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

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

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 11, 2013 11:26 am

(to Shel)
Some people are overweight simply because of genetics.

Personally, I'm in complete agreement with you regarding alcohol.

In the OBC, they don't drink at all, and they share the same view towards the precepts that you or I do, that they are very straightforward and plain.

No intoxicants means no intoxicants. No drinking.

They don't smoke either, which is another commonly accepted Japanese habit.

That's really what it is; a Japanese habit. I think it got started at the same time that the monastic system got disrupted by the Imperial decree. I think becoming more householder-like and more of lay-priests, and less monks, in Japan, drinking, and smoking became more acceptable, because, well they were already having sex, because most of them had become laypeople by decree.

So, if you're already having sex, why not drink? I suppose that was the logic.

I highly disagree with it. It IS breaking a precept.

But what are you going to do. Like a lot of Japanese habits, they are nearly impossible to shake off in Japan proper, even though the Imperial decree no longer holds water, after the US occupation. It's become systematically entrenched now. The heads of the organizations there drink and such.

Like I said, the OBC makes it flat out clear that this is a breakage of the precepts. The monks are not allowed to do this, they are also celibate, and smoking would be abhorrent to the point of ghastly to them. They would likely wonder with good reason why anyone sitting worth a salt would feel the need to relieve stress through smoking, and do that to their bodies.

I would agree, the Precepts are very plain.

That, more than anything Shel, may be the actual source of some of these problems you are concerned about.

It isn't in all Zen, but some people with more Japanese connections and habits seem to have that very poor habit left over from Japan.

As I said, it's not all Zen, and it IS breaking a precept.

Incidentally, I actually lived with a Rinzai Zen transmitted priest for about a year who was a housemate of mine.

He drank. A lot. And smoked a lot too. And was certainly interested in the ladies. (but, he was not celibate, so I can't completely fault him there)

I asked him about the drinking, being quite astonished and somewhat horrified to see him so plainly doing it.

His, interpretation was something along the lines of "all things in moderation" or something like that.

That's how he interpreted it. A "middle path" for him meant not "drinking to excess" (whatever that means) and not denying alcohol either.

A "middle path" with alcahol.

I pointed out to him the the Precept was quite plain on that, and he was like "I...I.. don't know...."

So there you go.

That was his excuse. Or reasoning.

Needless to say I wouldn't go to him for teaching.

I think he also considered himself a monk, but when I pointed out to him that he didn't live in a monastery, nor was celibate, etc, etc, he gave me some line about "making the whole world your monastery..." and so forth.

Basically, my sense is these kindof people are pulling an Obiwan Kenobi.

Only on themselves. They are lying to themselves and believing the lie.

Instead of "these aren't the droids you're looking for....."
They're being like, "this isn't the alcohol I think it is... It's a middle path.... yeah..."

When you drink the wine of delusion, that's the result: you become deluded and delude yourself.

That's why we have a Precept against it.

Personally, I don't have much respect for people who do that.
That would be a red flag for me: If they took a Precept, and had a "flexible" view on it.


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IT IS OUR CHOICE
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:25 pm

And applying views on other goes on... pure karma generator.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:11 pm

Sara H wrote:As I said, it's not all Zen, and it IS breaking a precept.


The issue at hand is the question of what Zen mastery means, Sara.

Mastery is the best expression of what something IS.

If mastery does not express what something IS, then what do we have?

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

Postby jeeprs » Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:55 am

Shel said in another thread

So for the Zen tradition, "mastery" doesn't appear to necessarily mean enlightenment. In other words, a Zen master is not necessarily enlightened. No one seems to know exactly what a Zen master has mastered.


1. If you went to learn tennis, would you insist on only being trained by current Wimbledon or US Open champion, on the basis that 'nobody else can teach me?'

2. There is a good reason why 'nobody seems to know exactly what a Zen master has mastered'. You don't know what a Zen master has mastered, until you have had some kind of realization of Śūnyatā yourself. This is simply something you have to find out for yourself. When that question is really serious for you - often is not, on Internet Forums - then an experienced practitioner might be able to help point the way. But you won't know in advance what it means. That is part of what it means! You're looking for a guarantee before you commit. In this case, not is provided.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:32 am

jeeprs wrote:There is a good reason why 'nobody seems to know exactly what a Zen master has mastered'. You don't know what a Zen master has mastered, until you have had some kind of realization of Śūnyatā yourself.


