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Wed Jun 30 17:38:44 MDT 2010

write these
hagiographies themselves, but rather, their disciples and later generations 
wrote and rewrote the hagiographies. But more interestingly, according to 
Albert Welter and his "The Linji lu and the Creation of Chan Orthodoxy" the 
tradition itself wrote the hagiography. That is, as the self understanding 
of the tradition changed, so did the hagiography of the protagonist change 
to match the new self understanding. I would think this is true for more 
than just Linji. Along this line, who was and was not included as being a 
Chan master also changed with the times.

What is not so common I think is that Sheng Yen's biography  "Footprints in 
the Snow" is to my mind an autohagiography. Which is to say it shows a level 
of intentionality on the part of SY and how he wanted to be remembered. Of 
course, one can only speculate on what those intentions are and they 
certainly may be mixed, as I say in the paper. But I can also make educated 
guesses based on long term contact and observation, which I also do in the 
paper. I also consider his hagiography as a form of ritualized writing, "a 
staged production  of timelessness," and as such, perhaps unconscious, an 
attempt to create his own immortality.

> You're showing the problems of this hero worship in the Chan/Zen context
> clearly."

Yes, creating immaculate people on paper, that is perfected Chan masters out 
of people with some good and with some not so good qualities has 
consequences and some of the consequences in American Zen have been very 
troubling, for 45 years now. Overempowering the Chan master with the 
reflected consequence of disempowering the disciples in my opinion is one of 
the engines driving the trouble in American Chan/Zen.

> But do you know Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth"? Campbell there
> shows some very deep rooted psychological archetypes, notably the
> "adventures of the hero". I think we cannot eliminate these deep
> psychological patterns - we have to live with this stuff, trying to make
> the best of it.

I read Campbell's "The Power of Myth" too many years ago to remember much. 
However, I think whatever psychological archetypes or patterns we have, have 
to be dealt with in  a way that fits
our times. That is, the great perfected Chan master can be contextualized to 
be a useful notion while pointing out the historical roots of the idea and 
making clear that not every, if any master/roshi with the title is 
definitely not like the iconic figure; that these figures are indeed iconic. 
It should be clear that the Chan institution cannot turn out perfected 
people cookie-cutter style to meet the needs of its institutional form. My 
guess is there are somewhere around 200 masters/roshi in America today with 
a large number in Europe.

> Another point. You ascribe the many scandals in the US-Zen communities
> to the rank difference between 'enlightened' Roshi with
> 'Dharma-transmission' and 'unenlightened' disciples. This is evidently
> true.
I think what I say is that setting up unrealistice disparities between the 
master and the student
puts in place a situation that allows or even encourages trouble and abusive 
behavior. I would like to add, that this situation in many cases, is quite 
harmful to the master/roshi who buys into the idealized notion of the role. 
I think in some cases at least,  the become delusional.

Because of my papers, I get a fair amount of email from people around the 
world involved in Zen.
Recently, I heard from a fellow in Europe having trouble with his teacher, 
who was upset that this student questioned him about style of practice, 
among other issues. The teacher screamed at him, "I represent the Buddha, 
you represent ego."

> But in this context I miss in your paper another relevant topic - the
> deficiency of ethics-teaching in the Zen-Tradition (here Aitken was an
> exception). If all Zen-teachers and Zen-disciples would sign from the
> very beginning of their schooling the 5 Silas and would regularly
> discuss and renew their vows, I'm sure there were much less problems.

Yes- I did not mention "the deficiency of ethics-teaching in the 
Zen-Tradition." This was
a mistake on my part. I think part of the problem here is that in Zen, 
ethics is studied, at least in the Rinzai sect and I believe the Sanbokyodan 
sect too. They are  considered as a koan of sorts and examined in meditation 
and in dokusan where they are viewed from a Zen perspective of emptiness and 
the relative,  interpenetration, host and guest... where the down to earth 
straighforwardness is not so clear. I have heard the same about Seung Sahn's 
group but I have not studied them.  I am not sure how the Soto sect handles 

Though Aitken in his writing, at least post early 1980's dealt with 
"ethics-teaching in the Zen-Tradition," he completely covered up the Eido 
Shimano troubles that occured in Hawaii in the 1960's, most certainly knew 
of the troubles occuring in the 1970's yet still acted deferential and 
bowing to Shimano into 1975 and 1976 while he attended the opening of Dai 
Bosatasu monastery in 1976 bringing along two students. See Aitken's letter 
It was not until the 1980's that he changed. Near the end of his life he 
tried to rectify this. All of this  is available  at .

Thank you for reading my paper and for your comments,


    > with kind regards,
> bernhard
> -- 
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