perjantai 14. joulukuuta 2018

Dharma Transmission and Zen Issues by Stuart Lachs

Dharma Transmission and Zen Issues by Stuart Lachs

NDM:  If someone were to have a satori experience while meditating or some other way, how would this roshi determine if this student had really woken up?   Would this be through a  series of tests, or interviews of some kind?
Stuart Lachs: It seems you are asking if someone thinks they had a satori experience, how would the Zen master/roshi determine if this student had really woken up.
The master/roshi would interview the student and prod him/her with questions to see how they answer. The student’s demeanor when answering the questions can also be used to gauge the experience. He/she would also be looking to determine the depth of the experience. Depending on the tradition, the roshi may use set or given testing questions that the particular tradition uses. Different traditions maintain secrecy about what these questions are and what are the standard replies. I have been told that different traditions may have different replies as accepted understanding of a given koan. I also think that even if the roshi had not seen his own nature, he would still interview the student with questions.
It should be understood that judging someone's meditation experience is not like asking if there was a war between Southern and Northern states in the USA in 1865. It is not necessarily a black or white issue. I think at times certain masters/roshi pass someone with a "oneness" experience, which by my view is not a Chan/Zen experience. A “oneness’ experience is where a practitioner may feel a oneness of their own body and mind, and/or as if they are unified with their immediate surroundings or even with the entire universe. Telling someone they have seen the nature may be given for other reasons as well. For instance, I have seen a master tell a disciple he had "seen the nature," that is, had a Chan experience, when the master knew he did not. In this case the master told the student that he had "seen the nature" because the teacher wanted to give this disciple a "present" and to "encourage him to continue practicing" as the student, after many years and much work for the Center, was moving away. It struck me as a rather strange "present" and hardly the only way to encourage some one to continue in their practice. But that is what I was told by the master when I questioned him about his public acknowledgement of "seeing the nature" for this person. Another reason may be to empower someone for whatever reason, or because they are making them a leader or a roshi.  In a word there can be a number of motives for "approving" someone's Zen experience; the same goes for giving Dharma transmission. Perhaps close to this, but slightly different, is moving the student along going through the koan course.
NDM:  Now if someone had seen their "Buddha nature" and this person wished to teach others. What kind of training would this person undergo and for how long before they could teach?  Then how long before one would be a candidate for becoming a roshi?
Stuart Lachs: There are no set answers for these two questions.
It is NOT necessary for someone to have seen their Buddha nature to become a roshi or to teach. I know all the classical Zen stories lead one to believe this, but it is simply not true across the Zen board. This is especially so in Soto Zen at least since the 17th century or so and probably way earlier, probably always. The Rinzai tradition in Japan maintains that all their roshi had kensho (seen their Buddha nature) but I do not think that is a hard and fast rule. I believe Soen Nakagawa roshi was made a roshi before he had kensho. Unfortunately I do not have the source for this now. On the other hand, someone who sees the nature may not become a master/roshi for any number of reasons.
According to the recently deceased Taiwanese Chan master Shifu Sheng Yen it is not necessary to have "seen the nature" to become a Dharma heir, which is to say , a Zen master in his lineage. He had three pre-requisites for giving Dharma transmission: first is to have a correct understanding of Buddha Dharma, second is to have a stable life, to live a life of purity (this has to do with a stable character and their emotional life), and third is to have the vow to deliver and help sentient beings,  There are a number problems with Sheng Yen’s pre-requisites, not the least being that his disciples lived far away from him and saw him mostly on retreats so he had little idea about the purity of their life. What seemed important to him though not stated, was that the person, especially so for his foreign heirs, had a group of people practicing with them.
In Rinzai Zen, and in the newer Sanbokyodan sect of Zen founded by Yasutani roshi in the 20th century, which is popular in the West, people have to go through, that is, complete the koan course of that particular lineage before receiving Dharma transmission. Ideally after kensho, the roshi would watch his disciple and continually be teaching and watching to see that he/she internalizes and makes alive, that is, lives whatever experience(s) the disciple had as he/she goes through the koan course. In the Rinzai sect in Japan, the teacher would have the student prepare talks on the koans that he would judge. Part of this would be so the disciple learns to talk like a Rinzai roshi. But keep in mind that is the ideal. Soen Nakagawa roshi seems to have been a counter example to the rule. He had not finished the koan course when he was made abbot of Ryutaku-ji.  Soen's Dharma heir Eido Shimano roshi who was given Dharma transmission in 1972 has been implicated in scandals from the 1960's into the present. Philip Kapleau took the title roshi himself, only later admitted that he did not finish Yasutani roshi's koan course, though he still maintained the self taken title roshi. That was in the Sanbo Kyodan line started by Yasutani roshi who has a somewhat tarnished image himself because of his strong militaristic and right wing thoughts. Kapleau was disowned by his teacher Yasutani, so in reality he started his own line. This is not to say that Kapleau was more or less qualified than others with the title roshi. There are many other examples like the above. 
It is not uncommon for some one to be given teaching responsibilities with certain limitations before they are made a Zen master/roshi. There is no set time frame for how long it takes to become a master/roshi. Some acquire the title quite young, even in their early twenties; some only get full authorization much later. For example Shaku Soen roshi, the teacher of the famous D.T. Suzuki received Dharma transmission at the age of twenty-five.
The more important question to my mind is what does receiving Dharma transmission mean?
Also, how has it been used historically? These questions are rarely discussed in any depth around Zen centers; instead the focus is on who has it and who does not have it. But in reality most people know they will never get it. Zen institutions lead you to believe that having Dharma transmission is a hard line in the sand separating the master/roshi, whose mind is supposedly unfathomable by regular folk, from the rest of ordinary humanity. In reality it is mostly shades of grey, while depending on the variable or quality being measured, a different hierarchy of people will occur. 

NDM: In the Zen book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Richard Baker, says: A roshi is a person who has actualized that perfect freedom which is the potentiality for all human beings. He exists freely in the fullness of his whole being. The flow of his consciousness is not the fixed repetitive patterns of our usual self-centered consciousness, but rather arises spontaneously and naturally from the actual circumstances of the present. The results of this in terms of the quality of his life are extraordinary-buoyancy, vigor, straightforwardness, simplicity, humility, security, joyousness, uncanny perspicacity and unfathomable compassion. His whole being testifies to what it means to live in the reality of the present. Without anything said or done, just the impact of meeting a personality so developed can be enough to change another's whole way of life. But in the end it is not the extraordinariness of the teacher that perplexes, intrigues, and deepens the student, it is the teacher's utter ordinariness.
Would being a roshi supposed to mean that one is like the original Buddha?  "Fully enlightened" as they say? 

