Priest Training

zen-kyosakuOn December 21st I will ordain four Zen priests. This is the first time I have ever done such a thing. I’ve performed jukai ceremonies, which are very similar to priest ordinations, before. A jukai ceremony is where a person agrees to commit their lives to following the Three Devotions, the Three Universal Precepts and the Ten Fundamental Precepts. These are as follows:

THREE DEVOTIONS

  1. Devotion to Buddha.
  2. Devotion to Dharma
  3. Devotion to Sangha

THREE UNIVERSAL PRECEPTS

  1. To Obey the Rules of Society
  2. To Observe the Moral Rule of the Universe
  3. To Work for the Salvation of All Living Beings.

TEN FUNDAMENTAL PRECEPTS

  1. Not to destroy life.
  2. Not to steal.
  3. Not to desire too much.
  4. Not to lie.
  5. Not to live by selling liquor.
  6. Not to discuss the failures of Buddhist priests and laypeople.
  7. Not to praise oneself and berate others.
  8. Not to begrudge the sharing of Buddhist teachings and other things.
  9. Not to become angry.
  10. 10.  Not to abuse the Three Supreme Values: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

For more details on what these mean you can look at my teacher Gudo Nishijima’s pamphlet on the subject, available for free as a PDF at this link or you can read the section I wrote about it in my book Hardcore Zen for free on line at this link (just be sure and purchase a copy of the book from our store when you’re done!).

A priest ordination is basically the same as a jukai ceremony but with a few more bells and whistles added. Instead of just receiving the precepts, the priest receives some fancy clothes and some bowls and maybe a nifty certificate they can frame and put on their wall. The ceremonies vary from place to place. Sometimes it’s a hugely elaborate thing, sometimes it’s dirt simple.

One of the reasons I’m doing this is because one person from a large Zen institution asked me to do it for her because she was dissatisfied with the way her training at that large institution was proceeding. She wanted something more organic and less rigid than that institution could possibly provide and she figured I could do that. I told her I wasn’t so sure I could provide what she wanted but I said I was willing to try.

Yesterday I was talking about this to a friend who asked why the process at the large institution wasn’t working out. I told her there were a lot of reasons specific to this particular person but that there was a much more general reason that a lot of people feel unsatisfied with institutionalized Zen, or, indeed, institutionalized spirituality of any kind.

If you apprentice with a master potter, she can sit down with you and put your hands on the clay and thereby find out exactly what you need to maximize your special and unique pottery making skills. However, when you run a big pottery training institution with a lot of people you have to find ways of managing the situation by dealing with groups of novice potters essentially as if they were one single novice potter or smaller groups of novice potters of different skill/motvation levels which are more or less equal within the smaller group.

So, since most people need pretty much the same instructions in their early education on pottery making, you could forget finding a person to apprentice with and just join a pottery making class. You won’t get the same level of interaction with the instructor, but if you apply yourself and learn how to modify her very general instructions to suit your specific needs, you’ll be fine.

Zen institutions, by their very nature, are forced to take pretty much the same approach to spirituality. There are too many people involved and too many other administrative things that must be attended to for much individual one-on-one mentoring to happen. Each teacher must deal with a number of students as well as other tasks that the institution requires and can’t really focus on any one student more than any other.

There are people who simply cannot do their spiritual work within the structure of an institution. Just because they can’t work inside this structure doesn’t mean they’re any less capable of doing the work. Witness, for example, Frank Zappa who never had formal musical instruction but who is widely regarded as a compositional genius. Most rock musicians are unschooled, but many are great at what they do anyway, whereas highly trained rock musicians rarely seem to create much music that’s worth listening to (yet there is one Yngwie Malmsteen song I kinda like).

A large Zen institution can teach you everything you could possibly ever want to know about how to properly perform the ceremonial functions of a Zen priest. They have extensive libraries where you can research the history of Zen and the intricacies of its written legacy. They have buildings specifically designed for meditation practice and ceremonies. They are often located in areas where distractions from the practice are kept to a minimum. For a self-motivated person who deals well with the rigors of institutionalized training they can be ideal.

