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What is "Inheriting the Dharma"?

Discussion of Japanese Rinzai Zen (臨済宗) including Obaku Zen (黄檗宗).

What is "Inheriting the Dharma"?

Postby JessicaLeigh on Fri Jun 19, 2015 11:51 pm

Dear Teachers and Fellow Practitioners,

Speaking from the perspective of Rinzai practice, what does it mean to inherit the dharma? What do the terms "transmission," and "seal" mean?

When a teacher does whatever this refers to, what exactly does that signify? Does it mean the student is a fully realized practitioner? Is it some type of approval? Does it indicate that the student is now entrusted to carry on the Dharma and receive students? Does it imply an obligation to receive students? Is it like a graduation: i.e. you have the fundamentals, now you can cultivate your practice independently, without the help of a master?

Can it be said that the full blossoming of one's practice is in synonymous with inheriting the dharma, or are these two distinct (if overlapping) processes?

Thank you,
:Namaste:
Jessica
"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." -Andrè Gide
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Re: What is "Inheriting the Dharma"?

Postby Avisitor on Sat Jun 20, 2015 12:31 am

When a teacher confirms the kensho experience and the following understanding that should develop in a student
it can be said that the student has inherited the Dharma
Or it can be said the student has received the transmission

Of course, the depth of the Kensho experience varies with each person
Sometimes it is shallow and needs more time and practice to mature ..
Becoming a teacher isn't just experiencing Kensho
There are other things to consider

Seals ... hmmm, as Buddhism spread, some local cultures absorbed the teachings of the Buddha and some did not
They took the outter appearance of Buddhism but held none of its teachings
So, the four seals are a way to see if it is Buddhism
The four seals are
1. All aggregates are impermanent
2. All polluted emotions are painful
3. All phenomena are empty
4. Nirvana is peace




Note: There are some who experience something like Kensho
But when not ready with the knowledge and experience of practice and Buddhism
it can be a difficult burden to handle
Disclaimer: There is no intent to be offensive in my posts. None was intended and none should be interpreted as such.
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Re: What is "Inheriting the Dharma"?

Postby Meido on Sat Jun 20, 2015 1:06 am

In short, Dharma transmission in Rinzai Zen - called inka shomei - signifies that the recipient is a Rinzai lineage holder, empowered to train students and transmit the full range of practices inherited from that person's teacher. Someone receiving this has the obligation to at least attempt to train a successor or successors in turn, though naturally this is not always possible. He/she also has the obligation to continue to study and practice not only to deepen realization, but also to gain the tools to help others.

What inka shomei does not signify at all is that the recipient has finished practicing. It does, however, signify that the person has compled the formal training under a teacher and so is qualified to oversee his or her own training going forward.

We may expect that such a person at minimum has experienced kensho, trained to clarify and integrate it through completion of the formal koan practice (shitsunai) passed down in that line, and entered into the untransmissable advanced practice. Presumably, the recipient has also been judged to have the capacity for teaching others, and to be trustworthy enough to do so.

It should be noted that dharma transmission in Rinzai Zen is not an ecclesiastical title, or something that the majority of Rinzai priests will ever receive. It is not an institutional matter, in other words, but something rare that occurs privately between master and disciple.

Meido
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
Madison Rinzai Zen Community/Ryugen-ji [機山龍源寺]: http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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Re: What is "Inheriting the Dharma"?

Postby Ted Biringer on Sat Jun 20, 2015 5:33 am

JessicaLeigh wrote:Dear Teachers and Fellow Practitioners,

Speaking from the perspective of Rinzai practice, what does it mean to inherit the dharma? What do the terms "transmission," and "seal" mean?

When a teacher does whatever this refers to, what exactly does that signify? Does it mean the student is a fully realized practitioner? Is it some type of approval? Does it indicate that the student is now entrusted to carry on the Dharma and receive students? Does it imply an obligation to receive students? Is it like a graduation: i.e. you have the fundamentals, now you can cultivate your practice independently, without the help of a master?

