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 Simon E. » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:53 am

And is this paralled in Japanese Buddhism Venerable ?
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Huifeng » Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:10 am

Simon E. wrote:And is this paralled in Japanese Buddhism Venerable ?


I'm really not sure. Though, given the flow of culture in this area, I would imagine that there would be at least some parallels on some levels.

(I'm kind of assuming that given the location of this thread, in the general Zen rather than specific Zen tradition forum, that this is all open for discussion.)

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

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:27 am

In Japanese:


1: teacher; master; one's mentor;
2: () religious leader;
3: (Suffix) specialist;
4: (Noun) (Archaism) five-battalion brigade comprising 2500 men (Zhou-dynasty Chinese army)

examples:
医師 【いし】 (n,adj-no) doctor; physician
印刻師 【いんこくし】 (n) seal engraver
画師; 絵師 【えし; がし(画師)】 (n) painter; artist; painter supported by patron
思惑師 【おもわくし】 (n) speculator
楽師 【がくし】 (n) master musician
教師 【きょうし】 (n,adj-no) teacher (classroom)
技師 【ぎし】 (n) engineer; technician;
写真師 【しゃしんし】 (n) photographer
花火師 【はなびし】 (n) pyrotechnist; pyrotechnician
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Simon E. » Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:45 am

Thank you Venerable and Astus.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:05 am

perhaps a big part of the problem in all of this is the word 'Master'. After all modern liberal democracies presume a very 'flat' system. People can be 'experts' - hey, maybe roshis should call themselves experts! - but 'master' has connotations of 'superior to' or 'above'. So it becomes 'OK, you call yourself Master, but how are you different to ME (who is after all master of my own domain)'.

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

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:40 am

Jeeprs,

I think it's the opposite, people want a superior being to guide them and show the way, someone they can completely trust. And for that trust one has to believe in the purity and goodness of the other person, to appear someone like Jesus. And if you believe that the other person is a living saint and an omniscient buddha it is quite easy to surrender yourself to him in every aspect. This is the easy way. The more difficult path is when you have your own confidence and the teacher is there to help, to assist you, but not to overtake the control of your (spiritual) life. However, such confidence comes from one's own study and experience, from the personal faith in the Triple Jewel. Therefore it is up to the system to show the correct way to beginners that will teach them how to gain that confidence and not to give up yourself to a seemingly superior being.
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:56 am

My point was simply about the connotation of the word 'master'. I think that is part of the problem.

The problem might be different if Zen teachers were simply called 'teachers'. But 'master' has connotations which 'teacher' doesn't.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:13 pm

Maybe what we have here is a problem of decontextualisation. 'Master of what?' Is the question. 'Cant be explained' is the answer. In the context of a Buddhist culture there was much that could be left unsaid in all of this. So it didn't need explaining. Now we want transparency, public accountability and so on.

Maybe this is really all a symptom of the fact that Zen can't actually make the transition to Western culture. It will be lost in translation.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Jikan » Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:22 pm

jeeprs wrote:Maybe what we have here is a problem of decontextualisation. 'Master of what?' Is the question. 'Cant be explained' is the answer. In the context of a Buddhist culture there was much that could be left unsaid in all of this. So it didn't need explaining. Now we want transparency, public accountability and so on.

Maybe this is really all a symptom of the fact that Zen can't actually make the transition to Western culture. It will be lost in translation.


I think this idea has some merit in some contexts but not all. I think the idea is translatable, and that there are milieu in which people "get it" (meaning that it has been translated) already; I think that communities committed to a horizontalism of values or authority (an example might be the Quakers who make all decisions by consensus), it will be impossible to transmit. And that is OK.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Matt J » Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:06 pm

The emerging pattern I see is teacher as mentor, not all knowing guru.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

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

Postby pueraeternus » Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:48 pm

Thanks Venerable.

Huifeng wrote:In a particularly Buddhist context--and probably less people know this--the way of referring to a junior monastic as XX師 is so far from "teacher" or "master" as to almost be an opposite. They are not even yet a specialist of the Dharma, meditation or anything, but they are still called 師. It is what a senior person uses to refer to a junior. In this sense, it is not fixed, but relational; just like 老師 or 師父; ie. to certain people one may be a 老師 or 師父, but not to others. Or, in broader terms, 先進山門為師兄. Likewise for 師父, where within the family / guild / organization / or whatever, the person in charge takes the basic Confucian leader role of the 父, and the 師 is the basic specialist area of whatever craft or profession is in question. Likewise for Buddhism, same basic Chinese model.


My teacher quipped that in Taiwanese Buddhism, usually only the head of the organization is called 師父, for example in Dharma Drum, only Master Shengyen is called 師父, and the other bhiksus are called 法師. However, in south east asia (where I am from), any bhiksu is called 師父, even one you have never seen before but just met along the corridor on your way to the monastery kitchen! So the usage gets a little watered down.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Huifeng » Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:16 pm

pueraeternus wrote:Thanks Venerable.

