The common idea of Dharma-transmission
Well, the common idea of something isn't necessarily the most accurate, or the one that's true.
When people have a lot of common misinformation about something it distorts the level of accuracy of the common understanding.
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.
This is a misunderstanding.
Being in the same lineage of the BuddhaKs teaching does not nessicarily mean that one is a Buddha themselves, or was while they were living. They can
be, as I've said, but they does't mean they necessarily are.
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).
A tulku, is a person in the Tibetan system who according to their system has been confirmed to be carrying a great teacher, or figure of some importance in a past life.
This is not the same in any way as the Zen system. It does not compare as they are two different things.
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.
No. The Buddha Mind, is something anybody can experience. Complete Buddhahood
is something only someone who is a Buddha, has experienced. There is a difference. This is why you have to be careful about reading these things litterally. The term Buddha Mind
, in Zen nearly always refers to the Buddha Nature. Something we can all experience. Buddha's may generally be able to stay true to this Mind all the time, but anyone can experience a brief glimpse of it, and train themselves to stay in it, over and over again, over time.
This is the misunderstanding. Having a kensho does not mean you've become a Buddha.
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.
As I've said, this concept is incorrect.
It comes from a literal intepretation of Dharma scriptures. Any Zen Master could tell you otherwise, if one were to simply ask them. This is why we take refuge in the Sangha, and do not just assume we know ourselves better than anybody what these scriptures mean. Oftentimes little differences in misunderstandings make a big difference when it comes to knowing the Dharma and what it actually means.
An initial kensho does not mean you are a Buddha, and a Zen Master will plainly say so if you ask them.
Popular understanding or no, it's not actually true, and is a misunderstanding.
There are of course attempts to degrade the meaning of a Zen teacher, saying that he is only an ordinary fallible person,
This isn't an attempt at degrading. It's an accurate understanding of how it actually is.
it's just that it doesn't agree with the otherwise upheld idea of the transmission of the enlightened mind.
That's because the popular understanding is wrong. A Zen Master will tell you this if you ask them.
Every Zen student aspires to buddhahood
Yes, but a kensho does not mean Buddhahood.
and relies on the teacher to tell them when they are there or not,
No, that's a misunderstanding.
A teacher can confirm a kensho for you, if and when you intend to become a priest, and dependant upon the policies of the organization to which they belong.
When you have a kensho, you know it with your blood and bones, but this is not the same as Buddhahood.
therefore the master is the sole judge about a student's progress,
No, this is incorrect. A kensho confirmation is peer-reviewable. Jiyu-Kennett's kensho for instance, the initial one which qualified her for Dharma Transmission was peer-reviewed by several eminent others, do to the controversy involved in Transmitting a woman in Japan at the time. They had to make sure.
and since all disciples want to receive that confirmation they will constantly try to please the teacher.
You can please the teacher until you're blue in the face. Pleasing the teacher isn't going to get you a kensho. Doing your own training will. Listening to what they say, they are there for guidelines, and to keep you on track in this process. A kensho cannot be forced by pleasing the teacher. It is not dependant upon that and is just a delusion in and of itself.
Because a student is stripped of all independent understanding,
No, they will get the understanding of experiencing the Eternal, if and when they have one. That is the point of this, to KNOW the Unborn, not to rely on the Master or spiritual teacher to do everything for you. They plainly cannot.
whatever the master says is correct or incorrect must be so.
That's not true either. Again, this is why we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, AND Sangha. We take refuge in the Buddha in our own sitting, and trust our gut or own intuition, and also take refuge in the advice or counsel of others. Teachers can and do make mistakes.
However, it is important to listen before
you have a kensho. Because without one you have no way of knowing whether your feelings you are listening to are just your own delusion and so make mistakes. A teacher does sort this out (as best they can) that is their role.
If you say that transmission is not about enlightenment,
It is about enlightenment. There is more than one stage of enlightenment
before becoming Buddha's. A Zen Master is only guaranteed to be of the first step. Not complete Buddhahood.
the patriarchs are not at all equal to buddhas,
Some of them may not have been. Most of them likely achieved final Buddhahood upon death.
it is not the realisation of buddha-mind that is confirmed, then what is the point of Zen?
Yes, it is.
A realization of the Buddha Mind
(or seeing/experiencing a glimpse of the Buddha Nature) is not the same as Buddhahood
There is a difference.
"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,
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil Singer
" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy