So I do not make a distinction between titles, orders, robe colors, and the number of Precepts one takes. I know those who take more Precepts are very deeply committed to the Dharma. But I also know anyone who takes Precepts and begins the journey has embarked on a noble Path and requires my respect, and possibly my assistance.
Your order chose to make these distinctions when you gave your clergy titles such as "Sramanera" "Venerable" and "Bodhisattva Monk". If you did not wish to make distinctions, you would not use such titles.
We can see your order makes these distinctions from viewing this webpage, on this page: http://www.fmzo.org/clergy.html
Here the website uses this word "Sramanera". This is a sanskrit word (samanera in Pali) that indicates someone who has taken the 10 vows of novices outlined in the Vinaya of Lord Buddha as a I mentioned above. Now, if this person holds those vows, including celibacy, then of course there is no problem. But the person had long hair and makeup, and the paragraph mentioned they were engaged, which indicates to me there is a possibility they are a housholder. In which case, it would be very inappropriate to use a term outlined by Lord Buddha in his monastic code to describe such a person. At best, it is a dangerous error coming from misunderstanding, at worst a deliberate misrepresentation.
Could you clarify for us, do these people hold monastic vows? If you say yes, I will take your word for it, as a fellow Buddhist, and will not inquire about this in the thread again. If they do not hold monastic vows, I ask you not to use the term sramanera, defined by Lord Buddha as describing a man (sramaneri for women) holding the 10 precepts, but to find some other title. Not out of consideration to me, but out of consideration to Lord Buddha who laid out very clearly the Vinaya, and out of consideration for the living Vinaya holders today who need to be supported in transmitting the precepts.
And in case you think that I am against non-monastic clergy, this is far from the case. I have taken lungs (oral transmission) from Khamtrul Rinpoche, a lay lineage holder in Dharamsala India, and I have studied with several lay Vipassana teachers. Here on Dharma Wheel you will also encounter people with ngakpa ordination- lay tantric ordination. They do not use Vinaya titles to describe themselves, and have a clear lineage that is transmitted to them from their teachers, with different terminology and precepts. I have no objection and their tradition has produced some great teachers. But none of them claimed to be monks/nuns.
Thank you for your additional questions, JKhedrup.
When I wrote that we don't make distinctions, I didn't mean we don't try to mirror the traditions of the past and present (which includes trying to find appropriate titles for those who take advanced Precepts). I meant that we welcome all, regardless of their traditions, orders, or affiliations. We make no distinction or judgments regarding what other traditions or orders hold dear. In other words, we are not a respecter of persons regardless of their color, gender, race, order, or tradition. We revere all human beings.
I'm probably not explaining myself correctly. For that, I apologize.
Maybe this will help better explain what I mean:
In the book Tell Me Something About Buddhism
by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Thich Nhat Hanh writes this in the introduction:
Buddhism is like a tree that is constantly growing and adapting to the new lands and cultures it is brought to. For the Buddha's teachings to stay healthy and vibrant, we must constantly renew and update them so they remain relevant and effective for the increasingly diverse communities that practice them.
That's about as good an explanation as I can offer.
If we err in your view, we do so without malice or disrespect - to you, your traditions, or to the Lord Buddha. We're not trying to tear down any of the Lord Buddha's teachings. In no way, shape, or form do we mean to show the Lord Buddha disrespect.
Maybe, in your eyes, we have gone too far. Maybe we're wrong. But we err only in a difference of perspective, not in rejection of the Lord Buddha's teachings. We're humbly trying to do what Thich Nhat Hanh urges us all to do with the Buddha's teachings: "...constantly renew and update them so they remain relevant and effective..."
If that causes you to reject us and our work, there is nothing I can do to change your opinion. I would be sad if you judged us thus. But there is nothing I can do about it. I respect you, your position, your knowledge, and your teaching.
There is a scripture in the Christian tradition:
A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:18-20 ESV)
Buddhism has been around for well over 2,500 years. It exists in myriad forms and is practiced in countless countries. It is not the same in each place in which it is practiced.
For us, in the West in the 21st century, we're doing our level best to make Zen relevant to those around us. If in, say, 10 years we have not shown compassion, and love, and kindness to fellow human beings, if we have not a track record of changing lives for the better, if we do not fulfill our twin goals of helping others wake up to their true nature and to serve them by asking, in all situations, without measure, "How may I help you?" then you may judge the "fruit" of our efforts as you see fit.
Until then, I humbly ask that you respect our sincere efforts to forge, perhaps, a new kind of Zen in the West. One that tries hard to embrace elements of both worlds -- the West, and ancient East -- without diminishing the wisdom of either.
I have no other answer than that.
I thank you for allowing me to do my best to explain my meaning, and our intention as the Five Mountain Zen Oder.
"If you want to attain your true nature, you must have Great Faith, Great Courage, and Great Question. It is like a three-legged stool...With these supporting your practice, you can attain your true self. You can attain universal substance, and attain your correct way, and truth, and make your life correct. Then you can help all sentient beings get out of suffering. That is our job."
- Zen Master Seung Sahn
Compass of Zen