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Thread: Quick question, possibly a silly one...

  1. #1

    Quick question, possibly a silly one...

    Just reconnected with my little brother after a couple of years of silence, and happened to mentioned that I was now Buddhist. Then realized that I was unable to remember if Taigu and Jundo had any specific "title" that I should be using. I'm sorry if I've been told and have forgotten, it's been 2 solid weeks of being glutenized and I'm lucky I can remember my own name at the moment, with the heavy brain fog.

    I realize this may be a jumping off point to another duality discussion, and that's great, can't wait to read it, but I'd really just like to speak of them with respect and use the appropriate honorific, since teacher seems so inadequate. And yes, I also realize that I don't just learn from them, I learn from everyone here who is brave enough to post their opinions, questions and observations, for which I'm very grateful!



  2. #2

  3. #3
    Hello Lisa,

    may I suggest "teacher".

    Not that it matters too much, but there are a few western Zen organisations around these days that have introduced a hierarchical difference between "Sensei" (which in Japan can refer to anyone who knows more than your average fellow about whatever: school teachers, craftsmen etc.) by which they mean junior teachers and "Roshi" (literally old man) by which they mean fully transmitted senior teachers/masters.

    Since hardly anyone in the west knows about the complicated Soto-school hierarchies they may be forgiven for having introduced this system...but sadly now we have western people using Japanese terms in ways that Japanese Zen people might find confusing.

    The young Zen priest in charge at the Zen monastery where Jundo and I practised last year was a fully transmitted priest by western according to some new Zen organisations he would have been called Roshi. Nothing would have been more ridiculous to him however, since he was/is in his mid-thirties.

    Even the oldest Zen teacher that came by to visit wasn't called Roshi, but Mihonji-San .... with Mihonji being the monastery where he was abbot.

    My personal bottom line: Teacher sounds pretty good to my ears But then again Taigu and Jundo are the ones to decide what they want to be called.


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  4. #4
    Taigu is very good for my ears.
    Teacher is ok.
    Roshi is out of the question.
    And everything else is good too.



  5. #5
    Hi there - glad you brought this question up Lisa because I wasn't sure which title to use either.

    I tend to use teacher - but that doesn't feel quite right.

    I've just noticed that Taigu and Jundo have priest written by their photo. I feel more comfortable with that because it is a familiar word to my western ear and feels more in keeping with the vows/training/transmission.

    Teacher has the connotation of school teacher/college lecturer. It doesn't quite embrace things IMHO.



  6. #6
    What to call Taigu and me? How about "Hey You"?

    This has come up a few times, so I cut and paste ...


    And what is the meaning of Master, Reverend, Osho, Roshi (and "Sensei" too)?

    In Japanese Soto, "Roshi" just means literally an "Old Teacher" and does not imply any particular rank or attainment beyond being a fully ordained priest who one wants to refer to with some respect due to age or the like (the Rinzai folks use the term in a more specific way ... see this article for more details).

    Soko Morinaga, a well respected Japanese Soto Zen teacher, once famously said, "A roshi is anyone who calls himself a roshi and can get other people to do the same."

    A "Sensei" in Japan is a general title that can be applied to anyone from a school teacher, to a lawyer or doctor, to a politician. It is NOT a common title in the Zen world in Japan to denote some particular rank or attainment, and its use in the West for Zen teachers is pretty much a complete Western invention. There is no sense in Japan or China that "Sensei" is a lower rank, or less attained than a "Roshi". [AS HANS POINTED OUT, ONE WOULD NEVER CALL THEMSELF "ROSHI" AS SOME TEACHERS DO] From a Japanese language/cultural point of view, it is rather amusing that in the West teachers are making artificial ranks based on those terms, or calling themself by such title.

    In the rules of the Soto-shu in Japan, an "Osho" is anyone who has received Dharma Transmission (plus has done all the proper paperwork, ceremonies, and paid the needed fees to Soto-shu). Again, the Rinzai folks define the term a little differently. The term "Osho" comes from the Indian "acharya", which is a guide or instructor in religious matters.

    In my view, "master" is someone with some "mastery" in an art or tradition to pass on and pass down ... from carpentry to medicine to martial arts to Zen Buddhary. It need not mean the "master" is perfect (one can be a "master carpenter", yet not every corner will always be smooth; a "master surgeon" cannot cure every patient, and even the most gifted may sometimes make a bad cut). However, one should be pretty darn skilled.

    "Reverend" is a nice general term to refer to clergy or a minister.

    By the way, "monk" and "priest" are both very imperfect names. I once wrote this:

    The words "monk" and "priest" do not really work as good translations of the Japanese terms, and were picked, obviously, from a Judeo-Christian vocabulary of Western missionaries in the 19th century. "Priest" carries the feeling of working some power to intervene with God/the spirits, and most Zen "monks" now only reside in monasteries maintaining celibacy for short periods as part of their training ... so both words are not good fits (except when the person is actually residing in a monastery and might be described then as a "monk". Of course, many "Zen priests" in Japan and China do reside in temples in which they are largely concerned with performing funeral and other ceremonies for parishioners to appease the spirits, bring good fortune or the like. In such case, "priest" is not inaccurate to describe such folks.)

    In my view, the best translations might be "Companion" "Guide" "Teacher" or (my favorite) "Rabbi (which also means "Teacher")".

    A very nice old term for a Buddhist teacher used in China is "shanzhishi" = a "good wise friend" (善知識, Sanskrit kalyanamitra.)

    I often use "Zen clergy" or "teacher" or "minister". One of the many Japanese terms usually (and awkwardly) translated as "monk/priest" in English is actually closer to "Buddhist companion" , which I care for very much ... 僧侶 (the first kanji derives from the "san" of Sanskrit sangha = community, and the second means companion)

    So "Buddhist companion" or "Sangha Friend and Companion" may be the most accurate.
    BOTTOM LINE: In my case (I think Taigu feels the same way), just call me Jundo or or Rev. Jundo (or Rabbi) or "Hey You" or 'Teach or Cap'n Jundo. Maybe, in a few years, you can start calling me Admiral Jundo. Call me Roshi or Sensei or Rensei. I like "Dharma Friend". My father from Brooklyn used to say, "Call me whatever, just don't call me late for dinner"

    A rose by any other name is still a rose. A lemon by another name is still a lemon.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-17-2013 at 04:07 AM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    Taigu is very good for my ears.
    Teacher is ok.
    Roshi is out of the question.
    And everything else is good too.


    I agree ... their name, or teacher.


  8. #8
    Hi Jundo - I'm still a bit confused why you have chosen 'priest' after your name if you feel it's a poor descriptor/translation?
    I've always referred to you and Taigu as the teachers at Tree Leaf if any one asks - but I do feel (like Lisa) that it doesn't really encompass all that you do.

    It isn't so much as how to address you in a direct relationship - but when other people are asking about Tree Leaf, Zen, etc.

    Coming from a Christian background where there are hierarchies and tight labels it's a wee bit confusing .



  9. #9
    Hi Willow,

    I prefer "Zen clergy" or "Zen minister" or "Zen teacher", but "Zen priest" has become the most common term in the Buddhist world. I suppose I have used it just for that reason. although I try to keep it to a minimum.

    Gassho, J

  10. #10
    Thanks Jundo - Zen teacher it is then.



  11. #11
    Thanks for all the responses! I agree, Willow, "Zen teacher" it is, then!



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