Dogen did not realize that even though all beings possess the Buddha-nature, it is only potentially so, in the way cream is potentially butter—through not actually butter. 

While all beings potentially have the Buddha-nature, according to the Buddha, sentient beings are “reigned over by greed, lust, anger, and ignorance” which means they don’t know what this nature looks like.  It follows from this, they need help in uncovering it which must begin with manifesting the Bodhi Mind (bodhicittotpada) and its development by means of the Bodhisattva path.  Can’t we say that Dogen hoped to find someone to help him with his journey to Buddhahood?

Again, it seems odd that Dogen spent so much time looking at transmission documents when, during this time, there was no guarantee that he would find a suitable teacher—which could take many years.  If anything, Dogen from the moment he set foot in China, should have been trying to find the right teacher one who might help him to understand why sentient beings must first arouse the Bodhi Mind then engage in the practices of a Bodhisattva even though they are potentially Buddhas.

Dogen’s works, for the most part, seem not to show that he ever completely resolved the earlier problem between innate enlightenment (potential Buddha-nature) and accomplished Buddha-nature, i.e., enlightenment.  Dogen, who never lost his faith in Tendai Buddhism, seemed to accept its cardinal notion that the appearances of things are the attributes of the Buddha which to be frank, is nonsense.  In the Avatamsaka Sutra, for example, it says that “The Buddha’s body is formless, free from all defilements” and “The Buddha-body is inconceivable.” 

It is more plausible that the first two years Dogen spent in China looking at five transmission documents was to gain enough information about their construction and composition to be able to eventually forge one when he got back to Japan.  Dogen even claimed that he returned literally “empty-handed” (kûshu genkyo) except with the  ashes of Myozen.  Dogen returned to Japan with no Sutras, sacred images—and certainly no transmission document.  It has now been determined that Dogen's transmission document “most certainly is a medieval forgery” (Steven Heine, Japanese Journal of Religious studies 30.102 [Spring 2003], p. 32).

October 15, 2009
The Confucian Zen lineage


The authenticity of the so-called 'Zen lineage' is very important to American and European Zen culture.  Beneath the superstructure of modern Zen is the firm belief that the Dharma transmission from teacher to student is authentically Buddhist going all the way back to the Buddha, himself.  It is believed that when such a transmission occurs one literally becomes a Buddha! 

Dissenting from the popular view, I find no solid evidence in the oldest Buddhist canon, the Nikayan (Pali), that the Buddha transmitted Dharma to anyone, and certainly not to Mahakashyapa as depicted in the Sung Dynasty work, The Transmission of the Lamp (Ching Te Ch'uan Teng Lu) where the Buddha transmits the pure Dharma-eye to Mahakashyapa who subsequently transmits it to Ananda and so on down the line.  I hasten to add that in the Avatamsaka Sutra, it states that great disciples like Mahakashyapa “were not capable of perpetuating the lineage of Buddhas.”

Both Chinese Buddhist pilgrims Hsuan-tsang, who lived in India between AD 643 to 627, and I-tsing, who lived there for almost 25 years, never once mentioned the idea of an Indian Buddhist patriarchate in which the Buddha transmitted to Mahakashyapa and the latter to Ananda, etc.

From Tao-hsuan's Buddhist Biographies which was compiled in the 7th century we learn a few things of interest about the original Zen school, for example, that Bodhidharma was a meditation (dhyana) teacher who came from southern India.  The members of his school lived a very severe ascetic life.  Tao-hsuan also stated that Bodhidharma regarded the Lankavatara Sutra as the only Sutra worth studying.  In addition, the members of his school only used this particular Sutra as their text.  Curiously, Tao-hsuan never once mentioned anything about Bodhidharma being the 28th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism!

As to the reason for such a lineage like the Zen lineage which depends on a transmission from teacher to student, I side with some scholars who see this particular transmission as being influenced by the important role of Confucianism in Chinese culture.  Citing from the book Zen Ritual by Steven Heine & Dale Stuart Wright, I found the following observation to be of especial interest, fitting in nicely with this topic and summing it up for now.

