Huseng wrote:But the purpose has been lost, hasn't it? The one transmitting the Dharma is supposed to be realized and then recognize someone of equal capacity.
This is the same purpose it's had, and continues to serve in that function. It works very well.
The whole narrative
Again, you're referring to it as a "story" or "narrative", even though someone's kensho is independently confirmable by people other than the Master.
is a performance used
Now you're calling it an act. When, again, someone having a kensho or not, is verifiable.
to affirm institutional authority and to perpetuate it.
No, that's not the purpose at all Huseng, the purpose is to give credentials to Dharma teachers, to help prevent the spread of delusion under the name of "teaching the Dharma".
It's the same reason why a doctor has to go to medical school and be licensed in order to practice medicine.
It isn't acceptable for someone to just read some medical text books and start calling themselves a doctor.
Even if they later turn out to be a shitty doctor, we still do require that they have some training and credentials first.
This is quite different from the story of the Buddha's enlightenment which really offers nobody special authority.
And yet all the historic teachings, are dialogs between The Buddha and His disciples, or other great Ancestors, teaching their students.
The records are chock full of Him and other Ancestors correcting people for their misunderstanding from a position of authority.
It was not an egalitarian-free-for-all.
It was Him, teaching others.
There's been authority, in Buddhism, from the very beginning.