OBC Connect
Would you like to react to this message? Create an account in a few clicks or log in to continue.
OBC Connect

A site for those with an interest in the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, past or present, and related subjects.
HomeHome  GalleryGallery  Latest imagesLatest images  SearchSearch  RegisterRegister  Log in  


 Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays

Go down 
2 posters


Posts : 1620
Join date : 2010-11-13
Age : 73
Location : New York, NY

Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty
PostSubject: Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays   Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty3/17/2012, 12:33 am

Lineage Delusions Revisited a Year Later: Dharma Transmission, Denial, and American Zen

By Erik Storlie - posted on the Sweeping Zen website

“The day you tell the truth be sure your horse is saddled!” – African proverb

About a year ago I offered “Lineage Delusions: Eido Shimano Roshi, Dharma Transmission, and American Zen” to Adam Tebbe and Sweepingzen.com. Since then I’ve heard from women who left Zen Centers where the master preyed upon the vulnerable or, as one said, the “broken” women. And I’ve heard from recipients of dharma transmission who insisted I had no standing to say what I said, that the essay was “offensive.” And I’ve heard much that lies between those poles.

I’d suggested that dharma transmission is, at best, an unreliable credential and, at worst, dangerous – for it confers significant authority, even in the minds of some members of the general public. And I’d suggested further that: “So long as American Zen relies on dharma transmission as a credential, there will be one Shimano after another – and dharma heirs who will go to great lengths to protect the master who conferred authority upon them.”

Dharma transmission, reinforced as it is with imposing robes, honorific titles, and ritual deference, opens sincere, often naïve, often troubled spiritual seekers to powerful manipulations – and there will be, inevitably, cases of sexual and other abuse.

I’ve heard now many justifications for dharma transmission, but given the real harm to individuals that this misleading non-credential has done, none of them seem adequate. I’ll recount a few offered by several dharma heirs.

One dharma heir explained that Zen would die without dharma transmission. The Dharma would be lost. But given the forms and practices of Buddhism that aren’t dependent on it, this struck me as exaggeration, a sky-is-falling argument, a defense against criticism of any kind. It was another form of Robert Aitken’s rationale that if he exposed Shimano, the Dharma would be damaged in America. Yet his decision to protect an abstract Dharma (and Shimano) allowed real damage to be done to real people. I find this unacceptable. We can have confidence that the Dharma is larger than dharma transmission. Solid practice opportunities and solid practice teaching can be established without such a dubious mechanism.

Another dharma heir suggested that dharma transmission was, for the Zen world, like the PhD in the academic. But as a credential, dharma transmission lacks the transparency, delineation, and oversight of multiple mentors that are involved in PhD training (however flawed the process can often be). For example, if my own principal PhD adviser had become terminally ill, he would not have been able to declare me a “doctor” before he died. I would have been assigned another mentor. And had any of a number of highly qualified faculty found me wanting, I would not have been granted my degree. But on their deathbeds, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi could give dharma transmission to Richard Baker, and Dainin Katagiri Roshi to a dozen students.

The same person insisted, nevertheless, that it didn’t matter that dharma transmission was conferred arbitrarily at the pleasure of just one person. Dharma transmission was analogous, he argued, to the medieval craft traditions: the master instructed the apprentice, and eventually the apprentice became a master. The product would be the proof.

But trying to determine a meditation teacher’s integrity or the quality of his or her mind in meditation is more difficult than determining whether a pair of shoes from a particular cobbler fits and wears well, or whether a saddle or saucepan is durable, or a sword well-tempered. How does the beginning meditator judge the quality of the mind and spirit of the man or woman who sits on the dais surrounded by many visible signs of authority during lectures and retreats and is perhaps available only for private meetings shrouded in ceremony – meetings in which the master’s abrupt or confused answer to a question can masquerade as profound Zen wisdom?

