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Thread: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

  1. #1

    6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hi Book Clubbers,

    It is time to begin our next enlightening selection ... actually two books that we will read together as one. The first is:

    The Record of Transmitting the Light: Zen Master Keizan's Denkoroku, translated by Francis Cook

    http://www.wisdompubs.org/pages/display ... n=&image=1

    ... and the second, highly recommended by Taigu, is a reflection on Cook's translation called:

    Living Buddha Zen by Lex Hixon

    http://larsonpublications.com/book-details.php?id=54

    The 'Denkoroku' tells the tale of 52 “Transmissions of the Light” —from Shakyamuni Buddha continuously from master to successor, from India to China to Japan We will be reading slowly, one generation at a time, from each Friday. We might spend a week, maybe two, each time ... depending. Just to keep the discussion flowing, we hope each person participating in the book club will try to make at least one posting per each weekly reading..

    We will begin with the Head Honcho, Shakyamuni, next week. For this week, I thought to ask everyone to read Les Hixon's very beautiful Introduction to his book, Living Buddha Zen, found on pages 19 to 31.

    AS OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL READING, there is Prof. Cook's scholarly introduction to his book, found on pages 1 to 26 there.

    I might put forward these questions:

    - Is lineage in Buddhism, like a family's 'roots', important?

    - Does it matter that, according to most historians, much of the earlier lineage is actually unknown or symbolic? The earliest sections of the lineage were created by later writers attempting to paint a direct connection to Shakyamuni Buddha. In fact, "Chan/Zen" as its own flavor and lineages of Buddhism probably first developed after Buddhism came to China. Still, can we say that the connection to the Buddha is still true despite that?

    For me, the direct connection to the Buddha and his Teachings is found in each moment of Zazen. One's sitting Zazen right now can be seen as all the Buddhas and Ancestors sitting right now.

    Gassho, Jundo

  2. #2

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Your sitting Zazen right can be seen as all the Buddhas and Ancestors sitting right now.
    Right? I thought you couldn't do it wrong!

  3. #3

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    - Is lineage in Buddhism, like a family's 'roots', important?
    Yes its important to look back over and see the family tree. See why we do what do, say what we say, etc. and bring it to life in our own ways today with out living in the pockets of our ancestors.
    - Does it matter that, according to most historians, much of the earlier lineage is actually unknown or symbolic? The earliest sections of the lineage were created by later writers attempting to paint a direct connection to Shakyamuni Buddha. In fact, "Chan/Zen" as its own flavor and lineages of Buddhism probably first developed after Buddhism came to China. Still, can we say that the connection to the Buddha is still true despite that?
    WE can say its true but really its up to the each person to discover the significance or meaning in due time.
    So ... for some yes, Some no of course. There was and is the need for some to see a line drawn through time to help solidify the idea that we are all connected and we are all Buddha and Transmission from Shakyamuni to Billy Smith. I see it the teaching themselves are the real line that needs to be Seen, no big deal we need to use a visual aid

    Looking forward to reading and discussion with you all!

    Gassho
    Shohei

  4. #4

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Your sitting Zazen right can be seen as all the Buddhas and Ancestors sitting right now.
    Right? I thought you couldn't do it wrong!
    You are write. You can not sit Zazen "wrong" ... even when you are doing it all wrong! :shock: There is no "bad" Zazen, even the really bad Zazen.

    However, typing can certainly we done wrong. I have fixed the typo to read ...
    One's sitting Zazen right now can be seen as all the Buddhas and Ancestors sitting right now.

  5. #5

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Excellent! Starting right now! :mrgreen:

  6. #6

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Your sitting Zazen right can be seen as all the Buddhas and Ancestors sitting right now.
    Right? I thought you couldn't do it wrong!
    You are write. You can not sit Zazen "wrong" ... even when you are doing it all wrong! :shock: There is no "bad" Zazen, even the really bad Zazen.

    However, typing can certainly we done wrong. I have fixed the typo to read ...
    One's sitting Zazen right now can be seen as all the Buddhas and Ancestors sitting right now.
    Thanks Jundo...was just checking, but I probably could have figured out what you meant if I had thought about it for more than a few seconds. ops:

    All the more reason I'm looking forward to the readings and discussion.

  7. #7

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    I second Shohei. Lineage, for me, acts as sort of a failsafe against "Zen Masters" who tout themselves as such because they felt unusually calm for a period of time. It allows for some conformation that the person has their head on straight. And sure, it also provides some inspiration to the practitioner who gets that fuzzy nostalgic feelings about being connected to the Buddha (I do sometimes ).

    As far as its legitimacy is concerned, I'm skeptical but who really cares if #24 or #37 was made up (no offense to those numbers, of course)? If you sit Shikantaza, you may as well be at the top with your name written right beside Shakyamuni - same mind, different body. It serves its purpose for those who like lineages (and as I said, I am one) and for those who don't? Well, no one's forcing it

    Gassho
    Taylor

  8. #8

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hi everybody,

    In his great novel Dune, Franck Herbert describes the initiation of a reverend mother Benne Gesserit when Jessica in her reality-vision penetrates a space where she is vividly in touch with every single Reverend Mother of the lineage...

    Our lineage is as real as the sweat running down your spine as you sit, as unreal as the fiction in which we all live everyday. Real and virtual, the lineage has a very ambiguous quality to it, it displays aspects of the mind, archetypes, facets of the diamond, each transmission happening right now on your cushion and in the palm of your hand. The territory that it describes and maps transcends the historical record, the various characters and portraits should be seen both in succession and simultaneously. One should not claim the absolute historical accuracy of this storyline, at the same time, one cannot deny its profound relevance here and now.
    We are the lineage itself and at the same time we are one of its moments. It is what we can call the esoteric understanding of this chart as opposed to the very primitive and exoteric perception that tends to prevail in so many religious minds.

    My question would be: where are you in there? Or let me rephrase it, where and how does every ancestor can be found living in you?

    let's have a peep together

    gassho


    Taigu

  9. #9

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hi.

    Note: lineage/teachers are not always the same, they just happen to coincide somewhat below...

    - Is lineage in Buddhism, like a family's 'roots', important?

    Yes, and no.
    There is some people who always seem to say (or write) something in the style of HE (input name here) is my teacher or i'm the student of (input name here) and...
    That is someone who can't let go of his lineage/teacher.
    On the other hand we have the person who doesn't care for teachers/lineage or if he had one, and goes on to pose as an ”selftaught/selfawakened” person.
    Both of these extremes are not seldom seen, and there is some people like that around.
    Im my perspective lineage is important in that it shows that the person who has a lineage, has someone backing him up.
    In some sense, that someone else than himself (but not other than himself), has seen that he has learned something and knows at least something about nothing...
    But i would also like to mention two analogies about Lineage/teachers.
    The first is like a bit of the raft that you let go of, when you don't need it.
    You dont cling to it, and you stand on your own two feet (or bit of raft), and do things your way.
    No other way.
    The other analogy is that of the two persons walking on the beach.
    One looks back and sees that sometimes there is only one set of tracks...

    - Does it matter that, according to most historians, much of the earlier lineage is actually unknown or symbolic?

    To some it does matter.
    To me, not so much.
    I don't see why it should, my practice are here and now.
    And i don't think it matters that much who/what brought it here.
    Just doing it.

    The earliest sections of the lineage were created by later writers attempting to create a direct connection to Shakyamuni Buddha. In fact, "Chan/Zen" as its own flavor and lineages of Buddhism probably first developed after Buddhism came to China. Still, can we say that the connection to the Buddha is still true despite that?

    Does it matter who brought the practice if it is here?
    Do you carry the raft after you have crossed the river?
    It's up to you to make it matter/not matter, and no matter what you think, it has still turned out awakened people and it's good practice.
    Always good practice.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  10. #10

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    - Is lineage in Buddhism, like a family's 'roots', important?

    I think so. Being buddhism a mostly experiential and non theoretical espiritual discipline, to have spiritual masters that are to show students where to look and what to look for is very important. Because is so experiential there are plenty of "buddhist flavors", so when choosing a school, you are also choosing a lineage, a family, so to speak.

    - Does it matter that, according to most historians, much of the earlier lineage is actually unknown or symbolic? The earliest sections of the lineage were created by later writers attempting to paint...

    Myth is very important, I think. We like to be told stories, and we learn a lot about people, principles and ethics. They don't have to be true to work. As a matter of fact, when people take myths as if they were true accounts, sad things sometimes as we see in fundamentalist cults.
    So, maybe Angulimala never existed, but through his character we got a magnificient story of redemption, and how it is never to late to change, no matter what you've been so far.
    Equally, even if Hui-Neng never existed, consider him a patriarch says a lot about what is Zen, and he was one of the main reasons for me to grt interested in the Dharma.
    And, besides, who does really exist? :-)

    Gassho

    Da5id

  11. #11

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by da5id
    And, besides, who does really exist? :-)

    Gassho

    Da5id
    Yes, WHO does?

  12. #12

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    I agree with what da5id said earlier. Lineages and myths are important in that we can place ourselves within a tradition of thought, we know the context of our practise, and we have a common ground to stand on. We have examples, we have stories and we have people who are all part of our particular way of life. In this way, a lineage can be skillfully used.

    But also, a lineage can be used oppressively. I used to be involved in a samgha in the lineage of Philip Kapleau, and many people saw their "broken" lineage as a sign that they weren't a "real" tradition or school or even Zen at all. People used their own lineages to put down others. "Haha! MY lineage isn't broken, so WE must be the real deal. You, on the other hand, is FAKE!". Something like that. In this way, a lineage is not skillfully used.