Can it be said that the full blossoming of one's practice is in synonymous with inheriting the dharma, or are these two distinct (if overlapping) processes?

Thank you,
:Namaste:
Jessica


Dear Jessica,

Thank you for your post.

Here is my understanding (please note that my understanding often diverges from the prevailing views and keep a critical eye).

In Zen the phrase 'Dharma-transmission' is used in two primary, quite distinct ways.

First, and most importantly, ‘Dharma-transmission’ is the communication of enlightened wisdom by ‘Buddha alone together with Buddha’ (Yui-butsu-yo-butsu). All authentic Zen practice-enlightenment is Dharma-transmission, and all authentic Dharma-transmission is Zen practice-enlightenment.

Second (and most common usage in the contemporary Zen community) ‘Dharma-transmission’ refers to rituals or ceremonies certifying the 'qualification' of a Zen adherent to 'teach Zen' - in short, such ceremonies are understood as recognizing new ‘Zen teachers’ or ‘Dharma-heirs’ by formally acknowledging that their views (realization or understanding of the Dharma) conform to the standards of the specific lineage, sect, or individual that is the acting authority of 'certification.'

While the second sense of 'Dharma-transmission' is widely recognized and discussed, there is a veritable dearth of discussion concerning the significance of 'Dharma-transmission' in the first sense. So, I will leave the details of the diverse methods, interpretations, and formalities involving the certification or recognition of 'qualified teachers' practiced by the various institutions, sects, and lineages that identify themselves with/as Zen, and confine my discussion to the significance of the first sense of 'Dharma-transmission' as it is presented in the classic literature of Zen.

In Zen, the realization (successful communication) of self-knowledge is 'Dharma-transmission' (also called ‘mind to mind transmission,’ ‘transmission from Buddha alone together with Buddha,’ etc.). Now, as suggested by the structure of these phrases, the term ‘transmission’ designates a two-way process or activity – it is both sending and receiving. Since, as Zen contends, everything is Buddha, the ‘sender’ must also be the ‘receiver’ – thus ‘transmission’ is ‘from mind’ ‘to mind’ or ‘from Buddha’ to ‘Buddha.’

Now, the term ‘Dharma’ is used in this context to designate the Buddha-Dharma itself, the ultimate truth, or universal reality (Dharmakaya) – the true nature (sho) of reality.
Thus, ‘Dharma-transmission’ is the expression (sending)/recognizing (receiving) of reality as it is.

Whenever reality is actually expressed it is actually realized – if it is not realized, it cannot be called actually expressed. For instance, ordinary communication only occurs when both the speaker and the hearer accurately understand each other; if I say, “Where is the library?” and the person I ask does not speak English, communication (transmission of meaning from my ‘mind’ to their ‘mind’) does not occur – even if I speak clearly and accurately. Likewise, Buddha is always speaking (everything is an expression of Buddha), but only when one accurately understands (hears, sees, etc.) what is expressed as it is, does transmission (communication) actually occur.

Just as my ability to understand the expression “Where is the library?” depends on my capacity to see it as it is, so my ability to recognize reality (sho; true nature) or Buddha (butsu) depends on my capacity to see it as it is.

In Zen, having the capacity to clearly see reality as it is (kensho; seeing true nature, or kenbutsu; seeing buddha) is called the ‘eye to read scripture,’ the ‘living eye,’ the ‘Buddha-eye’ – or Dogen’s favorite, the ‘true dharma-eye,’ frequently used in his writings, most notably Shobogenzo; the ‘True Dharma-Eye Treasury.’

In the classic literature of Zen, total existence-time, true nature, or reality is presented as the expression of Dharma – not a ‘fixed form’ or ‘future realization’ but an unceasing advance into novelty, an ongoing creative activity. Zen practice-enlightenment (shu-sho) is presented as a ceaseless actualization of existence/experience here-now which includes and transcends past, present, and future. More particularly, practice-enlightenment consists of clearly seeing the true nature of reality and, thereby, actualizing one’s thoughts, words, and deeds harmoniously with that truth in and as the self/world here-now.

