Sunday, August 29, 2010

the question of lineage

One comment stuck out, when I visited the Ch'an Meditation Center yesterday. When I was talking about the Triratana Buddhist Community, was someone said, "oh, the one without a lineage."

I thought immediately of the refuge tree. In Subhuti's last essay he says it's a refuge and respect tree. We have the whole Buddhist tradition to count on, it is open to all.

I thought about Sangharakshita's questions about his own Theravada ordination in his book Going For Refuge. How does he really know the five monks were following the code, and by extension, that nobody along the way back to the Buddha, was not following the monastic code, and there by invalidating an ordination? You could never know. Also that even if someone wasn't following the monastic code, they might actually be a good Buddhist.

Someone people follow the code, but don't really inspire others to practice, or they don't do much to get others to practice. I've read articles where there's a problem in that some people who are not very motivated and join a Theravada order just to not have to struggle for housing and food, they get it without much expectations. Actually I think that's cool, I think there should be more legitimate ways to do little. I think our society is over busy. And you can think about the story where Shantideva was thought to be a lazy monk who did the three practices (shit, eat and sleep), and then he dropped the knowledge on everyone.

At the Ch'an center they bragged that Shifu had two lineages. Sangharakshita has none officially, as far as I know, though he's had many initiations and whatnot. Maybe he was offered lineages, which he turned down.

So does this illegitimate the Triratana Buddhist Community and Order? I suppose it does raise questions, but to be honest, I'm not really impressed by titles in Buddhism. I think I can judge for myself spiritual progress, in myself and others. It's a kind of Buddhist branding, which isn't a problem. Just like everything, you still have to feel and think for yourself.

Now if you're looking for a career in Buddhism, lineage might be important. But I'm not looking for that. If you want to be a career Buddhist then lineage might be relevant. If you're going to serve a community that you target, and if that community values lineage talk, then that might be relevant.

I think TBC/O will always be dogged by this question of lineage, on a superficial level. Come see for yourself, I say. There are no spiritual guarantees. Just like I hope to check out the Ch'an Meditation Center, and judge it based on my own experience to see if it's going to be helpful in my own spiritual progress. And I'll not get too intoxicated by talk of lineage. It seems like a very promising place that is open to westerners and diversity. I was very impressed.

Of course you do want to know other people's training and experience, that is a legitimate question. I do think it's OK to ask about that stuff, and that is important. To be clear, I am not saying just take anyone. I have to be honest that I trust my instincts about people and whether or not they deserve my respect, and levels of respect. Of course every practitioner deserves respect, from a beginner to the the most advanced. Everyone deserves respect whether they follow my path or not. Some people impress me more than others in the spiritual life. And that's also important to think and feel about.

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