Huifeng wrote:In a particularly Buddhist context--and probably less people know this--the way of referring to a junior monastic as XX師 is so far from "teacher" or "master" as to almost be an opposite. They are not even yet a specialist of the Dharma, meditation or anything, but they are still called 師. It is what a senior person uses to refer to a junior. In this sense, it is not fixed, but relational; just like 老師 or 師父; ie. to certain people one may be a 老師 or 師父, but not to others. Or, in broader terms, 先進山門為師兄. Likewise for 師父, where within the family / guild / organization / or whatever, the person in charge takes the basic Confucian leader role of the 父, and the 師 is the basic specialist area of whatever craft or profession is in question. Likewise for Buddhism, same basic Chinese model.


My teacher quipped that in Taiwanese Buddhism, usually only the head of the organization is called 師父, for example in Dharma Drum, only Master Shengyen is called 師父, and the other bhiksus are called 法師. However, in south east asia (where I am from), any bhiksu is called 師父, even one you have never seen before but just met along the corridor on your way to the monastery kitchen! So the usage gets a little watered down.


Well, it would depend by usage by whom.

In Taiwan, more orthodox Buddhists do usually only (or rather, mainly,) use the term "Shifu 師父" to refer to their shifu. Hence my point above that it is relational, not absolute. ie. XY may be my shifu, but just some fashi 法師 to you or him or her.

But, those who are not such orthodox Buddhists will use shifu to refer to just about any monk or nun. I was just down the bottom of the mountain this afternoon in Jiaoxi, and talking with a lady on the side of the road, she called me "shifu 師父" (thinking I was from Taibei). When I pointed out that I was from Fo Guang Uni just up the mountain side out of Jiaoxi, without actually saying that I was faculty (I could have been a student, after all), she just started to refer to me as "laoshi 老師". (Hope you don't mind the personal anecdote, but it's a good example.)

There are still some amount of orthodox uses of shifu though, even among monastics within the monastery. Typical examples include jiucha shifu 糾察師父 (the monastery discipline officer); shangzuo shifu 上座師父 (elder in the chan hall); and others. These are usually fairly senior figures, if not in age, at least in authority within the community.

In FGS we also use shifu (or shifu X) for very senior monastics other than Ven. Master Hsing Yun, whom we refer to with the stricter honorific of shifu shangren 師父上人. Young children whose parents are lay disciples of Ven. Master usually refer to him as 師公 shigong, because the generational gap is one further removed from that of their parents who refer to him as 師父. Of course, FGS is a very large organization, wherein abbots and abbesses of branch temples could otherwise easily be founders of their own monasteries in their own right.

As one can easily see, only a couple of these terms are "teachers" or "masters", and that's not always related to the character 師 shi.

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

Postby pueraeternus » Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:35 pm

Huifeng wrote:Well, it would depend by usage by whom.


Yes, I was referring to within Dharma Drum. In fact, I made that mistake by calling one of the nuns in the NY chapter shifu (I was really new then :P), and she immediately corrected me by saying that only Master Shengyen should be called that.

Huifeng wrote:But, those who are not such orthodox Buddhists will use shifu to refer to just about any monk or nun. I was just down the bottom of the mountain this afternoon in Jiaoxi, and talking with a lady on the side of the road, she called me "shifu 師父" (thinking I was from Taibei). When I pointed out that I was from Fo Guang Uni just up the mountain side out of Jiaoxi, without actually saying that I was faculty (I could have been a student, after all), she just started to refer to me as "laoshi 老師". (Hope you don't mind the personal anecdote, but it's a good example.)


Haha! Makes me a little glad that at least the south east asians are not the only ones making the mistake :)

Huifeng wrote:In FGS we also use shifu (or shifu X) for very senior monastics other than Ven. Master Hsing Yun, whom we refer to with the stricter honorific of shifu shangren 師父上人. Young children whose parents are lay disciples of Ven. Master usually refer to him as 師公 shigong,


We follow that too - in fact, Master Shengyen is one of my 師公.

Huifeng wrote:Of course, FGS is a very large organization, wherein abbots and abbesses of branch temples could otherwise easily be founders of their own monasteries in their own right.


In this case, would they be called 師父 within the branch monasteries?
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 19, 2013 5:51 pm

jeeprs wrote:Maybe what we have here is a problem of decontextualisation. 'Master of what?' Is the question. 'Cant be explained' is the answer.

Sara H explained it well, and well within context, in the OP.

In the context of a Buddhist culture there was much that could be left unsaid in all of this. So it didn't need explaining. Now we want transparency, public accountability and so on.

More than any of that it seems we want to believe in the myth of the Zen master.

Maybe this is really all a symptom of the fact that Zen can't actually make the transition to Western culture. It will be lost in translation.

It's the Zen masters themselves, or rather their actions, who have diminished the meaning of mastery.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:29 pm

I wouldn't say that there is a myth of a Zen master, Zen master's clearly exist and are not just a story or narrative.