    "Jorgensen writes that Zen is the most prominent form of Buddhism because it is the most Chinese of any form of Buddhism.  It is the most Chinese because it is the form of Buddhism that is closest to Confucianism.  It is Confucian because it conforms to traditional Chinese family values.  Like any good Confucian family, it has ancestors whom it honors.  It honors those ancestors by transmitting their legacy to proper descendants, from generation to generation, who will maintain and carry on their family traditions.  We can complete Jorgensen’s explanation by saying that in Zen this process of transmitting a family legacy is given structural form through the ritual of dharma transmission" (264).

January 15, 2014
Chinese Zen


In China, regarding the identity of the Zen or Ch’an school, it is distinguished only by the Zen transmission lineage.  This is because in China there is no special ordination for Zennists. One is simply ordained a Buddhist monk or nun of no particular sect (this is different in Japan). (In the U.S. some who claim they’re following a Zen tradition because they’ve received the typical Chinese monastic ordination, don’t seem to understand how Chinese Buddhism works.)

As Buddhist scholars point out, going back to the Sung Dynasty and even today, the huge majority of monks and nuns in China were not affiliated with any particular Buddhist school.  Still a tradition in China, the key to becoming a member of the Zen lineage, eventually receiving the seal of transmission from a Zen master, is first to become his personal disciple.  It is not in error to say that this is not an easy task as compared with becoming a monk or a nun. 

As for the importance of the Zen transmission, in order to become the abbot of a designated Zen monastery, one had to be first transmitted.  In other words, the special importance of the Zen transmission is only meaningful and advantageous for someone wanting to become the abbot of a large public Ch’an monastery.  Also, it is important to understand that “Ch’an monastery” did not mean the huge majority of monks and nuns, including lay people, who practiced at this monastery received Zen transmission.  Far from it.

Zen in North America and Europe is not like Chinese Ch’an/Zen.  One is first ordained a Zennist who then follows a Zen regimen of meditation (zazen) and koans.  Basically, to be blunt, this is a pile of bovine manure.  Minus the Zen transmission, which begins with Mahakasyapa who, according to the Avatamsaka Sutra, is not capable of perpetuating the lineage of Buddhas, there is nothing special about Zen institutions.

The only authentic transmission is Mind to Mind, not teacher to student.  If certification is further required then, as I used to say years ago, find a leaf with a bird [banned term] seal on it.  Of course you might do what Dogen did, forge your own certificate.

November 24, 2010
The broken link of the Zen lineage


Going behind Zen’s literary veil, most notably its transmission literature such as Record of the Transmission of the Lamp (Ching-te ch'uan teng lu) compiled in 1004, we learn mainly that this elaborate work was, in a nutshell, an attempt to legitimize Zen’s  (C., Ch’an) authority.  What must have been an impressive document at one time, the Record of the Transmission of the Lamp shows a lineal succession beginning when the Dharma-eye of the Buddha is transmitted or entrusted to Mahakashyapa who then entrusts it to Ananda who later entrusts it to Shanavasa, and so on down the line where this eye eventually finds its way to China through Bodhidharma.

Such a lineage, however, is only as strong as its weakest link.  First of all, there is no mention of such a lineage in the Pali canon which is quite old.  We read in the Gopakamoggallana Sutta (M. iii. 7) that after the Buddha died (i.e., passed into parinirvana) the brahman Gopak-Moggallana asked Ananda the following question:

"Is there even one monk, Ananda, who is possessed in every way and in every part of all those things of which the good Gotama, perfected one, fully Self-Awakened One, was possessed?"

Here is Ananda's reply which is quite interesting in light of Zen's lineage claims.

"There is not even one monk, brahman, who is possessed in every way and in every part of all those things of which the Lord was possessed, perfected one, fully Self-Awakened One."

Adding to this, Mahakashyapa is not altogether a worthy spiritual heir accoding to the Avatamsaka Sutra who Zennists believe was the first person the Buddha transmitted to.