    Philip

  13. #13

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hello everyone,

    I only half remember a wonderful quote from Neil Gaiman in one of his earlier Sandman graphic novels....it went something like this: The right kind of half-truths have a much longer shelf-life then some of our so called truths.

    Another one of his quotes relates to the nature of dreams. And in one way, our lineage is partially a dream also, a dream of freedom, liberation, a dream of becoming truly human. Look around you and see what the power of dreams and ideas has managed to create. Mind blowing stuff. :

    "-People think dreams aren't real just because they aren't made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes."

    Being one with a particular lineage to me means to actively dream a dream together, joined in successes and failures, a band of Zen dreamers, dreaming the dream of waking up, casting off shackles to fully allowoneself to be that dream.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  14. #14

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    But also, a lineage can be used oppressively. I used to be involved in a samgha in the lineage of Philip Kapleau, and many people saw their "broken" lineage as a sign that they weren't a "real" tradition or school or even Zen at all. People used their own lineages to put down others. "Haha! MY lineage isn't broken, so WE must be the real deal. You, on the other hand, is FAKE!". Something like that. In this way, a lineage is not skillfully used.
    Philip
    Totally agreed. I've heard that sort of discourse too, and it's pretty sad; a sort of competition on who has the best ancestors. After all the greatest teacher, the Buddha himself didn't come from any lineage; he discovered all by himself.

    And by the way. What is our own lineage? If it's not aristocratic enough i might consider leaving... ;-)

    Only joking of course

    Gassho

    Da5id

  15. #15

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by da5id
    And by the way. What is our own lineage? If it's not aristocratic enough i might consider leaving... ;-)

    Only joking of course
    The Lineage is here.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/articles/Treele ... neage.html

    Of course, as with my own blood family ... most are, sadly, just names to me. I am sorry to say that I do not know much. I know a little about my Dharma Grandpa, Renpo Niwa, and a little about my blood Grandpas ... almost nothing before them. My Dharma Brother, Éric Rommeluère, who teaches in Paris, has been trying to research the whole line (with old temple records and ancient diaries and such) and is writing a small book on it ... but I have not seen the results of his research yet. So, I am sad to say, I do not know so much about our "Roots".

    They were just men ... tall short fat skinny easy and difficult. But we can honor and remember our ancestors, even never having met them. We still meet them nonetheless.

    As with our own blood families ... all the DNA we carry ... whoever they were. THANK YOU TO THEM! Whoever they were ... we are them and they just us. Thanks to them, here we are ... ALIVE!

    Gassho, J

  16. #16

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    I don't actually know what transmission in Buddhism really consists of.
    I can only relate to it through my own experience, so I'm going to relate a few anecdotes of my experience in art.
    I'm probably way ot of the subject so I can only hope you will all put me on the right track!

    I remember when I was an art student I had an incredible drawing master. He would demand that we should present him 50 drawings a week . Each week we would queue up to him and he would sift and scowl through our drawings, if we were lucky he would set one drawing aside then gather the others together and say “Au feu!” meaning we could chuck them into the fire! He hardly spoke , just made a few scribbles on our drawings to indicate a direction we had to figure out ourselves. Needless to say a lot of people dropped out of his classes, but there were a few whackos like me who revered him! He made us draw everything, from a thimble to a animals at the zoo… Sometimes there would be a pat on the shoulder; often he’d ring my ear! After three years or so he asked a small group of us to wait behind after the class. He took us to the library and ordered various very rare books from the reserve. He showed us old master drawings : Leonardo da Vinci, Carravaggio, Tintorento, all the way through art history, Ingres, Cézanne, Picasso…then some of his teacher, Zwoboda, and then his own… Then he told us to take out our own drawing. He told us that the teaching he had taught us he had learnt from his own master, and that it was the same teaching that had learnt and been taught by these old masters over the centuries. We were all in awe of course, rather ashamed to display our dreadful drawings next to all these grand masters! However we were amazed to observe how here and there we could define a similar “impetus” which seemed to link one to the other. I lived that experience, and I know that my companions also, as a transmission of lineage.
    Twenty-five years later I had an exhibition of my drawings in Limoges and during the opening a man came up to me, about 15 years my elder, saying he had already seen my work before and questioned me about where I had exhibited. I answered that he couldn’t have seen my drawings before as it was the first time I was showing them. He seemed perplexed and looked again very attentively at my drawings and suddenly exclaimed “ Ah! You’re a student of R.P.!” I was amazed and so pleased; I asked him how he had guessed. It turned out that he too was an artist and had been a student of the same master! Although I was unaware of it the teaching must be well anchored in me… I think that when my master was assured that this was the case he would put his students through a similar experience.
    Another anecdote is , after having met this other old student of my master, we would meet once a week with a group of artists to draw together. In the group there was an old 80 water-colorist who’d been drawing for over 60 years and who we all considered a master. Sitting side by side one day, to my surprise he was sighing in despair and tearing up several attempted sketches. I watched in sympathy and wondered how with his experience and skill could still have trouble drawing. As he chucked another screwed up ball of paper away he looked at me shaking his head and said “It’s no use, bad today!” We giggled merrily. For me this was also was also another experience of transmission, the transmission of eternal humility in a practise.
    No matter how long we practice, and this will sound familiar, we are forever beginners.
    Although these transmissions are unconditional I feel they only have meaning when I myself attempt to transmit to others.
    Are my experiences similar to the Buddhist transmission of lineage ?
    If they are then yes, I think transmission of lineage in Buddhism is important.
    gassho

