Lineages

30/11/2012

I am in the zen lineage of Bodhidharma, Huineng, Huang-po,  Chao-chou, Vimalakirti, Muso Soseki, Bankei, Bassui, Shantideva, Dogen, Shrimala, Suzuki Shosan, Ikkyu, Zibo Zhenke, Takuan, Tsung-mi,  Yamamoto, Hakuin,  the Shaolin and many others. If you ask how that can be, I answer that any lineage is imaginary. I have studied a few official ones , and in quite a lot you will find missing links, quotation marks, unclear dates of births and deaths etc. On the other hand zen adepts often recite their ancestor’s lineage down to the Shakyamuni Buddha, including some guys that most of them have never much heard about. When I translated Aryadeva’s Catushataka, I stopped doing that. He is known as Kanadeva in the row of Patriarchs and was a disciple of the famous Nagarjuna.  Can you believe that he was so dumb to only know the female’s sex organs as horribly stinking flesh? I’d rather recite the name’s of Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller now.

A bigger problem is the decline of lineages. To give an example, there is much deep wisdom in what was taught by Shunryu Suzuki. One of his dharma heirs, Richard Baker, became known for affairs with his female students. One of Baker’s dharma heirs, Reb Anderson, once found a corpse, went back to “meditate” over it and took a revolver nearby, not telling the police about it. Later he was mugged near his zen center, retrieved the unloaded revolver and chased his perpetrator down the street. One main assistant of Suzuki Roshi, Kobun Chino, drowned while trying to safe his daughter who had fallen from a dock, knowing that he could not swim himself. One of his  “heirs”, Vanja Palmers, called the intake of psychedelics “close to his heart”.

Some teachers make the wrong choice when appointing their dharma heirs. But if a student does not succeed in surpassing his master, it may not only be detected in his teaching but through his life style. The USA have succeeded in winning another war against Japan by slowly eradicating the wisdom of Japanese zen masters that were sent there in the last century. If you believe running a commercial bakery is the same as dunking your belongings in a sea (Layman Pang) or meditating in a former concentration camp equals dealing with a pleasure girl (Ikkyu) you may also fantasize that a beetle may outrun a tiger.

Good to know that the whole lineage business was a late invention, for the disciple of Bodhidharma it was necessary to cut off one arm instead of taking any vow, i.e. parroting formula. In a tradition that knew of advice like “When you meet the Buddha, kill him!” there is hardly any place for sticking to the adoration of certain individuals as you will find it in modern dojos. It may be different with the teacher you meet personally. I myself am pretty happy that I have not met Dogen in flesh and blood, he might just have scared me away by insisting on the superiority of monks. Better to extract the best of old masters through their writings. Nowadays, with all the printed material and the internet, you will thus find a wiser teaching than ever was possible before. If you still miss some eye contact, you may prepare by studying with experts for mimic, first, like with Paul Ekman. Afterwards you may know even when the Dalai Lama fools you.

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