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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

First topic message reminder :

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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Jcbaran



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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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maisie field



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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.
With lots of dancing.
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chisanmichaelhughes



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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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Lise
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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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H Enida



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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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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Apr 11, 2014 3:53 pm

Hi Enida, this has become quite a long thread, thanks to your compelling original post!

In response to your questions above, I will begin by quoting part of my earlier comments:

"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."

In my opinion, there is nothing more of significance to reveal about the Transmission ceremony. The external ceremony itself contains no 'secrets'. The Transmission Book itself contains no secret teaching. In my opinion, it's most valuable teaching is the Goi Theory, also known as 'Tozan's 5 Ranks, which is freely available in many books and online (and is essentially another version of the Ten Oxherding Pictures).

In response to your current question and your original post, it seems to me that the greatest problem with 'Transmission' as currently conceived and practiced, comes back to the way in which it conflates the spiritual with the institutional--and vice versa.

I think that this both results from and reinforces the delusion that monastic practice is spiritually superior to lay practice, and that those higher up in the monastic hierarchy are spiritually superior to those lower down in the hierarchy.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:13 am

Enida - very good points

Every Zen group handles transmission differently.  Some barely talk about it.  Others are much more honest about the reality of the lineages, the mythology, and so on.  

For Kennett, transmission was the holy grail, it was talked about constantly, over and over again, in nearly every talk, discussion. Looking back, this dominant narrative bordered on obsession, and it is important to see what happens when this transmission narrative is believed and worshiped and glorified.  What happens when this is all believed? the unintended or even intended consequences.  That's the main effect - not just this ceremony or colored robes - but all the rest.  And, Enida, you are right, we can barely address this complex subject on this site, that's why I posted all these books and blogs and articles that bust through the fantasy, the hagiography, challenge the one true way to look at this.

One other thing to note.  Dogen was obsessed not only with transmission but also with the main lineage document.  As he wandered in China, he wanted to see the lineage certificates and wrote about that.  So in addition to Zen itself using the transmission as its main selling point - we are special and you're not - Dogen has his own fixation on the transmission and especially the proof of it - and then Kennett had her own fixation going on.  As I've said, mutual distortion fields intersecting and interacting creating a messy mind-set. 

I agree with Kozan.  the ceremony itself has nothing in it that is really secret.  There is no burst of light, no one levitates.  No special energy or spirit is "transmitted."  Nothing is said that was not said a thousand times in different Zen texts or lectures. 

The ceremony - like lots of religious ceremonies - is THEATER.  With all this hype and expectation around it.  If you read a transcript of what is actually said during the ceremony, you would wonder, "Is that it?"  Of course, it takes place at midnight - with the whole idea that it should be secret - and there are monks walking around "guarding" the event - as if hordes of people are going to storm the room if they heard the ceremony was going on.  That's theater.  That's a re-creation of the Hui Neng, sixth patriarch MYTH.  He went to the master's room at midnight, it was in secret, etc. - Aspects of his story don't make sense.... and never happened in any case.  Hui-neng, the mono-lineage, the single patriarchs - all myths to make Zen special.  Marketing.  Promotion.  a great story .. and it worked - at least in terms of establishing Ch'an in China.   

The transmission "book" - is a hodge podge of various priestly instructions - most of which are medieval and some probably came from Shingon or other sources - and some of them Kennett didn't even seem to understand.  It is very likely that this collection of pieces has been published in books in Japan.  Kozan mentions the one essay about the Five Ranks.  I love teachings on the Five Ranks - but the piece in the transmission book is short and superficial.  There is a wonderful analysis of the Five Ranks in Zen Dust and I think also Zen Koan by the same author - from Hakuin.  And there have been commentaries in other Chinese Zen books.  There is nothing secret about the Five Ranks.

The silks or transmission certificates - there are three now - two of them are just variations on the "unbroken lineage" document.  Nothing secret there.  The middle silk / document is simply a diagram that shows the path of Zen training - and I guess this is officially secret, but no good reason for that  It is simple, nothing that special or esoteric about it.  I saw that these certificates had been written about and fully published in at least one Japanese book that I saw.  So these things are not that "secret" - and I believe that Dogen's transmission certificate is actually exhibited in some museum... and it's been determined that it was forged.  You can probably look into this.  That is was forged either means that it is a copy of the original or some scholars suggest that Dogen forged it himself, since he was so obsessed with getting his own certificate.  But that's a whole other story.

Basic Buddhist teaching is about waking up.  The concept of transmission -  how it's sold and understood and misunderstood is not helpful, creates a false impression that it is essential, when it's irrelevant.  The Buddha never "transmitted" anyone.  There were no ceremonies.  He pointed out the truth and people practiced and some woke up to varying degrees. That being said, I still very much appreciate the process of learning from a wise teacher, working with them for years, and I love that process where wisdom is imparted..... but that has little or nothing to do with a secret transmission or pieces of paper or "silk.".  

As human beings we love big stories - and simple stories.  Virgin birth - that's a good one.  Moses and the Jews in Egypt.  Another great story.  George Washington cutting down the cherry tree.  And the unbroken Zen lineage / mind to mind transmission - also a good story.  Divine kings and emperors.  The founding of Japan.  The creation of the world.  And we know that its a good story because it has legs.... people love these grand simple narratives and they take root and become the master narratives of cultures and civilizations and religions.  Question them and you are ostracized, excommunicated or executed.  But stories are fiction and myth, some created out of whole cloth, others perhaps based on pieces of truth, but woven together in a tapestry that is essentially hagiography or entirely myth.  And all these wonderful stories since they are fiction, they are expressions of human nature, have their shadows and often corrupt roots and motivation, and these shadows can have serious consequences - in small and big ways - but many cultures and religions like to pretend there are no shadows - and if you see a shadow - something is wrong with you.  The Jews as the chosen people of God - that's a big story... but what are the shadows of that?  One True God - seems like a good concept - from afar, but up close, horrific consequences through the ages. 

It is scary to live without some of these stories, but that's where freedom lies - beyond the fantasies, beyond the gold dust in the eyes.  that's adulthood - at least, that's what I found as I walked away from Kennett, Shasta, her dominating narrative.  

And lastly, one of the mega-promises of the transmission is that the event itself, the certificates, the "mind seal" guarantees that the person is awakened, certifies that he/she is the same as the previous master, almost or actually a "living Buddha' or some kind of "Dharma heir."  So you can trust this person with your life.  He has the seals.  So what is the actual evidence?  First, every Soto Zen priest gets "transmission" automatically after doing their basic training. Enlightenment has nothing to to do with it.  As long as they did their few years, learned perfectly how to do all the ceremonies and how to run a temple, they get transmission from their father / uncle.  It is not a high rank.  It does not mean they are awakened.  But if they can get people to call them "Roshi" then they are a "roshi" and people can talk about them as a Zen master.  For hundreds of years, transmission certificates came with the temple - and had nothing to do with face to face. this was true in China and in Japan.  Face to face - not so much.  Mind to mind. No, it was about real estate.  When a priest was assigned a temple, there was a lineage certificate that came with it, he added his name, that was the transmission.  And lastly, we have seen so many examples of "masters" with all the necessary certificates and transmissions behave very badly and demonstrate a certain lack of awakening.  So what this says is that this SEAL of approval cannot be trusted.  The only thing you can trust is your own experience and adulthood.  This seal is a great story, but it doesn't work.  Just like a degree from an established medical school does not mean that you are a good doctor. 

end of babble for the day
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:01 pm

At worse transmission forces the rigidity,it keeps one in line,.the question what is zen needn't be answered,the question who am I is more relevant,so keeping a tight ship, controlling the lives and actions of trainees is a waste of time. I believe zen sort of starts when one is not confined and told how to live in narrow way,  but when one lives a life of not knowing and is moved to live by a depth of ourselves.Real religious or spiritual approval comes not from mastering ceremonies and a framework but from living from ones heart
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:31 am

Hello, all.  Just getting caught up on the posts and will take time to answer questions to me in the next couple of days.  Love the great info posted here, especially the posts from Antaiji (thanks, Josh).  Just one general comment -- obviously the transmission experience varies from teacher to teacher and lineage to lineage, not to mention country to country and culture to culture.  My teacher is hugely secretive, or one could describe her as very private, and confidentiality is a value she stresses.  However, secrecy can also be problematic as you know very well.  The Middle Way . . . ?  I think that's what we're trying to find.  More later and love to all.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:18 pm

I guess it is what is passed on and what is accepted. Despite set backs and criticisms I believe the way to our hearts can be passed on, I agree with Josh that going to medical school does not make one a good doctor,and holding up the right raksu does not necessarily mean one holds up the truth. For me too it is personal. We are allowed disagreements and for me saying not for me to Kennett was important,very important as it gave me a great opportunity to look very hard at what I wanted  or was right to say yes to. This too may vary what one wants what each of us feel is the right direction, and it is personal, two arrows in mid air meet yes i have experienced that yes I always bow to that.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Apr 18, 2014 3:59 pm

I would like to apologize for repeating that which someone may already have posted above. This is because I have not read the whole thread; just enough to see that, apparently, there are details here about what takes place at a transmission ceremony.

I'm just one layperson, but I feel that posting anything private on the internet like this is a misuse of technology, and I question whether it is in fact helpful for all readers.

A gut reaction at this moment in time of course, and I'll mull over some of the questions raised from what I've seen.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Apr 18, 2014 7:12 pm

Thank you Sianabelle for your post.  Your point is well taken and hopefully, once you read the rest of this thread, you may see some of the reasoning being discussed here for not making it so private.

The conversation here has been about how private or secret ceremonies can create a specialness and hierarchy that can hide exploitation.  Secrecy in my mind, and in many abusive contexts, creates an easy avenue for abusers to twist meanings to their own designs.  It is common knowledge in society that abusers use secrecy and threats to gain their own advantage.  How does the secrecy involved in the Teacher/Student relationship and the private ceremony of transmission create an opportunity for abuse?  More importantly, is it possible to change the structure of the OBC to provide viable avenues for ethical concerns against teachers and still maintain the subtleties of the practice?

Why does the ceremony need to be private?  If it is in fact, simply a series of ceremonies that authenticate the heritage being passed to a student, why can’t it be just that?  It sounds like in some lineages it is more matter of fact and not so secretive.


Finally I would ask, for what reasons would it not be helpful for some readers to hear details of the ceremony?  The answers to that could be very informative.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Fri Apr 18, 2014 8:58 pm

also, wanted to point people to an earlier topic in the Reading section:

http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/t467-lineage-delusions-and-transmission-from-erik-storlie-2-essays
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:21 am

Thank you H Enida for allowing me to expand on my posting.

Privacy would indeed provide an opportunity for unwholesome motivations to be expressed. I've done my best to read about what Mr Little did exactly but I wasn't there, I don't know anyone involved personally, and I've never even been to Shasta. So my point of view is bound to be somewhat abstract. What I do have is personal experience of something similar, so I'm basing what I say mostly on that.

There are people and there are traditions/ceremonies. If people want to screw up their traditions and ceremonies they are free to do so, but this does not nullify the initial value of any traditions/ceremonies. Why were there originally more zen schools but not now? Probably because scandals occurred and people went elsewhere. I've been concerned for years that this zen school is headed the same way. People can create all sorts of problems for themselves, I've seen it in myself very clearly. I wonder if there are elements of revenge knocking about as regards Mr Little. Does this mean the zen school itself should be dismantled? Would this not be regrettable?

I believe the discussion is around the perceived secrecy of the transmission ceremony. When I said "not helpful for all readers" I was thinking of two sets of people.

First there are folk who know less about zen and such than I do, and are perhaps 'shopping' for groups to join. If faith and trust are on the table, and there are examples of breakages, would this not only put such people off this group, but also zen as a whole?