Yet another dharma heir responded that one should not “blame” the license of dharma transmission for the bad acting of license holders. But if a licensing procedure is flawed, or the one conferring the license not truly qualified, the license itself can be no better. And further, unlike a license to practice medicine or psychotherapy, or an authorization to be, for example, a minister in a certain religious denomination, dharma transmission cannot be revoked for cause. Known abusers cannot be stripped of this license – even though it presumably establishes that the holder can be trusted with the most intimate questions of a seeker’s emotional and spiritual development.

Other dharma heirs insisted that only those on the inside could understand the full significance and weight of dharma transmission. I had misrepresented it and I simply had no right to speak of it, having chosen to stay on the outside (near-audible sigh of relief). In the same way the born-again Christian asserts that he “knows in his heart” the truth of salvation. Discussion stops. And those of us “on the outside” must now evaluate the claimant’s internal experience by looking at behavior. The Shimano case broke into wider public notice a year ago because of the chasm between his actions and claims for his profound Enlightenment.

Of course, when the chasm is undeniable, believers can appeal to “crazy wisdom.” Whatever the “master” does, since he enjoys Complete Perfect Enlightenment, is a teaching. Yet accounts of the Buddha’s life never suggest that he recommended behavior in violation of the Eightfold Path – a path fusing action that does no harm with the cultivation of wisdom and compassion through meditation.

Those of us who follow this path, who are committed to doing no harm, have a responsibility, I believe, to tell the truth. This includes, whether we are Zen community members or Zen teachers, a “duty to warn” – and in regard to dharma transmission a moral duty to advise spiritual seekers that, as a credential, it is neither authoritative or trustworthy.

Such speech has its costs. Whistle blowers are punished. Natalie Goldberg had given generously of her time and talent over many years to help Zen communities publicize themselves and raise funds. But after the publication of The Great Failure: a Bartender, a Monk, and my Unlikely Path to Truth, she found herself becoming a non-person in Zen circles. The Great Failure and Michael Downing’s Shoes Outside the Door should be required reading of every Zen student and teacher – an antidote to the naïveté I myself brought to the practice as an idealistic younger man who indeed failed in my own “duty to warn.”

I was a founder and influential board member of the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center. A friend and member of the community rang my doorbell early one morning and made an extremely disturbing accusation of sexual violation involving our teacher. He demanded I do something – at least inform the Board of Directors, if not the entire community. I was stunned, conflicted, and in the end did nothing. I persuaded myself that my friend must be exaggerating. He and his woman friend left the community without breaking their own silence. Years later, I would write him a long-overdue apology.

At the time I was paralyzed by fear and self-concern. Had I made the accusation public, my beloved community would have been thrown into uproar and my own influential position put at risk. I behaved like the member of a cult. I protected myself, when that protection belonged to others.

I should have spoken then. I am speaking now.

Lineage Delusions: Eido Shimano Roshi, Dharma Transmission, and American Zen

By Erik Fraser Storlie

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

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

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

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

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

And it is tragic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posts : 1620
Join date : 2010-11-13
Age : 73
Location : New York, NY

Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty
PostSubject: Re: Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays   Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty4/25/2012, 1:00 am


Saturday, January 06, 2007
Dharma Transmission as Myth and Metaphor Part 1

The Zen tradition of "mind to mind transmission," or "Dharma-transmission," is one of the least understood, and most abused doctrines in modern Zen teaching in both the east and the west. The misunderstanding, while partially due to the profound, subtle meaning within the doctrine, is mainly due to deliberate obfuscation aimed at validating spiritual superiority, thereby insuring authority.

According to the orthodox teaching of the official Soto Zen school in modern day Japan, Dharma-transmission is received by a student from a master that has received Dharma-transmission himself (not herself, as all have been males) from a master in the Soto lineage.

According to one "certified" master (Ryofu Pussel):

The term "Lineage" refers to an unbroken chain of "masters" having received "Dharma-transmission", going all the way back to the historic Shakyamuni Buddha. This authentic lineage is said to insure that the Buddha’s original teaching (Dharma) is preserved and transmitted in its original.
(Dharma-Transmission In Dogen’s Zen-Buddhism, Ryofu Pussel, p.31)

This definition roughly outlines the understanding of the term for most sects and lineages within Zen Buddhism. As an "orthodox" teaching for the spiritually naïve, this tradition allows the beginning student to lay aside doubts about their particular teacher’s authority and simply accept and follow the master’s instruction.