Stuart Lachs: Good- this question is a good follow-on to the previous one. Let’s lookat this quote a little closer. It was actually written by Trudy Dixon, though used by Richard Baker in his introduction to his teacher,Shunryu Suzuki roshi's book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. I think the book is the biggest selling book about Zen in the English language; at least it for some time. It has certainly sold well over a million copies.
There is some interesting background to know about this quote. For one, when Baker used this in his introduction to the book, he already knew that he was chosen by Suzuki to be his Dharma heir. From that perspective, he was painting a picture of how he would like to be viewed by his followers when he took leadership of the San Francisco Zen Center and would be known as Baker roshi. The quote supposedly was about Suzuki as the book contains his words and teachings. But the quote begins, "A roshi is a person..." implying that all roshi fit this description. In reality this is the most idealistic description of a roshi in the English language, perhaps any language. It is also highly questionable if even one roshi fits this description, not alone the "A roshi is..." implying all roshi, as Baker inserted it in his introduction...
But back to your question about being a roshi; “Would being a roshi supposed to mean that one is like the original Buddha?  "Fully enlightened" as they say?”  
I guess it depends on who you ask and when. I can imagine that some people may think this about their master/roshi, though clearly I am not one of those people. I also think anyone believing this is part of a small minority of believers. Roshi is a very broad term that covers an enormous range of cases. I think each case has to be looked at individually to get any sense of what the title means, but in virtually no case does it mean "Fully enlightened." “Roshi” is basically an institutional title for a role necessary to maintain Zen’s constructed or made-up form of legitimacy, that is, an unbroken lineage of supposedly enlightened teachers going back to the historical Buddha. One could argue that the roshi supposedly has had the same insight/enlightenment experience as the "original Buddha" in the sense of having a direct experience of their true or Buddha nature. Also recall that having an enlightenment experience is not a criterion for many master/roshi.  For those roshi or other people who have had a Zen experience to say it is the same as the original Buddha's seems quite speculative to me. This clearly side steps issues like the depth of the experience, the integration into one’s life, other qualities/powers the historical Buddha supposedly had, and so on. Too, what was the enlightenment experience of the historical Buddha, which was only put in writing hundreds of years after his death? Basically, we should be careful about mixing up an institutional role, however it is defined or talked about, with spiritual attainment, especially with being "fully enlightened."  

NDM: It seems that some roshis scatter their seeds far and wide, in more ways than one, while others seem to be more careful with this.  For example Richard Baker has been publicly criticized for his behavior at San Francisco Zen Center. Former students have said that he was addicted to power, abusive of his position, extravagant in his personal spending, and inappropriate in his love life.  Another Zen teacher named Maezumi, after many years spent struggling with his alcoholism, died in Japan in 1995 following a night of drinking—drowning in a bath after falling asleep.
In your article  "Richard Baker and the Myth of the Zen Roshi"  You wrote "The San Francisco Zen Center "scandal" was not unique in American Zen history. In fact there are few major centers not touched by sexual or other scandals, but the SFZC case suffices for the discussion we will have here".     
Beginning in 1965 and continuing to this day, a series of scandals has erupted at one Zen center after another revealing that many Zen teachers have exploited students sexually and financially. This list has included, at various times, the head teachers at The Zen Studies Society in New York City, the San Francisco Zen Center, the Zen Center of Los Angeles, the Cimarron Zen Center in Los Angeles, the now-defunct Kanzeon Zen center in Bar Harbor, Maine, the  Moon Spring Hermitage in Surry, Maine, the Providence Zen Center and the Toronto Zen center. These are some of the largest and most influential centers. In most cases the scandals have persisted continually for years, or seemed to end only to arise again. At one center, for example, sex scandals have recurred for approximately forty years with the same teacher involving many women. These scandals have been pervasive as well as persistent, affecting almost all major American Zen Centers. It should be emphasized that the source of the problem lies not in sexual activity per se, but in the teachers' abuse of authority and the deceptive (and exploitative) nature of these affairs. These affairs were carried on in secret and even publicly denied. The students involved were often lied to by the teachers about the nature of the liaison. In some cases the teacher claimed the sexual experience would advance the student ' s spiritual development. One teacher justified his multiple sexual affairs after their discovery as necessary for strengthening the Zen center. Presumably, this was because the women involved were running satellite centers of his and having a secret affair with the "master" would deepen their understanding and practice.  
If someone supposedly had this so called "Buddha nature", then why would all these scandals happen?  Could there be some kind of a flaw with this dharma transmission procedure? Is there a flaw with Buddhism itself?

