Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Jikan » Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:12 pm

This is an important innovation for international Buddhism generally. I'm interested in ways in which new forms of leadership may emerge as new Buddhist institutions are built.

The training itself is for those who are already members of a Tendai sangha. I'm not trying to recruit people into it. I'm bringing it up here because it's a significant attempt to build stable sanghas and cultivate practice in new ways. Monshin sensei's words on this are quoted here:

http://dctendai.blogspot.com/2013/06/la ... endai.html

This program is a one year long training program that is intended to bring appropriate lay people into a more active role in the temple and sangha experience, and provide leadership at the lay level for Tendai in North America. In many ways such people would be referred to as shinja in Japan.

The training will provide the lay leaders skills to assist the temple or sangha leader in organizing and hosting services and practices. They will be taught how to lead meditations, set up the ken-mitsudan and other ceremonial elements for services, maintenance and other ongoing roles, and perform various sangha member functions.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:32 am

I'm happy to see Tendai progressively moving forward like this.

Are the higher echelons at Hiei-zan behind this?
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Jikan » Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:21 pm

Indrajala wrote:I'm happy to see Tendai progressively moving forward like this.

Are the higher echelons at Hiei-zan behind this?


I don't know the particulars on that one. I'm sure they had significant input on it though.

I do know that Tendai-shu has increasingly taken an interest in its own increasingly international reach. Here in DC, we are likely to have visitors from Japan observing our little group to find out how American Buddhism in general ticks, and how this approach to Buddhism works in this context.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 04, 2013 1:40 am

That's good to hear.

Yesterday I was speaking to a senior Japanese monk (over 45 years as a wandering monk incidentally), and he was saying he thinks Tendai is more open to the world than Shingon. He suggested Hiei-zan accommodates foreigners (and foreign thinking perhaps), whereas not so much at Koyasan, which is closed to the outside world. Interesting remarks.

I think if Japanese Buddhism is to thrive it needs to grow overseas.

I think Soto Zen has realized this. Komazawa University attracts a lot of foreign graduate students. Eihei-ji also attracts foreign practitioners. They also have a list of temples in Japan willing to accommodate foreigners. That's actually highly instructive when you look at some other schools which don't necessarily go so far in making themselves somewhat international.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby rory » Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:06 am

Ven. Indrajala;
the problem with Tendai and Shingon was that you had to be ordained for the higher teachings and I don't think that's changing; whereas in Tibetan buddhism you can get those tantras as a layperson. With lay leadership training; Is it purely organizational and how to lead a service, though even conducting a morning and evening service requires mantras and mudras so I don't see how laypeople can do this, unless they are opening up this way.

Also how about Rissho University, are there foreign students there?
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Seishin » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:21 am

Hi Rory, thank you for your post :smile:

Tendai is different to Tibetan Buddhism and Shingon in that it's not purely Vajrayana. Even when priests ordain they learn exoteric first, then esoteric later. I'd imagine that the lay leadership program would teach specific elements of the exoteric forms. Also, again from what I can gather, these lay leaders won't be running temples, but will be running small groups and won't be using the Hokke Senbo but rather the lay liturgy (see here) that doesn't require mantras and mudras.

However, I am speculating a little here as I'm not affiliated with the Tendai Shu in America. Rev Jikan might be able to correct me :smile:

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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:39 am

rory wrote:Also how about Rissho University, are there foreign students there?


I imagine so! Japan's Buddhist Studies programs generally have foreign students.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Jikan » Tue Jun 04, 2013 1:34 pm

I think rory makes an important point. It's true that laypersons won't be learning the goma ceremony or other esoteric practices.

To me, this invites the question of what Tendai-shu has to offer the contemporary world that can't be found elsewhere. I think the Ekayana teachings are of value in this respect. Anyone can learn and discuss these teachings, apply them, and benefit from them.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Jikan » Wed Jun 05, 2013 7:26 pm

Indrajala wrote:Yesterday I was speaking to a senior Japanese monk (over 45 years as a wandering monk incidentally), and he was saying he thinks Tendai is more open to the world than Shingon. He suggested Hiei-zan accommodates foreigners (and foreign thinking perhaps), whereas not so much at Koyasan, which is closed to the outside world. Interesting remarks.


Sounds like an interesting fellow. I have no idea how it works at Koyasan or what the culture is like there. I can say that Tendai-shu is more or less as you describe, although if you wish to train there, you need to have a *very* good handle on Japanese language and culture.

I think if Japanese Buddhism is to thrive it needs to grow overseas.

