Dharma Names

HeadShavingThis past weekend Dogen Sangha Los Angeles held its third three-day retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center in the mountains near Claremont, California just east of Los Angeles. 30 people participated.

While we were up there I did yet another priest ordination. I swear this will be the last one for a very long time. I don’t have a priest training program and I’m not planning to start one.

When someone becomes a priest or even takes the Buddhist precepts they’re usually given what they call a “dharma name.” This isn’t just a Zen thing. For example, when Jim McGuinn of The Byrds became initiated in Subud, an Indonesia-based spiritual movement, he was given a new name. It was Roger.

In Zen, the names are usually chosen by the person’s teacher to try and reflect something of the student’s personality. There is also a tendency to go for names that sound something like the person’s given name. This part of it appears to have been mostly lost when Zen moved to the West. But Nishijima Roshi chose my dharma name with both of those things in mind. Thus I was dubbed 応道勉英, which is pronounced Odo Benei. 応道 (Odo) means “Responding Way” and sounds very vaguely like Warner.  勉英 (Benei) would translate to something like “Heroic Effort.” Actually, 勉英 is very difficult to translate in any meaningful way since it was chosen mostly for sound. Nothing in Japanese sounds even remotely like “Brad.”

When I worked at Tsuburaya Productions I was given another sort of “dharma name” (working being one of the many kinds of dharma). Normally, the name Warner is written in Japanese phonetic characters as ワーナー, which would be pronounced “wah-nah.” Warner Brothers uses these characters in Japan.

I thought that was boring. So I went through my Kanji dictionary and came up with this: 和菜. It would be pronounced “wana.” The first character means peace and the second means vegetable. I chose it since my being a Buddhist and a vegetarian was often a topic of interest within the company.

The monster warehouse at Tsuburaya Productions

The monster warehouse at Tsuburaya Productions

Later on a woman in the Business Affairs dept. made some kind of a list of all employees names. When she came to mine, she put my last name as 和菜 and instead of writing my first name out phonetically she put 仏楽鳥. This would be pronounced “burattori.” The first character (仏) means “Buddha,” the second (楽) means “fun” and the third (鳥) means “bird.” I had a baby wild starling at the time that had fallen out of its nest in our monster warehouse, that I briefly kept in a cage on the veranda outside the International Division office. I eventually raised it to the point at which it could hunt its own food, and then I let it go. I loved that name. It still means a lot to me. Being given a name like that meant that I was accepted into the community at Tsuburaya Productions.

Since I started giving out dharma names I have tried to come up with names like the one I got from Tsuburaya Productions and the one I got from Nishijima Roshi rather than the more standard types of names that are usually given in Zen Centers that translate to things like “Lotus of Beauty” or  “Wind of the Rhinoceros” or whatever and have no relationship to the person’s given name.

Since my teachers both stressed the importance of integrating Zen practice into our normal lives, I feel like it’s a good idea to give the person’s real name back to them. In fact, Nishijima Roshi often gave his Japanese students their own name as their dharma name, but with a different set of Chinese characters to represent it (you can do this in Japanese, it’s a long story).

Thus I gave Caitlin Fabens the name 恵富輪 which would be pronounced “kei-to-rin” and would mean something like “Wheel of Blessings and Wealth.” Since she had already received a dharma name pronounced “Seijun” by my friend Greg Fain, I gave her a different Seijun (生純 “Pure Life”) for the second part of her name. I gave John Graves the name 浄人弘誓 (Jonin Guzei) meaning “Pure Person” and “Great Vow.” I gave Nina Snow the name 然道雪 (Nendo Yuki) meaning “Natural Way” and “Snow.” I gave Linda Dydyk the name 凜夏大諾 (Rinda Daidaku). 凜夏(Rinda) is a common Japanese woman’s name pronounced almost the same as Linda. If you take apart the characters it means something like “Cold Summer.” Linda’s from Montreal, so I figured that worked. 大諾 (Daidaku) means “Great Agreement.”

I had a heck of a time with Rylend Grant, though. I must’ve gone through a dozen horrible Chinese character combos that sounded vaguely like Rylend before I came up with 雷連打 which could be pronounced “Rairenda” and means something like “Barrage of Thunder.” Rylend writes action movies for a living so I figured that worked. For the second part I took the meaning of his last name, Grant, and made him 与道 (Yodo) which means “Giving (or Granting) Way.”

