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

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

Postby Sara H » Fri Mar 29, 2013 11:03 pm

Hi, I wanted to top post this as a topic, as it came up elsewhere, and I thought it would be a handy topic to reference for some people,
as it seems there is often confusion on this for a variety of reasons. I thought this would help.

I want to thank Yudron, for helping inspire me, from another list she did in another forum.

This definition isn't quite "exact" and I'm sure there might be variation from organization to organization, and I'm primarilly a Soto practitioner, so my experience is mainly through there, but, in general:

A "Zen Master" is a person who has met the following criteria:

1) They have chosen a Zen school or lineage to practice in, and receive training in.

2) They have taken the Precepts as either a Lay person or a novice Priest Trainee, or Monk.

3) They have undergone Novice Training as a Zen Priest.

4) They have spent a few years (usually around 5 or so, but can be less, depending on how far along the person is) training as a novice, and then senior novices, etc.

5) They have had a first, initial Kensho, the glimpse of the Eternal, that allows them to begin to understand the Teachings (and all other things) in a whole new way they didn't before.

6) They have completed all necessary priest training in their lineage. Ceremonies, etc.

7) They have had a few years of follow up training under the guidance of their Master, and have then received Dharma Transmission.

8) They have undergone instruction and mentorship by and from their Teacher, on the basics of how to instruct others in the Dharma.

9) Having completed all other things, if they have at least one disciple of their own, they are now considered a "Master".

That's it.


Here, is a few things a Zen Master is not, or not necessarily, simply in lieu of the title.

1) They are most likely not a Buddha. A person who has cleaned up all Karma from this and previous lives. Buddha's are very rare in any lifetime, though some Zen Masters occasionally are Buddhas.

2) If they are not a Buddha, (and they most likely are not) then they are not free from Greed, Anger, and Delusion, and therefor, still have greed, have anger, and have delusion.

3) As it's highly likely that they still have greed, anger, and delusion: everything they do is not necessarily enlightened action. They are still human beings, even if they are wiser, and more advanced in their Buddhist training. They make mistakes.

4) People can make mistakes even without greed, anger, and delusion. Humans are not all-knowing, and so sometimes we have to use trial and error, or just plain get something wrong.

5) If they are not a celibate monk, they may be a Lay Zen Teacher, and thus may be "in the market" relationship-wise technically speaking. (I don't approve of this, Japanese habit, but it is what it is)

6) If they are "in the market" they may be dating, or seeking a gf, bf, or some other relationship, etc.

7) All Master's are not equal. Training begins in earnest once one has had a kensho, and continues a long time after. And so various different Masters may be in different stages of advancement or wisdom, even though they all share the same title of "Master". They all have the qualifications for sure, but beyond that, some are still more advanced than others. Some are much more advanced.

8) Cultural differences still apply. If a Zen Master is from (or was trained in) another country, they may act according to that country's cultural norms, and not fully understand your own. One culture's norm, may be another culture's insult or cause to take offense.

Again, please remember that this is in my own words, and there may be variations, from organization to organization.

If I can think of anything else, I'll add that, but that pretty much covers it for now.

In Gassho,
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 dearreader » Fri Mar 29, 2013 11:34 pm

Sara H wrote:A "Zen Master" is a person who has met the following criteria:
5) They have had a first, initial Kensho, the glimpse of the Eternal, that allows them to begin to understand the Teachings (and all other things) in a whole new way they didn't before.


Glimpse of the "Eternal" ? What is this? Sutra of origin?

Sara H wrote:Here, is a few things a Zen Master is not, or not necessarily, simply in lieu of the title.
2) ...they are not free from Greed, Anger, and Delusion, and therefor, still have greed, have anger, and have delusion.


Then what have they mastered?
"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: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:43 am

What I notice is that there seems to be a lot of posing and power-trips in Zen. In particular, there is the stance that 'to understand Zen you have to be member of a group and get taught by an authorised teacher. Otherwise try some other kind of path'. I was told this myself recently and it is one of the reasons I will never 'join' a Zen group, as much as I am drawn to Zen.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Astus » Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:46 am

It seems to me you are describing a specific training a Zen teacher would require. However, that is characteristic of a highly organised church, like Soto Zen, but not of traditions in other countries, where being a teacher is more about general recognition of fellow monastics and the laity rather then going through certain trainings and obtaining papers.

A big problem I see with the idea of measuring another's enlightenment is that there is no clear and transparent way to measure it. Then, calling it an esoteric and mystical thing that only a "fellow enlightened being" can validate leaves the disciples and the community blind and alienated from a central aspect of Zen. And this can be and is easily abused. Although there is the story of the unbroken transmission to back up this, clearly we see the lineage is only a myth.

Mahayanasutralamkara (17.10) writes:

One should serve a (spiritual) friend who is disciplined, tranquil, serene, outstanding in good qualities, energetic, rich in (knowledge of) scripture, awakened to reality, skilled in speech, compassionate, and indefatigable.

A friend with these qualities is the ground of service. "Disciplined" means that the senses are restrained due to moral discipline. "Tranquil" means that the mind is internally quieted by discipline in meditative concentration. "Serene" means the instinctual addictions are eradicated by the discipline of wisdom. "Outstanding in good qualities" means that he is unequalled and non-deficient. "Energetic" means that he is not indifferent to the welfare of others. "Rich in scripture" means that his learning is not inferior. "Awakened to reality" means that he understands reality. "Skilled in speech" means that he is skilled in the techniques of speaking. "Compassionate" means that his mind is free from the desire for material possessions. "Indefatigable" means that he teaches the Dharma continuously and reverently.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:00 am

You knows master by your heart. You don't even have to understand one word he is saying. Few of the most influencing master of Zen, wouldn't pass your test at all. :smile:
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby seeker242 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:34 pm

Would Layman Pang or Huineng meet all of the above criteria?
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby randomseb » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:44 am

This kind of highly structured organized zen is not what Bodhidharma and the other patriarchs and early Masters were about, and they clearly stated that having realized one's essence of mind, one is essentially a buddha. They say this directly, and these are the folk who started that path. Buddha himself says this is possible in a single lifetime in many sutras.

What this discrepancy says to me is that that path is mostly lost, except for occasional and particularly private teachers who don't necessarily advertise the fact. In other words most modern "masters" are not masters and haven't obtained the goal.

Reading the texts of the ancients, the Patriarchs, the early Masters, and so on, one will see many examples of these non-masters thinking they are all that but are proven to have failed to find the goal.

Check out the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, for example. I've seen two versions of it in book form that came with the Diamond Sutra, and this combo is well worth having!

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

Postby Sara H » Mon Apr 01, 2013 7:33 pm

seeker242 wrote:Would Layman Pang or Huineng meet all of the above criteria?

Layman Pang was not a "Zen Master" in the sense of the institutional role. He was an enlightened layperson, and that's why he's such a great example to laypeople that they can do this too.

Huineng was priest and authorized lineage holder of his line, and by the standards of the day, was a fully recognized "Zen Master" in the sense of how we view the modern usage of the term.

It's important to note, that the term also has an institutional meaning. It does not simply mean "enlightened" or "one who has had a kensho". The term "Zen Master" is not a synonym of "Enlightenment" or "one who has become Enlightened"; it also has an institutional role and meaning that makes up one aspect of it.

A good way to think of a "Zen Master" is as a two-part thing, like a coin, or ball with two different halves. One half is the part that says "They have had an experience of enlightenment". The other half, (and the one most often overlooked) is the half that says "and they are an authorized priest and lineage holder in their line."

So together "They have had an experience of enlightenment, and they are an authorized priest or lineage holder in their line.

Perhaps that would be a good ninth bullet.



9) A Zen Master is not just someone who has had an experience of Enlightenment, it also requires that someone be trained in a specific lineage, and be an authorized (Dharma Transmitted or foreign term equivalent) lineage holder in that line that they are teaching.)

-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 MalaBeads » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:47 pm

Sara,

In my use of terminology, you are describing a zen teacher or zen lineage holder, not a zen master. In the mathematical language of subsets, all zen masters are zen teachers (by default) but not all zen teachers are zen masters.

My 2 cents.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby kirtu » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:57 pm

MalaBeads wrote:In my use of terminology, you are describing a zen teacher or zen lineage holder, not a zen master. In the mathematical language of subsets, all zen masters are zen teachers (by default) but not all zen teachers are zen masters.


Actually there are some Zen masters who are not Zen teachers so they are different sets (Anne Aitken is an example and there have been others).

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

Postby Simon E. » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:15 pm

Thats intriguing Kirt, could you say a little more?
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby randomseb » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:30 pm

I think this is where the distinction is, Zen Master, aka a fully realized zen practitioner and a buddha, vs a zen teacher at the too of an institutional rank, which is not a master as such but still has all the training and know-how, and is able to pass this along, but who has not personally realized the Way.

The ancients would cringe at some of what today's buddhism has become hehe
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:40 pm

Here are some clarifications from the Soto Zen side:

Authorization as Zen master?

Dharma transmission does not make you a zen master (what is that anyway? We will see soon...). It does not make you an osho (Japanese for "teacher") either. It is the first of three steps (shiho, ten-e and zuise), at the end of which you will officially be promoted to the rank of osho. In Japanese Soto-Zen, there more than 15.000 people with this rank. It is not as special as you might believe. If you have only shiho but not performed zuise yet, you are not regarded as a teacher of Zen. That, of course, does not man that you can not share your practice with others. Even if you are not a teacher, you can and should share your practice with others.

And what is a Zen master in the first place?

A Zen master, in Japanese, is a zenji. This title is reserved for the founder Dogen Zenji and all the abbots of the two main temples, Eiheiji and Sojiji. So at each time, there is usually only two zenjis alive, unless there is a zenji living somewhere in retirement (like Itabashi Zenji, who is the third zenji alive right now). So, to become a zenji is not impossible, but it is a long way and shiho alone is certainly not enough. Calling yourself a Zen master just because you have shiho is a joke.