Stuart Lachs: Yes- it is true that some Zen masters/roshi "scatter their seeds far and wide, in more ways than one, while others seem to be more careful." There is no fixed law or rule on how many or by what criteria some one gives Dharma transmission. I do not think whether some one gives few or many or no Dharma transmissions is a measure of anything but that. Maezumi and Katagiri each had twelve Dharma heirs, Suzuki had one heir in America, Richard Baker, and two in Japan, his son Hoitsu who did not study with him and some one he did not know but transmitted to as a favor to a friend. Sasaki has no heirs. 
I think it is widely believed that Dharma transmission (D.t.) is given to people because of some high level of spiritual insight, attainment and practice. Popular Zen books would like you to think this about their roshi but THIS IS JUST NOT TRUE!!! It is really sectarian propaganda. Dharma transmission (D.t.) is given for many reasons most of which are not related to any high level attainment or especially deep level of insight. For instance, Katagiri roshi of the Minneapolis Zen Center gave Dharma transmission to twelve priests (no lay people) at once shortly before he died. "He said no one was ready to take over, but he hoped to avoid his heirs becoming competitive and political, and maybe in time someone would ripen and would step forward." This is from The Great Failure by Natalie Goldberg, a well known author and long time student of Katagiri. The book also discusses Katagiri's own scandals with female students that only came to light after he died. 
In your question, above, you mention Richard Baker. No one knows for sure why Suzuki roshi gave D.t. to only Baker, and not to another person or other older students in addition to Baker, but that is what Suzuki roshi did. This presents us with a quandary. If Suzuki gave D.t. to Baker based on what he thought was some high level of spiritual attainment, then it appears that he made a mistake in his assessment of Baker, with whom he spent over 15 years in close contact. After all, Suzuki said that Baker's transmission was "real." So we are left to see that the roshi's supposed deep insight and mind-to-mind transmission which Zen claims is only understandable by their roshi and Dharma heirs, is really quite fallible. This calls into question the validity of the unbroken lineage going back to the Buddha, the basic supposed unquestioned claim to Zen legitimacy and authority. 
On the other hand we can say Suzuki gave D.t. to Baker for other reasons besides spiritual attainment and insight. For instance, he may have given only Baker D.t. and skipped other older students because he knew as every one knew that Baker had terrific administrative ability far above everyone else’s, was an outstanding fund raiser, was interested in the growth of the S.F. Zen Center as perhaps was Suzuki and importantly and singularly of all Suzuki’s students, he had the ability to make this growth happen. Baker was also a good speaker so could give fine sounding Zen talks to his followers and to the public. From a certain perspective all these abilities can be important for a Zen group, but none of them have anything to do with spiritual attainment. There could be other reasons that Suzuki picked Baker alone: perhaps a personal attachment to Baker as if Baker was the kind of son he wanted but did not have, Baker's ease and ability among important people and wealthy people, Baker's outgoing public persona, Baker's ability to generate satellite centers across the country, and so on. Whatever the reason, if this is the case, D.t. is not based on spiritual attainment and again Zen's self defined basis for unquestioned legitimacy and authority is open to question.  
Of course, this is only one example, but with the amount of scandal and questionable behavior known around Zen, it is hardly the most questionable or is it isolated. So in either case, there is a problem with the unquestioned authority for the Chan/Zen master/roshi and the supposed authority that accompanies Zen sanctioned Dharma transmission. In point of fact the two cases above and all sorts of permutations and combinations of these and other reasons are used as a basis  for giving Dharma transmission and historically, have been used that way.  
Zen is an old and large institution that in the Far East has worked hard to gain and hold State and elite support that was necessary for its survival and growth. It is perhaps naive to think that they based their existence, growth, and continuity solely on individuals with great spiritual attainment and deep insight into their true nature.   
According to Zen, every sentient being has "Buddha nature," not just the Dharma transmitted master or roshi. Some people realize their "Buddha nature" or see into their "Buddha nature" and some do not. Realizing one's "Buddha nature" is not a criterion for becoming a roshi in some sects or lineages of Chan/Zen. It is not in Soto Zen; by far the largest Zen sect in Japan, roughly fifteen times larger than the Rinzai sect, and it is not in Sheng Yen's Taiwanese sect of Chan...

The big flaw to my mind in the "Dharma transmission procedure" is not being crystal clear about what it actually means and afterwards, not being being crystal clear that all the Zen stories and the roshi commenting on the stories of iconic Zen masters of the past does not mean that the living roshi is anything like the roshi in the story. In fact, the roshi in the written text was probably not like the roshi as presented in the text. Zen "biographical" texts were all highly edited over long periods of time to match a desired self image and institutional needs of Zen at the time. These written stories/Zen texts essentially created perfected Zen masters and were meant to serve as models of ideal Zen masters and their behavior and words, probably to be imitated, rather than being biography in the modern sense of our understanding of describing an actual life.

NDM:  What is the criteria for a roshi to pass on the dharma transmission to a student?  Is there some kind of a test, examination they would undergo to root out this ego, lust for ambition, power, money, sex, fame, position, authority,  narcissism, psychopathology and so on? 
Stuart Lachs: There is no agreed upon criteria for giving Dharma transmission. There is no test "to root out " attachments or strong interests/concerns for ego, lust, money, sex, fame, ...aside from the specific Zen roshi's judgment of his disciple. As an example, the recently deceased Chan master Sheng Yen received Dharma transmission from Master Ling Yuan who he had spent exactly one night with. Sheng Yen has written that he had a Chan experience at the end of the night, in the morning they parted. Many years later Sheng Yen visited Ling Yuan and told him that he was teaching Chan. Ling Yuan then gave him Dharma transmission. Sheng Yen also received Dharma transmission from another Master he had spent two years with. 
As we both have noted, there is a problem with Dharma transmission as so many major Zen Centers have had to deal with scandals involving sex, power, money,…aside from too much concern for fame, narcissism, adoration which pass under the scandal bar, and then there is plain old psychopathology  on the part of master/roshi.

NDM:  Is there a fundamental flaw of some kind with Buddhism itself. Or have his teachings been misinterpreted, distorted somehow?  
Stuart Lachs: I do not think there is "a fundamental flaw... with Buddhism" nor do I think the teachings have been "misinterpreted, distorted somehow." First I think we should be clear that there are many Buddhisms. Like any living tradition or religion it must evolve to reflect the concerns, language, and mentality of place and time as well as the political situation. Buddhism does not occur in a vacuum; it is always embedded in a given society and culture at a given time. Buddhism like any other religion must develop as an institution if it is to thrive in a given society. 
Chan is a Chinese development that spread to Korea (known as Son Budd.) and then to Japan, (known as Zen, as we mostly call it today in the West) that is the form of Buddhism we are discussing here. Zen chose Dharma transmission, that is, the supposed mind-to-mind transmission between a master and his heir. The claim is that Zen holds the heart/mind of Buddhism transmitted silently from one generation to another in a unilinear (one person per generation), unbroken chain like manner. Chan mythology has this chain beginning with the historical Buddha Sakyamuni through twenty-eight Indian generations to Bodhidharma the First Chan Patriarch who brought Chan from India to China through to Huineng, the Sixth Chinese Patriarch after whom it split into a many branched tree and continues that way to the present. 
Zen claims it has the heart/mind of Buddhism while other sects are dependent on texts and translations from quite foreign languages that introduce mistakes and problems.
Because of this manner of establishing legitimacy and authority, the Chan/Zen master/roshi is supposedly connected by Dharma transmission, which is the institutional ritual symbolizing mind-to-mind transmission that connects each roshi with the historical Buddha. It is common in Zen books written by a master/roshi to point out their specific lineage at least for a few generations back and often all the way back showing their connection  to the historical Buddha.  
That this scheme of legitimation is all pretty much made up is another issue. That the institution needs to keep sanctifying new roshi in large numbers presents another problem. That these roshi must also serve the institutional and as is common of old institutions, their conservative needs is yet another issue. The problem in the end, at least as I see it, is that the master /roshi is conceived and presented as some thing he is not: a highly enlightened/attained individual beyond the understanding of "ordinary" people. He is presented this way along with institutional rituals, the use of liturgical implements as well as a vast array of texts and parts of the liturgy that in one way or another repeat this claim. Not surprisingly people who read Zen literature come to believe it and all too often, the roshi himself internalizes the role and thinks of himself as such. In a sense then, the group and its master/roshi act like theater or play acting, certainly there is a large element of fantasy and wishful thinking. 
This is not to say that Zen practice is fake or theater or anything negative, but there are problems. Zen practice, in my opinion is a wonderful practice. It has made my life richer and more fulfilling while helping me be in the world and relate to people in what I feel is a better way, but certainly not without fault and error. I have been at it since 1967...

