How Important Is Transmission?

How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Astus » Sun Apr 04, 2010 10:28 pm

I'd like to bring up four books as major references:

John McRae: Seeing through Zen - Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism
John McRae: The Northern School and the Formation of Early Chʻan Buddhism
Morten Schlütter: How Zen Became Zen - The Dispute Over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China
Jiang Wu: Enlightenment in Dispute - The Reinvention of Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China

If one were to look into these fine works of modern scholarship covering important eras of Chan history the question of this topic may easily appear. We've been told by Western (and Eastern) Zen teachers how Dharma-transmission is so essential to Zen, and only a teacher with proper credentials can train students. Then it turns out there is no such thing as a proper credential. And it is not just that the 27/28 Indian patriarchs are fake, but the whole Tang "golden age" and the so called "five houses" too. Zen history was not made up only in the Song era but again in the Ming dynasty. And I guess such revival happened again with Xuyun in the 19th-20th century.

What is your reply to the question?
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 05, 2010 3:55 am

From an academic perspective it seems the whole demand for lineage and so on was an attempt to legitimize their sects which at first were mostly rural and without strong, if any, state support. The Chinese have always relished crafting lineage charts. The Japanese inherited that tradition.

From an "on the ground" perspective, a good quality control mechanism is necessary, so emphasizing the need for a teacher and "transmission" especially in a time when texts were scarce and literacy uncommon makes sense. Such a practise became institutionalized over time and became characteristic of Zen.

I still think however that "karmic" connection is necessary. It is much like having refuge vows from a preceptor: it initiates the process and binds one the Triple Gem. Some Chinese authors (like Sheng Yen and Yinshun) insist that without refuge precepts Buddhahood is impossible.
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Dae Bi » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:57 am

I believe transmission is from one awakened mind, realising another awakened mind. I don't agree that tranmission may take place unless this occurs. In the Korean tradition I follow, a lay person may recieve transmission (Sa Nim) , though only when one has passed the requirements for acknowledgement of awakening. Then Inka, which is a statement of attainment(transmission) is issued. One is then known as a meditation master. However, there is a level below this, a Dharma teacher. Again this requires a certain amount of understanding, though it is not transmission. I consider, any school which does not certify Awakening/Satori, should not be classed as attaining transmission.

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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:40 am

Huseng,

Refuge in the Triple Jewel requires no preceptor, it never did. Who would be the precepter for taking refuge? If only monks then there are no Buddhists in Japan, nor one could get it from any lay teacher. By the way, don't you think if someone happened to find a sutra in a library and read it is karmic connection?

Transmission wasn't emphasised only when texts were rare but also when one could read the whole canon in the same monastery. And here this is not really about teachers generally but Zen masters defined by their lineage.

David,

I don't know if there are similar studies regarding Korean Buddhism. Nevertheless, looking into its recent history Dharma-transmission doesn't seem to play a central role. Master Seongcheol doesn't seem to have received any transmission (see his bio and prof. Hyewon Kang's essay "A Commentary on Venerable Songchul's Method for Seon Practice"), although he was supreme patriarch of the whole Jogye Order several times. Still, if the origin of such a transmission (India and China) is not reliable, there is no basis to claim connection to the Buddha in a form of historical lineage.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Dae Bi » Mon Apr 05, 2010 12:20 pm

Like anything in this world, there is always exceptions :shrug:
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 05, 2010 1:48 pm

Astus wrote:Huseng,

Refuge in the Triple Jewel requires no preceptor, it never did. Who would be the precepter for taking refuge? If only monks then there are no Buddhists in Japan, nor one could get it from any lay teacher. By the way, don't you think if someone happened to find a sutra in a library and read it is karmic connection?

Transmission wasn't emphasised only when texts were rare but also when one could read the whole canon in the same monastery. And here this is not really about teachers generally but Zen masters defined by their lineage.


In Chinese texts there are varying opinions on this sort of thing.

For example Jizang among others thought it acceptable that a lay person could transmit Bodhisattva vows to another person.

Like I said, Sheng Yen and Yinshun both say that having refuge and precepts is necessary for Buddhahood. Sheng Yen stresses that while the karmic punishments are worse for those with precepts than those without in regards to evil deeds, it is only through those vows that one is properly set on the path to Buddhahood.

The Chinese traditions also came to stress a teacher-disciple relationship and this is still maintained as far as I can tell.

As far as the Chan / Zen model goes, transmission has been deemed necessary. That obviously need not be applied to every other school of Buddhism, but traditionally that was how it was and still is as. The leadership could presumably decide to change that doctrine however.
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:16 pm

"As far as the Chan / Zen model goes, transmission has been deemed necessary."