Secondly I speak for those for whom their transmission ceremony was something precious to remember, in which everything went right - the fact that it is a private ceremony does not mean that by default that bad stuff goes on. Perhaps in disparaging the ceremony then by association, they would feel denigrated. I saw this thread as in some ways disrespectful to this second group, i.e the monks, and by extension their efforts in training.

Perhaps I might make a comment in respect of the question 'why didn't anyone notice what was going on with Abbot Eko'. Some small changes from day to day and week to week and so on can creep in psychologically unnoticed by an organization made up of people. From what I understand of this forum there have been efforts to untangle zen organizations. But is it not the case that wherever there are people the same issues will emerge again and again? I tend to compare phenomena a lot, and it seems to me that movie celebrities and such get caught in similar sorts of webs on a different scale. However, that fact is that Mr Little did eventually get evicted. Does the whole debacle in itself not provide a check and balance for the OBC, without the need to formulate an additional set of rules now that people know what to look out for? Maybe the fact that things went right for so long lulled the monks into a false sense of security.

Anyways, I'd better stop there as I think I'm going off topic a wee bit.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:02 pm

We live varied lives,  as human beings we can not escape the natural flow,I believe life's difficulties shapes us, especially if we are guided by the Buddhist path, personal sadness and suffering shows a path through empathy to unity with all beings. I do not at all think that the Zen school is perfect or  beyond human frailities,it does not mean we do not learn, speak out and adapt, and it also does not mean that the spirit of Zen ,the Buddhist way is not passed on
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Apr 19, 2014 4:01 pm

sianabelle wrote this
From what I understand of this forum there have been efforts to untangle zen organizations.

I think that light has been shone on the illusion that one has to be in a certain place wearing certain cloths in order to live in this present moment. Indeed religious communities can reinforce someone else's delusions so much so that the principles become a group delusion,and rather than rediscovering who we are in this moment one becomes a slave to a principle or theory
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:13 pm

Well said Mike. We are trying to find and live the truth not live out a mythology. Everyday we wake up and go about our daily lives and just here is where we must find truth and the ground of our being. It is everywhere around us but often we ignore it, and even more often don't recognise it, it preferring distraction and myths. Ah well, and so it goes!
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Tue Apr 22, 2014 9:36 am

sianabelle wrote:

I believe the discussion is around the perceived secrecy of the transmission ceremony. When I said "not helpful for all readers" I was thinking of two sets of people.

First there are folk who know less about zen and such than I do, and are perhaps 'shopping' for groups to join. If faith and trust are on the table, and there are examples of breakages, would this not only put such people off this group, but also zen as a whole?

Secondly I speak for those for whom their transmission ceremony was something precious to remember, in which everything went right - the fact that it is a private ceremony does not mean that by default that bad stuff goes on. Perhaps in disparaging the ceremony then by association, they would feel denigrated. I saw this thread as in some ways disrespectful to this second group, i.e the monks, and by extension their efforts in training.  ..."


If I were shopping for a religion I would rather know early on about the examples of breakage of trust, and think about what this means, and not be surprised later to find out that such a thing was possible. Esp. when a sect has so many rules, secrets, special rituals and hierarchies set up that have the effect of giving all power to senior members while keeping junior members in the dark. Learning about the potential for abuse and exploitation makes one an informed shopper;  if we see and hear things that don't look right, we should go elsewhere. I see nothing wrong with discussing and analyzing the concept of transmission and the ritual itself. I never agreed to treat it as "something which is simply not spoken of."  People who want to abide by that prohibition are free to do so. I am not part of that system and have no obligation to follow suit.

Learning about Michael Little's sad misbehaviour, or the Shasta seniors' ineffective action before/since, need not chase anyone away from exploring Zen or other forms of Buddhism. There are many centres out there, and many of those are not based on devotion to a charismatic founder, which means you're not wading through a lot of personality worship in order to get to a message that is actually based on what the Buddha taught.

Re:  a monk feeling denigrated if they read the comments here about transmission -  yes, it is possible, but then much of the information on this forum will be a tough read for those who are unquestioning and devout in their beliefs. Always the choice is there in regard to reading or not reading; participation is voluntary.


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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Tue Apr 22, 2014 9:53 am

good points.  The rules of checkers only apply on the checkerboard. 

When talking about the transmission ceremony, I am not publishing copies of the certificates or the text of the "transmission book" since I will honor that initial agreement to keep those things private, but I see no problem whatsoever in talking freely about every other aspects of this process and describing it.  So many western Zen teachers love to keep the transmission as mysterious and grand as possible, describing it in the most mystical terms. Still using the transmission as the main marketing tool... in that way, not much has changed since the tenth century.  

I also agree that if some people find these discussions inappropriate or upsetting, I understand.  They are free to stop reading these posts.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:24 pm

            I agree, if you took the secrecy out of the practice and were honest about what can happen, new people to the OBC might come and be put off – but others might come simply for the teachings of the Buddha that are available, and not for the enticement of being on the “inside” or being “special”.  This could very well discourage people’s needs to be recognized and instead attract people who are interested in an unpretentious and open practice.  I don’t see that as a negative myself.

            Monks may feel denigrated by talking about what is “private” since they exist within the institution that observes it (despite the fact that feeling denigrated is a choice and the Buddha’s teachings are anecdotal).  That does not negate the wisdom of evaluating whether something is still working in the way it was intended or whether it is helpful.  Has transmission become antiquated as something to obtain?  Why is it coveted?  Is it one of the carrots that allow the sticks in the practice to exist?  Probably going to get different answers from folks who believe in it as it is currently practiced.  As has been said, one can decline to read about it here – unfortunately, this also ignores the facts that change is inevitable, awareness is training and acceptance is the gate – particularly as American Zen evolves.

