Huseng wrote:In Buddhist religions there are many such myths, many of which are provided metaphysical dimensions to justify and sanctify their existence.
I think that in a sense all religions, and not merely all Buddhist Religions, don't merely "contain" myths--they ARE myths. However, the Dharma, in the sense of Ultimate Reality, or the Way Things Are, The Reality as Perceived by Buddhas, is not myth.
One example is the theory that there is a "precept essence" that is conveyed from master to disciple when an ordination or lay precepts are given. In one Vinaya school it is understood as a "non-manifest form dharma", i.e., a material thing that is passed on down the lineage, which furthermore must be maintained through confession lest it be lost. This easily prompts real life actions and likewise sanctions authority which will be respected and comes with various perks. The males with the higher level of ordination are supposed to sit ahead of everyone else in the assembly.
This all has a function of course and has served people well, but at the end of the day we need to recognize that everything is mentally constructed. Becoming overly emotionally invested in myths is often detrimental to personal and collective well-being.
Well, with regard to "vows," I believe there is a "mental accrual" or "force of habit," or some sort of "mental deposit" which occurs when a sentient being engages in taking vow, with intentionality and forethought. Of course, whether one has taken or received such "transmission" is entirely impossible to discern from the point of view of an outsider. And this relates to the larger issues of transmission, and of "myth," as we can discuss further on....
The idea of dharma transmission historically has not functioned as it has been prescribed, though many believe otherwise and don't recognize earlier and present precedents. Descriptively, it is a social construct which legitimizes institutional authority. You are are ostensibly qualified to run the show and teach if you have Dharma transmission.
As I said elsewhere, I don't believe in this myth. I would rather see a kind of meritocracy where people are judged capable by virtue of their good qualities, practice and learning.
I don't know much about Zen, but I do know there are various "levels" of transmission and/or authorization. I believe that the "transmitter" must be capable of judging the transmittee, in order to discern if the transmittee possesses the virtues of qualities, learning, practice, etc.
In the end, if we agree that none but the Buddha can truly see clearly and completely into the minds of others (and even this is a debated point, of course), such processes of judgement would have to rely on some sort of "norms," which acquire the power of myth over time.
I believe transmission SHOULD be a meritocracy, frankly. In all forms of transmitted Buddhism, including Zen, and Vajrayana. And though there is a myth, a framework, a cultural accretion which becomes employed, in the end, these Buddhist traditions are, and must be, Living Traditions, maintained by Humans (and other sentient beings?) who have some capacity to judge. Huseng, even in a meritocracy, someone must judge a potential candidate on their merits, yes?
The problems and issues you refer to, with regard to misuse or abuse of power, authority, etc., are due to Humans who have, to one degree or other, lost some (or all, even!) of their capacity to act as a judge. It is also possible that this loss becomes somehow incorporated into the system over time, as well. Buddha spoke about this, though, so it should be no surprise that it occurs, and will continue to occur, as time goes on.
As a Vajrayana practitioner, I feel quite strongly that transmission of "Pointing Out Instructions," "Ngotro," "Rigpai TselWang," "The Fourth Empowerment," or whatever you want to call it, is the essential " core" of Dharma relationship. These techniques, as well as Zen's "Transmission Outside the Scriptures," I'd guess, are more relevant, to me, than any scriptural study or "learning," or any practice based entirely on such written words. This is not to discredit such study or learning, and I believe that great insight may be gained in that regard. I've got to note, however, that even scriptural study of the sutras and shastras belong to the transmission "myth," as well, at least in Tibetan Vajrayana traditions. They are part of a living tradition, which relies on communication between beings--a two-way communication, really. That's my perspective, at least.