Sara has mentioned a claim several times in this topic that Zen mastery requires a "glimpse of Buddha nature." A glimpse of Buddha nature or some kind of realization of emptiness doesn't sound like "mastery." Have you heard of the the infinite monkey theorem? It states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for a long enough amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. Needless to say, monkeys don't usually become master play writes.

It is often claimed that a glimpse of emptiness can be dangerous, because it can lead to nihilistic irresponsibility. Some say that explains why some Zen masters act so irresponsibly. If that's the case it would seem the emptiness experience had not been mastered at all, but rather had gotten entirely out of control and detrimental.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:33 am

shel wrote: Mastery is the best expression of what something IS.
If mastery does not express what something IS, then what do we have?
We have a MYTH.


Not what something IS
But what SOMETHING is.
You are trying to pinpoint what that SOMETHING is
and not what constitutes mastery of that SOMETHING.
Your conclusion that this ends up as myth is faulty.
Sara's posts are good.
.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:37 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote: Mastery is the best expression of what something IS.
If mastery does not express what something IS, then what do we have?
We have a MYTH.


Not what something IS
But what SOMETHING is.
You are trying to pinpoint what that SOMETHING is
and not what constitutes mastery of that SOMETHING.
Your conclusion that this ends up as myth is faulty.
Sara's posts are good.
.
.
.

It's not a question of good or bad, Padma. It is apparently a question of what we want to believe. I would much prefer that it wasn't a myth.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:43 am

shel wrote: Mastery is the best expression of what something IS.
If mastery does not express what something IS, then what do we have?
We have a MYTH.


A master is someone who has a flawless grasp of a subject.
Jimi Hendrix, Salvador Dali, Babe Ruth.
If you cannot identify exactly what constitutes their mastery,
is their mastery also a myth?
.
.
.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:44 am

shel wrote: It is apparently a question of what we want to believe. I would much prefer that it wasn't a myth.

Outside of your own mind, no myth exists.
.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby jeeprs » Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:59 am

Shel wrote:Have you heard of the infinite monkey theorem?


I had thought of that, but you type too well to be a monkey.

It is often claimed that a glimpse of emptiness can be dangerous, because it can lead to nihilistic irresponsibility.


I'll take my chances.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:07 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote: Mastery is the best expression of what something IS.
If mastery does not express what something IS, then what do we have?
We have a MYTH.


A master is someone who has a flawless grasp of a subject.

Where did you get that definition? It simply means skilled practitioner of something. So what is a Zen master skilled at? I think we can rule out a number of things having to do with practicing the Eightfold Path, if that's of any relevance to their skill.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:08 am

jeeprs wrote:
Shel wrote:It is often claimed that a glimpse of emptiness can be dangerous, because it can lead to nihilistic irresponsibility.


I'll take my chances.


That's just what they say, don't believe all the hype. :tongue:
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:21 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:A master is someone who has a flawless grasp of a subject.

shel wrote:Where did you get that definition? It simply means skilled practitioner of something.

I can only speak from my own experience with my own teacher.
(and by the way, what was your experience with a teacher, if I might ask again?)
However, my tradition is not zen.
So, it might not apply.
Still, to say a master is someone who has a flawless grasp of a subject
is a perfectly workable definition.
Oh yeah, I left out Bruce Lee. And John Coltrane, and Edgar Allen Poe, and Charlie Chaplin.
More examples of masters of things.

And I might add, one who can impart what he knows,
or what can be known about a given subject
without distortion.
In the case of a Buddhist master in any tradition,
one who can lead others to the realization of the true nature of mind.

But I doubt any definition will work for you anyhow.

The problem with your argument is that
you haven't really established an argument.
All you can suggest is that because someone might be called a master
who maybe isn't really a master after all
that therefore there are no masters.

That's like saying that if someone can forge a painting by Rembrandt
that means that there are no genuine paintings by Rembrandt.
:zzz:
.
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Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:30 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:26 am

shel wrote: So what is a Zen master skilled at? I think we can rule out a number of things having to do with practicing the Eightfold Path, if that's of any relevance to their skill.


Well, then what you can say is that if a particular so-called zen master doesn't practice the eightfold path, then as far as you are concerned, he isn't legitimate.

That's a big jump from saying that the notion of zen mastery as a whole is a myth.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 12, 2013 4:46 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:[what is a Zen master skilled at?] one who can lead others to the realization of the true nature of mind.


