Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby LynyrdSkynyrd » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:26 am

Note: Edited just a bit (I am tired).

On an English Shingon website: http://www.shingon.org/sbii/training/TestingETC.html it states:

Discipleship and Training
for
the Shingon Priesthood


TESTING, LICENSING and FURTHER TRAINING

The Disciple must then take a comprehensive test for Licensing and upon passing requires payment of 300,000 yen for the lowest level license (about $2820 at current yen value.)

This is only the basic training, for four rituals.
In Shingon there are more than 250 rituals. These require additional training, through what is called the Transmission of the Complete Teachings (Ichiryu Denju). On Mount Koya a person then takes the Gakue program for ten years and becomes a Maha Acharya. On Mount Koya a person must be a Maha Acarya in order to take on Disciples.


This seems to contradict what I know to be a fact. It could simply be the way the website is worded however.

The first license, the website does not say what it is a license FOR. Is it a license to teach?

Then bolded at the bottom, it says one must spend ten years and become a maha acarya to take on disciples. I know, for a fact, in order to teach one simply must pass a test, mainly composed of ritual texts (this is of course after already receiving acarya abhiseka). There are 16 or so levels of the Japanese priesthood heirarchy and one's permission to teach is based upon that....not upon becoming a maha acarya.

Lastly, maha acarya 大阿闍黎 is not common in Japanese Shingon. Though used for some of the higher clergy, who are allowed to teach just about everything, it has nothing to do with being allowed to teach some of the earlier practices (unless "taking on disciples" means something different than "being allowed to teach", though I would imagine they are one and the same thing...since you teach to disciples). The website does say "on Mt. Koya" so perhaps it is specifically referring to teaching AT Koyasan rather than FOR/under the auspices of Koyasan.

So it may be the way the website is worded....but it seems contradictory to what I know from many many acaryas I have spoken to.

Anyone got any insight? Thanks!
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Re: Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby eijo » Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:20 am

Regarding any details of that site, you need to contact them directly.

I can give you what I understand of the situation.

The first license mentioned above is formal qualification as a priest. Those who receive it must take and pass rigorous written and practical tests, and have already completed the four part training, shido kegyo 四度加行, and have received abhiseka permitting advanced study, Denbo Kanjo 傳法灌頂, among other requirements.

This qualification permits a priest to formally become the head of a formally recognized temple.

The cost refers to people who train privately at recognized temples. It is waived for those who train at seminary schools in Koyasan.

The "Maha acarya" mentioned is fully called a Dento Dai-Ajari 傳燈大阿闍梨. Only a person with that rank can formally teach praxis in Koyasan. It is received by special admission and at least another ten years of study after Denbo Kanjo including formal debate, and after receiving the highest abhiseka of Shingon, which is only given once in ten+ years.

A person with the above priest licensing, and who is the head of a formally recognized temple, but without the title of Dento Dai-Ajari, is also permitted to teach certain parts of the curriculum, typically shido kegyo, in that temple. This applies everywhere in Japan outside of Koyasan, and also abroad. Further teaching may also be permitted abroad, by exception.

Only a Dento Dai-Ajari can give abhiseka in Shingon, and in principal only such a person can teach the entire Shingon curriculum or the advanced parts. This applies worldwide, not just Koyasan. However, due to the rarity of such persons exceptions may be made abroad, but abhiseka cannot be a part of those exceptions.

The 16 clerical ranks you mention are not in any way related to teaching credentials.

Dento Dai-Ajari are indeed rare outside of Japan. I am the only non-Japanese to have received this title to date.

I hope this clears things up for you.
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Re: Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby dearreader » Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:16 am

eijo wrote: The "Maha acarya" mentioned is fully called a Dento Dai-Ajari 傳燈大阿闍梨. Only a person with that rank can formally teach praxis in Koyasan. It is received by special admission and at least another ten years of study after Denbo Kanjo including formal debate, and after receiving the highest abhiseka of Shingon, which is only given once in ten+ years.

A person with the above priest licensing, and who is the head of a formally recognized temple, but without the title of Dento Dai-Ajari, is also permitted to teach certain parts of the curriculum, typically shido kegyo, in that temple. This applies everywhere in Japan outside of Koyasan, and also abroad. Further teaching may also be permitted abroad, by exception.

