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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Not Exactly the way it's done in the West

 


What I find most significant about this system of ecclesiastical grades is that dharma transmission provides access to only a relatively low grade. It is listed as a requirement for the very lowest ecclesiastical status, that of an instructor third class (santo kyoshi). Thus, in present day Soto Zen, dharma transmission constitutes a preliminary step, after which one’s real development begins. The relatively low status of dharma transmission means that in and of itself it does not qualify one to accept students or to train disciples. According to the regulations, Zen students should be supervised only by a teacher who has attained supervisory certification (i.e., sanzen dojo shike status), that is, someone who in the popular literature might be called a Zen master. To attain supervisory certification requires not just high ecclesiastical grades and dharma seniority but also at least three years’ experience as an assistant supervisor at a specially designated training hall (tokubetsu sodo), during which time one undergoes an apprenticeship. This monastic apprenticeship agrees with the popular image of Zen Buddhism as a form of extreme asceticism. The popular image, however, reflects only a limited view of Zen life. These training halls are found at only about one hundred of the nearly 14,000 temples that constitute the modern Soto school. The vast majority of Soto Zen religious activities occur not at the training halls but at the local temples. - William Bodiford

Thanks Dosho Mike Port