            I’m not sure that many on this forum would agree that everything went right for so long that monks were lulled into a false sense of security.  Many were harmed by factors other than the previous Abbot of Shasta throughout the years, some of which are documented here on OBCC.  I personally witnessed and also heard many accounts of past actions and abuses of power within the OBC system while I was a monk – actions that aren’t often publicized and have not all been recounted here.  Personally, I feel those experiences are those ex-monks’ stories to tell and perhaps one day they will share here too. 

            Much of my healing has not been about the former Abbot or revenge, but rather other traumas, particularly the lack of regard by the senior monks when I came to them for refuge, for protection and for their wisdom.  As I have said before, my concerns were often “poo poo’d” and I was simply told to “train with it” and “trust the Master.”  I don’t agree that all things were well except for Little – I do believe that institutions play their part in the problem and should offer concrete safeguards to beginners who are overseen by people that employ the methods condoned by the institution.

 
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:38 pm

I quite agree. If we are about the truth then the truth is what we are about, and a very important part of that is that the underlying teachings of buddhism may be great, but the institutions, like all institutions everywhere, are run and populated by people. And people are messy fallible things. If we expect some kind of artificial perfection from our leaders and institutions we are doomed to be disappointed. When an institution portrays itself as otherwise implying that it is not run by fallible individuals then it is time to beat a hasty retreat, even in the Catholic Church the pope is only supposed to be infallible when he is making ex cathedra pronouncements, and these have always been quite uncommon.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Apr 27, 2014 2:49 pm

a few things.  So many people still talk about Zen is the most ideal and romantic way, the "Zen" that is described as no dogma, no scriptures, not a religion, beyond all words, and so on.  That's how Peter Mattheissen talked about Zen and Bernie Glassman and so on.  Yes, this Zen sort of exists, if you are doing it alone or isolate yourself from "the world" - which is nearly impossible to do.  But the Ch'an and Zen that existed in China and Japan for 99% of those that practiced it, was a religion - in every sense of the word - it did rely on specific teachings and doctrines - sometimes ruthlessly so - it did rely on words and scriptures, on specific and lots of rituals and rites, on hierarchies, on many levels of priesthood, on political connections and patrons.  It merged with the ruling and wealthy classes, the various princes and governors and war lords and emperors - Ch'an / Zen had no choice - if it wanted to survive, it needed to be part of the established order of things - otherwise it would have been wiped out - and it was still occasionally persecuted.  Eiheiji was burned to the ground in the 16th century for being affiliated with the wrong war lord.

And Zen was subject to all the human issues and frailties that we have seen with every other religion on this planet.  Zen is not beyond any of this.  Zen is not special in this regard at all.  To assert that Zen is not a religion is frankly not helpful.  It is far more sane and useful to know and face history and shadows rather than cling to grandiose illusions of specialness.  

Now, back to the transmission and secrecy.  In the 15th and 16th centuries in Japan, Soto Zen was spreading like crazy - mostly because it was very assertive in the countryside, establishing literally thousands of temples - and part of the success was incorporating all the local deities, adding in healing rituals and incantations, elements of Tendai and Shingon, Shinto, doing lots of rituals and funerals, and so on.  Meditation was a small part of the actual practice, but a big part of the master narrative of Soto Zen's specialness, along with the "unbroken" lineage story.

At the same time, the Soto priestly class became more and more established and hierarchical and esoteric.  Not only was the transmission and everything associated with it secret, but the priest class made all the writings of Dogen and Keizan restricted.  Only the top priests had access to the Shobogenzo and Keizan's writings. Lay people and most of the regular priests were forbidden from reading these now secret texts.  And the text were mostly worshiped, more than studied.  The texts were magical.  Also remember, that most people then could certainly not read classical Chinese and Dogen's writings was pretty esoteric in any case - poetic, highly philosophical, with lots of obscure classical Chinese references, so most priests not only could not read the texts, but could mostly not understand them - so easier just to worship them as holy objects.  Which they did.

And more than that, most priests were forbidden from even quoting or referencing Dogen or Keizan - since the texts were now super secret.  Dogen and Keizan were worshiped as gods.  So when Soto priests did teach Zen, they would revert to using the older Chinese koan collections as their source material.  The challenge here was that most couldn't read much Chinese, didn't really understand these koans or commentaries, had no training in koans, and so it became mostly an exercise in worshiping the personalities, phrases, concepts and enlightenment stories without really understanding or working with these teachings as objects of practice or meditation.  So this master narrative / focus on the high priests being special, superhuman, living Buddhas, expanded out from the transmission event and enveloped the core teachings of Soto Zen.  This is a very short synopsis of the history of this period, but if you want to read about this in detail, I recommend reading PUBLIC ZEN, PERSONAL ZEN by Peter Hershock.   This book goes into great detail and is not overly "critical" but it does give readers a real sense of the realities of Zen in Japan - not the romantic myths of D. T. Suzuki or others. 

Reading these histories, for me, is fascinating, and in no way, undermines my deep connection to Buddhist practice.  Now, if you are attached to myths about how Zen is some pure non-religion, then this might very well upset you.  

I wanted to throw this in here as more background information how teachings and ceremonies can become esoteric and secret - mostly as an expression of solidifying the power and position of the priest class.  And this happens in most, if not, all religions - and in many other situations.  This behavior dominates many aspects of Tibetan Buddhism.  And we see it with the Mormons, Scientologists, and so on.  Don't you want the secret teachings?
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:24 pm

For me it all depends how you interpret religion.
we have done the ordinations transmissions,robes, names, cermonies, and they may very well be helpful, and they may equally give one another set of standards,I am not sure how helpful the above are to experiencing this moment in deeper and deeper ways, even though they have I admit helpd me, for me though these experiences do not come with any whisper of organisation or label of any particular religion,or religious practice.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:23 am

Wow.  This discussion is a great education for any Zen student if you follow all the links and I do! yes   Thank you so much.  The history is particularly fascinating.