But they also require conformity and obedience to the rules of the institution. They cannot function when too many people question their hierarchies. They often mistake rote obedience for true discipline and take the bland dullness of conformity as a sign of the deep inner calm brought on by spiritual growth. They often mistake the repetition of well-worn clichés for teaching and take the memorization of those clichés as evidence that their lessons have been imparted. They really can’t deal with people who need to probe too deeply into the roots of their structure.

In short, the institutional method does some things very well and other things very poorly. By the same token, apprenticeships or individual mentoring styles do different things very well and different things very poorly. Few individual mentors can’t train a person in what they call “priest craft” as well as a big institution can or can offer the kinds of resources and spaces for practice and learning that a big institution can.

It all comes down to what a person is really looking for.

*   *   *

The documentary about me will be showing soon at the following places and I’ll be at all of them:

Ojai, California

Ojai Playhouse | December 06, 2013 @ 9:30pm $10 http://local-screen.com/hardcore-zen/ojai-ca/

Seattle, Washington
Northwest Film Forum | December 12, 2013 @ 8:00pm $10 http://local-screen.com/hardcore-zen/seattle-wa/

Portland, Oregon
Clinton Street Theater | December 13, 2013 @ 7:00pm $10 http://local-screen.com/hardcore-zen/portland-or/

*   *   *

Isn’t it nice that you got to read that article for free? It took me a long time to write and is the outcome of literally decades of totally unpaid training. Wouldn’t you feel good about donating a little bit to help support my ability to keep giving this stuff away for free like that? Yes. Yes you would!

87 Responses

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  1. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 20, 2013 at 11:03 am | |

    Hey Brad, Do you charge a fee to ordain priests? You began by saying you would ordain four but only talked about one, unless I missed something. Is there a reason the other three need you in particular to do this? Likewise, is there a charge for jukai? Is there some preliminary stuff for either that you recognize outside (or different than) the normal institutional requirements or do you just do it for anyone who asks? Thanks.

  2. navybsn
    navybsn November 20, 2013 at 11:19 am | |

    Not really into organized religion in general. That’s what initially attracted me to Zen. I always find it a bit ironic when I read about Zen in organized terms. My impression was always that it was a DIY kit that you occasionally had to call customer service for a tip or 2.

  3. mb
    mb November 20, 2013 at 11:51 am | |

    Where did you find that Frank Zappa link? Oh my god, Frank with short hair, wearing a suit and tie, playing bicycle spokes with Louis Belleson drumsticks and conversing politely with Steve Allen – that is classic.

    Any chance your movie will be screening locally – Santa Monica (at the Hill St. Center?) L.A. ? I’d be much more inclined to fork out even $15 to see it here rather than having to put $20 into my gas tank (so to speak) just to do the drive to Ojai and back…

  4. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm | |

    OK, so Brad…You are an ordained Soto Zen priest. That’s it, right? Are Soto Zen priests kind of like candles that can light (ordain) other candles (would-be-Soto Zen) priests?

  5. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm | |

    “So I feel like at some point in your practice, you need someone who’s been doing the practice a little longer, and can talk you through certain aspects of it. It’s not like I think you should never do zazen without a teacher; it’s just that, at some point, you have to be little bit careful. Y’know, you can bullshit yourself on a very, very deep level, and you can bullshit yourself so thoroughly you can think you’ve become enlightened. And that can be dangerous.”

    Fearless Leader, on Zen Trickster here

    Mr. Warner, you are an interesting study in contrasts. You have authority to teach from someone we all believe is recognized by the Soto-shu as able to confer that authority. You rely on it.

    You outline why even a Zen institution can be impersonal, in this essay. You advise in the excerpt above that everyone should have a teacher at some point, if they’re sitting zazen (did I read that wrong?), and presumably that teacher must be one who is recognized as having the authority to teach by an institution such as Soto-shu.

    Folks should look for a personable teacher who stands outside any institution who has been authorized to teach by a large, impersonal institution. Ya know, this kind of thinking could make a person dizzy after awhile. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have benefited from such a teacher!

    I don’t think people who think they are enlightened and set out to harm people could be talked out of it by a certified Zen teacher.

    Good luck with the ceremonies, write if you have time; we’ll keep the porch light burning.

    1. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer November 21, 2013 at 9:45 am | |

      Mark,

      How does Brad rely on the authority of either Soto-shu or Nishijima to teach?

      And why do you write that Brad “presumably thinks (a) teacher must be one who is recognized as having the authority to teach by an institution such as Soto-shu”?

      I am just asking questions about your reasoning since I don’t understand it. In his writing and in person Brad has repeatedly expressed doubts about Soto-shu as a vital source of zen teaching.

      I have been around Brad a fair amount and he does not seem to me to rely on any authority other than his own experience. The fact that Nishijima apparently recognized the validity of his experience is interesting, but I don’t really think it’s all that important.

      Cheers.

  6. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 21, 2013 at 4:31 am | |

    Back to my candle-lighting analogy, Brad, is this right? Or is it only those who have received dharma transmission from their teacher who are able to confer priesthood? Enlighten me, please. (OK sorry, couldn’t help it…) &, Sincerely, Thank you.

  7. Senjo
    Senjo November 21, 2013 at 4:43 am | |

    Hey Brad. A while back you mentioned that you were finishing off an audio book of Sit Down and Shut Up. Is that done yet? When will it be available?

  8. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 21, 2013 at 8:56 am | |

    John, you alchemical fiend, whatdya think of this one:

    http://thetaobums.com/topic/19193-taomeow-on-coffee/#entry279226

    (we now return you to your regular rabbit…)

  9. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm | |

    Mark, That is a medicinal balsam similar to the liquor (Grenadine? I can’t recall) made by the monks in the film (which I highly recommend) Into Great Silence. Usually the recipes are secret and safely guarded, sometimes passed along verbally & never written down. They use a variety of herbs, tree resins, and other plant materials and processes of mashing and distilling that are similar to alchemical operations, but then, so are different ways of cooking certain foods on a stove. That is why some adepts called it “kitchen science.” Or claimed that any cook worth their salt can easily master the steps to perfecting the philosopher’s stone. My paper “Some Notes on Juniper, Cedar, and Pine Trees; and the Circulatum Minor” deals with the alchemical uses of balsams. Briefly, there is a way to use them as a chemical tool that quickly separates the essential oils from a plant, and it is a tool that can be used over and over again. This efficiency makes later processes much easier when working toward the stone in the vegetable kingdom.

  10. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 21, 2013 at 7:30 pm | |

    Thanks Brad, First of all, I think it is so cool that you are who you are, this anti-establishment punk rocker who is also a renegade Soto Zen priest dharma heir dude who insists on sitting a certain way ( I mean there are things you are particular about), who confers formal jukai and priest ordinations even if they are not recognized by the organized Soto-shu. That’s bad ass, something I can respect, and tell my grandkiddos about. Seriously, I predict you will go down as a one-of-a-kind Zen dude who danced to the tune of his own Pan piper and I couldn’t be happier to have even this tenuous blogosphere connection with your trip. I give you and everybody a lot of shit but right now, right here its all about respect, dude, respect. Thank you for your tolerance and your go your own way, to hell with whatever anybody expects attitude. And thanks for your honest answers to my recent questions here. Good luck with the biopic [&the writing, and the music.]

  11. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon November 22, 2013 at 2:47 am | |

    “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept people like me as members.” – Groucho Marx, in a letter to the Friars’ Club

  12. Andy
    Andy November 22, 2013 at 5:27 am | |

    “Those are my princi-
    ples, and if you don’t like them…
    well, I have others.”

  13. koderken
    koderken November 22, 2013 at 7:21 am | |

    “I don’t consider myself to be a ‘member of the clergy.’ I’m just an entertainer.”

  14. Fred
    Fred November 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm | |

    Brad, you very emphatic that you were JUST an entertainer, and if someone
    wanted to sit next to you and do their thing while you were doing yours,
    that was cool.

    The self fluctuates from moment to moment and nothing is nailed down.

    “Y’know, you can bullshit yourself on a very, very deep level, and you can bullshit yourself so thoroughly you can think you’ve become enlightened. And that can be dangerous” Well that’s bullshit too.

    If YOU think that YOU is anything, YOU is deluded.