We learn from the Avatamsaka Sutra (I am using Cleary's translation, The Flower Ornament Scripture, page 1146) that great disciples like Shariputra, Mahakashyapa and others, “did not see the transfiguration of the Buddha in the Jeta grove, the adornments of the Buddha, the majesty of the Buddha, the freedom of the Buddha, the magic of the Buddha, the mastery of the Buddha, the miracle performed by the Buddha, the light of the Buddha, the power of the Buddha, or the Buddha's purification of the land...”

The person these great disciples saw in the Jeta grove was not the transfigured Buddha with his Mind radiant, like an invisible sun.  Who they saw we can say was a grumpy old dude!

“They had gathered in the Jeta grove and were sitting there, in front of, behind, and to the left and right of the Buddha, in his presence, yet they did not see the miracles of the Buddha in the Jeta grove” (p. 1147).

Why these great disciples couldn’t see all this is because they lacked “roots of goodness”; moreover, their emancipation was that of hearers (sravaka) (p. 1147).  Had these great disciples accumulated the proper roots of goodness they would have seen the transfiguration of the Buddha.  In that case, they would have been worthy to carry on the Buddha lineage.  But because of this notable lack, "they were not capable of perpetuating the lineage of buddhas" (p. 1146).  Whoops!  There goes Zen’s lineage.

We can only guess that in compiling and fabricating the Record of the Transmission of the Lamp some Zennist didn’t do a thorough reading of the Avatamasaka—in other words, he goofed.  But this doesn’t mean that we should live with this error.  The only thing that counts in Zen and for that matter Buddhism is awakening to pure Mind.  We all have the capacity to do this.  Awakening to Mind is the true Mind to Mind transmission of Zen.  It doesn't depend on literary fiction.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:04 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
part of the issue with Kennett was the hard DEMAND for unconditional trust, love, adoration - towards her.  There was no option, submit, surrender, do it or else!!!!!   The "or else" was often, as we all experienced, retaliation, emotional and verbal attacks, lots of what I would call ill-will - with the goal to break the person, completely.  It was ruthless - it was unrelenting.  It was toxic.  and it had nothing to do with Dharma or Zen.  Zero.  And it was completely free of love - no matter what words were used.  To submit to this, for me, was tantamount to spiritual and emotional suicide - which became more painfully apparent the longer I stayed.

I will jump in here and write more about the whole transmission issue in the coming weeks - it's a big topic.  In the reading section, over the last few years, I posted many pieces about transmission - i highly recommend people read all the essays by Stuart Lachs.  He has real insight into the shadow side of hierarchy, transmission, zen myths, etc.

Also, there are some terrific books that look into the history of Chan/Zen - and address the thorny topics of lineage, myth creation, transmission - what it was and wasn't and how all these aspects of Buddhism were actually lived and practiced in China and Japan.  MOST of what we were taught about lineage, transmission, zen history was idealistic, romantic and false.  Such is the case for most religion in the world, and Zen was / is no different.  Also, the reality was that Kennett had no background in Soto Zen history really, the Japanese didn't share much of that with her.  And after Koho Zenji died and after Kennett cut herself off from her actual teacher, she didn't expand her Zen education by learning Japanese or studying with any other teachers or going to Komozawa University - the Soto Zen university.  In the early 60s, the Zen historians at Komozawa already knew that the Zen lineage was fabricated and much of Chan history was also suspect.  But that's another story.

Lineage actually does not matter.  Unbroken or broken - irrelevant.  Nothing is transmitted, nothing can be passed down.  It is now or never.  Dharma is a non-dual teaching and has nothing to do with transmission.  Impossible.  The Buddha didn't need to hold up any flowers.

Josh-Gratitude as always for the absorbing and informative materials you continue to post.The Stuart Lachs piece is fascinating.

I want to make the general point that from a post-modern perspective,and a psycho-analytic one too, ALL lineage is "fabricated",since all historical accounts suffer from a limitation-that truth is multi faceted,and any particular narrative lacks the veracity of the many possible narratives.I see no problem with this except where,as we have discussed on this site,a particular account of lineage or family history is used by someone with unequal power to abuse that power.Myths about the past ,and fabrications about the present,are universally harnessed to control others.The narrative is the cultural means by which peoples are controlled.All racisms and colonisations rely on these distortions.