I had an interesting conversation with another monk today about conditions within the Zen world.  It seems there is a minor, though largely silent, exodus of transmitted disciples from their teacher's temples.  This transmitted monk was forced to sit in silence while a teacher spoke disparagingly about the "rebels" during a public sesshin.  I am counted among those "rebels" although my relationship with my teacher has been repaired and remains cordial.  However, I no longer practice at my home temple.

The exodus seems to be sparked by the abusive use of authority by teacher to a disciple, especially when it happens after transmission.  Transmission, as many I have spoken to understand it, is supposed to confer peer status on the disciple; however, in practice, the Zen world rarely works this way.  The disrespected disciple, struggling with his/her new practice as a transmitted teacher, is largely silenced in these encounters while the teacher is free to expound to all and sundry about the disciple's perceived faults.  As RM Kennett would have put it, this is most unBuddhist behavior.  It's a sad situation and at this point, this forum is the only place I feel I can speak freely about it.  So in these cases, was transmission helpful?  Gee, maybe not, but it is certainly a practice opportunity.

I'm with Michael.  Let's keep it as simple as possible.  The Buddha taught us to be a lamp to ourselves and not to take anyone else's word about or compare experiences of our true nature.  I think that's all anyone really needs to know.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:05 am

A little postscript to my post after following the link on Josh's post of 4/18:

Eric Storlie wrote:

"I would suggest that for Zen in America to speak to people, to become more than an odd, idiosyncratic subculture, it must draw sustenance from America’s deep roots in the democratic and egalitarian. English Dissenters brought the first churches to these shores. Their polity was congregational, where the minister served at the pleasure of the congregants. The minister was understood to be as susceptible to error as any in his flock."

I can't speak for anyone else, but I certainly aim at this type of organization with my small group and I am not alone in this effort as the monk I spoke to today also shares these aims.  I am more concerned about safe space for the wounded and empowering students to seek the truth for themselves than concerned about passing on the accoutrements of tradition.  Our group practices respectful communication and I do not brandish authority.  And when I make a mistake, I admit it.  And I make a lot of mistakes.  Practice is always becoming.  Zen itself is no different.  When we concretize it and set up hierarchies, as humans always do, suffering is certain to follow.  Warm wishes until next time.  And thanks for the education!
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:24 am

I agree
I must confess to not being an expert.

the Buddhas teaching for me starts with humanity, as humans because of impermanence we suffer,our endless circle of attachmnt to our own existance drags our karma,our past with us and colours even distorts the still winds of the present moment .The Buddha also spoke of compassion and love these are characterisics of all living beings and are also found in the empathy of a floundering self creation here and now
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Apr 28, 2014 2:19 pm

Great discussion-thank you everyone.
I just did a quick search for the Peter Hershock book,Public Zen Personal Zen.
It is brand new -kudos to you Josh as you seem to have read and critiqued it already.
It looks the business,drawing together historical analysis and looking at contemporary relevance.
However brand new means over 20 quid in English money.I will wait to see if it goes into soft cover or gets remaindered.But another great recommendation,so thank you Josh.

I'm with Erik Storlie,Jikyo,the non-conformist traditions are vibrant and iconoclastic-until they too get absorbed into fossilising self- serving institutions.Then those institutions have to be broken down and something new has to emerge.



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon Apr 28, 2014 6:55 pm

Maisie - how right you are. It all starts out human, warm and down to earth, then we develop a way of doing and seeing things, and then dogma sets in, and then dogmatism and the burning of heretics (if only metaphorically). And all the humanity and warmth, and most of the truth, has shot out the window... another case of 'There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza'
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Tue Apr 29, 2014 8:26 pm

Yes, there is an arc of development, maturity and death in every organization.  May we be aware enough to recognize when the time to let go arrives.
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sianabelle

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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:05 am

I'll admit to being disappointed at the word choice there Jikyo, ending the picture of an organisation with the word 'death', when there might have been an opportunity to believe in less of a full stop and more of a transformation.

It seems to me that humans like to rebrand and relabel to suit various purposes. Perhaps you advocate this process?
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:14 am

Death was perhaps a more concrete word than experience would support.  My experience is any organized group waxes and wanes a bit like the moon.  Some organizations disappear completely in the dark phase while others keep re-inventing themselves.  As you put it, they rebrand themselves and continue on.  Any group that becomes too rigid will eventually fail because creativity is the spark that drives a group.  When creativity is stifled by rigidity, the energy level falls and eventually fails to keep the heart beating.  But, yes, it's more of a cycle than an arc with an end.

How's that for mixed metaphors?
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david.



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat May 10, 2014 8:32 am

Transmission is not necessary. Also, denying another person's opening was in my experience painful, a bit humiliating, and very confusing. 

When I had my 1st permanent opening at age 23, went to Throssel Hole and asked Daishin Morgan for some time to tell him and ask what had just happened to me. (I was confused and uncertain about it). He met me, heard what i described, then said 

"we do not confirm or deny openings in lay people, because they may go off and teach badly,and because they havent got monk training."

Then he immediately terminated our private session. I was left even more confused. Specially as i had had 5 minutes personal "teaching" from him in my 4 years being his student, and he thought that was a good enough standard to be my teacher.

A month or so later, Anando, the Abbot of Chithurst "validated" my opening, and was very nice. (good thing I wasnt a woman then, ha ha).

25 years later that opening is still with me, and has deepened. I have never seen myself as a teacher, set up as a teacher, or "transmitted" anyone. 

I have however freely acknowledged anyone who, even for a few moments, I "see" letting go into "awareness". 

I find it sad that Daishin Morgan had to turn his back on Buddha with me, as it means him turning his back on Buddha in himself.

One more thing... Who I really am is awareness itself. Awareness itself is not any thing. It is the space in which every thing resides. It is unconditioned, unconditional. Anyone with an opening will know this. Therefore to focus on the "things" is to cling on to being a thing. A special personal transmission is just another form of clinging to a thing, as who we really are is impersonal by definition and certainly what I experience.

The road to who I really am has, for me, been laden with having to let go of what I think is important. 