As with most orthodox or "exoteric" doctrines, the Zen tradition of Dharma-transmission contains a powerful esoteric meaning and significance. The true significance of Dharma-transmission is the transmission of wisdom (prajna). When the "awakened" mind is exposed to the "Dharma" of Buddhas and Zen ancestors, wisdom is transmitted. We will come back to this later.

Of course, exoteric or orthodox teachings are usually beneficial, and in some cases necessary to the spiritually immature. However, when this kind of teaching becomes insisted on as historical fact rather than as metaphor, or temporary expediency, it becomes idolatry. The transparency of the doctrine becomes opaque; concealing the very reality that it was intended to reveal.

Modern scholarship incontrovertibly reveals that any claim that posits as fact the myth of "an unbroken chain of masters" going all the way back to the historic Shakyamuni Buddha is untenable. (See for example, Seeing Through Zen, John R. McRae; The Zen Canon, Steven Heine & Dale S. Wright; The Bodhidharma Anthology, Jeffrey L. Broughton; Zen Dawn, J.C. Cleary.) In addition, genuine Zen masters have always understood the insignificance of historic or literal truth, compared to the reality of which the teachings transmit.

Yuanwu, the compiler of the classic Zen text, The Blue Cliff Record, gives us a good example of how authentic masters handle discrepancies between "fact" and "truth" in mythology. In the very first case of the Blue Cliff Record, Yuanwu notices just such a discrepancy:

"According to tradition, Master Chih died in the year 514, while Bodhidharma came to Liang in 520; since there is a seven year discrepancy, why is it said that the two met? This must be a mistake in the tradition. As to what is recorded in tradition, I will not discuss the matter now. All that’s important is to understand the gist of the matter."
(Yuanwu, Blue Cliff Record Case 1, Cleary & Cleary)

Yuanwu lived 1063-1135. One hundred years later, Dogen made a similar conclusion regarding the doctrine of Dharma-transmission. While in China, Dogen noticed that there were discrepancies in the lineage charts and asked about this:

"The veteran monk Shugetsu, while he was assigned to the post of head monk on Tendo, showed to Dogen a certificate of succession of Unmon’s lineage… Mahakasyapa, Ananda, and so on, were aligned as if [they belonged to] separate lineages. At that time, Dogen asked Head Monk Shugetsu, "Master, nowadays there are slight differences among the five sects in their alignment [of names]. What is the reason? If the succession from the Western Heavens has passed from rightful successor to rightful successor, how could there be differences?" Shugetsu said, "Even if the difference were great, we should just study that the buddhas of Unmon-zan mountain are like this. Why is Old Master Sakyamuni honored by others? He is an honored one because he realized the truth. Why is Great Master Unmon honored by others? He is an honored one because he realized the truth." Dogen, hearing these words, had a little [clearer] understanding."
(Dogen, Shobogenzo, Shisho, Nishijima & Cross)

Shugetsu made a very good point that was reiterated by Dogen’s own master, thus allowing Dogen to accept "for the first time, the existence of Buddhist patriarchs’ succession of the Dharma":