I hope these names are meaningful to the people who receive them. It’s part of welcoming them into the community.

In the Zen world some people use their dharma names on a  regular basis and some don’t. I would’ve felt weird telling people to start calling me Odo or Benei, so I never really used mine. But in my travels I’m constantly meeting people who introduce themselves by their dharma names.

I’ve also noticed some different patterns of usage. If someone uses their dharma name as their middle name, like if I called myself Brad Odo Warner, they’re probably from the White Plum lineage. If they use it as an additional first name, like if I called myself Odo Brad Warner, they might be from the San Francisco Zen Center or one of its offshoots, although those guys don’t seem to use dharma names at all as often as not.

I’m not sure where the dharma name tradition began. It is present in some Hindu groups as well, so I tend to believe it existed even before Buddha’s time. I know, for example, that the Hare Krishnas use pretty much the same criteria for selecting their names as Nishijima Roshi did. They’re chosen for their meaning as well as their similarity in sound to a person’s given name. I find it interesting that there are groups like Subud who give their members new Western names.

I’d like to start a cult someday wherein every member is given the name Seymour Butts when they join. A man can dream…

*   *   *

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On May 21, 2014 at 6:30pm, Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen will be shown at Drexel University in Philadelphia! I will be there the do a Q&A afterwards.

I will be hosting a five-day zazen retreat at Benediktushof in Germany (near Wurzburg) October 12-17, 2014. Contact Benediktushof directly to ask about registration.

BWHZ Movie Tour2HARDCORE ZEN LIVING ROOM MOVIE TOUR

Sometimes a movie is made to tour.

Are you interested in seeing HARDCORE ZEN with your local community? Would you like Brad Warner to speak at your university, meditation group, or personal guests?

Now you can have both. The film will screen at a location at your discretion. Simply contact booking@bradwarnershardcorezen.com with the following specifics: your location, contact info, and potential date for the event.

 

 

58 Responses

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  1. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel May 13, 2014 at 11:46 am | |

    Well, catholic monks, nuns and friars are given a “dharma” name, when they take their vows. Usually, the name of some saint. One nun I had at primary school was called “Sainte-Marcienne” which sounds like saint martian… The popes do this too.

    Remember our names had the same kinds of meanings before they were lost with the changes of language and pronounciation. Thus, a name which has lost, for some strange unknown reason, a great lot of favour in the last 70 years, both in France and Germany, like Adolf, means “noble wolf”. Bradley is an English surname derived from a place name meaning “broad wood” or “broad clearing” in Old English.

  2. Daniel
    Daniel May 13, 2014 at 11:49 am | |

    This is funny. Chan was initially about going beyond…too bad it turned into a nerd game now.

    Guys…better have a deep look at WHO it is that has the name now. If you give that one a new name, a dharma name (cough!) it doesn’t make anything better. It’s still the same illusion that is even fed more because now…you’re no long Johny-Ding-Dong, you’re Fancy-Spiritual-Buddhist-Asian-Cool-Sounding-Name!

    It’s terrible that Zen teachers these days actually further feed into the illusion of self, instead of pointing to what is directly. But probably they simply don’t know anymore…too bad!

    But the Maitreya is already here, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7if7A99_Lpc (Starts with where Zen doesn’t come even close to anymore these days: There is not teacher, there is no guru, there is no student.)

  3. The Idiot
    The Idiot May 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm | |

    My zen-blog name is おならキング.

  4. comment
    comment May 13, 2014 at 12:33 pm | |

  5. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel May 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm | |

  6. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer May 13, 2014 at 5:57 pm | |

    I’d totally take the dharma name Seymour Butts if, at the ceremony, Brad would preside wearing a Speedo and whack me over the head three times with a Nerf mallet.

    It would be an honor…and I’d promise to use my new powers only for the forces of stupid.

    Cheers.

  7. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 13, 2014 at 7:57 pm | |

    My Sufi name is Yahya At’Atawwah which is a rough transliteration for John The Revelator.

    My alchemical moniker is Salarcanus, which means that philosophical Salt (Sal) is the arcana, the (secret) mystery.