I would say that there is a myth of "Zen master's being infallible". That, I would say is a "story" or "narrative" or a common enough misunderstood perception.

Saying that "Zen masters" themselves are a "myth" is a misnomer, as they do, in fact, exist, and do in fact have standards and qualifications that are peer-reviewable and verifiable, and so not just a "traditional story".

That would be like referring to college professors as an "academic myth" because of the "traditional story" of the knowledgeable professor.

It's not accurate linguistics.

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 Sara H » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:34 pm

shel wrote:It's the Zen masters themselves, or rather their actions, who have diminished the meaning of mastery.


The term "Zen master" is not about a definition of a general philosophical idea of "mastery".

It's simply derived from a translation of the Japanese term Roshi.

The English term is dependent upon the Japanese meaning from which it was derived.

It is not, rather that the term "Zen master" is dependent upon the English and western term of "master".

That is not correct.

The meaning is dependent upon the Japanese term.

In Gassho,

Sara.


Matt J wrote:The emerging pattern I see is teacher as mentor, not all knowing guru.


That would be a more accurate way of looking at it, in a western sense, rather than some abstract concept of "Mastery".

Remember, as I pointed out above, the word "master" in this context is just one translation derived from the term Roshi, and so is dependent upon the context and meaning of that Japanese term, (and how it is used, in context), and not of the western sense of the word "master".

The term "Zen master" is a translated title of a position.

It is not a literal English description, meaning "someone who has 'completely mastered' Zen"

Zen is not something one can "master" in that sense, it's an always and ever-going, on-going process of training.

There is no "completion" to it that one can then stick under one's belt and say one has done.

A kensho experience, is markable, as a point in time, but Enlightenment itself is always on-going.

We can stick our hands in the river, but we cannot hold the river.

Training is always on-going.

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 shel » Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:28 pm

Sara H wrote:
shel wrote:It's the Zen masters themselves, or rather their actions, who have diminished the meaning of mastery.


The term "Zen master" is not about a definition of a general philosophical idea of "mastery".


Mastery is not a philosophical idea. It means having mastered something, simply.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:59 am

You seem to want to be persuaded.

Whilst idly web-surfing (as I spend far too much time doing), I re-discovered the charming Website of the Zen Order of Hsu Yun, Empty Cloud, a renowned Zen Buddhist Master who reputedly lived to the ripe old age of 119.

There is a series of brief essays on that site about the process of transmitting Zen to the West, called Transition and Turmoil. I note the concluding page refers to the critical essay about Richard Baker that was referenced in the thread that grew out of this one, plus references to Stuart Lachs' critical essays on American Zen including his Means of Authorization: Establishing Hierarchy in Ch'an/Zen Buddhism in America. Pulls no punches, is completely up-front about the issues. So I really don't think American Zen can be accused of being sanctimonious or trying to gild the lily.

Anyway the real Dharma is not anywhere in the outside world. All these things - teachings, books, movements, practices - are only there to remind you to look to the only place where truth resides, which is within. (Which is not to say that they are not important or even vital.)

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

Postby greentara » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:29 am

Sarah H, "in fact have standards and qualifications that are peer-reviewable and verifiable" This sort of arguement leaves me cold. Are we discussing a learned pundit or an enlightened master?
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:38 am

greentara wrote:This... ...leaves me cold.


Lol, would you like a sweater
greentara? :D

What does this training after realization look like? As
with many things, it is easier to say what it does not look
like. In this chapter Dōgen talks much about the stupidity of
some masters who shout insults at each other in order to (so-
called) "bring each other to the Truth," or who shake fists
or beat each other up. These are only games; they are not
the proper recognition between mature masters of genuine
development after realization. It was because Kohō Zenji
knew how to do this properly that he sent me to see Sawaki
Kōdō Rōshi¹ some time after my own first realization. For
many years I could not understand why he did that, and why
he did what he did after I came back from seeing Sawaki
Rōshi. The answer is in this chapter. He wanted someone
who knew how to check to see if training was continuing
after a first kenshō, so he submitted the matter to a greater
master, or a more famous master, than himself. He didn't sit
back and say, "I am right; I know; my opinions are correct";
he sent me to Sawaki Kōdō. Thus we can see that humility
is one of the signs of training after realization, and Kohō
Zenji himself was a wonderful example of this training.


¹ Sawaki Kōdō Rōshi (Butsu Kojo Rōshi, 1880–1965) was considered
to be perhaps the foremost meditation master of his time in Japan. For
more on this episode, see WWG, 273–274.

WWG: The Wild, White Goose, 2nd ed., Rev. Rōshi
P.T.N.H. Jiyu-Kennett, Mt. Shasta, Calif.: Shasta Abbey
Press, 2002.



-Source: -from Chapter 14, "Training After Realization", in
The Roar of the Tigress, Volume II
2005, Jiyu Kennett, and Order of Buddhist Contemplatives,
Mt. Shasta, California. Shasta Abbey Press

Downloadable from:
http://www.shastaabbey.org/pdf/bookRoar2.pdf
"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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