I have good reason to think that the leadership in Tendai-shu is inclined to agree with you.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:49 am

Jikan wrote:
I think if Japanese Buddhism is to thrive it needs to grow overseas.

I have good reason to think that the leadership in Tendai-shu is inclined to agree with you.


In order for this to happen I think a lot of the main Tendai works, both the exoteric and esoteric, need to have official translations. Not many people, even Japanese, can read classical Buddhist Chinese.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Jikan » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:15 pm

I agree entirely on the value of authoritative translations of the practice texts, sutras, and commentaries. It's happening, but it's a slow process.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:48 pm

Jikan wrote:I agree entirely on the value of authoritative translations of the practice texts, sutras, and commentaries. It's happening, but it's a slow process.


I've taken an interest in Ennin and Saicho's works before. I even translated some bits like here:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... os-reforms
https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... nd-journey

Their Chinese is a bit Japanese-ish at times (there are actually whole PhD dissertations discussing just this), but on the other hand it is normally easy to read because it doesn't get too literary, unlike some native Chinese Buddhist authors like Daoxuan, and then later in the Song onward when some things got especially thick.

It would just be a matter of finding capable scholars who would be willing to translate the materials and compose a core curriculum of texts to be studied in English. This is happening in Shingon I hear.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby rory » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:44 am

I'd hoped that scholars at Taisho University would translate these texts, maybe someday....But we do have the really interesting research of J. Chen "Legend and Legitimation: the formation of Tendai Esoteric Buddhism in Japan" Peeters, 2009 which argues convingly that Tendai esoteric buddhism develope in Japan after Saicho's death not in China with Saicho. Really a big deal.

Jikan, Tendai has tons to offer, Tendai philosophy, the Lotus Sutra itself, and the practice of shi-kan. I do all three and there is plenty.

Ven. Indrajala thanks for that about Rissho, makes sense. Is Rev. Eijo translating all that material for Shingon Shu? How is it going up there.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Seishin » Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:02 am

rory wrote:J. Chen "Legend and Legitimation: the formation of Tendai Esoteric Buddhism in Japan" Peeters, 2009 which argues convingly that Tendai esoteric buddhism develope in Japan after Saicho's death not in China with Saicho. Really a big deal.


I thought that was common knowledge? Or am I ahead of the times ??? :shrug: :shrug:
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby rory » Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:19 am

Well Seishin it will mean a complete revision in our understanding of Saicho's time in China and what he intended when he founded the Tendai school in Japan. It's really a very big deal! and exciting.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Seishin » Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:47 am

Like I said, Rory, I guess I'm ahead of my time. What I know of Saicho's time in China is in accord with this book. So for me, it's not a big deal nor exciting. Though any knowledge of the early history of Tendai is interesting and well worth a read :smile:

So, my question to other Tendai Shu out there, is this common knowledge where you are or is this all new? Is it common knowledge in Japan or is it new there? :shrug:

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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:50 am

In Japan I think it is common knowledge that the esoteric development really got going with Ennin, but even then his encounter and acquisition of esoteric practices was seemingly fortuitous as his main aim was going to Mt. Tiantai, but ended up going to Mt. Wutai and then Chang'an.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Seishin » Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:01 pm

Thank you Injrajala, this is what I've read and been taught also.

If it's common knowledge in Japan, is this book making a mountain out of a molehill or was it really a big deal when the book was written (2009?)

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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:12 pm

I think in Japan this has been known for decades, but then English reading audiences might not be so aware of it unless they're dedicated scholars and also read Japanese.

Saicho just by chance encountered some esoteric teachings. Later the emperor in Japan sought initiation, which he provided, though Kukai was clearly in a better position to provide such services.

It was with Ennin's return that Taimitsu and Tendai's role was revived in the Heian court. Prior to that Hiei-zan and Tendai had been eclipsed by Shingon and Koyasan.

The systematization of Taimitsu most certainly came some generations later. The narrative Tendai later formulated made it look like the sequence of monks going to the mainland and returning was somehow structured, intentional and systematic, whereas in reality it was quite fortuitous and a hodgepodge of teachings and practices which were slowly digested.
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Re: Lay Leadership Training for Tendai practitioners

Postby rory » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:28 am

I'd say read Paul Swanson's review in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, as he calls it 'groundbreaking' no one's done scholarly work on the history of Tendai esotericism and how it ties in with later kenmitsu as well as just looking at the production of forged apocrypha in Japan. There's plenty of material there and it's all so interesting.
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