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Thread: Lay vs. ordained...

  1. #1

    Lay vs. ordained...

    Dear friends,

    Jundo often explains how, in this Sangha, the line between 'lay' and 'ordained' ('householder' and 'homeleaver') is quite blurred.

    I am currently doing some formal study of the Pali Canon and came across this in the 'Middle Length Discourses' (Majjhima Nikaya), which reminded me of what Jundo had said:

    "Whether it be a householder or one gone forth,
    one who has entered on the right way of practice,
    by reason of their right way of practice,
    is accomplishing the method,
    the dhamma that is healthy.

    There is work involving a great deal of activity,
    great functions, great engagements,
    and great undertakings,
    which, when it fails, is of small fruit…

    There is work involving a small amount of activity,
    small function, small engagements,
    and small undertakings,
    which, when it succeeds, is of great fruit."

    So, the Buddha seems to agree...


    -sat today-
    Last edited by Anshu Bryson; 09-30-2015 at 03:48 AM.

  2. #2
    Thank you Anshu,

    These words feel very reassuring to me, very encouraging.

    sat today

  3. #3
    Thank you.

    Robe or no robe, it is what is in the heart that counts.


  4. #4
    Thank you Anshu.


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  5. #5
    Thank you Ansho. =)



  6. #6
    Gee this seems worthy of posting up somewhere as a reminder... maybe even just on one of my Ango notecards.. thank you!


  7. #7
    I collect various passages from the Sutras and from Dogen which seem particularly open to lay practice, or to the equivalency of lay and ordained paths.

    Dogen had an "open minded" phase when he first came back to Japan, ready to welcome students of all backgrounds. His words reflected this. Later, when he moved (or was chased) into the far off snowy boondocks to build Eiheiji temple, his attitude seems to have changed, and he was less open in his words to non-monastics (perhaps because the audience for his talks was then only monastics. However, even in that later phase, there are times when he offers words more welcoming of lay practice ... perhaps because there was a lay visitor or donor in the audience?? )

    One of his earliest and most open minded works is "Bendowa" (this is the Anzan Hoshin and Yasuda Joshu Daien translation, very lovely) ...

    Notice the emphasis on "each person", not simply on monastics ... especially clear in Questions 13 and 14 below ...

    When I asked a Zen Master who had been entrusted with the Buddha seal, "What is the essence of the Buddha Dharma?" he answered, "Practice and realization are not two but one." And so, in accordance with the Teachings of the Buddhas and Ancestors, all are urged to find the Way through zazen; not only those in Zen communities, but all those who seek the true Way, all who seek the Buddha Dharma, regardless of whether one is a beginner or a late comer, a usual person or a sage
    Question: Does someone who seriously practices zazen have to strictly observe the precepts and Vinaya [strict Code for Ordained behavior in India]?

    Answer: Maintaining the precepts and pure conduct are standards of the Zen Lineage and the tradition of the Buddhas and Ancestors. But even those who have not received the precepts or who have violated the precepts are not unendowed
    Question: Can a layman or laywoman practice this zazen or is it only for those who have left home?

    Answer: The Ancestors have said that to understand the Buddha Dharma there can be no distinction between man and woman or between high and low.

    Question: Those who leave home are free all at once from numberless obligations so for them there is no obstruction to zazen and following the Way. How can a busy layperson sincerely practise and realize the unfabricated Buddha Way?

    Answer: Through their limitless compassion the Buddhas and Ancestors have flung wide the vast gates of compassion for all beings to enter realization whether humans or shining beings. We can see many examples in past and present: The emperors Daizhong and Shunzong, although busy with affairs of state practiced zazen and entered the vast Way of the Buddhas and Ancestors. Prime ministers Li and Fang were close advisers to emperors and the limbs of the nation, and they also followed the Way through zazen and entered realization of the Vast Way of the Buddhas and Ancestors. It simply depends on commitment and has nothing to do with having left home or not. Those who can clearly discern excellent from inferior will naturally have confidence in the Buddha Dharma. Those who think that worldly tasks can hinder the Buddha Dharma only think there is no Buddha Dharma in worldly things; they do not know that are no "worldly things" "in the Buddha". In the great Song dynasty a minister of state named Fengji was experienced in the Way of the Ancestors and wrote a verse to express himself:

    "Between affairs of state I’ve enjoyed zazen,
    seldom laying my side to a bed and sleeping;
    although I have a minister’s appearance,
    I am known as an elder adept across the four seas."

    Official affairs left him no rest, but because he had the commitment to sincerely practice, he attained the Way. Take a look at yourself through these examples and consider the present along with the past. At this present time, in the great Song dynasty, emperors, ministers, soldiers and commoners, and men and women attend to the Way of the Ancestors. The military and scholars have a commitment to practice Zen, and many of them will eventually clarify the ground of Awareness. So this all shows that worldly tasks do not hinder the Buddha Dharma. If true Buddha Dharma spreads throughout a nation, the Buddhas and shining beings always protect that nation, and the reign is peaceful. If the reign becomes peaceful, the Buddha Dharma becomes stronger. At the time of the Buddha, even the worst criminals with harmful views gained the Way. Under the Ancestors even hunters and old woodcutters were Awakened, as others certainly will. All you have to do is to receive instruction from a true Teacher.
    This is from Menzan Zuiho, the great 18th century priest and "reviver" of Dogen studies in Japanese Soto Zen. Although it just reiterates Dogen in Bendowa, it is good to note his agreement ...