    My underground comix artist name & punk rock god name (was) John E. Mumbles or simply John E.

    My drunk off his ass name was/is just Mumbles, cause that’s all I can do.

    &Aka Bob Probably, Ringold Whoreson, Jesperanto, Holyground Fingerfug, etc., etc.

    Hey, my band The Shiftless Drifters needs a new name. Hit me up Zen buddies! C’mon hep me.

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon May 14, 2014 at 4:56 am | |

      The Conjuration Of The Hysterical Grasp

      The Faceless Nation

      Lone Mystic

      http://enneadgames.com/generators/ritual-generator/

  8. The Idiot
    The Idiot May 13, 2014 at 8:15 pm | |

    The Beef Twinkies !!

    cmon!

  9. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm | |

    Well, thanks there TD (take a knee…) I didn’t say as much before but, that was already one of my band’s names way back when, a free jazz (ala The Contortions) version of The Mumbles…

  10. The Idiot
    The Idiot May 13, 2014 at 8:53 pm | |

    ahh, ok. hmmm…. how about….

    Monstrati

    ?

  11. Renbyo
    Renbyo May 14, 2014 at 7:12 am | |

    I have a dharma name, but if I told it to you, I’d have to kill you…

    My name in English is Jeffrey, which came from the old Godfrey “at peace with God”. So my preceptor gave me the dharma name Lotus Peace. The lotus part was in reference to my nefarious past, growing up out of the muck of my misspent youth into a pure flower. And the peace part referred back to my birth name. I felt pretty good about it.

    I only get called that name around the temple in practice situations.

  12. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 14, 2014 at 10:45 am | |

    Andy, I did enjoy your write, immensely– thanks for that!

    I love talkin’ story, and you do it well enough to sell books, in my opinion. And I’ll read ‘em!

    The Canyon, I didn’t realize it was part of the same uplift that created the Colorado Rockies. A very rare geologic occurrence, that the plateau that became the Canyon came up as a horizontal whole, with the layers unbroken. Standing on the South Rim of the Canyon, 7100 feet, looking down at the work of the river now at 5000 feet below.

    Didn’t know that about Jim (Roger) McGuinn– thanks, Brad, found an interesting interview with all the early Byrds history and read it voraciously, as the Byrds were my initiation into the mystery of rock ‘n roll.

    “One Foot Off The Edge”?

  13. sal
    sal May 14, 2014 at 3:59 pm | |

    Hey, nice post, Wanasan!

    I like the idea of changing names. It’s just another one of those things that can really remind you that there’s really no you there at all, just an assemblage and a slice of god. I made up my own name, and dang, I have felt so much lighter since leaving my old name behind. It’s great thing to do.

  14. minkfoot
    minkfoot May 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm | |

    I received lay precepts in Chicago around 1968 from a Soto priest named Rev. Matsuoka, perhaps the only Zen teacher then between the East and West Coast. The ritual was almost all in Japanese, so I didn’t understand much of it at the time, though the basics were explained beforehand. The Dharma name I received was “Sessan.”

    I hung around after the service to speak with Sensei. I asked him about the name.

    “‘Sessan’ is very good name! Means ‘Snow Mountain.’ Snow Mountain very high.”
    He raised his hands with the fingertips forming a peak.
    “Shining very bright!”
    He closed his eyes.
    “Very pure.”
    He seemed to go somewhere inside, savoring a bliss I envied. Then, quite abruptly, he returned from Snow Mountain, saying, “Not like you!”

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles May 15, 2014 at 4:51 am | |

      Best Zen story ever!

  15. leoboiko
    leoboiko May 15, 2014 at 5:54 am | |

    > In fact, Nishijima Roshi often gave his Japanese students their own name as their dharma name, but with a different set of Chinese characters to represent it (you can do this in Japanese, it’s a long story).

    As it happens, this is relevant to my linguistics dissertation… You wouldn’t happen to have some examples at hand, would you? :)

  16. Shodo
    Shodo May 15, 2014 at 8:19 am | |

    The issue of dharma names doesn’t really get my juices flowing…

    However, the issue of why a person would want to ordain as a priest/monk when they don’t live in a monastery, don’t have degrees in Buddhism, and live their lives no different than any other lay practitioner really gets my juices flowing… :)

    Why become a priest?
    Why not just take jukai?
    I admit, the robes are awfully nice and I’m sure they would be impressive to the folks at the local sitting group, but that can’t be the only reason…. Could it?