    Sylvie

  17. #17

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Sylvie, that was a wonderful transmission story. Just as your drawings are just like the great masters, with practice your body mind will be just like the great Buddhas. Each time you return to the present moment is like being a great masterpiece.

    /Rich

  18. #18

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    As he chucked another screwed up ball of paper away he looked at me shaking his head and said “It’s no use, bad today!” We giggled merrily. For me this was also was also another experience of transmission, the transmission of eternal humility in a practise.
    No matter how long we practice, and this will sound familiar, we are forever beginners
    I'm afraid I'm not very clear in what I write. This text being both anecdote and a metaphor!

    There came from this experience an understanding that no matter how many decades one practices, each drawing is like the first drawing with the full potential of being a good or a bad drawing, and then when one draws this potential actually disappears as what is important is to fulfill the act of drawing. Drawing after drawing, each one different testifies how much we change from moment to moment.

    Thus similarily as I understand and have already heard here, there is no bad Zazen!
    I believe that is testified also through generation after generation of Masters.
    Is this of any worth, do I believe it worthwhile to continue this testimony?
    Is that why we are reading these books ?
    To answer this question ?

  19. #19

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by Silva

    There came from this experience an understanding that no matter how many decades one practices, each drawing is like the first drawing with the full potential of being a good or a bad drawing, and then when one draws this potential actually disappears as what is important is to fulfill the act of drawing. Drawing after drawing, each one different testifies how much we change from moment to moment.

    Thus similarily as I understand and have already heard here, there is no bad Zazen!
    I believe that is testified also through generation after generation of Masters.
    Is this of any worth, do I believe it worthwhile to continue this testimony?
    Is that why we are reading these books ?
    To answer this question ?
    Such is why I have always felt that 'Zen Practice' is more an "art" than a religion ... it is composing a poem, drawing a picture, making music ever new, moment by moment, which is just our life ... beginning again, beginning again ... ever bringing forth life from the white paper or canvas or silence ...

    The poem or work or song that results is partly the product of circumstance, our materials, our own hand, the weather ... yet so much up to each of us. We can make it beautiful and harmonious or ugly and pain filled. Happy or sad, it is all just the composition which is life ... nothing to reject.

  20. #20

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by da5id
    And by the way. What is our own lineage? If it's not aristocratic enough i might consider leaving... ;-)

    Only joking of course
    The Lineage is here.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/articles/Treele ... neage.html



    They were just men ... tall short fat skinny easy and difficult. But we can honor and remember our ancestors, even never having met them. We still meet them nonetheless.

    As with our own blood families ... all the DNA we carry ... whoever they were. THANK YOU TO THEM! Whoever they were ... we are them and they just us. Thanks to them, here we are ... ALIVE!

    Gassho, J
    Thanks for sharing.

    I found it very moving, to view the lineage from Master Dogen to Master Jundo.
    I'm going to print it down and have it close to my meditation spot.

    Gassho

    Da5id

  21. #21

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hello all! Great to be reading with you. So...

    Lineage in Buddhism: is it important?

    Good question. According to Cook’s introduction, it was certainly important to Master Keizan, as he attempted to win legitimacy for his line after the split at Eihei-ji. And it remains important today, as each Zen teacher invokes their lineage as their credentials to teach. Even the student, with the teacher’s signature at the back of the Rakusu, with the Blood Vein papers, even the student seeks some kind of legitimacy from a lineage stretching back to the historical Buddha. So, in the living culture and tradition of Buddhism, lineage is highly prized.

    But is it actually, in reality, important?

    Well, for Shakyamuni it was a case of the initiation of a tradition. His living enlightenment experience, in the here and now, is far beyond (Gate Gate Paragate) the issue of lineage. And so it is for the Zen student today as they practice Zazen. That, to respond to Taigu’s question, is where we are in there, where the experience of the ancestors in the line becomes our living experience. It is, as Jundo says, “the direct connection to the Buddha and his Teachings … in each moment of Zazen”. It is a pure experience, beyond all issues of lineage.