NDM: I would like to address this roshi named Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi. He ordained sixty-eight priests gave his transmission to a lot of people, but he was also an alcoholic.  Jan Chozen Bays said of Maezumi's drinking, "We in subtle ways encouraged his alcoholism. We thought it was enlightened behavior that when he would drink, elements of Roshi would come out we had never seen before. He would become piercingly honest. People would deliberately go—everybody did this—and see what he would say and do when he was drunk, and how he could skewer you against the wall."
Stuart Lachs: Yes, by now it is well known that Maezumi was an alcoholic. He entered a detox program but while visiting his brother's temple in Japan, apparently was drinking again and died in a hot tub. I spoke with a person knowledgeable about alcoholism and he said that Maezumi probably drowned on his own vomit. The circumstances of his death were kept secret for some time. I had also heard that his students not only "in subtle ways encouraged his alcoholism" but also supplied the alcohol. It should also be noted that Maezumi had a number of affairs with his students, one of which was with Jan Chozen Bays.
At least some of Maezumi's students saw every act he did as teaching. This is standard Zen rhetoric. Maezumi's students did not make this up. So what Jan says above, "We thought it was enlightened behavior ..." is completely, 100% believable. I heard a story about his "Jisha," his personal assistant. She supposedly said that when roshi threw up, which of course was from his heavy drinking, that he did it intentionally so she would get used to cleaning vomit and not be repelled by it. She saw all Maezumi's actions and behavior as teaching- that is, roshi, according to this view, are teaching in every second of their life. Whether students get it or not is the other part of the Zen rhetoric. It seems hard to believe, but that is the standard Zen line and people believed it and lived by it, as these two stories illustrate.

NDM: Do you think that since he was an alcoholic, his judgment may have suffered and his transmissions should be questioned or investigated or qualified in some way to reflect this?
Stuart Lachs: Let's go back a step. We can ask what does Maezumi's Dharma transmission mean if he was an alcoholic? As stated above he went through detox but as is common with alcoholism, he relapsed, which caused his death. He also had some secret affairs with students while being married. He had to drink to become "piercingly honest." At the least, this is not the picture Zen presents of a Dharma transmitted roshi.
Some people will bring up the example of Ikkyu as a hard drinking carousing priest who liked prostitutes. He entered the brothel wearing his black robes because he viewed sexual intercourse as a religious rite. But he did this openly and lived the life of a vagabond, poet, artist…Late in life he was made abbot of Daitoku-ji, a major monastery in Japan. He was really one of a kind. I think it is dangerous to point to Ikkyu as is commonly done, to justify or excuse questionable behavior of a roshi.
I ask the readers, “Do you know anyone who is an alcoholic whose judgment is not impaired?”
Why would you think someone with the title roshi is any different? Apparently the Tibetan tradition is quite similar to the Zen tradition. Remember, the world famous Tibetan teacher Trungpa drank himself to death. Was his judgment impaired? His number one dharma heir, Osel Tendzin, a westerner from New Jersey was made successor and sanctified with the title Vajra Regent by Trungpa, thought he was special too. Unfortunately he contracted AIDS, knowingly had unprotected sex with his students, and passed it on to some of his partners, at least one of who died. He thought the Dakinis (female embodiment of enlightened energy, sky dancers) were protecting everyone. Trungpa wrote of Tendzin, “As a student and child of mine, Ösel Tendzin has developed his natural ability to respond to the teachings of egolessness.” Interestingly, we see here that the Tibetan tradition of “enlightened “ masters’ as does Zen, refer to their students as a “child of mine”. Their enlightened masters seem as fallible and as affected by alcohol as do the Zen masters/roshi.

NDM: Should his judgment in giving Dharma transmission be questioned?
Stuart Lachs: Well, more basic, and I keep coming back to this, is, "What does Dharma transmission really mean?" How has it been used historically? Look at other people with Dharma transmission; how do they look when examined closely? Look at the history of Zen in America and the recurring scandals and the ineffectual response from the Zen Soto, Rinzai, and Sanbo Kyodan institutions in Japan and other Zen roshi. Look at the history of roshi in Japan, look at the history of the Soto and Rinzai sects say from 1900 through 1945 and beyond to 1995 or so. It is time I think, to stop fetishizing the titles roshi and Zen master, and look at them as regular people with an institutionally sanctioned title. Look at what people do rather than what some old text or a new text claims “a roshi is.” The old texts are mostly "prescriptive," that is,telling us how a Zen master/roshi should act and talk; rarely are they "descriptive", actually describing a real person's life in the modern sense of the word.  Are roshi really so special? Some may have some good qualities but it is rare that there are no bad or weak qualities tagging along.  Let us do everyone a favor and keep this on the human level. We should not steal the roshi's humanity or throw away our own to satisfy a wish for a perfected person...

NDM: Do you think this roshi business is this simply to keep this hierarchical power structure in certain peoples hands?  Are we living in a time that this could even be done away with and to take this back to basics? How it started off ?
Stuart Lachs: The Chan master/roshi system or idea developed in China. Though I am not an expert on this, I believe it arose because of the social structure in China which is mostly based on a Confucian hierarchical model. In some ways, Chan/Zen is the most Confucian of  Buddhist sects in China. Chan based its legitimacy and authority on a genealogical model (unbroken lineage from the historical Buddha) as  Chinese society was based on the family model, with its great emphasis on ancestor worship. The Chan master of a student is viewed as the father, students of the same teacher were viewed as brothers, the teacher's teacher was your grandfather, there is great emphasis on lineage and so on. This is still the situation in Zen circles today...