[banned term] and blast!
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david.



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat May 10, 2014 8:48 am

I also feel sad when I read more of the lie that is transmission. Josh's posts on this are for me very important, as they remove my safety of believing in my Zen teachers enlightenment.

I have been in my own way grieving over the past year or so. I have been grieving because I have lost virtually all my Buddhist teachers as people who know what I now know.

I am also grieving for  the Zen and Buddhist religion. I am seeing the absurd limitations in it that have created a huge mess. Thanks to the New York Times etc the whole world sees. 

As Josh says, this issue is huge and fundamental for Buddhism. And like all huge fundamental issues, they really are not looking at it much, they are too busy digging little holes in the sand and putting their heads in the holes....

The plus for me is in grieving and yet again having to let go of what I hold on to, is it moves me towards who i really am...   

hopefully....

fingers crossed.......
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PostSubject: Grieving and this conference I attended today in NYC   Sat May 10, 2014 5:13 pm

David - interesting that you bring up grieving.

I attended this conference last night and part of today in NYC.  "Enlightening Conversations: Opportunities and Obstacles in Human Awakening."  They describe it as " a new series exploring the intersection of Buddhism and Psychoanalysis."   It was presented by the Spring Journal and the Tricycle Foundation.  There were about 100 people - psychoanalysts, therapists, Zen teachers and practitioners, some mindfulness types.  http://www.tricycle.com/conference


Last night, the topic was "What does it mean to 'be enlightened' or to 'be psychoanalyzed.'"  This morning and after lunch, the focus was, "the Uses and abuses of power in Buddhism and Psychoanalysis."

I was invited to attend, but was not on the panels, but they asked me to speak a bit to the group after lunch, based on my background.  The session on abuse of power was actually very frank and in-depth - especially for these kinds of panels.  And for the after lunch session, there were 14 people on the stage - i think 3 or 4 Zen teachers (roshi/masters), a few other Zen teachers and a few Zen priests who were also therapists. 

And grieving came up as they discussed many issues around abuse of power, "splitting" and "idealization", some of the recent sex scandals, and so on.  A few of the analysts talked about the importance of grieving as a way to work through the process when you discover that many of the "truths" turn out to be fantasies, you feel betrayed, etc.  I can certainly relate to that feeling - i would say that for 3 or more years after leaving Shasta, I did feel a kind of grief or mourning around the end of that chapter of my life, confronting the sense of loss of this grand idea that turned out to be full of holes and fantasies and harm.  For me this was an important part of taking my life back, waking up by relying upon my own light / life / integrity, and so on.  But grief was an important part of the process.... and maybe there is still some of that to be felt, even now. 

Back to the conference.  I addressed the group - first about my experiences with Sorting It Out and counseling supporting all those folks back in the early 80s, but then said that the Zen world had to face their history and their core paradigms which were and are fantasies, fiction, myth, and these myths are actually quite harmful, have their thorns and shadows.  The myth of the "fully enlightened master" - what is a master anyway?  The myth of the transmission, the lineage, the Zen exceptionalism fantasy.  The myth that Zen is not a religion.  And also I said that since Zen was indeed a religion, most western Zen students had zero true awareness of the actual history of their religion - in either China and Japan - and that they had to know the truth of what they were trying to practice.  Ignoring or dying your history is very unworkable.  I didn't feel I was attacking anyone - but I was certainly being very forthright.

Of course, the Zen teachers that were on the stage at this event are the more progressive and 21st century sort.  Many were therapists or recommended therapy to their students.  They play down the "master" thing - but it's still there - they play down the "transmission" or they certainly try to redefine it in a way that is much less mystical.  They talk about keeping things honest and more transparent and emphasize that they don't climb on pedestals, etc.  I take them at their word, but words are not so important, actions and behavior is, so who knows how they actually teach or how they treat their students?  I am not really interested in finding out.

One of the panelists was Henry Shukman (http://www.mountaincloud.org/479905/our-teacher/).  He is an "associate Zen master" - whatever that means - sounds like being an assistant vice-president.  Seemed like a nice fellow, British, lives near Santa Fe, NM.  He is in the Sambo Kyodan Zen school - that's the hybrid Soto-Rinzai lineage founded by Harada and Yasutani, Philip Kapleau's teacher and also one of Maezumi's teachers. http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/CriticalZen/sanbokyodan%20zen.pdf

Since one of my points at today's conference was that Zen students should know the actual history of their tradition, lineage.  Here is some background on Harada.

Daiun Sogaku Harada Roshi (1870 – 1961) taught "war Zen". Using war as the main metaphor, he saw the entire universe as being at war. "Without plunging into the war arena, it is totally impossible to know the Buddha Dharma. It is impermissible to forget war even for an instant," he wrote. However, by the early 1930’s, Harada’s war was no longer symbolic.

"The spirit of Japan is the Great Way of the Shinto gods," Harada preached. "It is the essence of the Truth. The Japanese people are a chosen people whose mission is to control the world. The sword that kills is also the sword that gives life. Comments opposing the war are the foolish opinions of those who can only see one aspect of things and not the whole."

"If ordered to march: tramp, tramp or shoot: bang, bang. This is the manifestation of the highest wisdom of enlightenment. The unity of Zen and war ... extends to the farthest reaches of the holy war now under way."

He called this "combat zazen, the king of meditation." As Japan was losing, his rhetoric became even more extreme. In preparation for a possible invasion, Harada called on the entire nation to be willing to die for the emperor. "If you see the enemy you must kill him; you must destroy the false and establish the true – these are the cardinal points of Zen. It is said further that if you kill someone, it is fitting that you see his blood."