    1. mtto
      mtto May 16, 2014 at 6:12 pm | |

      A lot has been written on this topic:

      Page 9 of this: on the cuke dot com website pdf-2013/wind-bell/vol39-no1-05.pdf

      blogs dot sfzc dot org /wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Senauke-Long-and-Winding-Road.pdf

      Enjoy!

  17. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 15, 2014 at 9:25 pm | |

    “Fill your pockets full of soot,
    Drive a nail into your foot,
    Put some sugar in your hair,
    Leave your toys upon the stairs,
    Smear some jelly on the latch,
    Eat some mud and strike a match,
    Draw a picture on the wall,
    Roll some marbles down the hall,
    Put some ink in daddy’s cap–
    Now go upstairs and take a nap.”
    (Shelly Silverstein)

    http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/4084/552/1600/beathim.jpg

  18. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 15, 2014 at 9:31 pm | |

    Meanwhile, over on Tao Bums:

    “Tao has universal and eternal existence.
    It has no need of any teacher to transmit it; what is transmitted by teachers is just the method by which one can personally experience this Tao.”
    (anonymous)

    Wonder what that method would be! (“Fill your pockets full of soot…”)

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 15, 2014 at 9:32 pm | |

    “… Not like you!”– we’re with you on that one, minkfoot.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot May 17, 2014 at 6:27 am | |

      Thanks. I need all the affirmation I can get!

  20. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon May 16, 2014 at 5:52 am | |

    “Debate between Stephen Batchelor and Ven. Brahmali about secular and traditional Buddhism.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jq5iqvQLAVk

  21. Renbyo
    Renbyo May 16, 2014 at 7:53 am | |

    I got enlightened, and all I got was this T-shirt…ahem…I mean dharma name.

  22. Renbyo
    Renbyo May 16, 2014 at 8:04 am | |

    Hi Shodo,

    If I understand it correctly, practically in American Soto Zen, priest vows and monastic vows are not the same. Priest ordination allows the practitioner to function as the officiant that oversees formal religious ceremonies and services. Whereas a monastic vocation would mean dedication to vows of celibacy, not owning property, and temple residence.

    As a lay leader, married with a family, I have considered priest training as a way to better serve my community/sangha. Although teaching the dharma, and meditation instruction are the core of my leadership roles, at times the lack of a priest to help our community celebrate rites of passage has been missing. If I could help fulfill that need in my sangha, would it be wrong to take those priest vows of service?

    1. Shodo
      Shodo May 17, 2014 at 5:05 am | |

      Renbyo said:
      “If I understand it correctly, practically in American Soto Zen, priest vows and monastic vows are not the same. Priest ordination allows the practitioner to function as the officiant that oversees formal religious ceremonies and services. Whereas a monastic vocation would mean dedication to vows of celibacy, not owning property, and temple residence.

      As a lay leader, married with a family, I have considered priest training as a way to better serve my community/sangha.”

      My first question I guess would be, how were you officiating formal religious services and ceremonies BEFORE you ordained as a priest? ;)
      I do think that ordination should have some kind of training, so that one can adequately fill a role withing a sangha. I guess my rub is when people “ordain” for the robes. Zero extra training/responsibilities.
      That’s when it seems like “i’m doing it for all the stuff! now I can add a new bullet point on my resume!”
      That grinds my gears a tad… with eye rolls.

      mtto,
      I got the second link to work, couldn’t get the cuke one to work I’m afraid.
      The sfzc one tho wasn’t really addressing what I was talking about though, I already know much of that information already.
      I wondered, did this person who Brad ordained, did they spend time in a monastery getting training? Was he just a longtime fan/correspondent of Brads? Brad doesn’t take students, so I’m confused as to why he’s ordaining priests. What are they doing that required ordination? Why not jukai?