Quoted from Nonduality Magazine, Interview with Stuart Lachs, 2010.

Dharma Transmission in Zen by Stuart Lachs

Dharma Transmission in Zen
by Stuart Lachs

Despite its iconoclastic image, Zen has in actuality been a remarkably conservative institution throughout its history, almost always tied to and controlled by the state and elite elements of society. There is certainly nothing anti-authoritarian about the notion of unbroken lineage going back to the historical Buddha. Likewise, Dharma transmission was as much about institutional prosperity, prestige, authority, continuity and acceptance and control by imperial authorities as it was about notions of enlightenment and spiritual perfection. The Zen master is a role that stands as a representative of the entire Zen institution. He occupies an authoritative place in East Asian cultures that have already been imbued with a special level of hierarchy since ancient times. It could fairly be said that what is effectively transmitted by Dharma transmission is institutional authority, rather than religious wisdom. However, I do not mean to imply there is no inner spiritual content to the Zen tradition.

Dharma transmission has been awarded and is still awarded for many reasons besides spiritual attainment. In fact, it was often not based on spiritual attainment at all, most especially so in Japanese Soto Zen, which is the sect of Suzuki, Baker and the San Francisco Zen Center. In this sect, Dharma transmission is commonly a father-son transmission ritual culminating in the son's inheritance of the family temple. Spiritual attainment, insight into timeless truth(s) or any other profound changes in one's inner life play virtually no part in the majority of these Dharma transmissions or in the every day functions of these roshis.

But the Soto sect tries to have it both ways. It allows bureaucratic transmission, but it also uses "historical" biographies of eminent masters presented as desireless beings, the koans, and the many Zen stories and dialogues (mondo) to legitimize and to enhance authority, that make clear that transmission is given because of a deep insight into reality or spiritual attainment. Read any of these texts of Zen, The Book of Serenity, a Soto sect koan collection, being one prominent example, and this will be abundantly clear.

"Hollow" transmissions such as those between father and son are incorporated into the unbroken lineage to the Buddha. (If the reader wants to argue that Dharma transmission in the Rinzai sect or in the modern Sanbokyodan sect so popular in the West matches the ideal of Zen rhetoric, please feel free to email me at my address listed in the Notes.)
Even when Dharma transmission does reflect some level of something we may call spiritual attainment, it is not based on the idealized version proffered by the Zen institution: a mystical meeting of minds between teacher and disciple sharing a timeless truth that unvaryingly matches the minds of all teachers going back in the lineage, through the six Chan Patriarchs in China, and the twenty eight generations of the supposed Indian lineage going back to the historical Buddha, and beyond. This is a mythology of Zen, a pure fiction. The Zen institution requires the master because he is supposedly a living example of the ideal of Zen and, as such, represents all of its legitimacy and authority. A large institution like Zen requires hundreds of such living role players. This necessitates the production of virtual quotas of such highly exalted people, while in the realm of "spiritual attainment" it is rare to produce just one such person. Therefore, in the living world of flesh and blood we have people with some very limited level of attainment occupying a role that is defined as Buddha-like, actualizing perfect freedom and unfathomable compassion beyond the ordinary person's understanding and hence above question. However Zen texts may define the role, Zen masters have not been fully enlightened beings beyond question.

Quoted from Richard Baker and the Myth of the Zen Roshi by Stuart Lachs.

Find the full article here:

maanantai 10. joulukuuta 2018

How Zen Buddhism Can Be Bettered

How Zen Buddhism Can Be Bettered

In this text, I will use Hakuun Yasutani Roshi's instructions on just sitting, as a source for commentary of my own, where I present an idea how the training paradigm of zen buddhism, could be greatly enhanced. For those not familiar with Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, a rather famous figure of Japanese and Western Zen of the 20th century, I recommend reading his Wikipedia page.

Yasutani Roshi's instruction of shikantaza, or just sitting, are from the book ”On Zen Practice: Body, Breath and Mind” by Taizan Maezumi and Bernie Glassman. You can read this chapter that I will quote and comment below, from here. I would ask the reader to read his instructions carefully, to be sure that with my comments I am not mispresenting him.

Quotes from Yasutani Roshi, with added comments.

Yasutani: ...I will briefly explain how to practice shikantaza... This is the key to practicing shikantaza... Casting all sorts of self-centeredness away and making yourself as a clean sheet of paper; sit, just firmly sit...
In doing shikantaza you must maintain mental alertness, which is of particular importance to beginners - and even those who have been practicing ten years could still be called beginners! Often due to weak concentration, one becomes self-conscious or falls into a sort of trance or ecstatic state of mind...
When you thoroughly practice shikantaza you will sweat - even in the winter. Such intensely heightened alertness of mind cannot be maintained for long periods of time. You might think that you can maintain it for longer, but this state will naturally loosen. So sit half an hour to an hour, then stand up and do a period of kinhin, walking meditation.
During kinhin, relax the mind a little. Refresh yourself. Then sit down and continue shikantaza.
To do shikantaza does not mean to become without thoughts, yet, doing shikantaza, do not let your mind wander. Do not even contemplate enlightenment or becoming Buddha. As soon as such thoughts arise, you have stopped doing shikantaza...
Sit with such intensely heightened concentration, patience, and alertness that if someone were to touch you while you are sitting, there would be an electrical spark! Sitting thus, you return naturally to the original Buddha, the very nature of your being.

Kim's Comment: In his instructions, Yasutani quotes Dogen (see the original text), to indicate what shikantaza is. However, Yasutani's take on shikantaza is clearly different to Dogen's, because his instructions describe ”intensely heightened concentration”. Anyone who has studied vajrayana buddhism, and its clear expositions of meditation practices, can see that Yasutani confuses concentration practice or cultivation of one-pointedness (skt. samadhi, j. zanmai), as it is termed in zen buddhism, with effortless buddhanature sitting, which is what just sitting is. He confuses effort-based heightened concentration or heightened attention, with knowing awareness.

Yasutani: Then, almost anything can plunge you into the sudden realization that all beings are originally buddhas and all existence is perfect from the beginning. Experiencing this is called enlightenment...