    So, does that mean we can dispense with lineage altogether? I don’t think so.

    Because our human lives are limited in time-scale, we look to lineage, tradition, history and myth to breech the gap between generations, to ensure the insights of the past can be passed on to future generations. As a teacher myself (Journalism at a college in Dublin) I appreciate the student-teacher relationship. The student can learn from the teacher and the teacher can learn from the student. What this line of communication entails is the two-way transmission of knowledge. The inherited tradition of the teacher is challenged by the living experience of the student. The student, in turn, has the arrogance of youth and inexperience challenged by the inherited and learned wisdom of the teacher. It is a vital ‘warm hand to warm hand’ transmission.

    So, lineage is important for many reasons. It limits the possibilities of the corruption of the original insight. It passes on ‘the light’ from one generation to the next. It checks the upstart swagger of the student within the solid sense of tradition. But it also sees that tradition gaining new life, as the fresh perspective of the student challenges its validity within each generation.

    But what of Jundo’s question: does it matter if many of the stories of the transmission of light are just stories rather than history?

    Well, we do need to be cognisant of it. For me, Hixon is too ready to accept myth as truth in his introduction. All those fantastic stories he presents as believable facts. I had far too much of that growing up as a Catholic. I think of the teaching of the Kalama Sutra here: teachings should be practical and open to free inquiry and testing. That practical attitude brought me to Zen in the first place. Cook shows more skepticism in his introduction, while respecting the power and meaning of myth.

    And my own opinion?

    Well, myth emerged as a way to transmit essential truths before history existed. So, the essential meaning and value of the teachings is in no way diminished by being myth. However, we need to interpret myth, rather than accept it as actual historical fact. Look at all the trouble literal readings of the Bible has got us into...

    Finally, I think we need to be aware that the direct perception of reality, unmediated by culture and ideology, is problematic in these texts. Just look at the absence of female Buddhas that Hixon rightly draws attention to. All texts are the products of a time and place. They are saturated in the culture in which they were produced. But great texts transcend this and talk to us across time and space.

    As for the direct perception of reality, unmediated by culture and ideology … that only comes in Zazen, in the ‘special transmission outside scripture’ … in the sweat running down the back that Taigu talks about. For this, it is more important to sit than read. But there is much to learn in reading too...

    ...but more in silence (so, time for me to shut up!) :roll:

    Gassho
    Soen

  22. #22

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    On the question of lineage........ I don't know, but it's cool to contemplate.
    Gassho ~ Dave.

  23. #23

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Thinking about the question of lineage and its importance (or non-importance), I'm reminded of the last paragraph of the "Epistle of the Elders of Balby" from 1656:

    "Dearly beloved friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all with the measure of light which is pure and holy may be guided, and so in the light walking and abiding these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, – not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."

    That covers my view at the moment: the lineage is not to be ignored, but fetishizing destroys its value.

    gassho,
    Monkton

  24. #24

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    I don't have the text in front of me so I'm paraphrasing from memory, but Hixon's view seemed to me to be quite pragmatic on the issue of what we're calling "myth," or the "symbolic" nature of each account. The stories of the patriarchs may be embellished, but is that really what's important?

    Each transmission tale can be viewed as a literal description of one master and one student, or we can look at that story as an allegory for the entire generation. What I got from Hixon was that the minutiae of the life of each Patriarch was not so important, and to dwell on trying to explain or justify some of the more fantastical aspects was missing the point. The lineage is traced back through students and masters, through times and places... but the individuals, the details, the circumstances aren't as important as seeing the flow of knowledge and understanding down through the ages.

    (As an aside -- Like Soen, I was brought up in a Catholic tradition that promoted a literal interpretation of scripture. It's refreshing to know that scholars and historians readily acknowledge the symbolic nature of these histories.)


    Answering the question "Is lineage important?" depends on how you understand "Lineage." Is an ages-long string of accounts of Masters and Students the lineage? Or is the lineage better defined by what was being transmitted?

    It's very useful and valuable to be able to view the transmission in these linear terms, associating the progression of the Light through names, dates, places, and circumstances. It grounds some rather intangible ideas to more flesh-and-bone reality, and certainly makes it easier to put down on paper for future study.

    But is the real lineage, the real crux of the matter, deeper than the flesh-and-bones, and beyond what can be printed on paper in a nice neat timeline? Not to get ahead of our reading, but I think what we'll see as we move through each transmission story is that the moment of transmission doesn't happen when the student's nose is stuck in a book, or reverently paying homage to some Master of the past. The moments come at times of profound understanding -- at moments when years of study and practice come together.

    It's in this deeper viewing where things come back to us. While it's certainly difficult for us to relate directly to someone who lived 1,500 years ago and a half a world away, it's not so hard to relate to the simple monk sitting quietly, or sweeping the temple grounds, or tending the garden.