I believe that the little conflations of the OBC monks are a manifestation of narcissism,which when unchecked has led to abuse.I understand you experienced something like what I am describing when you were a disciple of Jiyu Kennett.The narcissism has to be reinforced by a belief system,and in the case of the OBC monks that belief system is that the "In" Group,the monastic sangha,has undergone a "rite de passage",an initiation ritual (transmission),that renders the "In" Group superior to the "Out" Group ,the lay sangha.It's bunkum of course,but it has a lot of swagger to it doesn't it? The hats are very swanky,and the detail and dance of the ritual looks truly persuasive.Dense,esoteric.Cool.
Perhaps the lay sangha should adopt another form of ritual,a lay rite de passage-no hats,but some long initiation,maybe just going to see the tibetan teacher you mentioned.He sounds lovely.
Anyway,more seriously,a protestant reformation of the lay buddhist church needs to be thorough .Cultural.Organisational.Spiritual.Psychological.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 02, 2014 1:17 pm

I believe that when we are in our various states of duality we have teachers and disciples, teaching and delusion,when there is no duality there is this moment... pure life,there are moments when we see and time when we don't... we label moments special moments,and these incidents and aspects may well be significant and indeed personal so much so that we may not want to share. I do not personally believe any moment to be greater nor more significant than this moment,,I also dont believe that teaching is confined to one person in one place. I do believe that significance, Dharma, Buddha Mind,Transmission, Teaching is here now in all places at all times
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:33 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
. . .

In terms of the secrecy of the transmission ceremony, there is a lot we could talk about there.  It is not just about the simple ceremony - in isolation.  That ceremony - and the Soto Zen version of it - the Dogen version of all this - has a long and complex history and what Kennett knew and said about it - was minimal and idealized.  Transmission cannot be understood in simple isolation.. and I do think if people want to understand this core aspect of the Zen narrative, it is good to read up on this - look into how this whole transmission system was manufactured, created, dogmatized, idealized, romanticized, used and abused, and so on.  Wouldn't it wonderful if was this pure essential island - but it's not, not by a long shot.  
. . .

Just reflecting on how helpful this point has been, as I read more about transmission. Actually all the contributions on this thread tell me I've had a very limited view for quite some time, wow.

More musings to follow I'm sure.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Apr 11, 2014 3:22 pm

Lots of good thoughts and reading here in response to whether transmission is helpful….there is so much more history and are more takes on transmission than we could ever cover here.

Transmission is deeply ingrained in the structure of the OBC (and all Zen) practice -- so deep, it appears, that no one can or will break the silence on its form or function (even after many, many years of disassociation with the OBC). I find that quite interesting. It touches a bit on the places of regret I felt when I disrobed. I have a sense that this would be a betrayal of sorts, to a place of no return to the practice or the teacher – but I would stand to be corrected if this was not at least partly true. My experience with monks’ descriptions was it was viewed as an unbreakable sanctifying bond between the master and disciple.

The dictionary meaning of transmission (spread, communicate, conduct) seems to imply that one has “it” to give, and one has “it” transmitted to them. There is some logic for the hierarchy of the monastic practice to have a landmark event to signify readiness to teach. It is noteworthy and perhaps just human nature that it can become a status symbol, an achievement. “Special” is built in……and so is success/failure.

The laity will always be excluded from this “deeper” teaching in the OBC. A person must become a monk in the Order to have the teachings of transmission revealed to them. There is no other access except through the system and the people who run it. And, without clear rules, precautions and guidelines, it will always be arbitrary. It may be impossible for it not to be.

This form of practice may be helpful for certain types of people, but it is not essential to realize the Truth (as you have all said here many times). As a matter of fact, it seems transmission, both mundane and sacred, is constantly unfolding in daily life. The Truth and conditions are interwoven in every moment and hold the teachings to be given and received for anyone willing to look. Because it is evident in all, it appears it is nothing special! Smile

In light of all of this, I guess my next question would be, is transmission necessary? And what is its purpose really?
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