      Daniel…
      I wonder, to you, what is the difference between a zen practitioner and a non zen practitioner?
      Watch out – starting to sounds a bit buji… ;)

      http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095534536

        1. mtto
          mtto May 19, 2014 at 10:43 pm | |

          The article, “Ways to Be a Soto Zen Priest in America” might answer your questions. But maybe not? Maybe your questions are a result of some incorrect assumptions based on things you’ve read on the internet?

          1. Shodo
            Shodo May 20, 2014 at 3:48 am |

            mtto said:
            “Maybe your questions are a result of some incorrect assumptions based on things you’ve read on the internet?”

            Maaaaaaaaybe… ;)

            How about this, why did you ordain as a priest?
            Do you have a degree in Buddhist studies?
            Are you going to be living in a monastery?
            How is your life changing because you became a priest?

      1. mtto
        mtto May 19, 2014 at 10:24 pm | |

        Brad does take students. All three of us who Brad ordained as priests are his students.

        1. Shodo
          Shodo May 20, 2014 at 3:54 am | |

          mtto said:

          “Brad does take students. All three of us who Brad ordained as priests are his students.”

          http://hardcorezen.info/can-i-be-your-student/2404

          I see… well, because of such posts by Brad, I thought he wasn’t into having students. :)

          1. mtto
            mtto May 21, 2014 at 9:10 am |

            Yeah, that’s just something you read on the internet!
            This might clarify the situation:
            http://hardcorezen.info/just-do-it/2411

          2. mtto
            mtto May 21, 2014 at 9:35 am |

            I ordained because Brad asked me to. It wasn’t a goal of mine, and although I’m glad I did it, I still have mixed feelings about it.

            I don’t have a degree in Buddhist studies. I don’t know of anyone in Nishijima Roshi’s lineage that does, but there are a lot of dharma heirs, and I don’t know most of them. Kevin Bortolin has a degree in philosophy and world religions and teaches those subjects at the undergraduate level. I’m planning on starting Sanskrit at University of the West in Autumn 2014. If I keep going there I may end up with enough course credit to approximate a degree in Buddhist studies eventually, but since I’ll be auditing I will never actually have a degree. University of the West is a Buddhist university in the Los Angeles area.

            From the many types of priests in the Richmond article, I’m a “temple priest” and I aspire to the “social activist” and “scholar/author” descriptions. Also, I compose Buddhist music. Very few Soto Zen priests, in the US or Japan, live in monasteries full-time.

            Ordaining hasn’t really changed my life. I had to buy some expensive robes. I was already in a leadership role in our sangha (also at Brad’s request), which I suppose is why he asked me to ordain: to make it “official.”

  23. Daniel
    Daniel May 16, 2014 at 8:08 am | |

    Why become a priest someone asked…why all the robes someone else asked. Why the weird names…why why why?

    Why have to sit in a magical posture exactly to “meditate”?
    Why use old weird japanese language like “shikantaza”, “zazen”, “jukai” etc?
    Why the weird clothing? Why all black?
    Why do they chant in old-japanese, most not knowing what they chant?

    The answer to all these questions is essentially the same. This is done to make sure no one wakes up. Otherwise the tradition would cease to exist quickly and the masters of zen are doing whatever they can to keep their “thing” special and different from other things. They want to keep their power, they want to keep the identification with being “soto-zen”.

    This leads to poor students going from their delusion into a new delusion. Now they’re no longer Harry-DingDong, they can become if they’re good students Weird-Japanese-Name that they get from a dharma-heir. Wooooooow. And now they no longer watch TV like everyone out there….no they do shikantaza in a sangha chanting sanskrit dressed in black clothes with shaved heads.

    In other words they’re now in the illusion of being a better “me” than they have been before. They walk around now with the identity of being “zen” and being better than Joe-DingDong who’s just interested in baseball etc.

    This though just takes them even further away from the truth than they’ve been before and most of them will never make the now quantum-leap to see what really is. It’s a shame. It’s religion.

    Luckily the MAITREYA is here, Sam Harris: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OboD7JrT0NE explaining you how to meditate without stepping into the delusion of religion. Be thankful and hold your hands in Gasho for the next 2 hours.

    Wake up guys!

    1. Daniel
      Daniel May 21, 2014 at 2:51 am | |

      “Why have to sit in a magical posture exactly to “meditate”?”

