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

Stuart Lachs slachs at att.net
Fri Apr 15 19:59:55 MDT 2011

Hi bernhard

You wrote,

"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."

I would say they are part hagiography because some people seem to believe 
them as historical reporting and part myth. They are myths because they were 
created for Chan's legitimating needs
of mind to mind transmission, unbroken lineage from the historical Buddha, 
and so on. The separation between myth and hagiography is less than a clear 

I would say to a large extent the large Chan/Zen literature has replaced the 
sutras as the Zen canon.

> 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.

It is at least helpful to people who have trouble with a Zen teacher and/or 
and then are made to feel that some thing is wrong with them or that all the 
lies with them. Often, these people do not have the background to understand 
how they
are being pushed around, how the constructed Zen tradition is being used 
against them
and so on. These people find my work extremely helpful to make sense of 
their situation.

> 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!

Actually, this fellow replied to the roshi, "Who authorized you to speak for 
the Buddha?"
He was then told to "get out" by the roshi, which he did. But it is not easy 
afterwards. These are complicated relationships that develop over years.

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 :-))

Why have to deal with a messy world when you can collapse everything into an 
undifferentiated onesness and bless it with the title Zen.

Thank you for your reply.

All the best,


Again thank you for all, and with best wishes,

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