Masterful at leading students to kensho, basically. That sounds reasonable to me. I'm surprised our resident expert Sara hasn't mentioned anything like this, particularly being that she's been masterfully lead to kensho.

Genpo Roshi leads students to kensho, or BigMind as he branded it, by the roomful. He is a Zen master indeed. A bit expensive but you get what you pay for, so they say.

It seems anything can become a commodity, even a glimpse of Buddha nature, oddly enough.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 12, 2013 5:38 am

shel wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:[what is a Zen master skilled at?] one who can lead others to the realization of the true nature of mind.


Masterful at leading students to kensho, basically.


Yes, that's exactly what their role is.

Beyond that, what you do with your training, is up to you.

That's why there is the saying "The Buddhas do but point the way..."

That's all a teacher's role is too, to point the way. To get you to the door. What you do with it from there is up to you,

We each have to do our own training.

Btw Shel, I've never heard a Zen teacher use the term "Mastery" to describe themselves before.

I think you're perhaps just assuming that that term applies here.

The word "Master" is a misnomer. Teacher is a better word.

I'm refering to the term "Zen Master" in this thread because it's a common term people have come to use,
But the term itself has obvious recognized limitations.

The term "Master" likely got started as an early translation of the word "Roshi" or other Japanese or Chinese terms, and then the word just kindof stuck.

People kept using it, because it's what people were familiar with, and so it was better than nothing.

But, generally speaking, as Zen has become more settled in the West, gradually, and steadily, more and more people are dropping it, now that Zen is more familiar and using the terms "Teacher" or "Monk" (if they are a monk), or "Priest" or refering to themselves as "Reverend" So and so, instead of Roshi Soandso.

The term "Roshi" is from the Japanese, and is what "Zen Master" really means and stands for, and so you should know what it really means:
Rōshi (老師?) (Japanese: "old teacher"; "old master"; Chinese pinyin: Lǎoshī) is an honorific title used for a highly venerated senior teacher in Zen Buddhism.

-From Wikipedia, "Roshi".

It's important not to get stuck on early bad translations of Buddhist terms, that have stuck around for familiarity and pop-culture reasons, and forget that they are only bad translations of Japanese terms that are actually in currently being updated in practice.

Sara


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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 shel » Fri Apr 12, 2013 6:12 am

Sara H wrote:The word "Master" is a misnomer.


Myth, Sara, the word is myth, not misnomer.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby jeeprs » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:09 am

'Misconception', rather than 'misnomer', in some cases, from what is being said here.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:20 am

shel wrote:
Sara H wrote:The word "Master" is a misnomer.


Myth, Sara, the word is myth, not misnomer.


No, actually, the correct word is misnomer. That's why I used it.

A misnomer is a word or term that suggests a meaning that is known to be wrong.


-Wikipedia, "Misnomer"

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IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
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We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

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

Postby dearreader » Fri Apr 12, 2013 9:47 am

Sara H wrote:Btw Shel, I've never heard a Zen teacher use the term "Mastery" to describe themselves before.
I think you're perhaps just assuming that that term applies here.
The word "Master" is a misnomer. Teacher is a better word.
But, generally speaking, as Zen has become more settled in the West, gradually, and steadily, more and more people are dropping it, now that Zen is more familiar and using the terms "Teacher" or "Monk" (if they are a monk), or "Priest" or referring to themselves as "Reverend" So and so, instead of Roshi Soandso.


You are confusing me now because your own tradition refers to their monastics as Reverend Master but they are not priests. So Reverend doesn't mean priest? Why do they continue to use the term Master if they mean teacher and it is a misnomer? (Including the gentleman you quote in your signature)

Sara H wrote:It's important not to get stuck on early bad translations of Buddhist terms, that have stuck around for familiarity and pop-culture reasons, and forget that they are only bad translations of Japanese terms that are actually in currently being updated in practice.


Bad translations like "the Eternal" or "to know the Unborn" or "Going on, Going on, always Going on, Always Becoming Buddha, Hail, Hail, Hail!"

This is why I tend to ask other posters for the sanskrit of the term they are using, like "Eternal" or when you write "compassion" Is Eternal=Atman? Is it Tathagatagharba? when you write "compassion" do you mean Karuna? Mudita? You speak with such authority on Zen but never really specify on which school you are commenting. :shrug:
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