Sara H wrote:Isn't that a bit like saying Karma and Rebirth don't exist because you havn't experienced them?
Not at all. We can infer the conventional occurrence of rebirth through various means. It is by virtue of this that we can affirm our intuitive understanding of karma. We likewise can defer to the reliable testimony of the Buddha in such matters. The Buddha did not confer institutional authority unto anyone and it seems the ideal was that the sangha would function as an autonomous democracy. The ultimate religious authority rested in the scriptures, not the individuals.
The transmission of institutional authority is a social construct and should be understood as such, especially when we see countless people nominally "receiving transmission" and behaving in dodgy ways. In Japan, likewise, people "receive transmission" as a means of legitimizing their position as a religious authority or even just as a landed priest.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, Buddhism in India somewhere around or after the collapse of the Guptas (550 CE) developed in a seemingly Brahmanical direction where religious authority was taken out of scripture (or in some cases orthodox doctrine) and placed in the hands of individual masters.
Reliance on a guru became a prerequisite for liberation, but before that time, in general, it was understood that provided an individual realized the purport of the teachings as found in the scriptures, they could become liberated arhats or noble bodhisattvas.
Chan and Zen likewise came to adopt a model of lineage-based authority. This idea of lineage transmission can be justified in various ways, many of which are reasonable, but that does not mean I personally have to accept it just because many other people believe in the myth.
Or that tulku's are a myth in Tibetan Buddhism?
There are plenty of people in Tibetan Buddhism who seriously question the tulku system. If you look at the history of it, you'll see why.
Also keep in mind a "myth" is not necessarily untrue. The meaning of "myth" should be understood like this:
1830, from French Mythe (1818) and directly from Modern Latin mythus, from Greek mythos "speech, thought, story, myth, anything delivered by word of mouth," of unknown origin.
Myths are "stories about divine beings, generally arranged in a coherent system; they are revered as true and sacred; they are endorsed by rulers and priests; and closely linked to religion. Once this link is broken, and the actors in the story are not regarded as gods but as human heroes, giants or fairies, it is no longer a myth but a folktale. Where the central actor is divine but the story is trivial ... the result is religious legend, not myth." [J. Simpson & S. Roud, "Dictionary of English Folklore," Oxford, 2000, p.254]
When I say "myth" here I mean a sacred narrative that some individuals charge with spiritual power. That doesn't mean it is untrue, but from an alternative perspective it is seen entirely differently.
I would have expected better from you considering you are so knowledgable and open-minded on so many other subjects.
Accusing someone of being close-minded (or "not open-minded") is a convenient albeit poor way of silencing criticism.
Perhaps Bodhisatva's are a myth too, and people who have accounted for seeing spirits are just lying?
The narratives behind the bodhisattva path qualify as myth in most conventional respects. The stories of the Buddha's past lives and the famous bodhisattva figures we all know are sacred stories to Mahāyāna. The reality of supermundane bodhisattvas cannot be readily demonstrated. We defer to canonical authority, intuition and perhaps personal experience to affirm such things. That's the nature of religious thought. We try to quantify and explain the supermundane and transcendental using our coarse language and ideas.