Yes, that is the idea. But as we can see, it is not the reality. Then what's the point of a transmission that has no value as it's lost its historical validity? Actually Chan was attacked on this part by the rival Tiantai school questioning the historicity of its lineage. Now that we can see clearly it is invalid shouldn't it be wise to respond to this situation instead of clinging to an unstable concept?

"The leadership could presumably decide to change that doctrine however."

What leadership?
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 05, 2010 5:04 pm

Yes, that is the idea. But as we can see, it is not the reality. Then what's the point of a transmission that has no value as it's lost its historical validity? Actually Chan was attacked on this part by the rival Tiantai school questioning the historicity of its lineage. Now that we can see clearly it is invalid shouldn't it be wise to respond to this situation instead of clinging to an unstable concept?


I'm not specifically a Chan practitioner, so it wouldn't bother me really if "they" dropped the whole transmission business, but then I reckon modern Chan masters have their own opinions on the subject. As I understand it, the late Master Sheng Yen gave transmission to one of his disciples (an American if I recall correctly), so we can assume he held transmission to be significant and important.


What leadership?


Venerable Sheng Yen was a leader of Chinese Chan. His successor takes over his position I imagine.
Fukuyama is the abbot of Eihei-ji.
Daido is the abbot of Soji-ji and the administrative head of Soto-shu.
Master Xingyun is the Grand Master of Foguangshan and his lineage is Linji, so he presumably also has a say in the matter.
The various sects within Rinzai also have their respective abbots and senior priests who qualify as leaders.

There are a lot of other leaders in Zen and Chan that can for their respective schools and organizations suggest, promote and initiate doctrinal reforms.

I don't think these decisions, however, will be posted to internet forums for a thoroughly democratic discussion. :rolleye:

In Asia decisions come from the top down and seldom the other way around. If transmission as a tradition is going to be dropped, it will have to be from senior leadership in various organizations to make such a decision for their respective organizations.
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:08 pm

My reply to the question is that any organization is ultimately self-validating whether its the Girl Scouts or the Masons. One chooses to beleive or not.

Usually the buck stops when some supernatural authority is invoked, and again one can choose to beleive or not. I believe there are suttas to be quoted as to how to choose wisely and i will leave that to another poster if someone chooses to do so.
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:14 pm

Astus wrote:Yes, that is the idea. But as we can see, it is not the reality. Then what's the point of a transmission that has no value as it's lost its historical validity? Actually Chan was attacked on this part by the rival Tiantai school questioning the historicity of its lineage. Now that we can see clearly it is invalid shouldn't it be wise to respond to this situation instead of clinging to an unstable concept?

"The leadership could presumably decide to change that doctrine however."

What leadership?



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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:45 pm

The only American Dharma-heir of Ven. Shengyan is Gilbert Gutierrez but he also has four other heirs in Europe (2 in UK, 1 in Switzerland, 1 in Croatia). These are the Western lay heirs, he has others (monks) in Taiwan as far as I know.

I wouldn't call Ven. Shengyan the head of Chinese Chan as a whole. He was the leader of his own community, the DDM, which was in Taiwan. I don't think he had any influence on things going on in the PRoC or other Taiwanese groups. Actually it seems to me that Chinese Buddhism doesn't have any single leader (if not the Ministry of Religion, or something like that).

I don't think anyone would suggest to drop the idea of transmission. It has been a central aspect of Chan ever since. Even the term "Patriarchal Chan" bears the significance of the concept. Personally I see no problem with it if handled properly and in light of historical events. But I think that in the West Dharma-transmission has been very much overemphasised, mystified and "misunderstood".

Zen has been advertised ever since as being an unbroken lineage from Shakyamuni Buddha up to the present. Actually it is severely broken in many parts. People claim reliability of Zen teachers based on their transmission (and not sutras or logical explanations of the Dharma for instance), therefore saying the source of such validity is forged must provoke a different view. Here I'm talking about the Western situation.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:47 pm

"What are your credentials again?"

What credentials are you looking for from me? Please look at the opening post to see what this is about here.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:10 pm

Astus wrote:"What are your credentials again?"

What credentials are you looking for from me? Please look at the opening post to see what this is about here.


Im just wondering how much weight to give your opinion. After all one can find books critical of any hierarchy. What do you propose as an alternative? The current model has produced the likes of huang po and sheng yen, what do you propose to replace it with?
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:24 pm

The weight of my opinion is open for scrutiny and argument.

The "current model" did not produce either Huangbo or Shengyan. What the model created is an imagined link (bloodline) connecting those two people to each other and back to Shakyamuni. My argument is exactly that this connection is non-existent in its historical sense of a teacher-disciple lineage. It's also good to note that Shengyan didn't really follow the Hongzhou school (what Huangbo belonged to) rhetoric of sudden enlightenment.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:30 pm

Astus wrote:The weight of my opinion is open for scrutiny and argument.

