FROM THE ADMINISTRATOR OF E-SANGHA:
Fifth: E-Sangha is not democratic, never has been, and never will be,
no more so than any private corporation operating in the United
States is a democracy or is run as a democracy. Neither is E-Sangha a
business, though the owner of the site does accept donations in
Singapore to pay for the server. Nor is E-Sangha a non-profit or any
other kind of corporation at all. It is a strictly volunteer, at-your-
own risk venture.
Sixth: Regarding the question of your ordination and ordinations in
general: the position of E-Sangha is that ordinations such as yours
are lay ordinations, and that you are a member of the Buddhist lay
clergy. This means, that as far as we are concerned, you are not a
monk of any kind.
The point of view of E-Sangha is that the only monks and nuns
existing in Buddhism today are those men and women who have been
ordained into one of three three surviving Vinaya lineages i.e.
Theravada, Mula-sarvastivada [Tibetan] or Dharmaguptaka [China,
Vietnam and Korea]. The Tendai and Shingon priests who are presently
members of E-Sangha cede that this is so, they agree with this
assessment, and in fact they helped us formulate it.
Eighth: In terms of doctrine: the base level of Buddhist teachings we
assert as properly Buddhist, canonical and acceptable are those found
in the Pali Canon and the Sanskrit Agamas. This is why such things as
dependent origination, rebirth [punarbhava] and so on are non-
negotiable items at E-Sangha.
E-Sangha is _Buddhist_ before it is Tibetan Buddhist, Chinese
Buddhist, Japanese Buddhist, Theravadin, Zen or anything else. Given
that this is the case, the basic criteria by which we, the moderating
staff, judge any Buddhists' statements on E-Sangha is whether it
accords (or not) with the basic teachings in the Nikayas/Agamas. The
heuristic we then apply depends upon sect and what the founders of
those sects state.
I have never found a single founder of any sect who denies literal
rebirth categorically, and in fact, found that they all uphold it as
a basic tenet, including Dogen.
Any objection that Soto does not agree with rebirth in a literal
sense will be met with citations where Dogen without questions
affirms the Agamic position on rebirth i.e. that without rebirth, one
could not have the four fruits of shravakas, i.e. stream entrants,
once-returners, never-returners and arhats. The first three are
defined precisely by the Buddha in the Agamas/Nikayas in terms of the
number of actual rebirths they experience as well as places where
they experience rebirth in the desire realm and form realm before
they become Arhats i.e. seven lifetimes, one lifetime, rebirth in the
form realm etc, and then there are various categories within these.
My point is that Dogen explicitly affirms these and condemns those
who reject rebirth as those who also reject the four types of
Shravaka realizers. You may read this in Englightenment Unfolds
around page 263, towards the end. Whatever Modern Soto Buddhist may
claim, it is very clear what Dogen's position is.
Of course I am also aware that in Mahayana Buddhism there are two
truths, relative and ultimate; two types of teaching, definitive and
provisional and so on, and I am extremely familiar with all the
discussions around these issues.
It is not my intent to go into these issues with you in this email, I
am merely providing these for the sake of clarity and so you know
where I am coming from.
Ninth: the E-Sangha middle way is to reject the existence of any
permanent identity [the extreme of permanence] and to reject the
assertion that there is no rebirth [the extreme of annihilation].
This is the middle way to which we expect all members on E-Sangha
will adhere. I hope you will find it possible to tread this middle
way as well.