Kim's Comment: Here, Yasutani describes how ”anything can plunge” the practitioners into ”sudden realization”, or kensho. This is where he unknowingly explains his erroneous pedagogy of just sitting. In the above bits, he gives instructions of sitting with high alertness, that can only be maintained for short periods of time, until it loosens. This is a classical description of samadhi meditation, which as many zen stories depict, is shattered by some sight, sound or event, which makes one see one's true nature (j. kensho). In a nutshell, Yasutani describes concentration practice of heightened intensity that is then plunged or shattered, which makes the natural state appear, to effect an insight, and he calls all of this with one term, that of shikantaza. This is where the pedagogical mistake is, for heightened concentration, or heightened attention is not the same as kensho, which is a synonym for shikantaza. For this reason, there is a significant difference between Yasutani's and Zen master Dogen's instructions.

Yasutani: In short, shikantaza is the actual practice of buddhahood itself from the very beginning - and, in diligently practicing shikantaza, when the time comes, one will realize that very fact. However, to practice in this manner can require a long time to attain enlightenment, and such practice should never be discontinued until one fully realizes enlightenment. Even after attaining great enlightenment and even if one becomes a roshi, one must continue to do shikantaza forever, simply because shikantaza is the actualization of enlightenment itself.

Kim's Comment: In correct buddhanature sitting, there is no beginning, realization or diligent practice. In correct shikantaza, there is no effort, nor distraction, such as drowsiness, to a slightest degree. I offer my further comments. 
Samsaric beings, such as myself, have two kinds of minds: one bound by confusion (samsaric mind) and the other one free (buddhanature). The way to illuminate the samsaric mind and its many traits, in Rinzai-style of zen buddhism, is to focus strongly and keep focusing strongly (samadhi), for in some cases several years, until some spontaneous event from outside occurs, breaks the samadhi, and in consequence, the practitioner momentarily sees his or her buddhanature. What happens with concentration practice, is that one becomes focused, instead of being distracted, while at the same time, establishing calmness of the mind. This is how it ideally is, but in some cases strong concentration, carried over a long period of time, can also create great health problems. For this reason instructions like this, without learning how to relax well, can be altogether counterproductive. In regards to strong sitting, I find it questionable what is the benefit of this for older people, from middle-aged and older, who many are already calm and in general have less vitality than younger people.
Being concentrated is in a way, being self-immersed, self-indulgent. Because the mind is restless and distractive, it requires a lot of training to be able to create a samadhi, a state of complete self-immersion or absorption. In rinzai zen, the logic is to create this samadhi which when it is accomplished, will be automatically smashed into bits by a sound or a sight, such as view of mountains, red Autumn leaf falling from a tree, barking of a dog, sound of rain, seeing of a flower or a yell of a zen master. The main point here is that the cause that shatters the samadhi, never comes from the mind of the practitioner him- or herself, because the mind is in samadhi, in a state of immersion, without thought. In tantric terms, the cause that generates kensho, always comes from outside of the practitioner's energy field.

In my view and experience, as well as those of my students, it is not necessary to generate samadhi first. I have discussed this in Rethinking Zen and Kensho, which mentions how the whole process could be made more efficient, through dynamic concentration. In the instruction above, Yasutani speaks of dynamic concentration, done silently, actually at a medium, rather than high intensity.

If the reader is not familiar how concentration is used in Open Heart, as in Tibetan dzogchen, we use short sharp shouts, like short vocal explosions, to cut through the many layers of the mind, to access and recognise the natural state. This is not unfamiliar to zen buddhism where teachers and students yell to each other, or in some lineages have shouted MUUU! for hours on end to have kensho.

The main difference between medium and (truly) high intensity focus is that with short explosion the desired outcome, that of recognition of buddhanature which is kensho, is accomplished in few seconds, while with medium concentration it takes a lot longer, for the above mentioned reason that one constantly gets distracted. Medium intensity concentration also needs to be fed with energy which makes it demanding of vitality and can even ruin one's health, as in the cases of young zen master Hakuin, and my own, for example.

It is a simple fact that the process of samadhi can be bypassed, while prioritizing the recognition of buddhanature. The essential point is that it is not through concentrative focus but through many kenshos that one becomes familiar of one's buddhanature.

Thank you for reading,
- Kim Katami, 10.12.2018
Helsinki, Finland.

In my book, available free of charge, I have given detailed instructions about dynamic concentration and its effectiveness, What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice.

See demonstrations of dynamic concentration, playlist here.

lauantai 8. joulukuuta 2018

Just As It Is – All Beings Are Free

Just As It Is – All Beings Are Free

Few days ago, compassionate motivation of enlightenment (skt. bodhicitta, j. bodaishin/菩提心), from the relative perspective, was discussed at Facebook. Mahayana and vajrayana approaches of buddhism are big on bodhicitta, where practitioners remind themselves of the suffering and confusion of all sentient beings, while mentally praying and physically acting for the liberation of all beings. This is what bodhisattvas, those aiming at full liberation, do, with great spiritual benefits. Bodhicitta is the tip of the spear of mahayana buddhism, which reveals our innate buddhanature while uncovering our selfish confusion in all of its forms, including those that are not easy to detect.

There is also another perspective to bodhicitta, ultimate bodhicitta, where all beings are already free. This perspective exists simultaneously with the relative one. The ultimate perspective doesn't deny the relative one, this is essential to understand.

In my experience, ultimate bodhicitta can be glimpsed along the way, as we keep praying and acting for the liberation of others. Then at some point, the fact that all beings are free already, sneaks on us, and we experience both perspectives. This makes our practice mature, as well as realistic. It is realistic because sentient beins are both, free and imprisoned, buddhas and samsaric beings, until we cease to be samsaric beings.

In my article, Nuts and Bots of Bodhicitta (to be published at, I gave a simple meditative exercise to boost one's experience and understanding of bodhicitta.

The gist of this exercise is this: Be or sit with all beings.

This is a highly useful meditation for those who work to understand one's true nature. When familiarity increases, this exercise ceases to be an articial practice, and becomes what we actually are, a mind of perfect clarity and stability, that is shared by all life, in a dynamic lively way.

This can also be used to check if one's atiyoga (t. dzogchen atiyoga), or nonmeditation is correct. If we generate bodhicitta during nonmeditation, and our energyfield disappears by blessings shooting outwards from our body, and by consequence we become connected with sentient beings outside our energy field, it is an indication that our atiyoga is still unripe. It is unripe because atiyoga is ”buddhanature sitting” and in buddhanature all beings are already connected. In this case, we need to keep generating bodhicitta and focus on tantric practice. However, if nothing happens by saying a prayer, our practice is sound and correct.