Because of the limited time at the conference, I did not bring up this inconvenient aspect of the Sambo Kyodan lineage with Henry.  If there was more time, believe me, I would have mentioned it.  What kind of Zen did Harada teach?  I appreciate that the Zen traditions had to support the war, but Harada enthusiastically and completely distorted Buddhist teachings in service to the Imperial way nationalist delusion.  Here is statement from Sambo Kyodan about Yasutani, but oddly it doesn't mention Harada who was far worse on the war effort - http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/CriticalZen/Apology.html

But back to the conference.  After I had spoken and the panelists were responding, Henry made the point that he appreciated what I said and my work with former members of spiritual groups, but to him, it sounded like these issues were from thirty years ago and that most of the Zen centers he knew were small, not dogmatic or authoritarian, and this was mostly in the past.  I responded that the Sasaki situation was still happening right now, not decades ago.  The Shimano issue is still playing itself out... and more to the point, unless the Zen communities confronted their unquestioned assumptions and myths, this would happen in the future - because these unconscious dynamics would rise again - as monsters (thank you, Carl Jung) and take over.... i.e. grandiose gurus abusing their students, dogmatic communities, cults of personality, and so on.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun May 11, 2014 4:01 pm

Hi david, I wasn't sure from your post whether you still carry a grudge or not.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon May 12, 2014 3:13 am

Hi Sianabelle, of course I still carry a grudge. Grudges even!

Grudges underneath are unexpressed pain and grief. 

Who can honestly say that their grieving process is over? So lets be honest about our grudges shall we...

As Steven Levine said, it isnt that the grieving process is over, it is that we are totally open to the grieving process.

I have given heart and soul to the Buddha's teaching and the Buddhist way for 32 years. I have been utterly rubbish at it. I have tried totally at huge emotional and financial cost to myself to help people. I have succeeded sometimes I have screwed up probably more than I can see. And I have been willing to look at myself and own up to myself about what happened, and tried to do better next time. 

I have also had 1 possibly 2 permanent openings, and appear to be ending a 3rd at the moment (In a non-ending kind of way....). The first, when I was 23 years old, has instructed my whole life since, in spite of the train wrecks that i have left behind me in this time. 

My openings speak a language that is very clear, and sits well with the teaching of the Buddha. Without them i would not have been a therapist, as i would not have been willing to be the blind leading the blind. How can you truly be a therapist without them?

But I have been an unsuccessful therapist by most people's standards, and probably my own. Why is this? 

It is mainly I think (apart from other deeper stuff I'm trying to avoid  Neutral ) because what I have been really trying to do is help people to open as I did. 

And that place is fundamentally totally different to the place you are trying to get to in Psychotherapy!  Despite the road you need to travel being the same road! how confusing is that?

I have been pulled by psychotherapy in one direction and my opening in another direction totally. And put huge effort into trying to understand this, both through listening to others, and in looking and listening within.

And in asking others, my first port of call should be the experts in both fields. Specially the spiritual ones.

So imagine my horror in the last 3 years to discover that there is not one Buddhist "expert" i can go to, because none of them that I can see have been honest enough with themselves. In fact none of them may be experts at all.

What I am seeing right now is a load of people who believed some frauds, alcoholics, and nasty people from the far east who came over here and said "I am perfect I can do no wrong you all obey me"!!!!! Oh dear.

And no-one until now even bothered to look at where these people came from, to question what they were doing, or to even question the methods of zen themselves!

In the light of all we have learnt from psychology, from Freud, Jung, Rogers, Alice Miller, etc etc, you would think that some of the fundamental flaws in Buddhist practice would have had some serious questioning by now wouldn't you? 

I would not put historical Japan, China and India in the understanding psychology camp, would you? There are serious clues here!

On this forum Josh's constantly points out questions beginning to be asked.

On other Buddhist forums that I have been on the situation as i see it is dire in terms of questioning Buddhist practice at its roots.

Yep I've got grudge. I'm bugged.

Am I bugging you? Don't mean to bug you!


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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon May 12, 2014 3:32 am

Josh, thank you for posting your experience at the conference. I whole-heartedly agree with everything you say.

"the Zen world had to face their history and their core paradigms which were and are fantasies, fiction, myth, and these myths are actually quite harmful, have their thorns and shadows.  The myth of the "fully enlightened master" - what is a master anyway?  The myth of the transmission, the lineage, the Zen exceptionalism fantasy.  The myth that Zen is not a religion.  And also I said that since Zen was indeed a religion, most western Zen students had zero true awareness of the actual history of their religion - in either China and Japan - and that they had to know the truth of what they were trying to practice.  Ignoring or dying your history is very unworkable."


Thank you for saying this. I have been trying to say this here and elsewhere since i began finding out. 

As for Harada, to talk like he did is to show himself to have no understanding of opening at all. He was no teacher of the Buddha's way, so none of his heirs have any real authority at all, do they? 

If we do not say these things, we are just like the monks at Shasta who knew that the teachings there were rotten at the core, and did not speak out!!!!!!!

Authoritive "I know and you don't know" "i can do no wrong" "do not question me" "dont talk to other people about your practice" "I can put you down whenever I like" teaching as taught by Kennett and Little has nothing to do with opening practice.

Lets face it, Eko was thrown out for sexual stuff, but that wasnt his problem.

If we are really honest about eko's problem, then we see it's Kennett's problem, the present abbot's problem, a general zen teacher problem, and they should all be thrown out too... 

Maybe this explains Daishin Morgan's energy going. My energy has been seriously affected in the past 3 years too.. 

Thank you again Josh.


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david.



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon May 12, 2014 3:39 am

From Josh's link, by present dhama heir:

"I personally became Yasutani Haku'un Roshi's disciple at the age of 17 and kept receiving his instructions until his death. So I know very well that Yasutani Roshi did foster strongly right-winged and anti-Semitic ideology during as well as after World War II".


How come he is only saying it now? Because he has to. For the same reasons as it took all of the Zen teachers of USA until the 2010 New York Times article to stop praising Eido. Ah here comes that Eko Little issue again..... 
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon May 12, 2014 3:45 am

Then the darma heir continues;

"Kôun Roshi, on his part, made it manifest that the fundamental position of the Sanbô Kyôdan is to "stand at the origin point of Buddhism through the Dharma gate of Dôgen Zenji,""


Oh dear. I have just discovered that it seems Dogen went to China and spent more time getting the info he needed to forge a seal of authority than he did to get enlightened. 