Only a Dento Dai-Ajari can give abhiseka in Shingon, and in principal only such a person can teach the entire Shingon curriculum or the advanced parts. This applies worldwide, not just Koyasan. However, due to the rarity of such persons exceptions may be made abroad, but abhiseka cannot be a part of those exceptions.


Reverend Eijo, will you speak more on abhiseka and its role in ordination and perhaps explain a bit more what a person who has received abhiseka is capable of doing? Apologies for my confusion but I don't fully understand what role it plays in transmission of teachings (both esoteric and exoteric) and how the split between ordination and abhiseka works. Perhaps a more practical example would help me, so for example, if you had a temple in the Europe how would what you're able to teach and do be different than say the Shingon temple in the UK? Assuming they are Koyasan Shingon-shu.
"Inscribed with the brush of Mt. Sumeru and the ink of the seas,
Heaven-and-earth itself is the sutra book.
All phenomena are encompassed in even a single point therein,
And the six sense objects are all included within its covers."
-Kukai, translated in Kukai on the Philosophy of Language by Takagi and Dreitlein
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Re: Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby LynyrdSkynyrd » Sun Aug 11, 2013 2:27 pm

Eijo, thank you so much for the thorough and thoughtful reply. I have a couple of more questions:

eijo wrote:The "Maha acarya" mentioned is fully called a Dento Dai-Ajari 傳燈大阿闍梨. Only a person with that rank can formally teach praxis in Koyasan. It is received by special admission and at least another ten years of study after Denbo Kanjo including formal debate, and after receiving the highest abhiseka of Shingon, which is only given once in ten+ years.


Do you mind stating more about this, ie the particular day and year. Is it the same calendrical day, every ten years? Which day is it? What is the significance of that day?

eijo wrote:The 16 clerical ranks you mention are not in any way related to teaching credentials.


What, then, is the significance of the ranks? What does it allow one to do, or what does it mean? (in Shingon specifically)

I often see high ranking priests in Japan with the title 大僧正 attached to their name. I would imagine this title is of great importance, and undoubtedly the people who I have seen with this title are also 傳燈大阿闍梨 (such as the abbots/head priests of training halls at Koyasan).

For example, is there any actual difference between someone ranked a 少僧正 or a 大僧正. Or yest still, either of these ranks and a 大僧都 for example?

I know these titles are in no way specific to Shingon. However, I also know they are still bestowed upon acaryas at Koyasan.

Thanks so much.
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Re: Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby eijo » Sun Aug 11, 2013 2:40 pm

I'm not sure how to answer your counterfactual question, and I don't know anything about the Shingon temple in the UK.

If your question is how are ordination and abhiseka different in esoteric Buddhism, then that's addressable.

Exoteric Buddhism does not have abhiseka (although it is mentioned in some exoteric sutras), only ordination and whatever other training a school may have.

Abhiseka is of the highest importance in esoteric Buddhism. Without it, you haven't studied esoteric Buddhism.

Ordination comes at the beginning of a priest's training in Shingon. It is the first thing that you receive. It is called tokudo 得度 in Japanese. It means you are ready to begin training. Even though you are technically a priest at this point, you still have a very long way to go. You certainly are not a teacher yet. You cannot run a temple. You can't do much of anything except study and train. ;)

Abhiseka is of several varieties. It is sometimes called empowerment, initiation, etc. It is called kanjo 灌頂 in Japanese. The most common kinds are given below. Ordination is required for all of these except the first one.

(1) There is the abhiseka open to all without any prerequisites or commitments for laypeople called kechien kanjo 結緣灌頂, given for example at Koyasan twice a year to anyone. This is for establishing a connection with one of the two mandalas. No specific practice is given.

(2) There is the abhiseka given with samaya for a single deity, providing one mudra and mantra. This is called jumyo kanjo 受明灌頂. This is only given today to certain priests under a certain specific set of conditions, such as advanced age not permitting fulfillment of the prerequisites in (3). There are some limited prerequisites. This permits only the practice of the single deity received.

(3) There is the abhiseka with samaya that permits study of the advanced teachings called dembo kanjo 傳法灌頂. This is given every year. The prerequisite is completion of the deity yoga in four parts called shido kegyo 四度加行. This takes place over an grueling and intensive 100-day retreat. A person is styled an ajari 阿闍梨 (teacher) after receiving this abhiseka, but in actuality is not yet ready to teach by any means without further years of study and practice. This person is now ready to study properly and receive deeper instructions. A person who receives this can operate a recognized temple upon taking and passing the qualifying test mentioned above. A person who passes that test and has a registered temple can teach up to shido kegyo at that temple. (Note that running a temple and teaching are treated as two different things.)

(4) The abhiseka for a master teacher is called gakushu kanjo 學習灌頂. This is given once in 10+ years. A person who receives this is called a Dento Dai-Ajari 傳燈大阿闍梨. I explained this already above.

I will abbreviate the other and very rare kinds of abhiseka. There is one given only once in 30 years for example.

I hope this answers your question.
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Re: Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby eijo » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:00 pm

LynyrdSkynyrd wrote:Do you mind stating more about this, ie the particular day and year. Is it the same calendrical day, every ten years? Which day is it? What is the significance of that day?


It is given irregularly, over a span of around ten years, usually more.

LynyrdSkynyrd wrote:What, then, is the significance of the ranks? What does it allow one to do, or what does it mean? (in Shingon specifically)

I often see high ranking priests in Japan with the title 大僧正 attached to their name. I would imagine this title is of great importance, and undoubtedly the people who I have seen with this title are also 傳燈大阿闍梨 (such as the abbots/head priests of training halls at Koyasan).

For example, is there any actual difference between someone ranked a 少僧正 or a 大僧正. Or yest still, either of these ranks and a 大僧都 for example?

I know these titles are in no way specific to Shingon. However, I also know they are still bestowed upon acaryas at Koyasan.


That's right, those titles are used throughout Japanese Buddhism. Originally, under the ancient Ritsuryo Tang-based legal system, these were titles granted by the state, and carried specific administrative duties. There were fewer titles then. For example, when Kukai's health deteriorated, he was forced to resign his title because he couldn't fulfill the duties. They were essentially managerial positions in the Office of Monks and Nuns within the state bureaucracy.

After the Ritsuryo system collapsed and later with the fragmentation of Buddhism, the court continued to grant such titles to the most senior monks, but without any state administrative duties since the Office of Monks and Nuns no longer functioned.

After the termination of all state involvement in Buddhism, the sects began awarding themselves these titles.

Today those titles can be received by applying (with a considerable honorarium attached) to the administrative offices of your sect depending on years in tonsure, so to speak. There is no functional difference among them, except in some locales where they are used to establish a sort of pecking order among priests and temples. They have no relationship with teaching.

You seem far more familiar with Shingon than the majority of people here, do you have a teacher?
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Re: Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby LynyrdSkynyrd » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:46 pm

Eijo, thank you again for your very helpful reply.

eijo wrote:Today those titles can be received by applying (with a considerable honorarium attached) to the administrative offices of your sect depending on years in tonsure, so to speak. There is no functional difference among them, except in some locales where they are used to establish a sort of pecking order among priests and temples. They have no relationship with teaching.


So essentially, the titles are:
1. Bought
2. Of little meaning

Yes?

Despite the above, would receiving either the title 少僧正 or 大僧正 and being allowed to wear the purple robe, for example, require a certain level of good standing with the administrative body at Koyasan? Or, is money simply enough?

eijo wrote:You seem far more familiar with Shingon than the majority of people here, do you have a teacher?


Yes, one teacher with whom I took refuge and was instructed in some of the shido kegyo (I have not finished) and two other acaryas with whom I regularly consult.
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Re: Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby eijo » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:14 pm

They cannot simply be bought, and they surely mean quite a lot to the many people interested in them. They could be seen as indicating seniority given the years requirement, but not necessarily since its not necessary to pursue them.
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Re: Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby LynyrdSkynyrd » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:16 pm

Wonderful, thank you for the clarification. I deeply appreciate it.
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Re: Lisence to Teach vs Maha Acarya?

Postby DrLang » Fri Oct 25, 2013 12:43 am

Thank you Rev. Eijo. As someone who is hoping to find a willing teacher, this is highly informative.
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