  15. Fred
    Fred November 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm | |

    And Grand Canyon, didn’t you get pissed and leave here.

    Why don’t you hang around for awhile.

  16. Fred
    Fred November 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm | |

    A member of clergy is someone interacting in the world in terms of a self.

    Whereas an ” enlightened ” Zen priest would not necessarily take the reality of
    this self as something that you couldn’t poke holes through, the receptacle or vessel through which the underlying ground is expressed.

  17. Fred
    Fred November 22, 2013 at 7:17 pm | |

    OMG, my self has holes in it and the primordial essence is leaking out. It’s
    mixing with everything else.

  18. mika
    mika November 23, 2013 at 10:16 am | |

    If a jukai is a ceremony “where a person agrees to commit their lives to following the Three Devotions, the Three Universal Precepts and the Ten Fundamental Precepts” and can be undertaken (as far as I understand it) by pretty much anyone who feels that they are serious about this Zen Buddhism thing, are there some prerequisites for “shukke tokudo”? Like having had to practice for at least a certain amount of years or so show some certain kind of insight or something? Or can anyone who is sincere and serious do it? Who would you Brad be willing to ordain as a priest?

    Oh, and do you have to go through these other ordinations before you can go through the dharma transmission ceremony or would it be completely against the traditions to give dharma transmission to someone who hasn’t?

    How do these different ceremonies relate to each other, jukai, shukke tokudo and whatever the transmission thing is called?

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm | |

    (Tesla) read many books… and later claimed that Mark Twain’s works had helped him to miraculously recover from his earlier illness.[29]

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Twain_in_Tesla%27s_Lab.jpg

    Transmission? I don’t gots to show you no stinkin’ transmission-

    He produced artificial lightning (with discharges consisting of millions of volts and up to 135 feet long).[110] Thunder from the released energy was heard 15 miles away in Cripple Creek, Colorado. People walking along the street observed sparks jumping between their feet and the ground. Sparks sprang from water line taps when touched. Light bulbs within 100 feet of the lab glowed even when turned off. Horses in a livery stable bolted from their stalls after receiving shocks through their metal shoes. Butterflies were electrified, swirling in circles with blue halos of St. Elmo’s fire around their wings.[111]

  20. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 24, 2013 at 10:05 am | |

    Thanks Mark! I bought the album-length cassette of the same name by Junior Kimbrough & The Soul Blues Boys back in the day when the Fat Possum Records label was still just a mail-order thing run out of somebody’s back porch in Oxford, MS. I have it right here, and Junior has the same shirt on on the cover that he’s wearing in that video! He was the white lightening roadhouse BB King, the king of trance-blues.

  21. Fred
    Fred November 24, 2013 at 5:52 pm | |

    “Kimbrough left thirty-six children and his wife Mildred Washington.”

    When Junior wasn’t making music, he was making something else.

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 24, 2013 at 7:13 pm | |

    I’d never heard of Kimbrough, think I need to watch “Deep Blues”.

  23. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 24, 2013 at 7:53 pm | |

    Read it, its a great book. Don’t think Junior’s in it, though. 36 kids! Thought I was bad…

  24. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm | |

    There’s a film, too, but looking for it I discovered you can watch “Search for Robert Johnson” on YouTube, in parts.

    Willie Mae Powell, the girl Robert Johnson wrote “Love in Vain” for, hearing the song he wrote for her for the first time… wow.

  25. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 26, 2013 at 5:41 pm | |

    Anybody else see this today?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Devi_Temple,_Lumbini

    What’s next, proof of a historical Jesus?

  26. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 26, 2013 at 5:43 pm | |

    Well, maybe….
    http://www.amazon.com/Zealot-Life-Times-Jesus-Nazareth/dp/140006922X

    He was definitely more of a “baptize by fire” kinda guy.

  27. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm | |

    “Julia Shaw, a lecturer in South Asian archaeology at University College London, cautioned that the shrine may represent pre-Buddhist tree worship, and further research is needed.”

    (she’s a secret druid, perhaps?)

  28. Harlan
    Harlan November 26, 2013 at 10:14 pm | |

    buddha myths have a longer half-life than Tellurium-128..