This is how I understand, ”just as it is”, a phrase often used in zen buddhism, and this is what I believe, correct just sitting (j. shikantaza/只管打坐) is.

Thank you for reading,

- Kim Katami, 8.12.2018.

sunnuntai 2. joulukuuta 2018

Rethinking Zen and Kensho

Rethinking Zen and Kensho

There are many examples of zen practitioners, both monastics and laypeople, who experienced seeing one's true nature, or kensho, first by cultivating one-pointedness (skt. samadhi, jp. zanmai), and then shattering that one-pointedness through various spontaneous or purposeful ways. What happens when one-pointedness becomes shattered is that one's mind shifts from self-based and self-experienced concentrative calm, to one's natural state, or buddhanature.

I have questioned the necessity of cultivating samadhi because, from the point of view of having kensho, it seems quite useless, that takes a lot of time and effort to come up with. While from one perspective being mindfully concentrated is better than being distracted, neither of these conditions are the natural state, that is, kensho. Thousand hours of concentration on one's breath or koan is little, based on queries and observations, and still it is not certain that kensho will happen. All in all, it is very unreliable. The good side is that it needn't be so.

Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings have buddhanature, so the question is how can we most effectively access this buddhanature of ours, instead of remaining in our samsaric state? If we managed to recognise our natural state correctly, on regular basis, we'd be glimpsing and familiarising (kensho) our buddhanature all the time.

In my view, the reason why kensho zen is near to extinction is because training in samadhi has taken the place of prioritising kensho. It's all backwards. If recognition of one's buddhanature was prioritized, we would instantly see a change in our sanghas and in the whole zen culture.

The thing is that in order to have kensho, we need not cultivate samadhi. We need not go through the hardship of learning how to concentrate but by the means of dynamic concentration (pg. 21 in What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice) can access the natural state as soon as we utter a sharp shout. In this way we can bypass samadhi cultivation and save a lot of time and energy, while inevitably having one kensho after another.

Thank you.

-Kim Katami
Open Heart Sangha,

torstai 15. marraskuuta 2018

Christian's Awakening

Christian's Awakening

Hello Kim.

I am 32 years old. I have been trying to figure out the I illusion for at least 15 years. Never went past an intellectual understanding, though. As suffering increased and drove me almost to suicide I eventually started to meditate I think 2-3 years ago. Breath meditation (The Mind Illuminated), one Goenka retreat and Finders Course by Jeffrey Martin (18 weeks all sorts of practices like self-inquiry, noting, mantra, body scan etc.). At times I sat for 4 hours or more a day and although I saw positive changes (e.g. becoming able to rest in awareness for periods), suffering continued. So much that I started to lose hope in this whole spirituality business. Then I found your 2PF and for the first time in my life there is a big decrease in suffering! I can't say how grateful I am for what you are doing.

I have read through your book Awake! and practiced your Two-Part Formula (2PF) for 3 or 4 days. Yesterday evening I had a subtle shift and ever since then, no matter how often I say I, I, I, Me, Me, Me, it doesn’t bring up this sense of me anymore. Before that shift this special sense of “Christian” behind the eyes came up pretty much immeditately. Now it just doesn’t attach to anything and “I” immediately go back to this simple, clear space.

This change is so subtle and there are still a lot of self-referential thoughts coming up, though. Like “I am soo happy that there finally was a shift”, but if I inquire “who or what is this I that is happy?” nothing comes up anymore.
I don’t really feel special or one with everything either. There is still this impression that here is someone who is experiencing everything, but when I take a look or inquire then no sense of me comes up anymore.

Has awakening happened for me? Should I write a bit more about the shift, or the changes before and after? Should I perhaps send you a photo? Or should I simply give it more time? I would really appreciate your feedback!
Best regards.

Hi Christian.

Wait until tomorrow to get a little more taste of it. I am quite sure this is it, as you make it clear that it doesn't stick and that there has been a change . Tomorrow, write me a description of the change and include a photo for analysis. It would be nice to read a litte narration of your path/search up until this point, how you found 2PF, what practices you did before, with some interesting details etc.

I'm very busy with work right now, so I'll just briefly describe the change and I also have attached a picture of me from today.

After a couple of days with the 2PF I was able to observe the I and bring up this distinct feeling of a "me behind the eyes" very easily.

Two days ago, during my evening meditation a shift occured and ever since then, no matter how hard I try, I cannot bring up this feeling of me anymore. The funny thing is, now after only a couple of days I cannot even remember what this "me behind the eyes" felt like.

Everything has become calmer, clearer, more relaxed. The shift was so subtle, yet the two days since the shift have been just amazing. I am filled with so much gratitude right now...

Still, as I already mentioned yesterday, there are a lot of self-referential thoughts. My mind is actually quite active. And there is also no feeling of oneness. It still kind of feels like there is someone experiencing all of this. This feeling only stays for a few seconds at most, though. And as I said, when I look for a separate self, there is only clear, ordinary space.

Perhaps this is just a case of wrong expectations?

Anyway, I can't wait for your feedback! If this really was awakening, then I'll gladly write more about my path, former practices etc.

Yes, that's it. Simple as that. Congrats!

It varies greatly how easily "me behind the eyes" dissolves. Some people are at it for weeks, some for half an hour. Nevertheless, the result is the same, what in Open Heart we call opening of the 1st bhumi.

>My mind is actually quite active. And there is also no feeling of oneness. It still kind of feels like there is someone experiencing all of this.

The mind can be active, thoughts and emotions, but the experience of them is noticeably different, as you can see, because the I that they attach to, is gone. Yup, no oneness, haha. I don't know if you are familiar with buddhism but this is what selflessness or emptiness means. With awakening, or insight meditation, one begins to see and experience this selfless, me-less, mind. Everyone has it but it goes unnoticed because the habit patterns are so strong. That last sentence, "kind of feels like there is someone experiencing all of this". Now that the small self, to a degree, has been deconstructed, the real self, without an entity, comes about. If you feel into it, can you see how it has been there all along? That, this me-less mind is actually the real you? In dzogchen teachings, we say that awareness cognizes itself, that it is self-cognizant. There is no "me" doing it but our basic awareness, see, feels, thinks and so on. It is not impersonal but very personal, the way I see it.

