Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Soto Zen Hierarchy (2)

It feels safer to have postive thoughts about one’s religious practice.  Devotion and faith and being positive are essential, but one cannot throw out one’s critical thinking. 

I read that scholars have shown that this direct, one-to-one, historical lineage, beginning with the Buddha, is religious fiction. It is a religious myth.  [Although I don't need scholars to tell me that; it seems obvious]

The myth of lineage – not limited at all to Soto Zen – legitimizes and verifies internal structure and hierarchy.  It is a kind of governance and control of who has the power within the organization.  This control does serve the important function of creating coherence and continuity of practice. 

In its most powerful and beneficial aspects, myth of lineage reveres all those who have preserved and brought to us the tradition and practice of Soto Zen.  It honors and remembers all the practitioners that have caused our practice to be what it is today.  Without them, there would be no cohesive practice.  It is the flow of life. 

It is a flow of awakening and buddha-nature, and that is why I felt joy to receive the women's lineage papers from Norman and Chris.

On the other hand, I think we have to see through this.  We need to remember that it is myth. I don’t  believe that we should reify lineage or worship it.  Particular placeholders in the lineage may have existed or not.  And there are the myriad of unknown male and female practitioners who have practiced and influenced our practice who appear on no lineage chart.

This morning I read these words of Dogen:

When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others.  The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and is not merely arising now.

To me, this says it all.  Lineage is a beautiful and necessary metaphor, but it is empty of intrinsic reality.

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