  29. Brimstoner87 Khru
    Brimstoner87 Khru November 27, 2013 at 11:38 pm | |

    This…is the worst comment thread I’ve ever tasted.

  30. joerg
    joerg November 28, 2013 at 6:57 am | |

    If one is interested what the official Soto-shu ordination or Dharma transmission is and from which point you are considered to be a qualified Zen-teacher or “Zen-Master” by this institution, there is some detailed information in English available here:

    http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/adult45.shtml
    http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/adult46.shtml

    “Dharma transmission does not make you a zen master (…). It does not make you an osho (Japanese for “teacher”) either. It is the first of three steps (shiho, ten-e and zuise), at the end of which you will officially be promoted to the rank of osho. In Japanese Soto-Zen, there more than 15.000 people with this rank”.

    Said that, of course, we are free to do our own thing and use what we inherited from our (maybe Japanese) teachers as an inspiration (actually, I believe we *must* do so, instead of just following any “official tradition”). Doing things our way, starting our own school or lineage and maybe even performing “ordination” within it, if dedicated students wish so because they believe our teaching is good… “It all comes down to what a person is really looking for.”

  31. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 28, 2013 at 8:59 am | |

    but you must admit, it had one flavor all the way through, ha ha! Great to hear the inimitable prose of the mighty Khru again, as never before!

  32. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 28, 2013 at 9:31 am | |

    Alan, sorry not to have responded earlier, somehow I missed your remarks directed to me.

    From the interview with Brad that I linked to in the post prior to yours:

    “It’s fine to keep your independence, and not join an organization. But the reason for having a teacher comes up later in the practice. There are a lot of problems with people who claim to have what they call “enlightenment experiences,” without having a teacher to bounce those experiences off or discuss them with… So I feel like at some point in your practice, you need someone who’s been doing the practice a little longer, and can talk you through certain aspects of it. It’s not like I think you should never do zazen without a teacher; it’s just that, at some point, you have to be a little bit careful.”

    Now I put it to you, Alan: what qualifies a person as a teacher in the sense that Brad is using the word? To me, the answer would be the fact that Nishijima authorized Brad to teach. And what makes Nishijima different from Alfred E. Neumann or the average man on the street?

    “It was not until 1973, when he was in his mid-50s, that Nishijima was ordained as a Buddhist priest. His preceptor for this occasion was Rempo Niwa,[1] a former head of the Soto Zen sect. Four years later, Niwa gave him shiho, formally accepting him as one of his successors. Nishijima continued his professional career until 1979.” That’s from Wikipedia under Gudo Nishijima.

    Well this is news to me, actually! Very impressive, to me, that Nishijima was transmitted by the former head of “the Soto Zen sect”.

    Brad can point to his status as a teacher because, presumably, Nishijima’s paperwork with the Soto-shu is impeccable. If Brad has another criteria by which he would qualify someone as authorized to teach zazen in the sense that he used in the interview, he hasn’t put it forward; that would be why I write that Brad “presumably thinks (a) teacher must be one who is recognized as having the authority to teach by an institution such as Soto-shu”.

  33. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 28, 2013 at 9:37 am | |

    should have been: “what qualifies Brad as a teacher in the sense that Brad is using the word?”

  34. Andy
    Andy November 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm | |

    Mark wrote: “If Brad has another criteria by which he would qualify someone as authorized to teach zazen in the sense that he used in the interview, he hasn’t put it forward.”

    Brad wrote: “I’m the dharma heir of Gudo Nishijima, who is a dharma heir of Niwa Renpo. So I’m empowered in that lineage.”

    Mark, I wonder if your thinking is trapped in a tautology of some sort. To my mind seeking ‘criteria’ for this already leads into and encourages the kind of categorical mind-set on which institutions are based. Such do not constitute the breath of authenticity.

    In my own profession, I was empowered to teach in state schools BY institutions and have the necessary certification. But the fact is I was empowered IN a lineage by the many teachers who taught me (incl. fellow humans, students, family, Keats, the metallic taste of city rain …) , and by myself through learning from them, and by my students. I gained further work not only by institutional qualification, but through interviews, which included being observed by staff and and responded to by students. On room was very calm and intimate. I also gained a reputation and was offered work that way too.

