What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:30 pm

oushi wrote:can meaning enhance reality? Can it make it more ... real?


I think it's supposed to make it more meaningful.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby MalaBeads » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:40 pm

For a dozen years I have been looking for one (who is suitable), but have not been able to find as much as a mustard seed. I am afraid those Zen teachers are rather like newlywed brides, uneasy and worried about being chased out of their homes and starving to death.Since olden times people have not believed the old masters, and only after they had been driven away did their greatness become known. He who is approved by everyone, what good is he? “The lion's roar shatters the brain of the jackal.”


I really like Linji. The night i read The Record Of Linji was a profound night for me. For the record, jackals are very nervous skittish creatures. It's an apt comparison. Linji knew what he was talking about.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:52 pm

Astus wrote:
I wrote "You call for control of who claims what title"
because you wrote
"We have credentials in Zen for a reason, for safety and to ensure people are actually being taught Buddhism, and not just somebody's impressions that they read from a book."

Yes, that's not a "call for control of who claims what title". I'm not sounding the hunting horn here, I stating a plain observation of the facts: that there is in fact a credentialing system in Zen.


and I wrote
"you reject the idea of transparency and rigorous examination"
because you wrote
"Zen is a decentralized system. Once a person becomes transmitted, they are not necessarily required to be dependent upon an institutional authority any more. They have become a new institutional authority in and of themselves. That's the way Zen works. That's the way our system is. The reasons it's done that way is to foster diversity, like spreading different seeds to the wind, so that the teaching has the most likely chance of catching hold somewhere and taking root and being passed on. Each teacher has their own personality, opinions, experience, and way of looking at things and doing things."

Decentralized, does not mean no transparency. There is some, obviously, if people start doing something that is totally weird, other people will notice it and say something.
A teacher is also expected to keep the Precepts. And I've also heard it said, that If a teacher stops training themselves, then other teachers will stop referring to them as a "Master"( I've done this myself, regarding someone, though I'm not a teacher). But the truth is, spiritual training, is a highly personal and intimate thing. The point of having a teacher is to have someone you really trust, whom you find to be worthy of that trust. It's not to have a duplicate person standing by to listen to all of your most intimate things that you might say to them, and then listen to and observe their response, and then offer critique on it. This is not science, this is religion, this is a very intimate, and personal thing for most people. I sure as hell wouldn't want some third party whom I didn't personally trust, listening in on my Sanzens (spiritual counseling sessions), with a pen and paper, and offering critique to the monk I was talking to. Not unless they happened to be that monk's senior, and I consented to them being there, in which case that can happen, with permission. This is not psychotherapy, this is spirituality. It's hard enough just to find one person that you really trust, let alone some sortof "objective" third party.
However, that said, some organizations do consult with outside third parties with regard to how their policy is set up, and take recommendations on how to improve things.
But again, that's a voluntary thing, and applies to the structure of the organization in general; like I said, I wouldn't want then sitting in on my Sanzen.

If you're looking for something that is perfectly safe, that comes with no risks, it doesn't exist. Spirituality is an inherently risky business, because you're agreeing to have your most deeply held views challenged and examined. That can be incredibly scary.

You said:
"They are not above criticism. This is not a "guru" thing here, you are supposed to trust your own gut and intuition. That, is what they are teaching you to do."
but before that you compared the Zen teacher's authority to gurus:
"It's more like each Transmitted Master becomes a Dalai Lama in and of themselves, with the authority to have their own disciples."


You misunderstand, I wasn't making them synonymous with that position, or saying they are a Guru. I was just saying that authority/wise, they can be more independent the way the Dalai Lama is. That might be a poor comparison. What I'm saying is that they in thesemselves, are not dependent upon some overarching "Zen" body for their authority once they've received Dharma Transmission.

Making each Zen teacher the local Pope instead of a parish priest. Naturally, attitudes toward a local vicar and the direct representative of the Eternal is quite different.

The only reason that seems to be so amazing, is because in that sentence, you are comparing them to the Catholic Pope, where in Catholicism, only one person in the world may hold that job and title, and so they are an immensely important person.
In Zen, anyone can do this.
Being able to listen to the Eternal, is not some special divine right of some lofty person. It's something anyone can do.
It's actually quite mundane from a Zen perspective.

On the other hand, Buddhism in general presents a logical teaching that can be comprehended freely by any intelligent person, it is open to scrutiny and rational debate. In fact, it is a point the Dalai Lama regularly emphasises.

The Dalai Lama generally exposes teaching that is aimed at a general audience.

If Tibetan teachings were so easily understandable just by picking up a book, they wouldn't use an esoteric tradition, with Root Guru's, empowerments, etc.
They even have a term for kensho, it's discussed in another thread on this board.

And this system that is supported by the idea of transmission from teacher to disciple is problematic.


You're still not explaining how that's supposed to be problematic.
I mean it's not like there aren't alternative schools of Buddhism people can practice if you don't prefer Zen.
If you could specifically explain how you view Dharma Transmission to be problematic, that would be nice.

Sara
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:03 pm

shel wrote:
oushi wrote:can meaning enhance reality? Can it make it more ... real?


I think it's supposed to make it more meaningful.

As opposed to ignorance...
It was shocking for me, as a proponent of logic an reason, to find out that it is the other way around. This way, Zen master is not a equivalent of scientist, but because of the nature of wisdom, neither is he opposite. This list from OP presents a Zen master like a scientist, with his entire path and degrees. "The Way of meaning" substitutes "The Way". Somehow, people are forgetting that 6th patriarch was illiterate.
Nowadays everything has meaning applied to it. Humanity developed enormous amount of information about everything. Now we may ask, does enlightenment fallow? And why not?
MalaBeads wrote:I really like Linji. The night i read The Record Of Linji was a profound night for me. For the record, jackals are very nervous skittish creatures. It's an apt comparison. Linji knew what he was talking about.

:smile:
So, one more in the subject:
You do not believe in the things in your own house, so you go outside searching, and fall into the trap of words and phrases of the old masters; relying on Yin, leaning on Yang, you cannot arrive at any real understanding of your own. So, encountering circumstances, you enter into relationship with them. Encountering the dusts, you cling to them. Everything you touch leads you astray, for you have no standard of judgment of your own.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:06 pm

Sara H wrote:If you're looking for something that is perfectly safe, that comes with no risks, it doesn't exist. Spirituality is an inherently risky business, because you're agreeing to have your most deeply held views challenged and examined. That can be incredibly scary.


And people will fight tooth and nail to keep their most deeply held views (and myths) intact. :tongue:

So as we can see, it does no good for someone else to be the challenger and examiner. We have to do that ourselves.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby MalaBeads » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:27 pm

Nice quote, oushi.

Fwiw (and it may not be worth much), i have always thought that no one should be allowed zen transmission and be given teaching credentials until they have spent an equal number of years in the world that they spent in the monastery.

After they have been in the monastery.

Spend ten years in the monastery? Need ten years afterwards in the world where no one knows you at all. Then and only then, would one be considered a candidate for a teaching credential.

Just my two cents.

:smile:
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:47 pm

oushi wrote:Nowadays everything has meaning applied to it.

That's because everything has some sort of value or purpose, whether positive or negative. But that was always the case. It's not something that's on the rise, but we do have more free time nowadays to fret about such things.

Humanity developed enormous amount of information about everything. Now we may ask, does enlightenment fallow? And why not?

I don't follow, information is just raw data.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:02 pm

MalaBeads,
I think that being a Master is something natural. Either you are one, or not. I don't think that you can become one by going through some kind of assembly line. Leaning on a paper written by god know who, god knows when, and why, is not a good idea, especially when you are about to reveal your most intimate stuff to that person. Going into society is a good idea, because if the teacher truly manifests his realization, people will gather around him quite fast.


shel wrote:That's because everything has some sort of value or purpose, whether positive or negative. But that was always the case.

Lions have fangs which they use skilfully without knowing their value, or purpose. Things have value, purpose and meaning only when we apply it.

shel wrote:It's not something that's on the rise, but we do have more free time nowadays to fret about such things.

Hard to tell, as I do not remember my previous incarnations :tongue: (j/k)
shel wrote:I don't follow, information is just raw data.

It may look like meaning is something true that lies behind the words and raw data. But, if you drop those words, will reality become more meaningful? What is meaning without data? It's meaningless :o aka Buddha Nature.

Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen. To know that the mind is empty is to see the Buddha. The Buddhas of the ten directions" have no mind. To see no mind is to see the Buddha. -Bodhidharma

The question may arise, how does one function without thinking, without striving for meaning? As I see it, that which is thinking is not self in the first place.

Names arise from the ocean of breath in the region of the belly; their fierce drum beat rattles your teeth so that they stutter out interpretations. Do you not see that these are but illusory phantoms? - Linji once more.
Last edited by oushi on Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:08 pm

Your question seems to be, Astus: "How can you have a system of Dharma Transmission (or rather Student/Teacher relationships) that's completely free from abuse; where no one ever gets abused ever?"

The answer is you can't (have a guarantee).

You make the best decision you can.

Anymore than you can have a system of parenting where no parent ever abuses their children.

Or a system of college professors where no professor ever abuses their student.

Some parents are going to abuse their children.

And some college professors are going to abuse their students.

It's just the way it is, it's just a fact of life, that there's always a small possibility there.

Most parents don't abuse their children, and most professors don't abuse their students.

And most Dharma teachers don't abuse their students either.

You can't just discard a system because some small numbers of people abuse it.

The system is too beneficial to too many others.

Psychotherapists sometimes abuse their cleints too. That's in spite of all the peer-review, and oversight boards, etc, etc. It still happens regularly.

Now, perhaps you're saying "But therapists get sued, and have their licenses revoked all the time, Zen Master's can't have their license revoked if they do misconduct."

Well that's true. They can be sued, or arrested if they break the law, like anybody else.

But this is religion. Not psychotherapy. It's not a psuedo-science based on medicine, and philosophy. People have a fundamental human right to do their religious practice.

And the thing is, revoking a psychotherapists license doesn't prevent the abuse from taking place. It just addresses the consequence of it after the fact.

In Buddhism, we give people permission to make and learn from their mistakes. We don't say "that's it, you've made a doosey, now you can never practice, or teach Buddhism again."

Richard Baker seems to have learned very well from his mistakes from his time at the SFZC.

I'd feel very comfortable hearing him speak. His wisdom is valuable because it was hard-learned.

In motorcycle riding, if you have a wreck, and then get back on the motorcycle, you become a much better rider.

That's experience that shouldn't be wasted.

I don't think someone should be disbarred from teaching just because they make a mistake. Buddhism is not judgmental like that.
This is a spiritual practice, not therapy. And it wouldn't guarantee that it wouldn't happen again, and nor does making a mistake mean that someone can't learn from it and become better for it, including a better teacher.

All the certifications and oversight in the world haven't prevented therapists from abusing their clients.

It still happens, and often.

I wouldn't exactly say that the Zen or Tibetan Buddhist teachers who've made some big mistakes haven't gotten the consequences for it, they've been talked about all over the internet.

Karma, still exists.

When you go in to have a Buddhist teacher (like any teacher, friend, or authority, or person you trust), you have to accept the risk, that there is a very small possibility, that you might get abused.

Sometimes, as human beings, when we choose to trust somebody, we get burned.

That's just the way it is.

And you either accept that risk, and do it anyway, or you decline and pass.

It's your choice.
And you get the consequences of that choice either way.
No one forces someone to become a student.
And whether they fully understand that choice or not, it's still their choice, and they get the consequences for it.

Like most other decisions in life, it's about balancing the risks, with the benefits, and trying to make the choice that does the least amount of harm and the most good.

As human beings we just make the best choices we can.

The responsibility of informing oneself, ultimately, lies squarely on the shoulders of the one making the choice. Because they're the one's who are going to be making it, and taking the consequences for it.
I mean if a person intends on abusing you, they're not going to tell you.
You have to make the best decision you can, with the information at hand.
And live with the results of your choice.

There's no guarantee. (either way) There's no 100% safety. There's no zero risk.

It just doesn't exist.

Buddhism is a religion for spiritual adults. Who are willing and have the courage to risk stepping off into the unknown. Taking on adult risks and making adult choices.
This is not a religion for cowards.

When we face death, we are facing the unknown.
There's no avoiding making decisions that involve stepping off into the unknown.

Sara
Last edited by Sara H on Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:19 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
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It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby randomseb » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:11 pm

Huseng wrote:
randomseb wrote:And you don't need to worry about any other lives to do the proper practice, right now, this lifetime, and thereby escape any cycles of rebirth. Other lives are of no concern and are not part of the methods taught by buddha himself to free oneself.

:spy:


You need to seriously sit down and read some sutras.

He was quite concerned with how our actions in this life would result in an unfortunate rebirth AFTER physical death plus all manner of ghoulish things happening in future lives.

In any case, let's not get onto that topic here. We're talking about Zen and Zen Masters.


I've read many a sutra, and as I am sure you have as well, and are so versed in knowledge on the subject, you will know what I am referring to when I talk about lives being measured in moments, not dozens of years. This pertains to zen as well. Strive on, my friend!

:reading:
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:27 pm

Astus:

The question really comes down to:

How can I know for sure, that the person I choose to trust, won't hurt me.

The answer is you can't. That's just human nature.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:34 pm

And, to add to that last,

Someone having a title of "Zen Master", is not a guarantee that you won't get hurt.

There is no guarantee.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:04 pm

oushi wrote:
shel wrote:That's because everything has some sort of value or purpose, whether positive or negative. But that was always the case.

Lions have fangs which they use skilfully without knowing their value, or purpose. Things have value, purpose and meaning only when we apply it.

Try taking a fang from a lion and it will show you how much it values the fang. Coincidentally, will also show you the purpose of the fang. :tongue:

shel wrote:I don't follow, information is just raw data.

It may look like meaning is something true that lies behind the words and raw data. But, if you drop those words, will reality become more meaningful?

You lost me again. Meaning doesn't rely solely on words or information.

What is meaning without data?

Value, I suppose.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:26 pm

Sara H wrote:And, to add to that last,

Someone having a title of "Zen Master", is not a guarantee that you won't get hurt.

There is no guarantee.


That's not the question of this topic. The question of this topic is what a Zen master is or isn't. So in regard to the topic you seem to be saying that a Zen master is just as trustworthy as anyone else. Whatever mastery in Zen means, it doesn't include qualities expressed as trustworthiness.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Jnana » Sat Apr 06, 2013 3:49 am

Sara H wrote:Someone having a title of "Zen Master", is not a guarantee that you won't get hurt.

Someone having a title of "Zen Master", is not a guarantee that that person has realized any level of awakening.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Jnana » Sat Apr 06, 2013 3:59 am

randomseb wrote:I've read many a sutra, and as I am sure you have as well, and are so versed in knowledge on the subject, you will know what I am referring to when I talk about lives being measured in moments, not dozens of years. This pertains to zen as well.

Momentariness doesn't contradict the teachings that a momentary mental continuum continues post-mortem.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby randomseb » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:33 am

Jnana wrote:
randomseb wrote:I've read many a sutra, and as I am sure you have as well, and are so versed in knowledge on the subject, you will know what I am referring to when I talk about lives being measured in moments, not dozens of years. This pertains to zen as well.

Momentariness doesn't contradict the teachings that a momentary mental continuum continues post-mortem.


If there is really no such thing as an independent self, what is it that continues post-mortem? What is it that has been there from the start of your having read this reply? Not a self, according to Buddha!

:shrug:
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Jnana » Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:13 am

randomseb wrote:If there is really no such thing as an independent self, what is it that continues post-mortem?

Moments of consciousness.

randomseb wrote:What is it that has been there from the start of your having read this reply? Not a self, according to Buddha!

Consciousness is impermanent, unsatisfactory, empty, and therefore not a self.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Astus » Sat Apr 06, 2013 2:06 pm

Sara,

The common idea of Dharma-transmission is that an enlightened teacher confirms the enlightenment of a student. This has been passed down from Shakyamuni himself, making all person in the lineage equal to the Buddha. That is, a Zen teacher is a living buddha (活佛 - the Chinese term used for tulkus, whereas tulku means nirmanakaya, i.e. an emanation of a buddha; just to show how the Zen idea of transmission gives a similar (actually higher) level of importance as being a tulku in Vajrayana). What is being transmitted is the buddha-mind, in other words the level of enlightenment confirmed is the realisation of the dharmakaya, something that only perfectly enlightened buddhas know.

This concept of the Zen teacher comes down to actual practice in the form of absolute authority of the master in all religious issues where students are completely dependent on a teacher to achieve liberation. It is a control system where no one can claim enlightenment unless verified by the master, and receiving such verification is in itself a declaration of buddhahood. There are of course attempts to degrade the meaning of a Zen teacher, saying that he is only an ordinary fallible person, it's just that it doesn't agree with the otherwise upheld idea of the transmission of the enlightened mind. Every Zen student aspires to buddhahood and relies on the teacher to tell them when they are there or not, therefore the master is the sole judge about a student's progress, and since all disciples want to receive that confirmation they will constantly try to please the teacher. Because a student is stripped of all independent understanding, whatever the master says is correct or incorrect must be so.

If you say that transmission is not about enlightenment, the patriarchs are not at all equal to buddhas, it is not the realisation of buddha-mind that is confirmed, then what is the point of Zen?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
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True Buddha can’t be found.
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Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:25 pm

Astus wrote:This concept of the Zen teacher comes down to actual practice in the form of absolute authority of the master in all religious issues where students are completely dependent on a teacher to achieve liberation. It is a control system where no one can claim enlightenment unless verified by the master, and receiving such verification is in itself a declaration of buddhahood. There are of course attempts to degrade the meaning of a Zen teacher, saying that he is only an ordinary fallible person, it's just that it doesn't agree with the otherwise upheld idea of the transmission of the enlightened mind. Every Zen student aspires to buddhahood and relies on the teacher to tell them when they are there or not, therefore the master is the sole judge about a student's progress, and since all disciples want to receive that confirmation they will constantly try to please the teacher. Because a student is stripped of all independent understanding, whatever the master says is correct or incorrect must be so.


Has this been your own experience?
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