[Buddha-l] Paper: When the Saints Go Marching In (Lachs)

M.B. Schiekel mb.schiekel at arcor.de
Fri Apr 15 03:34:47 MDT 2011

Am 08.04.2011 16:40, schrieb Stuart Lachs:
> I would like to announce my latest paper titled "When the Saints Go
> Marching In: Modern Day Zen Hagiography."  

Dear Stuart,

thank you for sharing your experiences and reflections about the
hagiographies of Sheng Yen and Walter Nowick. I don't know both teachers
personally, but I've read Sheng Yen's "Footprints in the Snow" in a
German translation with joy and inspiration.

Obviously you are right in that this 'autobiography' is a hagiography
and it's not presenting the 'historical truth' (whatever this might be),
but a retrospect of the old Master Sheng Yen. Since 2500 years the
common way buddhist teachers present their livestories is to emphazise
the aspects of Dharma and to neglect the aspects of 'worldliness'. So
all buddhist autobiographical texts from the early monks and nuns of the
Buddha, to the biography of Milarepa, to the biography of Sheng Yen are
You're showing the problems of this hero worship in the Chan/Zen context
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.

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
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.

with kind regards,

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