    To use a chestnut. The chestnut is empowered by the tree and the environment, which includes my actively expressing perceptions and categories (thank you mom and wikipedia et al) that identify it as a chestnut (and not an acorn). And under it’s own interdependent steam it gathered the world to become itself, teaching chestnutness.

    Etc, etc. And so to cut a holistic story down to our most usefully delimitable limits: the chestnut was empowered IN the chestnut tree. A particular branch of which is the antecedent of which it is the heir.

    To say that said Chestnut (the one I won many a game of conkers with and was called ‘Nut”) was empowered -By- the branch it dropped from, therefore, would be far off the mark, Mark.

    It would also be the most superficially replicable attribute for someone wishing to pass themselves off as venerable old chestnuts. Nutters.

    Trouble being as trouble does, the not providing of categorical criteria can lead to suspicions of mystification. And such suspicions, framed by the need for categorical certainty, can snap back to base and suggest institutionlism.

    To play with a Dogen thingy: A single teacher is in the entire world.

    That above’s from how I get a feel and understanding of the matter anyway.

  35. Andy
    Andy November 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm | |

    Last sentence went awol. Better as “The above comes from what I feel and understand of the matter, anyway.”

    Blah

  36. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm | |

    Hey Mark, By his own admission Brad (up above in this thread) says:

    “However, since my transmission was not through the Soto-shu, priests I ordain may not be recognized by that organization as Soto-shu priests.”

    Whether or not Nishijima has “impeccible paperwork with the Soto-shu” has nothing to do whatsoever with Brad.

    I am reminded of the story of Hafiz, who desired initiation from his teacher, which was not forthcoming. He decided to lie on the steps his Master walked down every morning in the dark in order to bathe in the Ganges. When he stepped on Hafiz he yelled “Ram, Ram!” thus bestowing his mantra on Hafiz.

    Transmission of the real goods is sometimes delightfully way outside the usual expected protocol. The tradition is rich with these outside the box examples. Brad’s just happens to be a contemporary one.

  37. anon 108
    anon 108 November 30, 2013 at 5:24 am | |

    Popping in to point out that which may not need pointing out.

    Brad’s Dharma transmission is no different from that of those who received transmission from Nishijima before him, all of whom may also be registered with Soto-Shu or not.

    Not that any of it matters. Arguably.

  38. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 30, 2013 at 9:42 am | |

    I agree, 108, however, it may or may not matter to those who Brad is ordaining, or who he may ordain in the future. One would suppose that getting to that point in a personal relationship with him as their teacher his position (or lack of position) with the Soto-Shu should not be an issue, however, it is interesting that a person seeking this kind of formal gesture would go into it knowing it means nothing on paper, if that is what they seek, becoming a “Zen priest” in a recognized traditional sense. This is bearing in mind the concept that Zen is a ” special transmission outside the scriptures” and therefore can be considered sorta kinda heterodox in the first place, so what difference does a Soto-Shu registration make anyway? WTF, Just Sit.

    When I became interested in Sufism, I entered the path via an orthodox Sunni mosque, learned Arabic in order to read the Qu’ran in the original, led the call to prayer, basically did all the stuff an ordinary Muslim does. About the same time I was asked to enter into the hierarchy of the community, [in essence I was asked to teach & guide various educational aspects of mosque life], I also had an opportunity to travel, (Suluk) and met my Sufi teacher, which led to initiation/transmission of the zikr (mantra). The Order I entered into was Shia. The Master of the Order, my teacher, was brilliant, a compiler of encyclopedias of Sufi texts, a poet, and also Majdhoub, the equivalent of one possessed of “Crazy Wisdom” in Zen. He was a mystical renegade who had been ousted from Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeni. Being my own kind of misfit, I excelled on the path under his guidance. He died in 2008, about the time I found this (well, the old HZ website & then the) blog.

    Not that any of it matters. Arguably.

    ‘Course it doesn’t!