    Hixon goes out of his way to illustrate the sorts of different worlds many of the Patriarchs came from, and in doing so, he breaks down the divisions between those worlds. Princes and beggars and monks and farmers alike, there's a common thread that exists outside the sort of linear model the timeline creates.

    While each story in the "Lineage" is remarkably different, each story in the "Lineage" is remarkably the same. Perhaps when we sit down and study, we're at the edge of the linear aspect of the Master-to-Student timeline; when we sit down and just sit, we're dropping the limitations of such linear understanding and joining a more amorphous community. Two sides, one coin?

  25. #25

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    My thoughts on this subject have been varied over the years.
    Some of my heros of Zen famously torched their linage and transmission documents saying things like "I don't believe in paper Zen"
    To a certain extent I admire their spirit.

    By the same token, the linage was very important to master Dogen, so I think it is something to be considered deeply.

    As a symbol of an unbroken line of transmission back to the Buddha, I love the romance of it.

    But as others have said, if it becomes an attachment then it is trouble. At the same time, as I am slowly learning, aversion is just another form of attachment.

    Yours in practice,
    Jordan

  26. #26

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Lineage seems to be a deeply human need. We want to know the family tree. Adopted children track down their birth parents in later life. Americans come to Ireland to see the cottage in which their Great-Grandfather was born. Zen Masters are human beings before they are Zen Masters. I guess it’s natural that lineage should matter in Zen too.

    Soen
    (or)
    Ian
    Son of Michael
    Son of Michael
    Son of Michael
    Son of…

    By the way, on the Aran Islands, a beautiful barren place off the West coast of Ireland, I’d be known as ‘Ian Michael Michael’, allowing everyone know who my father and grandfather were … all built in to my own name. In fact, I once had red hair, so I’d have been ‘Ian Michael Michael Rua’, the rua meaning red. Often a distinguishing feature was also built into the name.

    I’m sure many cultures have this kind of thing.

    Sorry … I’m going on again. :roll:

    Gassho,

    Soen

  27. #27

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hey Soen,

    I enjoyed the information you just gave us.

    Living through one's descendants (biological or ideological), or those descendants living through that/those who came before them is a big reminder that the Quest of Zen, the great matter of life and death....the search for the holy grail...whatever you wish to call it, is bigger than a limited personal lifetime and transcends generations. Through pointing to our lineage, we can feel the intimacy between all dharmas. Do we need lineage papers in an ultimate sense? No, I do not think so...but our sense of belonging is an imaginary rice cake that can be very nourishing indeed, especially when times are bad and a harvest of doubt might draw near. Fear not, this lineage says, we have lived through this before and endured.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  28. #28

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Previously unnoticed to me before reading this thread more deeply, lineage is something I subconsciously refer to. Or, at the very least, select members for inspiration. Just as Hans said, we look to our ancestors to see that there are others who have treaded this path before. Often, when sitting is something seemingly annoying or, at worst, unbearable Dogen seems to smack me in the back of the head. Now, I WISH Dogen would come and do that in reality, but more so it is the inspiration I derive from his example of commitment and determination. So when twenty minutes seems like an eternity, or when I am tired at night, Dogen or Shakyamuni come and yank me by the hair out of my stupor and set me back upright.

    Taylor

  29. #29

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    I don't think I can answer the questions ("is lineage important?" and "does it matter if this stuff is all true?") for myself until after I read the books. However, my gut reaction is "no - lineage doesn't matter", it is the story/lessons of transmission that is important. To put it another way - would the books and stories suddenly become less worthwhile if Keizan (sp?) had chosen to only describe the twenty or thirty most important/most inspirational transmission stories? I don't think so, but only a good reading will tell.

    What about the truth of the stories? It depends on what is made up and what is true. How many of us would be willing to sit for hours on a cushion, staring at a wall, if we thought there was a chance that all this talk of Buddhism was just a sci-fi story?

    All that said, intellectually I prefer Cook's approach, but am more looking forward to reading Hixon's writing!

  30. #30

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hmm, I've read quite a few of Hixon's stories and some seem over the top sort of embellished. So the stories are what you make of them based on your current situation and understanding, but your ancestors, the lineage is undeniably part of you, transmitted thru your DNA, and for some mind to mind transmission of buddha nature is real, I believe.
    /Rich

  31. #31

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    p.31 "We are these living Buddhas!"

    What a beautiful way to end the intro.

    To the extent that lineage reinforces the idea that we are special, different, and separate from one another, it doesn't matter.

    To the extent that lineage reminds us of the myriad paths within the Path, and inspires our practice, and supports our will to truth, lineage is important.

    Gassho,
    Eika

  32. #32

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    ... your ancestors, the lineage is undeniably part of you, transmitted thru your DNA, and for some mind to mind transmission of buddha nature is real, I believe.
    /Rich
    Biologically, this is undeniably true. However, your lineage is not just your father, but your mother, your grandparents, great grandparents, etc., multiplying out to an innumerable number of people that have contributed to your DNA. I suspect this is also true of buddha nature - the one to one tranmsission from master to a single student tells only a small part of the story, no?

  33. #33

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    ... your ancestors, the lineage is undeniably part of you, transmitted thru your DNA, and for some mind to mind transmission of buddha nature is real, I believe.
    /Rich
    Biologically, this is undeniably true. However, your lineage is not just your father, but your mother, your grandparents, great grandparents, etc., multiplying out to an innumerable number of people that have contributed to your DNA. I suspect this is also true of buddha nature - the one to one tranmsission from master to a single student tells only a small part of the story, no?
    I don't know but it might be the whole story. Maybe someone who has had that experience can comment.

    /Rich

  34. #34

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hi,

    Some personal notes and comments on this week's topic:

    * Lineage establishes the credentials of the teacher.
    * Every master and teacher traces his/her lineage back to Shakyamuni.
    * The charted lineage may not be accurate so I don't really see how it establishes authenticity. Something to argue over I suppose and all/most religions argue over lineage.
    * The Denkoroku lineage was written to establish a clear link from Soto Zen in Japan to Zen in China and way back to Buddhism in India.
    * Transmission is an endorsement from one enlightened individual to another. No 'thing' is transmitted when the burning wick of one candle ignites another which lights another and so on.
    * The question arises, does the lineage start with Shakyamuni? And what about before him? And a related question, can enlightenment occur outside of the lineages? According to the sutras, the wheel started turning with Shakyamuni's enlightenment.
    * Les Nixon refers to Bernard Glassman's "own resolution of some 1000 Zen koans" and I'm surprised that a master has counted them.
    * Tantra is mentioned a few times but I'm not really sure what tantra is.

    gassho,

    JohnH

  35. #35

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hello all,

    I must say these books look incredible! I am fascinated right from the start and, perhaps, it is my ignorance of Zen, but I am continually astounded by the uniqueness of the teachings.

    The accuracy of the historical lineage does make a difference. It would be nice to know the veracity of certain claims and obviously Hixon makes mention of some pretty incredible stories. One could get carried away on believing in these myths as being literally true and this could play havoc with one's practice. Nevertheless, as Cook states:

    "The stern literalist who insists that the story is meaningless nonsense because it never actually happened is truly missing the whole point and needs to think seriously about the nature and function of myth. Much of the biography of the Buddha is also mythic, intended to present a model of the religious life for later followers. A story does not have to be literally true to be true in terms of religious life."

    Although a worthy pursuit for historians, my primary interest is not so much the historical Buddha but that of finding the "living Buddha" in the here and now.

    Gassho,
    Jisen/BrianW

  36. #36

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    * Tantra is mentioned a few times but I'm not really sure what tantra is.
    From my limited study with the Tibetan Community I can tell you this: Tantra is known as a "fruitional path" as in, what happens in life is not modified to fit a set standard (aka adhering to celibacy for layfolk, doing this and that) but what happens in one's life is transformed by the means of visualization on the empty nature of the meditational deity (purifying body) the spoken mantra (purifying speech) and the ultimate nondual nature of the deity's mind (purifying mind). In that way, we "get used to" being enlightened and see ourselves and all others as the nature of the deity by means of the methods listed above. I can't speak of the Shingon school in Japan but this is a basic view on Tantra from the Tibetan standpoint, probably not too terribly different?

    On a personal note, I really get excited when I learn that lineage masters practiced tantra. Not because I want some hidden esoteric yogic skill, but because I see a similarity in myself. Moving from Tantra to Zen to find oneself in a long lost home But anyways, hoped that helped a bit!

    Gassho
    Taylor

  37. #37

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Lineage seems to be a deeply human need. We want to know the family tree. Adopted children track down their birth parents in later life.
    I have had that experience, the "Holy Grail" of my life, when I succeeded in finding them it was not the result I expected. I realized that what I took 45 years for a tragedy was in fact my good fortune. It contributed to the revelation of the mystery of "Not always so" Jundo talked about in one of his videos!

    Now Im 50, a bit long in the tooth to be adopted, but why not, Dogen as a father, Keizan as a mother and a Sangha of brothers and sisters!
    gassho,
    Sylvie

  38. #38

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Very deep and profound realization, Sylvie.
    Thank you for this.


    gassho

    Taigu

  39. #39

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    I agree with much of what has been said already, but will add my two cents anyway

    I visualize lineage as a giant quilt. While a few threads can be cut and not sacrifice the overall usefullness or beauty of the quilt, cut out too many threads and the quilt can no longer perform its function of warming the body. Even after the designs on the quilt begin to fade in parts, and after repairs to broken threads alter the quilt from its original design, the quilt still provides warmth and serves its function.