Dogan was no gate. This I have learned is just made-up religious mumbo jumbo, by frauds who came later to big themselves up. Oh oh here's Eko Little again.....



Lets stop talking falsely the hour is getting late
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david.



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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon May 12, 2014 3:47 am

you know I'm feeling more and more sorry for Eko Little. He's become the family scapegoat. 

Always good to have a family scapegoat to aim all your grudges at, and to divert attention....
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon May 12, 2014 4:07 am

h enida wrote:
  Much of my healing has not been about the former Abbot or revenge, but rather other traumas, particularly the lack of regard by the senior monks when I came to them for refuge, for protection and for their wisdom.  As I have said before, my concerns were often “poo poo’d” and I was simply told to “train with it” and “trust the Master.”  I don’t agree that all things were well except for Little – I do believe that institutions play their part in the problem and should offer concrete safeguards to beginners who are overseen by people that employ the methods condoned by the institution.

Thank you for saying this. Going to senior monks with your heart and to be treated with lack of regard means the core of the practice there has nothing to do with opening. 

For me, turning one's back on the child within is the antithesis of opening.

Turning towards the child within is beginners compassion class


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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon May 12, 2014 4:21 am

Just reread thread... and realised I could have quoted most of it and said thank you for saying this, I agree.....

Grudge-rant over....

hopefully     

 bom
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon May 12, 2014 3:29 pm

Thanks david, is that a smiley face to get that off your back?

Anyways, I just wanted to add a comment that may be relevant; other religions have matters not commonly discussed. For example, Qabalah, as I've learned, is not available on the internet, nor can one usually find a manual since it's mostly in Aramaic. (Sounds a bit like learning computer programming to me as such). My point being that privacy in ceremonial is not limited to Zen, so should one then exhort all religions to destroy their traditions? I rather think this would be impractical.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed May 14, 2014 5:59 pm

Hi Sianabelle,

hopefully, or maybe  a smiley to cover my back....   :-)
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Wed May 14, 2014 6:10 pm

clapping
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sat May 24, 2014 11:52 pm

Hi everyone, This strand contains lots of references to secrecy as well as transmission.  I don't have a comment about transmission, but I do have a comment about secrecy.

During the time I was at the Abbey secrecy was emphasized so strongly that there was very little permitted communication among novices and even between novices and seniors.  We were not allowed to talk about our personal experiences or any advice we were given.  The reason given was that whatever teaching we received was appropriate for our individual needs and level of attainment at the time and might not be beneficial to another in a different situation or with a different level of awareness.

Later, after Eko left, we started having community meetings where, for the first time, novices were allowed to share experience freely with each other and seniors without being interrupted or corrected. At that time we realized that what had allowed Eko to lie so much and tell so many people different, conflicting stories, was the lack of communication amongst ourselves. 

We had no idea how much he had been lying to everyone, and I mean everyone.  If we had ever had one meeting, or situation, in which we had talked freely among ourselves about his teaching, promises, etc., he would have been expose much earlier.

So when I hear comments about secrecy for the benefit of the trainee about anything, for any reason, I am immediately suspect that it is not for the benefit of the trainee at all, but to perpetuate some kind of misleading story, lie, or myth.

Sophia
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun May 25, 2014 10:44 am

Ve ave vays and means of keeping you quiet
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Sun May 25, 2014 2:59 pm

Regardless of how the secrecy is or was rationalized at OBC / Shasta, how was it used or  how it was lived in daily life - and what was the fruit of that tree, the actual results, consequences? 

When I read the old Pali texts, it seems the Buddha did most of his teaching in the open, in front of everyone, and people asked their questions in the open.  We are all in the same boat, and although there might be slight personal variations, the basic teaching is that the stages of the path and the experiences are the common / collective reality of all human beings.  Of course, there is room for confidentiality, but in general it is much more sane and helpful to one another to have free communication, sharing, connection, and transparency.  No transparency, and you get all kinds of shadow behavior and secrecy and denial.  

And in general, 95% of the time, it is only helpful to share with each other about your spiritual practice, issues, doubts, bumps in the road and so on.  It doesn't have to a perfect process for it to be beneficial.  Silence is not golden. 

I think a lot of the secrecy and suppression of communication is seen in patriarchal / hierarchical systems - religious, political, military, academic, corporate - as a way to maintain power, keep people in their place, shut down any kind of dissent or questioning, And there is always some grand justification, isn't there - for the good of the nation, for the love of the king, for the purity of the dharma.  and all this keeps people as followers, as sheep, as children, and treats them as fragile and less than......

Also, a lot of the stuff at Shasta under Kennett was so over wrought and over thought.  Open communication would hurt others in their dharma practice?  Really?  I totally question that.  Many communities openly and freely communicate all the time, throughout their training, no secrets, not so many esoteric levels.  There might be some rare times and exceptions.  Also, by shutting down communication, it makes Kennett and then her seniors the center of everything, they have all the power, and no one is able to make any personal connections or friendships of even the most basic kind.  you are isolated, cut off.  Zen on the outside.  Sadness and loneliness on the inside.
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PostSubject: Re: Transmission - Is it helpful?   Mon May 26, 2014 7:28 pm

Hi Sophia, nice to see you again Smile

I remember the novices being given permission to speak freely after Eko left at our community meetings.  I also remember how difficult it was for some of the senior seniors to allow novices to speak and would correct the novice if they said something too direct, only to be reminded again to let them speak.  I know this freedom to speak came about as a result of the shock of the whole Eko matter.  Do you suppose the novices are still allowed to speak as freely, or is it business as usual again?  Speaking your opinions, worldly concerns, or even worldly knowledge or common sense was highly discouraged when I was a novice.  Whatever we were good at before (i.e. attached to) in the world was nipped in the bud.
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