      You don’t have to sit in any particular posture, though full lotus is often recommended because it is functional and stable. Very important for sitting long periods. Anywho, you find people sitting full, half, in chairs, on benches and occasionally outside the zendo or laying down or both or a mix of all.

      “Why use old weird japanese language like “shikantaza”, “zazen”, “jukai” etc?”

      That’s just a reflection of the tradition and the country of origin. Practice outside of Soto Zen and you’ll find other “weird” words. Some even in ‘murican.

      “Why the weird clothing? Why all black?”

      Again, part of the tradition and functionality. Go somewhere else and find something different. Also, and a simple explanation, the color black of all that fabric is used because it isn’t much of a stimuli to the eye. This tends to support an environment that benefits meditation.

      “Why do they chant in old-japanese, most not knowing what they chant?”

      Again, reference to the origin of the branch. Also, Japanese “chants” better than English. Also, there is no one stopping anyone from reading the plethora of English translations of said chants.

      I hope you find a practice that you find truly beneficial!

  24. CosmicBrainz
    CosmicBrainz May 16, 2014 at 7:22 pm | |

    I refuse to change my name. I am not a Japanophile.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYMLA84HobU

    My last name is ~3000 years old.

  25. Daniel
    Daniel May 21, 2014 at 2:33 am | |

    I didn’t know Seijun was a student of yours! Cool. Come to think about it, I also didn’t know Seijun wasn’t her actual name. So many gates! :-P

    Brad, real quick: My name is Daniel Dickens. Given the little time we’ve spent together, what dharma name would you give me? :-D

    1. Daniel
      Daniel May 21, 2014 at 2:54 am | |

      but bad news… cock mongrel extraordinaire has long since been taken. ;-)

  26. blake
    blake May 21, 2014 at 6:57 am | |

    Coming up with a Chinese name for myself, I chose Bo Li Ke because it sounds like “Blake.” The characters, though, translated roughly into Uncle Thunder Fart (I’m too lazy to look them up right now).

  27. Shodo
    Shodo May 22, 2014 at 4:45 am | |

    mtto said:
    “Yeah, that’s just something you read on the internet!”

    Let’s be honest… It’s not “something I just read on the internet”, as if I heard it from a gal who heard it from a gal who had a roomate that sat with Brad once.
    I heard it from Brad himself – and it seems that IF I just show up and start sitting at his group then in an informal way by just being there often, I “become” his student… (under the understanding that it’s very informal, not to expect anything from him, or hold him to any standard.)

    Sigh…
    This is where i diverge from Dogen Sangha I reckon – hopefully I wont offend.
    But it seems to me, that you don’t ordain people who aren’t clear about ordaining.
    That it should be something more than a few hours of zazen/service on a Saturday. It is my opinion that ordaining people who are unclear or who are ambivalent, and who live lives indistinguishable from lay practitioners, does more harm than good.
    But this is just my opinion.

    It is my hope that you eventually live up to the great responsibility that has been placed on you.

  28. Wibble
    Wibble May 26, 2014 at 9:41 am | |

    “is my opinion that ordaining people who are unclear or who are ambivalent, and who live lives indistinguishable from lay practitioners”
    Kinda rules out a lot of temple priests in Japan then.
    Family guys, running a business.
    Good luck to these priests Brad ordained and to the lad himself for ordaining them.
    If a sangha wants a priest then a priest they should jolly well have.

  29. Shodo
    Shodo May 27, 2014 at 8:50 am | |

    Wibble said:
    “Kinda rules out a lot of temple priests in Japan then.
    Family guys, running a business.”

    Yeah… It kindof does.
    Temple priests ordaining their firstborn sons (who don’t want to be monks and have no inclination to be monks but take vows because of family obligations/pressures) and sending them to monasteries so that they can inherit the family temple is probably the biggest reason Zen in Japan is mostly dead.
    Why do Westerners wish to duplicate their mistake…?

    “Good luck to these priests Brad ordained…”

    Yes, good luck.

  30. Wibble
    Wibble May 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm | |

    Maybe I have the wrong idea of priests in Zen.
    I thought it was an officiant sort of job.
    Baby naming, weddings, funerals, wash up the tea cups after meeting, that sort of gig.
    If it’s similar to the Christian model where the priest seems to be expected to perform being head honcho as an all round teacher cum counsellor cum goodness knows what else then maybe you are right.
    I’d not be suited to that sort of priest in zen or anywhere else but if that’s what the ‘congregation’ expects then ‘whoever pays the piper calls the tune’.

