That does not mean, of course, that every product of a "recognized Lineage" will necessarily end up a shining diamond ... certainly not (there are a lot of questionable folks out there with a "robe and a piece of paper certifying their enlightenment"
). However, one is more likely to end up with a well formed "teacher" when the "teacher's teacher" was a gifted teacher who knew how to pass on those teachings, and who had an eye for his students ... could sift out among them the special ones ... could be a good judge of character who could see which students manifested wisdom and compassion and which did not ... all to insure (just a little bit) that things would be left in good hands for the next generation.
I believe there is great value in having some recognized and respected teacher or institution (in modern Dharma Transmission, it is usually a combination of multiple teachers and institutions) approve someone else as a teacher. It is the same reason that you don't want to turn over your heart surgery to anyone with a white coat, but would like to see that the doctor graduated from medical school. It does not mean that the Harvard Graduate doctor will not also screw up your heart transplant, but there is a little level of confidence there that the guy knows what he is doing more than turning your heart surgery over to the butcher in the super market.
Many lineages may have cheapened Dharma Transmission, the more serious lineages tend to take its passing on seriously.
Now, there are many licensed doctors with white coats and fancy degrees who are just butchers, and will do real harm. But there are far more butchers who are just butchers.
I think that there are many, many experienced practitioners alive today who, although not certified by a teacher or even ordained, are wonderful full or part time teachers. But, far more common is the fellow who has had a little insight into "oneness" or "one beyond one", and can dish out a few Zenny fortune cookies (even some beautifully written and composed fortune cookies), conundrums and bits of cheap philosophy ... and thus thinks he should immediately be qualified as the One True Heir of Shakyamuni. ...
Yes, people take someone more seriously when they see the robes, a shaved head, and that someone has had "Dharma Transmission", like when they see a white coat on a doctor or a shiny diploma on the wall. As I said, there are many bad doctors out there despite the clothing, and degree, and same with priests. But, I feel there is a better chance of getting good care if the fellow went to medical school or had formal Buddhist training.
So, Dharma Transmission is a fiction and bullsh*t.
The way it is handed out as easily as newspaper shopping coupons by some sects of Buddhism these days in Asia (I refer to the Japanese wing of my own Soto sect among others)** cheapens it. It is passed on from father to son so that the latter may inherit the family temple funeral business, and with about as much procedure and difficulty as getting a driver's license. It is bullsh*t. (**The western branch of Soto is actually doing a MUCH better job of taking Transmission seriously)
And Dharma Transmission is a jewel, everything
(while, of course, nothing at all).
Let me close with this ...
No, there is nothing to stop someone from hanging out their Zen shingle, wrapping him self in a white bed blanket, and just starting to teach. Nothing at all. And the person could be better than any fellow with a fancy robe. The -ONLY- test is whether the person speaks wisdom, and is a true aid to his/her students. That is the only real test, I think.. As a teacher myself, I expect that new students who do not know me will gain some confidence by the fact that I have "Dharma Transmission", was recognized by an older established teacher, that I practiced for 25 years, and belong to the SZBA, etc. However, that trust should last for no more than a few weeks or months.** After that, I hope a student judges me ONLY for what I say and do, and for whether the philosophy I advocate is having some positive effects on their life and Practice.PERIOD. If anyone feels that I, or any other teacher, is full of bull crap ... RUN, DON'T WALK, FOR THE EXITS (and get full refund of your admission fee).
** Note: The reason some trust is necessary at the start is because the teacher is usually having to tell the new student some pretty wild stuff about how their "common sense" view of life is kind of a dream, and many things that the student does not want to hear, finds illogical or unpleasant. So, you need the white coat until the medicine starts to work.
Anyway, enough about that. I have work to do in the garden.