"My late Master, the eternal Buddha, the great Master and Abbot of Tendo, preached the following: "The buddhas, without exception, have experienced the succession of the Dharma. That is to say, Sakyamuni Buddha received the Dharma from Kasyapa Buddha, Kasyapa Buddha received theDharma from Kanakamuni Buddha, and Kanakamuni Buddha received the Dharma from Krakucchanda Buddha. We should believe that the succession has passed like this from buddha to buddha until the present. This is the way of learning Buddhism." Then Dogen said, "It was after Kasyapa Buddha had entered nirvana that Sakyamuni Buddha first appeared in the world and realized the truth. Furthermore, how could the buddhas of the Kalpa of Wisdom receive the Dharma from the buddhas of the Kalpa of Resplendence? What [do you think] of this principle?" My late Master said, "What you have just expressed is understanding [based on] listening to theories. It is the way of [bodhisattvas at] the ten sacred stages or the three clever stages. It is not the way [transmitted by] the Buddhist patriarchs from rightful successor to rightful successor. Our way, transmitted from buddha to buddha, is not like that. We have learned that Sakyamuni Buddha definitely received the Dharma from Kasyapa Buddha. We learn in practice that Kasyapa Buddha entered nirvana after Sakyamuni Buddha succeeded to the Dharma. If Sakyamuni Buddha did not receive the Dharma from Kasyapa Buddha, he might be the same as a naturalistic non-Buddhist. Who then could believe in Sakyamuni Buddha? Because the succession has passed like this from buddha to buddha, and has arrived at the present, the individual buddhas are all authentic successors, and they are neither arranged in a line nor gathered in a group. We just learn that the succession passes from buddha to buddha like this. It need not be related to the measurements of kalpas and the measurements of lifetimes mentioned in the teaching of the Agamas. If we say that [the succession] was established solely by Sakyamuni Buddha, it has existed for little over two thousand years, [so] it is not old; and the successions [number] little more than forty, [so] they might be called recent. This Buddhist succession is not to be studied like that. We learn that Sakyamuni Buddha succeeded to the Dharma of Kasyapa Buddha, and we learn that Kasyapa Buddha succeeded to the Dharma of Sakyamuni Buddha. When we learn it like this, it is truly the succession of the Dharma of the buddhas and the patriarchs." Then Dogen not only accepted, for the first time, the existence of Buddhist patriarchs’ succession of the Dharma, but also got rid of an old nest."
(Dogen, Shobogenzo, Shisho, Nishijima & Cross)

Many contemporary teachers have failed to get "rid of an old nest" and continue to apply much significance to the external fact of Dharma-transmission while failing to grasp the more important mythological truth of the doctrine. Despite efforts by Dogen and his teacher to show that transmission has nothing to do with being "arranged in a line nor gathered in a group," many attach a kind of superstitious significance to the physical "certificate" rather than the spiritual implication of transmission.

(End Part 1)


Thursday, January 11, 2007
Dharma Transmission as Myth and Metaphor Part 2

Exceptions to such fanatical insistence on literal facts by contemporary Zen teachers are rare. One exception is the elder statesman of Zen in the west, Robert Aitken Roshi (I would also include a few others, Thich Nhat Hanh for instance). In Aitken’s commentary on the Dharma-transmission from Shakyamuni to Mahakasyapa, in which transmission occurred when Shakyamuni twirled a flower, he wrote:

"The story of the Buddha twirling a flower before his assembly, like the story of the baby Buddha taking seven steps in each of the cardinal directions , need not be taken literally. The first account of his transmitting the Dharma to Mahakasyapa is set forth in a sutra of Chinese origin that is dated A.D. 1036, fourteen hundred years after the Buddha’s time. This was the Sung period—a peak in the development of Chinese culture when great anthologies, encyclopedias, and directories were being produced. Myth, oral tradition, and sectarian justification all played a role in this codification. The fable of the Buddha twirling a flower filled a great need for connection with the founder, and it was picked up immediately and repeated like gospel. The "Four Principles" attributed to Bodhidharma were also formulated during the Sung period, some six hundred years after Bodhidharma’s time, using some of the same language attributed to the Buddha: "A special transmission outside tradition—not established on words or letters." The Sung teachers were making important points with their myths.

