Wednesday, June 24, 2009

true lineage

In Zen and other forms of Buddhism, it is within the tradition for a teacher to acknowledge and announce acceptance of one or more students as heirs to that tradition. Each may then claim to be in a lineage ... sometimes referred to as "stretching all the way back to Shakyamuni Buddha."

Today I got a note from a friend asking if Joshu Sasaki Roshi, the 102-year-old Rinzai Zen teacher, had selected any heirs. I didn't and don't know the answer, but I can imagine that he might well not have. My own teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, did not select any heirs either.

Lineage is an important tenet within the Buddhist tradition.

But what crossed my mind this morning -- without any disrespect intended and with a willingness to grant the arguments that favor lineage as a tradition -- was this: Perhaps the most honest, if difficult, acknowledgment is that there is no such thing as lineage. No lineage is true lineage... and the good teachers who recognized this simply declined to be drawn into the fairy tale by trying to 'improve' the dance.

Yes, yes ... I can hear the counterpoint ... what about saving all sentient beings?

But still...if your parents and children are dancing all around you, if the music is already sweet and cannot possibly get sweeter or somehow stop ... well, wouldn't anyone just dance and delight?

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