[Buddha-l] Review of a review

Franz Metcalf franz at mind2mind.net
Mon Jun 28 11:20:15 MDT 2010

Richard et al.,

I appreciate your threefold schema of reaction to something like  
Yasutani's anti-semitism, a schema I would gloss as bracketing,  
denial, and rationalization. I agree the the third is the most  
pernicious. Practically, though, they blend into each other and they  
all grow out of the tap-root of, as you phrased it, "the very idea of  
the teacher as an embodiment of the Dharma."

I share your disturbance at this idea. And yet, how can a Buddhist  
teacher *not* be an embodiment of the Dharma? Any teacher worth a damn  
in any performative field must have mastery in it and must be able to  
actualize that mastery and communicate it to students. If that field  
is Dharma-holding, then surely the teacher must embody that Dharma.  
(Of course that doesn't mean the teacher doesn't embody a whole bunch  
of other crap as well. I reckon this view puts me in the camp of the  

On the other hand, among the most repeated (supposed) words of the  
Buddha are his clear description of exactly what the real teacher  
would be after his death--and it's not the bhikkhus. ("For that which  
I have proclaimed and made known as the Dhamma and the Discipline,  
that shall be your Master when I am gone." [Mahaparinibbana Sutta])  
It's not the bhikkhus who replace the Buddha, it's combination of the  
teaching and the vinaya. I find this very likely actually be what the  
Buddha taught in order to ward off fights over succession. In effect,  
it's the sangha itself that is the teacher and explicitly not any one  
member of it. So, since in a Zen context the sangha includes the  
students, the teacher is, in fact, the whole community of practitioners.

Uh-oh, now I sound like Martin Luther.

(carte grise carrying Buddhist, or maybe Protestant)

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