The "current model" did not produce either Huangbo or Shengyan. What the model created is an imagined link (bloodline) connecting those two people to each other and back to Shakyamuni. My argument is exactly that this connection is non-existent in its historical sense of a teacher-disciple lineage. It's also good to note that Shengyan didn't really follow the Hongzhou school (what Huangbo belonged to) rhetoric of sudden enlightenment.


By current model i was referring to chinese mahayana buddhism. My point being that it aint broke. And what would you replace transmission with? Any ideas?
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:48 pm

Being a broken lineage means that: no Zen patriarchal lineage was ever recognised in India and even in China it took some time to create it; the concept of transmission was revised a couple of times in the Tang; lineages and so called Zen houses were made up in the Song era; the Song myth of Tang Chan was revived in the Ming era with another forgery of lineages. These are in brief the subjects of those studies I mentioned in the opening post, but of course there are other works by different scholars if you are interested.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:00 pm

I thought this thread was about gearboxes.

:tantrum:
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby plwk » Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:04 am

http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Sutr ... structions
"Can you let us know for how many generations the Dharma has been transmitted, from the appearance of the earliest Buddha up to now?" asked the disciples.
"The Buddhas who have appeared in this world are too many to be counted," replied the Patriarch. "But let us start from the last seven Buddhas. They are:--
Of the last Kalpa, the Alamkarakalpa: Buddha Vipassin, Buddha Sikhin, Buddha Vessabhu.
Of the present Kalpa (the Bhadrakalpa): Buddha Kakusundha, Buddha Konagamana, Buddha Kassapa, Buddha Gautama (Sakyamuni).

"From the Buddha Sakyamuni, the Law was transmitted to the:
1st Patriarch Arya Mahakasyapa (It was then in turn transmitted to)
2nd Patriarch Arya Ananda
3rd Patriarch Arya Sanavasa
4th Patriarch Arya Upagupta
5th Patriarch Arya Dhritaka
6th Patriarch Arya Michaka
7th Patriarch Arya Vasumitra
8th Patriarch Arya Buddhanandi
9th Patriarch Arya Buddhamitra
10th Patriarch Arya Parsva
11th Patriarch Arya Punyayasas
12th Patriarch Bodhisattva Asvaghosa
13th Patriarch Arya Kapimala
14th Patriarch Bodhisattva Nagarjuna
15th Patriarch Kanadeva
16th Patriarch Arya Rahulata
17th Patriarch Arya Sanghanandi
18th Patriarch Arya Sangayasas
19th Patriarch Arya Kumarata
20th Patriarch Arya Jayata
21st Patriarch Arya Vasubandhu
22nd Patriarch Arya Manura
23rd Patriarch Arya Haklenayasas
24th Patriarch Arya Sinha
25th Patriarch Arya Vasiastia
26th Patriarch Arya Punyamitra
27th Patriarch Arya Prajnatara
28th Patriarch Arya Bodhidharma (the first Patriarch in China)
29th Patriarch Grand Master Hui Ke
30th Patriarch Grand Master Seng Can
31st Patriarch Grand Master Dao Xin
32nd Patriarch Grand Master Hung Ren
And I am the 33rd Patriarch (i.e.,the 6th Patriarch in China). Thus, by pupillary, the Dharma was handed down from one Patriarch to another. Hereafter, you men should in turn transmit it to posterity by passing it on from one generation to another, so that the tradition may be maintained.

So I should take the above with a pinch of salt huh? :coffee:
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:50 am

Astus wrote:Zen has been advertised ever since as being an unbroken lineage from Shakyamuni Buddha up to the present. Actually it is severely broken in many parts. People claim reliability of Zen teachers based on their transmission (and not sutras or logical explanations of the Dharma for instance), therefore saying the source of such validity is forged must provoke a different view. Here I'm talking about the Western situation.


The idea of transmission isn't limited to Chan or Zen.

The Vinaya as well is transmitted and said to require that transmission.
You can't just pick up a Vinaya manual, learn it, shave your skull and say you're a bhiksu -- you need to officially receive the tonsure.

This has actually been an issue in history (self-ordained monks in Japan in the Nara and Heian periods come to mind) and even today (if I'm not mistaken the bhikkuni transmission somewhere in SE Asia was lost and was reinstated with the help of Taiwanese nuns?).

The Esoteric schools of both Tibet and Japan both have strict requirements concerning the transmission of empowerments which if not maintained would see the whole school fade away in a generation.
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Re: How Important Is Transmission?

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 06, 2010 9:18 am

Yes, I know transmission is present in many forms within Buddhism but here I wanted to discuss the Zen version. If others can bring here enough research on Tantric (EA and Tibetan), Vinaya, Tiantai or other forms I would read it with great interest.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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