  31. Shodo
    Shodo May 27, 2014 at 3:06 pm | |

    Wibble said:
    “Maybe I have the wrong idea of priests in Zen.
    I thought it was an officiant sort of job.
    Baby naming, weddings, funerals, wash up the tea cups after meeting, that sort of gig.”

    It’s not even as involved as that…
    Most of what a Soto priest does is simply chanting at the family butsudans of their parishioners for money. It’s a stylized funeral business, nothing more. Performed by people who probably never even wanted to be priests.

  32. Wibble
    Wibble May 27, 2014 at 3:24 pm | |

    Yeah I got that plus in Japan they have the market sewn up for registering deaths I think, or they did.
    Sorta like our Chuch of England did back in the day when people had to use them for rites of passage.
    If that’s what these guys are ‘for’ then fair play to them.
    It’s a job same as any other and not one you’ll get rich off in the west I reckon.
    Another thing struck me was one guy said he had to buy some ‘expensive robes’.
    Some zennists on this side of the pond make a big deal about having to sew their own robes and such.
    With these online ordinations apparently on offer elsewhere too nowadays maybe somebody could come up with a website that does the ordination online and has a ‘shop’ button where punters can buy all the clobber.
    One-stop-priest-shop sorta deal.

  33. Shodo
    Shodo May 28, 2014 at 5:35 am | |

    Wibble said:
    “If that’s what these guys are ‘for’ then fair play to them.”

    Debating the motives and purposes of Japanese Soto Priests was besides the point…
    Why do we want to embrace a pale shadow version of that lifeless model?
    In my opinion, ordaining needs to -at least- be a calling…

    Too many “monks/priests” are no different from lay practitioners, except that they wear black robes… What was it about lay practice did they find deficient? Does zazen feel different in black robes? Is it for awe from the newbies? The stuff?
    Westerners are blurring distinctions to the point of meaninglessness… A problem of Spiritual Materialism, and I personally find that sad.

    Ordaining should -mean- something… But in the U.S. mostly it just means nothing.

  34. Wibble
    Wibble May 28, 2014 at 9:32 am | |

    Is it aspirational do you think?
    Somebody joins a group as a lay person and sees ordaining as some kind of promotion?
    I only know one Zen group in the UK with ordained and lay members and here’s a big gulf between the two. Their laity are very much ‘second class’ citizens and the ordained wallahs call all the shots.
    That said it’s root model was the Church of England.
    Their founder had wanted to become a Bishop but women were not admitted to Anglican orders in her day hence she took up Buddhism and ordained that way.
    Clerisy suits clerics rather more than it does the non ordained.
    I’ve no issue with anyone wanting to ordain nor any group wanting a priest or priestess to run the ceremonies.
    Can’t see the ‘point’ personally but each to their own and some folks do love to dress up.

  35. Shodo
    Shodo May 28, 2014 at 12:11 pm | |

    Wibble said:
    “I only know one Zen group in the UK with ordained and lay members and here’s a big gulf between the two. Their laity are very much ‘second class’ citizens and the ordained wallahs call all the shots.”

    Ugh… Well that is not good either.
    It is my opinion that monk and layperson need each other.

  36. Charles
    Charles June 1, 2014 at 4:47 pm | |

    Mine is “Tea in [bird's] Nest.” (Kansai dialect)

    Is comes out o-Cha Ryu (for Charles). One would never put the o- in front of their own name unless they were some kind of English Dandy – of which we had a few.

    My company name badge (which I wore in Japan) said “Mondaiji.”

    - Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sō Desu yo? (問題児たちが異世界から来るそうですよ? lit. Problem Children are Coming from Another World, Aren’t They?

    We had fun with these rediculous name conversions at Sony-no-Balogna [similar to Italian mortadella], too. The Brits tended to get names like “Muddy Bay” and the like… Colonialists didn’t do that well in the orient in the 80s.

    I always for a kick out of going the other way – Japanese to English.

    Shigeru is an obvious Gary, &c.

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