  39. anon 108
    anon 108 November 30, 2013 at 11:47 am | |

    I have trouble seeing why anyone would care whether their or another’s Zen Buddhist ceremonial is registered with and approved by Soto-Shu in Japan or not. I don’t know that even Soto-Shu sees itself as the sole and universal arbiter of all things Soto Zen. Perhaps it does. Whatever, you’re right to point out that registration with Soto-Shu may be important to others.

    BTW, I only meant to point out that Brad is not Nishijima’s one and only Dharma heir. There are many others. Regular readers of the blog know that, but passing strangers may get a different impression, I sometimes feel.

  40. anon 108
    anon 108 November 30, 2013 at 11:55 am | |

    …And thanks for the nice summary of your own path and heirarchy entry, John.

  41. Fred
    Fred November 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm | |

    Yes, a mystical renegade.

  42. Fred
    Fred November 30, 2013 at 12:26 pm | |

    “To play with a Dogen thingy: A single teacher is in the entire world.

    That above’s from how I get a feel and understanding of the matter anyway.”

    And Dogen was a mystical realist and a renegade with a balancing scale hanging
    in mid air from emptiness.

    And the single teacher is zazen, but there is no one to be taught.

  43. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 30, 2013 at 12:33 pm | |

    That makes me wonder if other Nishijima dharma heirs ordain priests? Maybe its common knowledge that some do, I don’t know. Since Brad abdicated his throne as king of Dogen Sangha International, what you’re saying (I think), Malcolm, is that he is on a level playing field with the others, basically. (?)

    Like I said elsewhere here I admire Brad’s determination to be his own man, whether he is in punk rock rebellious mode or telling everybody they need to sit a certain way, he’s true to his own informed interpretations & guidance by his teachers. If he wants to ordain someone outside the usual agency of doing so, that’s his business and the business of whoever he “priests.”

    As a cartoonist I was initiated by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. I didn’t know/could’ve cared less who gave him “transmission” (George Herriman??), I just liked Rat Fink!

  44. anon 108
    anon 108 November 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm | |

    “That makes me wonder if other Nishijima dharma heirs ordain priests?”

    I can only tell you what Mike Luetchford’s practice is:

    There are two ceremonies available for the undertaking in Dogen Sangha UK groups; Jukai, the taking of the Buddhist precepts, and Shiho, Dharma transmission. I’ve undergone neither but my understanding, of which I’m fairly confident, is that Jukai is a cermonial confirmation of one’s commitment to Buddhism – a public statement that one is a Buddhist; a member of a sangha and a student of a particular teacher in a particular lineage. And Shiho is the ceremonial confirmation of one’s desire to teach that which one has learnt from one’s teacher.

    From what I’ve read on the net, it’s my feeling that the use of the word ‘priest’, and other terms and concepts borrowed from Christianity, is very common in American Zen. I don’t know how Nishijima used the word, if he ever did, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Brad’s adoption of it were more an indication of his association with other American Zen groups rather than something he learnt from his teacher. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never heard Mike Luetchford, Nishijima’s first Dharma heir, use the term ‘priest’ in relation to those who’ve undergone either the Jukai or Shiho ceremonies or when referring to other Zen teachers or practitioners, dead or alive.

    “Since Brad abdicated his throne as king of Dogen Sangha International, what you’re saying (I think), Malcolm, is that he is on a level playing field with the others, basically. (?)”

    Although Brad has a bigger audience/readership – yes, that’s pretty much what I’m saying. Before, during and since.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 November 30, 2013 at 1:09 pm | |

      …I doubt Brad would say different (last 2 paragraphs).

  45. Fred
    Fred November 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm | |

    “And Shiho is the ceremonial confirmation of one’s desire to teach that which one has learnt from one’s teacher.”

    And if one’s teacher said that enlightenment was the balance between the
    sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems, having learned that from one’s
    teacher, one would often be giving voice to that concept.

    Or, is it really the Universe that informs, and what is realized is seen without
    influence while sitting or otherwise?

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 November 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm | |

      “And if one’s teacher said that enlightenment was the balance between the
      sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems, having learned that from one’s
      teacher, one would often be giving voice to that concept.”

      One might, Fred.

      One might have learnt all sorts of other things, too – for example that ‘one’s teacher’ comprises more than a geezer with a fly-whisk giving voice to a few notional theories. As you know.

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