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

M.B. Schiekel mb.schiekel at arcor.de
Fri Apr 15 13:58:52 MDT 2011

Am 15.04.2011 19:31, schrieb Stuart Lachs:

Hello Stuart,

thank you for your kind answer.

> From my understanding, at least in the Chan/Zen context, the masters did not 
> 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. 

In my understanding the 'normal' buddhist biography is written by the
disciples of a great, old Dharma-teacher. For example, on occasion of
Ven. Nyanaponika Mahathera's 75. & 85. birthday his disciples and
friends published a Festschrift ("Des Geistes Gleichmass", 1976, and
"Zur Erkenntnis geneigt", 1986). And when these old teachers are
interviewed about their lives, in most cases they try to give answers
that they feel could be helpful for their disciples. A special example
is the tradition of death-bed poems (jap. jisei), a final résumé of
living many years in the Dharma (see e.g. Yoel Hoffmann, "Japanese Death

The fabulous creations of Chan (Mahakashyapa's smile, Hui Neng, etc.)
are in my view neither 'normal' buddhist biographies nor hagiographies,
but myths - and insofar the same genre as the Mahayana Sutras. Telling
stories and so on is seen authorized by the Mahayana-upaya argument.

> Because of my papers, I get a fair amount of email from people around the 
> world involved in Zen.

Thank you for all your work! Seems a bit like working in the garbage
collection :-) But hopefully this work will reduce some amount of suffering.

> 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."

Really sad - but on the other way, a very good opportunity to make a bow
and leave. Letdown leads to letting go leads to understanding. Buddhism
has nothing more to sell than this bitter medicine -
but there is also metta!

> 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. 

Sometimes I'm reading and writing in the German Zen-Email-List
'Zenforum'. Whenever I mention the words ethics and silas, people there
become very angry - they don't even like to discuss the silas, because
that's dualistic thinking and not Zen :-))

Again thank you for all, and with best wishes,

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