"During World War II, I asked a Catholic priest who was interned with us, "What if it could be proved that Jesus never lived?" He replied, "It would destroy my faith." That priest was very young at the time. I wonder what became of him, and what he might be saying on the subject now. Something a little different, I would suppose. I too was young at the time, but I felt there was something wrong with his answer. I still think so. I don’t believe it is very important whether Jesus and Buddha and Moses were historical figures. True religious practice is grounded in the nonhistorical fact of essential nature. "The World-Honored One Twirls a Flower," "Pai-chang's Fox," and all the other fabulous cases of Zen literature are your stories and mine, intimate accounts of our own personal nature and experience."
(Robert Aitken Roshi, The Gateless Barrier, p.47)

One legitimate reason (besides giving assurance to the Zen beginner) for continuing the orthodox tradition of formal Dharma-transmission is this: it can be used as guidance for the intermediate student that has verified an individual teacher and therefore trusts the "sanctioning" of that particular teacher. That is to say, a Zen student may be unable to work with a particular teacher that they have come to trust, however, another teacher that has been given the trusted teacher’s sanction, through Dharma-transmission, may provide some assurance to the student. It is not much different than getting a reference from a trusted professional like a doctor, lawyer, or a mechanic about someone else that may be able to help.

Of course, Dharma-transmission in itself, even if in a "trusted lineage," is no guarantee of a legitimate teacher. Just a cursory overview of some of the expose’ books on American "Zen communities" is enough to arouse a healthy sense of caution. Unfortunately, many of the most popular Zen "masters" in America have proven themselves unable to handle the authority and responsibility of teaching. However, when we do find an authentic teacher, we can usually trust their ability to recognize and sanction others who have genuine realization as well as the skills and character needed to teach others. We will still need to check it out for ourselves, but it may prove to be a good starting point.

The esoteric or deeper significance of Dharma-transmission has nothing to do with lineage charts or certificates. Authentic transmission is, and has always been, transmission of wisdom (prajna) by wisdom, to wisdom. In reading Zen texts, including Dogen Zenji’s work, it is important to understand the fundamental role that Dharma-transmission plays in practice and enlightenment on the path of Zen. This theme is crucial to grasping Dogen Zenji’s more profound teachings, as well as the deeper, subtler aspects of Zen teaching in general.

In one essay, Dogen Zenji explains how transmission occurs in the context of the traditional story of Huineng, the legendary sixth ancestor of Zen, second in importance only to Bodhidharma. After reminding his listeners/readers that Huineng, though never exposed to the "eternal teachings" was "suddenly illuminated" upon hearing someone reciting a Buddhist scripture, the Diamond Sutra, he goes on to say:

"This is just the truth of Those who have wisdom, if they hear [the Dharma], Are able to believe and understand at once. This wisdom is neither learned from other people nor established by oneself: wisdom is able to transmit wisdom, and wisdom directly searches out wisdom ... It is beyond coming and beyond entering: it is like the spirit of spring meeting springtime, for example. Wisdom is beyond intention and wisdom is beyond no intention. Wisdom is beyond consciousness and wisdom is beyond unconsciousness. How much less could it be related to the great and the small? How much less could it be discussed in terms of delusion and realization? The point is that although [the Sixth Patriarch] does not even know what the Buddha Dharma is, never having heard it before and so neither longing for it nor aspiring to it, when he hears the Dharma, he makes light of his debt of gratitude and forgets his own body and; such things happen because the body-and-mind of those who have wisdom is already not their own. This is the state called able to believe and understand at once. No-one knows how many rounds of life-and-death [people] spend, even while possessing this wisdom, in futile dusty toil. They are like a stone enveloping a jewel, the jewel not knowing that it is enveloped by a stone, and the stone not knowing that it is enveloping a jewel. [When] a human being recognizes this [jewel], a human being seizes it. This is neither something that the jewel is expecting nor something that the stone is awaiting: it does not require knowledge from the stone and it is beyond thinking by the jewel. In other words, a human being and wisdom do not know each other, but it seems that the truth is unfailingly discerned by wisdom."
(Dogen, Shobogenzo, Inmo, Nishijima & Cross)

Dogen Zenji’s expression here, "wisdom is able to transmit wisdom, and wisdom directly searches out wisdom", is the very definition of Dharma-transmission. In its highest sense, wisdom is Buddha-Dharma (Buddhist truth). Wisdom transmits wisdom and is received by wisdom. When Huineng heard the wisdom transmitted by wisdom (from the Diamond Sutra), his innate wisdom was "able to believe and understand at once." That is Zen practice and enlightenment. When the Zen practitioner is exposed to the wisdom transmitted by the wisdom (of Buddhas and Zen masters, texts, koans, birdsong, raindrops, walls, stones, etc.), the practitioners own innate wisdom is activated.