Here is a detailed description of What does it take to become a full-fledged Soto-shu priest and is it really worth the whole deal? in 10 chapters.

A picture that sums up the path:

Image
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:43 pm

Here is a list of Zen ranks and hierarchy in both Soto and Rinzai for Japanese Zen. In other countries, since there are no actual Zen schools (i.e. restricted to Zen), there is no specific system like those either. Generally the abbot of a monastery is considered the main teacher, otherwise the teacher of the meditation hall is the meditation master (chan teacher). None of them implies any connection with specific Zen methods or teachings.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:44 pm

randomseb wrote:I think this is where the distinction is, Zen Master, aka a fully realized zen practitioner and a buddha,


No, a Zen Master is not a Buddha, Randomseb.

That's an important distinction.

A Zen Master can be a Buddha, if they train their ass off. But they are usually not, or only do become one at the time of death.

You need to understand there is a very big difference between having an experience of enlightenment, and becoming a fully Enlightened One as a Buddha.

They are not the same thing.

Having a kensho (or a glimpse or "experience" of enlightenment) does not make you a Buddha (fully enlightened).

It takes years of training after a kensho, to become a Buddha. And yes, it can be done in this lifetime. Though it takes hard work.

The training that leads up to having a kensho is just the beginning.

After a kensho is when the real training begins.

There's more than one stage of enlightenment.

An initial kensho is just step A.


In Gassho,
Sara H.
"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 randomseb » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:54 pm

Well I am sorry Sarah, I am just going by the words of the great masters of zen/chan, the founders and patriarchs of these lineages.. If modern concepts no longer include this, then this is no longer the same practice

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

Postby Sara H » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:02 pm

This is actually one of the bigger problems in Zen. When one calls one "enlightened" there is often no distinction made whether they are referring to one having a kensho, or whether someone is or was a Buddha.

And as a result, people often think they are the same thing. "Oh that enlightened Zen Master..." meaning they think he's a Buddha, when in fact he is not.

We need to be more specific in Zen (especially Zen in the West) as to what we mean when we call someone "enlightened".

It's causing confusion.
Pop culture references to the word "Zen" being perceived as synonymous with the words "clever" or "witty" are not helping the problem either.
As well as new-age uses of the words "enlightened" or "enlightenment"

We need to be specific as to what we mean, when we are using it in Buddhism, and Zen, as there are multiple meanings associated with the word.

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 Sara H » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:08 pm

randomseb wrote:Well I am sorry Sarah, I am just going by the words of the great masters of zen/chan, the founders and patriarchs of these lineages.. If modern concepts no longer include this, then this is no longer the same practice

:shrug:


This is why you need to talk to a teacher about this.

Especially when it comes to translations, a scholarly approach to a translation, that doesn't understand the deeper context and meaning being said, will just give literal translations, or use common parlance at the time.

This is why it's necessary to have a teacher, and take refuge in the Sangha.

As Buddhists, we take refuge in all three, to understand Buddhism, not just the Dharma.

It's set up that way for a reason, as a checks and balance system to prevent and address confusion.

Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Especially in the west, a lot of people read texts, and think "aha! I understand it!" when in fact they don't, and it's necessary to have one who has experienced this to sort it out for the person, and say, "no, that's not what they were meaning there..."


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 randomseb » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:20 pm

There isn't much room for confusion in Bodhidharma and the other 5 patriarch's words, nor the others from that time.. All I can suggest is to read these sutras, commentaries and texts for yourselves before adhering to a dogmatic or institutionalized methodology :shrug: These founders and initial practitioners often are frowning upon this kind of institutional, progressive, measured buddhism, in these texts..

I can't explain it any more than that.. It's clear you were taught a certain way, and this is what you are upholding, and if this way is what works for you, then this is what it has to be. But don't mistake it for a one size fits all labeling system!

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

Postby Sara H » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:54 pm

randomseb wrote:There isn't much room for confusion in Bodhidharma and the other 5 patriarch's words, nor the others from that time.. All I can suggest is to read these sutras, commentaries and texts for yourselves before adhering to a dogmatic or institutionalized methodology :shrug: These founders and initial practitioners often are frowning upon this kind of institutional, progressive, measured buddhism, in these texts..

I can't explain it any more than that.. It's clear you were taught a certain way, and this is what you are upholding, and if this way is what works for you, then this is what it has to be. But don't mistake it for a one size fits all labeling system!

:twothumbsup:


Friend, I've had a kensho. And, a great deal of experience afterwards.

I used to live in a monastery, I have Zen Master's who are on my speed dial, that I talk to on a regular basis.

I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you're misunderstanding, but a Zen Master is not a Buddha, just because they've had a kensho, and continued training afterward.

That's just not correct.

There are currently living Zen Master's who can tell you what these things mean.

If you think that you, as a human being, don't have any room for confusion in your own mind, then I don't know what to tell you.
Good luck with that.
A painting of a rice cake, cannot satisfy hunger.

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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