    When I lived in the western part of Japan (Kyushu), there were some lay people who earnestly studied and practiced zazen, which is the be-all and end-all of the Buddhas and Patriarchs. They wanted to read the words of the ancient masters as a guide for their practice-enlightenment. Since they could not read Chinese, I wanted to give them a Japanese text. I looked through various texts written by Japanese masters, both ancient and contemporary, yet none of them were in accord with Dogen Zenji's teachings. For this reason, I wrote the Jijuyu-Zanmai, and offered it to them. In the Shobogenzo Bendowa, Dogen Zenji said that lay people should also practice zazen, and that gaining the Way has nothing to do with being a monk or lay person. It depends solely on the aspiration of the practitioner. We should respectfully follow his teaching.

    This summer, a few friends came from Sanshu (eastern Aichi Prefecture) and helped me during the summer practice period. They read the manuscript and recommended that I publish it. So, I collected some of Dógen Zenji's writings (on zazen) and added them to my own writing. I hope this will be helpful for lay people in their practice.
    Another early Dogen work in Shobogenzo open to "teachers in any form, male or female, ordained or lay" is Raihai Tokuzui. It is focused specifically on learning from women (something uncommon in the Buddhism of Japan at the time), but includes many passages open to lay folks in general. Some samples (Weinstein translation):

    All should pay homage to and hold in esteem one who has acquired the dharma. Do not make an issue of whether it is a man or a woman. This is the most wondrous law of the buddha dharma. Furthermore, what is called a “layman” in Song Dynasty [China] is a young gentleman who has not yet left home. Some live in small huts with their wives; others live alone and remain chaste. Even though we must say that they are still in the dense forest of defilements, when one of them attains enlightenment, itinerant monks will gather to do obeisance and seek instruction, just as they would from a master who has left home. And so it should be whether it be a woman or an animal.

    When someone has not yet seen the truth of the buddha dharma even in a dream, though such a person might be an old monk 100 years of age, he cannot reach the level of a lay man or lay woman who has acquired the dharma.
    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 10-01-2015 at 06:50 PM.

  8. #8
    The Buddha was quoted to say the following in several old Sutta ... such as here, from the Cūḷahatthipadopama Sutta: The Shorter Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint ...

    Notice that the Buddha simply says "not easy, while living in a home" ... but never closes the door as "impossible". This also implies that leaving home is the easier path, while Practice amid the crowds and dust takes some Mahayana Insight to simultaneously encounter the utterly perfect in and amid the crowds, the purity unhindered by dust.

    “A householder or householder’s son or one born in some other clan hears that Dhamma. On hearing the Dhamma he acquires trust in the Tathāgata. Possessing that trust, he considers thus: ‘Household life is crowded and dusty; life gone forth is wide open. It is not easy, while living in a home, to lead the holy life utterly perfect and pure as a polished shell. Suppose I shave off my hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and go forth from the home life into homelessness.’ On a later occasion, abandoning a small or a large fortune, abandoning a small or a large circle of relatives, he shaves off his hair and beard, puts on the yellow robe, and goes forth from the home life into homelessness."

    Many Mahayana Sutras have passages open to lay practice. For example, this is The Flower Ornament (Avatamsaka/Huayan) Sutra, Thomas Cleary translation (Chap. 25 - The Ten Dedications). It's most famous sections offer lessons from a variety of Bodhisattva-Teachers including lay folks. For example:

    Go south, to a place called Samudravetadin, where there is a park called Samantavyuha, in front of the city Mahaprabha, where a lay woman named Asha, wife of king Suprabha, dwells; go to her and ask her how an enlightening being is to learn and apply the practice of enlightening beings.”
    Of course, the most famous Sutra for lay folks is the Vimalakirti, telling of a lay Bodhisattva who bests all the most famous Arhats and Bodhisattvas in Wisdom ...

    He wore the white clothes of the layman, yet lived impeccably like a religious
    devotee. He lived at home, but remained aloof from the realm of desire, the realm of pure
    matter, and the immaterial realm. He had a son, a wife, and female attendants, yet always
    maintained continence. He appeared to be surrounded by servants, yet lived in solitude.
    He appeared to be adorned with ornaments, yet always was endowed with the auspicious
    signs and marks. He seemed to eat and drink, yet always took nourishment from the taste
    of meditation. He made his appearance at the fields of sports and in the casinos, but his
    aim was always to mature those people who were attached to games and gambling. ...
    He mixed in all crowds, yet was respected as foremost of all.

    ... He engaged in all sorts of businesses, yet had no interest in profit or possessions. To train
    living beings, he would appear at crossroads and on street corners, and to protect them he
    participated in government. To turn people away from the Hinayana and to engage them
    in the Mahayana, he appeared among listeners and teachers of the Dharma. To develop
    children, he visited all the schools. To demonstrate the evils of desire, he even entered the
    brothels. To establish drunkards in correct mindfulness, he entered all the cabarets.

    He was honored as the businessman among businessmen because he
    demonstrated the priority of the Dharma. He was honored as the landlord among
    landlords because he renounced the aggressiveness of ownership. He was honored as the
    warrior among warriors because he cultivated endurance, determination, and fortitude. He
    was honored as the aristocrat among aristocrats because he suppressed pride, vanity, and
    arrogance. He was honored as the official among officials because he regulated the
    functions of government according to the Dharma. He was honored as the prince of
    princes because he reversed their attachment to royal pleasures and sovereign power. He
    was honored as a eunuch in the royal harem because he taught the young ladies according
    to the Dharma.
    Gassho, J


  9. #9
    Also, it is generally accepted that the 6th Zen Ancestor in China, Hui-Neng (on of our most celebrated Ancestors) was a lay person when he became "the 6th Ancestor", and only Ordained years after. As a famous commentary tells the story ...

    Although there were seven hundred eminent monks within the assembly, the only one [appropriate to receive the transmission] was the layman of the pestle (i.e., Huineng, referring to his being part of the kitchen staff in the monastery). With a single verse the robe was transmitted, and he became the Sixth Patriarch. Escaping south for more than ten years, one morning at the encounter of neither the wind nor the banner moving did he touch and open Yinzong's correct eye [of the Dharma]. Thus did the layman cut his hair [Ordain] and ascend the [ordination] platform.
    Gassho, J


  10. #10
    For years now I've felt the call to ordain but haven't been sure if/when that fits into my life. I want to help people and share the dharma. Maybe being a priest is not necessary for this (people often ask me about meditation either after finding out I'm a Buddhist or after commenting on how calm I always seem to be and wanting to know my "secret") but for some people the "authority" of robes and titles allows them to be open to teachings they may not be open to from a lay person.

    How does one ordain at Treeleaf?



    Sent from my Nexus 6 using Tapatalk

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by SonofRage View Post
    ... Maybe being a priest is not necessary for this...

    How does one ordain at Treeleaf?
    Hi Sam,

    No, being a Priest is not necessary for helping people. Helping people is what is necessary for helping people.

    Ordination as a Priest here takes waiting for several years, and I must first really know the person well. If I know someone well for several years, they feel at home in our community, and I feel at home with them, then after a few years we would consider to start talking about Ordination. Then, Ordination is itself just the first step on many years of Training that may or may not result in anything. Being Ordained does not make one a full priest, only a Novice in Training, and that Training will take many years without any guaranty or promise that the person will eventually become a Priest. If you are still here in our community after a few years, we can begin to talk about it.

    More information here ...

    By the way, as mentioned in this thread, here we dance and "PLAY" (I hear the "Secular Buddhist" Podcast I mention will be available in just a few more weeks) ...

    A note on the use of “Liests” in our Treeleaf Lineage …

    In our Treeleaf community, we are advocating a modern view of Buddhist teachers fully transcending and stepping right through the traditional categories of “lay” and “ordained”, male or female. We thus step right beyond a certain divide that is plaguing western Buddhism. We borrow from Hua-yen, Zen and other Mahayana viewpoints: That one thing may be fully itself, yet fully embody and actuate other good things simultaneously and identically, free of the least conflict. In our “Sangha” Community, we offer a form of "ordination" or "office" that fully flies past the male/female/priest/lay divisions yet allows us to fully embody and actuate each and all as the situation requires. This is not merely some “combination” or “mixture”, but a total realization of one and all, each fully realized in its moment. When I am a married man and parent to my children, I am 100% that and fully there for my family. When I am a worker at my job, I am that and embody such a role with sincerity and dedication. When I am asked to step into the role of hosting Zazen, offering a Dharma talk, practicing and embodying our history and teachings, and passing them on to others, I fully carry out and embody 100% the role of “Priest” in that moment. When in a monastery, I am that, when performing charitable work in the community, I am that. Whatever the moment requires: maintaining a sangha community, bestowing the Precepts, working with others to help sentient beings. Even the names we call ourselves do not matter. In this way, we do not ask and are unconcerned with whether we are “Priest” or “Lay”, for we are neither that alone, while always thoroughly both; exclusively each in purest and unadulterated form, yet wholly all at once. It is just as, in the West, we have come to step beyond the hard divisions and discriminations between “male” and “female”, recognizing that each of us may embody all manner of qualities to varying degrees as the circumstances present, and that traditional “male” and “female” stereotypes are not so clear-cut as once held. So it is with the divisions of “Priest” and “Lay”.

    We smile and laugh at the sometimes hot debates concerning who are the "priests" (many, these days, themselves married with kids in the Japanese Lineages) and who are the “lay teachers” … and thus sometimes I call us “p-lay”.

    In my view, the role of clergy should be that of service and subservience to the community and other sentient beings, both “priest” and “lay” offering aid as the least among equals. Thus, I call us “liest”.

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 10-10-2015 at 03:21 PM.

  12. #12
    Thank you for your teaching, Jundo.



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