Dogen Zenji likens this to a jewel inside a rock. The jewel (wisdom) has been in the rock (human being) all along, and as soon as the "rock" realizes this, the "jewel" is already embodied, "[When] a human being recognizes this [jewel], a human being seizes it." That is to say, "Dharma-transmission" is really the activation of (already innate) wisdom by wisdom. The path of Zen is the wisdom within us seeking the activation of wisdom through practice and enlightenment. When we "grasp" the point in a sutra, or Zen sermon, wisdom is realized, that is, Dharma-transmission occurs. When we discern the point of a koan, the wisdom of the koan activates our own wisdom. As Dogen Zenji says, "a human being and wisdom do not know each other, but it seems that the truth is unfailingly discerned by wisdom."

With this understanding, we can decipher the significance of Dogen Zenji’s teaching on "Buddhas alone, together with Buddhas." Throughout his works, Dogen Zenji repeatedly reminds us that "only Buddhas realize Buddha-Dharma." For example:

"The Buddha-Dharma cannot be known by people. For this reason, since ancient times, no common man has realized the Buddha-Dharma and no-one in the two vehicles has mastered the Buddha-Dharma. Because it is realized only by buddhas, we say that buddhas alone, together with buddhas, are directly able perfectly to realize it."
(Dogen, Shobogenzo, Yui-Butsu-Yo-Butsu, Nishijima & Cross)

This is the essence of Dharma-transmission. The Buddha-Dharma (wisdom) is transmitted by Buddha (wisdom) and can only be realized by inherent Buddha-nature (wisdom). The "common man" in this passage can be likened to the "rock" in Dogen Zenji’s earlier analogy. As soon as the jewel is revealed, the "rock" is already a "jewel." As soon as the Buddha-Dharma is realized, the "common man" is already "Buddha."

When we study Dogen Zenji with this understanding, many complications are resolved. For instance, when Dogen says things like, "a lay person has never realized enlightenment," we discover two levels of meaning here. There is the "orthodox" understanding, which can encourage the novice monk that has literally "left home"; and there is the deeper, more significant meaning that neither lay people nor monastics have realized enlightenment, for "it is realized only by Buddhas." The same lower/higher truths can be found in many of his teachings: reading, precepts, meditation, koans, activity, expression, etc.
Back to top Go down

Posts : 70
Join date : 2012-02-08

Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty
PostSubject: Re: Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays   Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty4/25/2012, 10:53 am

Thank you Josh
I so enjoyed the Eric Storlie piece from Sweeping Zen.Very persuasive and authentic beautifully arguef.
I felt he was telling my story.

I hope other site users will.read and discuss.


Back to top Go down

Posts : 70
Join date : 2012-02-08

Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty
PostSubject: Re: Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays   Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty4/25/2012, 10:54 am

ps I meant argued not arguef!

smart phones huh?
Back to top Go down
Sponsored content

Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty
PostSubject: Re: Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays   Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays Empty

Back to top Go down
Lineage Delusions and Transmission - from Erik Storlie - 2 essays
Back to top 
Page 1 of 1
 Similar topics
» Transmission and Lineage
» Essays from Antaiji Website: on being a Soto priest, transmission, ranks, etc
» Video: Peter Matthiessen on transmission, lineage, etc
» Robert H. Sharf - Essays on the Zen of Japanese Nationalism - on line
» New Book: The Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism.......by Erik Braun

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
OBC Connect :: OBC Connect :: The Reading Corner-
Jump to: