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 » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:59 pm

Sara H wrote:
shel wrote:If Zen mastery means not necessarily being freed from greed, anger, and delusion, then Zen means not necessarily being freed from greed, anger, and delusion. Zen is Buddhism however, and Buddhism, generally speaking, is all about being freed from greed, anger, and delusion. There is a rather drastic contradiction going on here. So how is this contradiction resolved?


It's not a contradiction Shel. Most Buddhists are not free from greed, anger, and delusion.

The contradiction is not that "most Buddhists" are not free from greed, anger, and delusion. The contradiction is in how you claim that Zen mastery does not necessarily mean being free from greed, anger, and delusion. Zen is Buddhism, and Buddhism, generally speaking, is all about being freed from greed, anger, and delusion.

The honorific means they can sit, very deeply, and have come to a more advanced form of training, are generally able to maintain a stillness with more compassion, or love, or wisdom, than the average normal person, ...

But not necessarily, right? Zen masters may demonstrate moral conduct that is subpar of the society in which they live.

It's a form of respect,

Yes, that's what an honorific is, but that respect may have been 'earned' by merely completing a course of training.

and, I would add, it's an outdated western term.

Yet you continue to support it. Why is that?

Most "Zen Masters" don't call themselves that.

Again, with the possible exception of someone like Zen Master Rama, no one calls themselves a Zen master, because no one can own the title.

"Zen Master" is kindof a Hollywood term.

You mean a myth, yes, we agree here.

I use it here, because I'm trying to get to the heart of the matter...

We seem to have arrived. It is an outdated myth.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby dzogchungpa » Thu Apr 04, 2013 6:16 pm

ཨོཾ་མ་ཧཱ་ཤུནྱ་ཏཱ་ཛྙཱ་ན་བཛྲ་སྭཱ་བྷཱ་བ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔

The thousands of lines of the Prajnaparamita can be summed up in the following two sentences:
1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or, Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings.
2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva, or as all-knowledge, or as a ‘being’, or as the perfection of wisdom, or as an attainment.
To accept both these contradictory facts is to be perfect.
- Conze
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:53 pm

I'm sorry Huseng.


Zen is not "everyone no matter how inexperienced is equal."

We do not say that someone who has had very little training or experience can call themselves a teacher.

We prefer a bit more credibility than that.


I used to live in a town full of new-age people. Your system of anybody-can-call-themselves-a-holy-man is something I decline to participate in.

I've seen the results of that: any delusional, charismatic person can call themselves a teacher, and use their charisma, to delude others.

No thank you. I'll pass.

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.

It's for the same reason that your college professors who taught you, were required to have credentials to teach.

You may not believe, that credentials serve a purpose in Buddhism, but I disagree. So do most Buddhists.


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

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:10 pm

Yes, Huseng, I do think there should be some institutional authority or credentialing in Buddhism.

I don't think that anybody should just be able to pick up a Buddhist book and call themselves a holy man.

I don't agree with that.
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IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
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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 Astus » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:32 pm

Sara H wrote:Yes, Huseng, I do think there should be some institutional authority or credentialing in Buddhism.

I don't think that anybody should just be able to pick up a Buddhist book and call themselves a holy man.

I don't agree with that.


However, the title of Zen teacher in the West is given based on a single person's decision. If you have seen how it works in the Soto Zen school in Japan, there it's a bit more complicated. But even that is not exactly like a peer reviewed qualification that they do in academia and in many Buddhist schools (e.g. Jogye, Gelug). So, if you want institutional control then Western Zen is a poor choice in my opinion.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:33 pm

Sara H wrote:I've seen the results of that: any delusional, charismatic person can call themselves a teacher, and use their charisma, to delude others.


So what's to stop a charismatic person from going through some proper training, and then doing whatever they want? This happens, as we know. You said yourself that a Zen master may not be, and indeed "are most likely not," freed from greed, anger, and delusion.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby jeeprs » Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:50 pm

I think Sara's intent in this thread was to say that even whilst Zen 'masters' (i.e. qualified teachers) may not be perfect, they can still represent and teach the Zen tradition, and serve a great purpose in so doing.

I agree with that.

Certainly there are issues with authentication in Zen. There are obviously also teachers who break vows, same as in other religions (and other institutions). Doesn't really detract from that. It still has a lot to offer. If you go to Sweeping Zen, which is quite open to criticisms of Zen teachers, there is a list of Zen teaching centres in the USA, and it's a big list. So there's a lot of work being done in the community by Zen teachers who aren't involved in scandals or abuse.

As to whether Zen is better than other Buddhist schools, my take is - depends a lot on the type of person seeking instruction. Zen appeals to a particular mentality. Furthermore some people have a talent for it. Others may relate to Buddhism through different schools and teachings altogether.

I have not had the opportunity to find a particular Zen school to sit with where I live, but continue to read, reflect and practice. Currently I'm studying the Lankavatara Sutra and Okumura's Living by Vow. Previously Nishijima's To Meet the Real Dragon has had a huge impact on my outlook on life.

So: may all beings be happy.

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

Postby shel » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:15 pm

jeeprs wrote:I think Sara's intent in this thread was to say that even whilst Zen 'masters' (i.e. qualified teachers) may not be perfect, they can still represent and teach the Zen tradition, and serve a great purpose in so doing.


The OPs stated intent was to clear up confusion surrounding the title of "Zen master." This was followed by an incoherent list properties, but later Sara wrote that the title is "outdated" and "kind of a Hollywood term." A Hollywood term basically means phony. Personally I don't think it makes much sense calling a meaningful religious term phony. I think the more accurate definition would be mythical.

What I find odd is that it would have been so much clearer in the OP to simply say in that the term "Zen master" is an outdated myth.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby jeeprs » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:44 pm

I do see your point. I think there are ample grounds for - let's face it - phoniness and I think there are phonies in the game. But there are some really genuine teachers too. I don't want to get into the whole who's who of it, but I do find (for instance) Norman Fischer a pretty convincing presence. And overall the value of the genuine teachers and the importance of the teachings embodied in Zen, outweighs the phoniness of some of its exponents.

I visited SFZC once and stayed in the guest rooms there. I found the overall ambiance and 'presence' of that place very moving and not at all phony. If I lived over there I think I would be part of that sangha.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Jikan » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:36 am

Another way to understand the "Hollywood term" idea (which is a helpful one in my opinion) is to consider it in historical terms: the way the English-speaking world understands Zen and "Zen Masters" is mediated through images on the teevee and the movie screen in ways we might not like to admit. Jane Iwamura has a helpful book on this topic:

http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/s ... 0199738618

The question may have more to do with cultural fantasy than intentionally-cultivated or purposeful phoniness.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:28 am

Jikan wrote:Another way to understand the "Hollywood term" idea (which is a helpful one in my opinion) is to consider it in historical terms: the way the English-speaking world understands Zen and "Zen Masters" is mediated through images on the teevee and the movie screen in ways we might not like to admit. Jane Iwamura has a helpful book on this topic:

http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/s ... 0199738618

The question may have more to do with cultural fantasy than intentionally-cultivated or purposeful phoniness.


A myth is basically a cultural fantasy, though in regard to a religion it may be better defined as a sacred narrative. Needless to say, the sacred narrative of the "Zen master" existed long before touching Western culture.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:04 am

Sara H wrote:Zen is not "everyone no matter how inexperienced is equal."


I never said this. In fact I said that not all practitioners are equal.


We do not say that someone who has had very little training or experience can call themselves a teacher.


Training has its limits when evaluating people. There are Buddhists who have plenty of training and a title (perhaps from some equally questionable teacher) and display signs of mental illness and emotional instability.

This is why I keep saying: judge people based on what they do and say. Ideally, a good teacher will never refer to themselves as a teacher. That's a form of address their disciples will use in respect to them.


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.


Nevertheless, in Western Zen you have purported Zen teachers denying rebirth and karma.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby randomseb » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:54 am

Denying rebirth and karma might mean,.don't make concepts about rebirth and karma, because then you are just making concepts and that is an added layer obscuring the pure light of mind.

Well actually the ancients said this too, and I know that at least in Tibet this is said as well about the highest levels of states of being, so to speak..

So perhaps these westernized versions misunderstood this point, or you misunderstood what they were saying?

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

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:56 am

randomseb wrote:So perhaps these westernized versions misunderstood this point, or you misunderstood what they were saying?

:cheers:


No, they're quite explicit.

In Japan as well I heard Japanese Zen priests in Japanese saying they reject karma and rebirth.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby randomseb » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:10 am

Well, then this isn't a "western" thing then is it, but more of that institutionalized pseudo-buddhism heh
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:12 am

Huseng wrote:
Sara H wrote:Zen is not "everyone no matter how inexperienced is equal."


I never said this. In fact I said that not all practitioners are equal.


We do not say that someone who has had very little training or experience can call themselves a teacher.


Training has its limits when evaluating people. There are Buddhists who have plenty of training and a title (perhaps from some equally questionable teacher) and display signs of mental illness and emotional instability.

This is why I keep saying: judge people based on what they do and say. Ideally, a good teacher will never refer to themselves as a teacher. That's a form of address their disciples will use in respect to them.


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.


Nevertheless, in Western Zen you have purported Zen teachers denying rebirth and karma.


After my previous post I went to do some sitting meditation.

While I was sitting, these words came up regarding you:

Huseng, don't waste your time,
trying to have a reasonable discussion with "Zen" practitioners.
ཨོཾ་མ་ཧཱ་ཤུནྱ་ཏཱ་ཛྙཱ་ན་བཛྲ་སྭཱ་བྷཱ་བ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔

The thousands of lines of the Prajnaparamita can be summed up in the following two sentences:
1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or, Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings.
2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva, or as all-knowledge, or as a ‘being’, or as the perfection of wisdom, or as an attainment.
To accept both these contradictory facts is to be perfect.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:17 am

dzogchungpa wrote:While I was sitting, these words came up regarding you:

Huseng, don't waste your time,
trying to have a reasonable discussion with "Zen" practitioners.


Thanks for the advice.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby jeeprs » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:41 am

Jikan wrote:Another way to understand the "Hollywood term" idea (which is a helpful one in my opinion) is to consider it in historical terms: the way the English-speaking world understands Zen and "Zen Masters" is mediated through images on the teevee and the movie screen in ways we might not like to admit. Jane Iwamura has a helpful book on this topic:

http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/s ... 0199738618

The question may have more to do with cultural fantasy than intentionally-cultivated or purposeful phoniness.


That book looks great - there is a generous preview on Amazon for it. The section on D T Suzuki as 'cultural icon' is especially revealing. Complements another rather less scholarly volume from a few years back Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood by Orville Schell.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby seeker242 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:55 am

Astus wrote:
Sara H wrote:Yes, Huseng, I do think there should be some institutional authority or credentialing in Buddhism.

I don't think that anybody should just be able to pick up a Buddhist book and call themselves a holy man.

I don't agree with that.


However, the title of Zen teacher in the West is given based on a single person's decision.


That is changing, at least in some schools anyway. Kwan Um for example. If I remember correctly, in order to receive dharma transmission, you need to interview with at least 5 other zen masters in the school and they all have to agree independently. You also have to interview with one (perhaps more) zen master that are not affiliated with the school and they have to agree also.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shaunc » Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:35 am

Huseng wrote:
randomseb wrote:So perhaps these westernized versions misunderstood this point, or you misunderstood what they were saying?

:cheers:


No, they're quite explicit.

In Japan as well I heard Japanese Zen priests in Japanese saying they reject karma and rebirth.


Please correct me if I'm wrong, but if a person rejected karma & rebirth wouldn't it be fair to say that they're not buddhist at all.
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