    Like the quilt after many years of use and mending, the lineage of Zen is not the same lineage is was. It has evolved, become worn and forgotten in parts, and some threads have broken and been mended. Yet,like the quilt the lineage still serves a purpose, if nothing else but to remind us we that when we sit alone we are not alone.

    Gassho,
    Joshin

  40. #40

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by Jen
    I agree with much of what has been said already, but will add my two cents anyway

    I visualize lineage as a giant quilt. While a few threads can be cut and not sacrifice the overall usefullness or beauty of the quilt, cut out too many threads and the quilt can no longer perform its function of warming the body. Even after the designs on the quilt begin to fade in parts, and after repairs to broken threads alter the quilt from its original design, the quilt still provides warmth and serves its function.

    Like the quilt after many years of use and mending, the lineage of Zen is not the same lineage is was. It has evolved, become worn and forgotten in parts, and some threads have broken and been mended. Yet,like the quilt the lineage still serves a purpose, if nothing else but to remind us we that when we sit alone we are not alone.

    Gassho,
    Joshin
    Hi.

    Thank you Joshin.
    Beautifully said.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  41. #41

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Joshin,

    You are talking here about a very advanced and profound meaning of the okesa, the lineage as a robe, the robe as the lineage itself.

    Sewing the robe makes you understand...Truly, not just in your head: it penetrates hands, skin, veins, flesh, bones and marrow.

    gassho


    Taigu

  42. #42

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hi all,

    I've thought about Jundo's questions all week and all I can come up with is, "I don't know". Genealogy has always been important in my family, but here we're talking about myth which I don't have much experience with. That said, we can always learn new things from our past that inform our present and often the stories families tell are more precious that ancestry charts. Can that be applied to lineage...probably to some degree. Some in this thread have said that they think Hixon takes many of these myths/stories to be completely accurate...I didn't come away from his introduction thinking that at all, so maybe I need to re-read the section.

    Hopefully next week I'll have something a bit better than, "I don't know." But as I often tell my son, saying you don't know something can be the smartest response of all and quickest way to learning something new. I guess I should take my own advice and leave it at that...for now.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  43. #43

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    - Is lineage in Buddhism, like a family's 'roots', important?
    For me, no.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    - Does it matter ... lineage is actually unknown or symbolic?
    For me, no.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    ...can we say that the connection to the Buddha is still true ...?
    We can say anything we want, but since we are all jewels in Indra's net, why attempt to incise the interconnected oneness of all?

  44. #44

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Hello everyone,

    For me, lineage in Buddhism, whether actually known or simply symbolic, holds no importance. I can see how it might for some folks, though. It can be very interesting, but as many "interesting" things do, it can obscure and distract from what might be more useful in one's practice. Also, being too enamored of the idea of lineage has the potential to deepen the illusion of separateness and create feelings and attitudes of superiority and inferiority, neither of which serve any purpose.

    That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Hixon's introduction and found it quite timely, as I had just watched a lovely talk with Bernie Glassman and Jeff Bridges on the Tricycle website. Looking forward to diving in.

    Gassho, Jikyo

  45. #45

    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Umm, I've read about a third of the posts and JUST HAD to skip ahead. People are talking about lineage and I feel the strong desire to say my lineage in Buddhism includes a WHOLE BUNCH of people in my current lifetime that weren't Buddhists at all, yet they were all buddhas. I Really Really Appreciate and Value the Lineage List I was given during Jukai, but my Real List is Much Much Bigger and ignores generations (which are as false as life and death anyway).

    OK, I'll go back to reading now.

    OK, done reading now:
    My mom has gone to some considerable trouble to trace her family back a few generation to its native Norway. A few years ago she presented this to me in a 3-ring binder to which I responded with a polite "oh, thanks" at the time. But then I looked through all the pictures and documents. OOPS! It was transformational to know where I, at least in part, came from. This knowledge immediately influenced my view of who I was. Truly, I was different before and after, yet now i know that all that matters is this all adds up to who I am now. SO I feel I have many lineages, all important in their own way.

  46. #46
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
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    Re: 6/11 TRANSMISSION of the LIGHT: Introduction

    Okay.....A little behind here...

    Is lineage important? Yes and No. I think your immediate affiliation is of some importance and the overall concept of a line of ancestors from the time of Buddha is a nice metaphor. I don't know if I need to know whether or not someone 1000 years ago actually existed in the way that they are being described. The interesting thing to me is that the ancestors are more a representative of all the different types of individuals that have chosen to follow this particular path. It shows that there is room for all kinds of people/things in this practice. Like everything else, there is always the danger of too much attachment, over-identification with YOUR lineage.

    Ron

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