To clarify, consider the following passage from Bendowa; one of Zen Master Dogen’s clearest articulations of practice-enlightenment (here, following the lead of Norman Waddell and Masao Abe , Hee-Jin Kime renders ‘Bendowa’ as ‘negotiating the Way’):

The endeavor to negotiate the Way (bendo), as I teach now, consists in discerning all things in view of enlightenment, and putting such a unitive awareness (ichinyo) into practice in the midst of the revaluated world (shutsuro).
Dogen, Bendowa


Dr. Kim clarifies the salient points thus:

This statement clearly sets forth practitioners’ soteriological project as negotiating the Way in terms of (1) discerning the nondual unity of all things that are envisioned from the perspective of enlightenment and (2) enacting that unitive vision amid the everyday world of duality now revalorized by enlightenment. Needless to say, these two aspects refer to practice and enlightenment that are nondually one (shusho itto; shusho ichinyo).
Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking


In short, Zen practice-enlightenment consists of ‘these two aspects’ – discerning dharmas as they are, and actualizing that discernment here-now.

This dynamic activity – shu-sho; practice-enlightenment – is presented in the classic literature as a communication of enlightened wisdom ‘from the mind to the mind’ or ‘from Buddha to Buddha.’ It is this communication, then, that is referred to as ‘Dharma-transmission,’ ‘mind to mind transmission,’ or, ‘(the transmission of Dharma) from Buddha alone together with Buddha’ (yui-butsu-yobutsu).

As ‘receiving,’ Dharma-transmission is seeing, knowing, experiencing, realizing, etc. As ‘sending,’ Dharma-transmission is seen, known, experienced, realized, etc. ‘Seeing’ is true nature, and ‘seen’ is true nature. If it is ‘seeing true nature’ it is Dharma-transmission. If it is not ‘seeing true nature’ it is not Dharma-transmission – if it is not Dharma-transmission, it is not Zen. This means, finally, that all authentic Zen practice-enlightenment is Dharma-transmission (and vice versa).

Seeing your nature is Zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not Zen.
Bodhidharma, Traditional founder of Zen in China (trans. Red Pine)


Please treasure yourself.

Ted
Do not misunderstand Buddhism by believing the erroneous principle ‘a special tradition outside the scriptures.’ Zen Master Dogen, Shobogenzo, Bukkyo (trans. Hee-Jin Kim)
Ted Biringer Author The Flatbed Sutra
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Re: What is "Inheriting the Dharma"?

Postby JessicaLeigh on Mon Jun 22, 2015 5:15 pm

Ted, your thoughts are interesting! Thank you for sharing.
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Re: What is "Inheriting the Dharma"?

Postby JessicaLeigh on Mon Jun 22, 2015 5:17 pm

Meido wrote:In short, Dharma transmission in Rinzai Zen - called inka shomei - signifies that the recipient is a Rinzai lineage holder, empowered to train students and transmit the full range of practices inherited from that person's teacher. Someone receiving this has the obligation to at least attempt to train a successor or successors in turn, though naturally this is not always possible. He/she also has the obligation to continue to study and practice not only to deepen realization, but also to gain the tools to help others.

What inka shomei does not signify at all is that the recipient has finished practicing. It does, however, signify that the person has compled the formal training under a teacher and so is qualified to oversee his or her own training going forward.

We may expect that such a person at minimum has experienced kensho, trained to clarify and integrate it through completion of the formal koan practice (shitsunai) passed down in that line, and entered into the untransmissable advanced practice. Presumably, the recipient has also been judged to have the capacity for teaching others, and to be trustworthy enough to do so.

It should be noted that dharma transmission in Rinzai Zen is not an ecclesiastical title, or something that the majority of Rinzai priests will ever receive. It is not an institutional matter, in other words, but something rare that occurs privately between master and disciple.

Meido


Meido, thank you for this lucid explaination. It has very much clarified for me.
:Namaste:
Jessica
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