Congrats again.

tiistai 13. marraskuuta 2018

Invitation to Open Heart

Invitation to Open Heart

Hello folks.

I would like to invite you all to join Open Heart Yoga Level 1 Empowerment and Online Course, on 2nd of December 2018. You can find all the necessary info from links in the Facebook event, including fee information, so I won't describe the practice itself, but as suggested, I'd like to offer some information and statistics of how this practice, Open Heart Yoga (OHY) works.


If some of you don't know who I am, I am Kim Katami, the founder and head teacher of Open Heart Sangha. I mainly teach tantric practices as a way to full liberation, traditionally known as buddhahood or perfect enlightenment. If the word tantric is foreign to you, you can replace it with ”energywork” as in tantric yoga one works with energybody in different ways such as breathwork, visualisation and mantra sounds. I have done training all my life with many different teachers and masters. Some of my work that you might know already are the so called Two-Part Formula (2PF) for awakening and Open Heart Bhumi Model (OHBM), that is used as a path map.

In Open Heart, we measure one's progress, from pre-awakening stage to medium stage to advanced stage to full attainment, with OHBM. We discuss bhumi openings and bhumi perfections because it is a solid way to measure where one's at, or where someone else is. This means that with sufficient training and skills one can learn to sense anyone's stage of attainment. Bhumi openings and perfections are commonly called with terms such as sudden and gradual enlightenment. I have written two books (Awake! and What's Next?) about these topics so if you haven't read them, I recommend going to the Open Heart-website where the books are available for free.

Bhumi Openings

Openings of bhumis are important because each opening directly correlates and increases one's sense of freedom, openness, and mental and emotional clarity. I have explained this in great detail in my books, so this is a nutshell description.

The core matter that all spiritual, yoga or dharma systems are concerned, is how one's mind can be illuminated or freed. All schools of buddhism say that the sense of self, or me-ness, is what causes us to believe in illusion and makes us deluded. For this reason, we experience existential confusion and feel that we are lost. In consequence, we seek a way out.

The sense of self is made like Matryushka, Russian doll, that has a certain amount of layers, where the sense of self is stored or imprinted. All systems aim to erase these imprints with varying results. It is not that easy to accomplish because the mind is not only organic but also abstract, not something we can see or hold in our hands. It is like removing spoiled parts from meat. Without sufficient knowledge, it is close to impossible to do. This is where OHBM and energy work (tantric practice) comes into the picture. Tantric meditation is very effective in clearing up the mind, without us needing to become masters of mindfulness/concentration-based meditation (which requires full time training).

Practice that is based on mindfulness and observation, only carries so far in the process of self-deconstruction. It is very useful in the beginning but apparently comes to a halt at some point, usually before or around 6th bhumi, at latest. This is my observation from hundreds of practitioners and teachers of theravada, zen, vipassana, TM and so on. In fact, they rarely get to open 6 bhumis. Tantrics, however, if they are able to open the 1st bhumi, advance to higher bhumis (6-10), if they keep practicing. On the other hand, buddhist tantrics, very rarely get to open the 11th bhumi. 11th bhumi is a major turning point because when that opens, natural awareness becomes one's default mode. In all traditional schools those with 11 bhumis open are almost non-existent. I say this based on few thousand bhumi analyses of all kinds of practitioners.

Buddhist tantrics from Tibet, specifically mahamudra and dzogchen practitioners, are the ones who most consistently produce fully attained (buddhahood) adepts. In Tibetan buddhism, this wealth of knowledge and practices, are shrouded by secrecy, rules and religious hindrances, so unfortunately if one wants to follow a traditional tantric path, one has to go through the traditional system, which is far from being suitable for modern laypeople, with jobs and families, as it was formulated in time and culture far removed from ours. Here Open Heart is different, even thought the goal is the same. Our method is suitable for ordinary laypeople who have the motivation to go deep or all the way. We don't have taboos or silly religious rules, and the teachings are available to all, with or without money. We are a buddhist community, without religious dogma or medieval views.

Open Heart Sangha is a community of 70 people worldwide. Everyone in our group is awakened, thanks to Two-Part Formula, or more. 32 people, almost half of us, have opened 6 or more bhumis. 16 of us have all 13 bhumis open, who have stabilized their natural state and therefore are in the process of perfecting their practice. Those who opened all of their bhumis, and had 13 consecutive openings, practiced from 2½ months to few years, which if you study traditional accounts, is unheard of. For a while now I have verified 5-10 bhumi openings every month. Bhumi analyses of traditional practitioners and teachers from existent schools of buddhism, or other religions indicate that, despite of great efforts, this does not happen widely. It is important to understand that this is not a claim or boasting but an analytical fact. This also does not mean that Open Heart would be a short cut, for if one aims for the highest attainment, commitment, effort, perseverance, correct motivation are needed.

Practices Unique to Open Heart

All tantric practices are based on the same principles. They have empowerments, mantras, visualisations and breathing practices, that are practiced on regular basis, while remembering the futility of life and common ethics. This is also the case in Open Heart Yoga. Anyone is free to look into what we do. What you will find is a lot of similarities with traditional approaches, both scriptures and tantric practices. We haven't invented anything new (!) but we have put together bits and pieces, useful techniques, that otherwise have been scattered around the world, to come up with this practice.

The biggest difference between Open Heart and other forms of yoga and dharma, are:
1. Have a clearly explained technique for generating awakening (2PF),
2. Have tantric empowerments that supports the student without needing him or her to do all the heavy lifting,
3. Use of mantras and other techniques for washing up the energy system, and most importantly,
4. Use of dynamic concentration, which means shouting of mantric syllables.

When empowerment mantras and dynamic concentration are combined, it literally breaks the delusion into pieces, and the natural state is effectively revealed. This is the reason why Open Heart practitioners open and perfect bhumis so fast.

So, I would like to invite everyone to try it out. If you are already awake, join the empowerment, learn Open Heart Yoga level 1, and in a short while you know whether it works or not. If you don't like it, you are perfectly free to leave the practice, and you are in no way tied to the method or the teacher, (your truly). Give it a go and see for yourself.

The next online empowerment of Open Heart Yoga will be held on 2nd of December. The sessions lasts 1-2 hours, after which the students will be provided with online learning materials of the techniques.

Thank you for reading.

- Kim Katami, Head teacher,
Open Heart Sangha.