So, my zen teacher turns out never to have had any sort of transmission at all. He was not ordained either. He stayed a couple of months in a Japanese Monastery (depending on the source this has been 3 months -says the Monastery- or 4 months to 6 months -says the teacher-). He went back to Japan several times, but according to his Monastery, yes, attended sesshins but never finished a sesshin. He usually left after two days.
My zen teacher claimed to have had some special sort of informal transmission. From this came part of his authority to teach. At first he called himself teacher. Then zen master. A couple of years ago he switched to Dai Osho, which I thought rather strange as that title generally is reserved for dead teachers. And sometimes he used or let people use the title roshi, which he was not. Of that I was certain.
I caught my teacher telling smaller lies too. I never minded them much though. Usually he told a story a bit spiced up or combined several stories into one. Only once or twice I thought “No, now you’re plain wrong. That is not what happened.”
There were some other odd things. Things he did not clarify when specifically asked, like the origin of a sutra we recite at his sesshins (yes, he does sesshins). He could get really grumpy, when asked something like that.
But meanwhile he seemed to know what he was talking about and seemed to know what he was doing. I liked him. He is smart, has a sharp wit and brilliant intuitive way of responding to what ever happens. He has a well developed insight in the human mind. He has a good sense of humour. And he is stylish in a theatrical way, but dosed so it is charming. He owns any stage you give him, any crowd you put before him.
Also, especially his sesshins where very much a Rinzai thing. People visiting from Japan, monastics visiting from Japan, liked what they saw. The daily routines, the sutras, the meals, the daily work, right up to yaza at night and the use of the keisaku in the zendo, the Japanese monastics fit right in. He was firm and strict and learned how to throw an effective katsu or two.
To me all this was magic. Very appealing magic. Although I was always critical, I loved that man and trusted him with my life. Following his advise, I too lived some time in a monastic setting, although I stayed in my home country for this. My time there was tough for several reasons, but I learned a lot and felt more at home in Buddhism then ever before.
The idea ripened that I too would become a zen teacher. This is what my teacher does mainly nowadays: he trains new zen teachers, although the curriculum at first glance looks more like training meditation leaders. But I agreed none the less. And I am indeed in the process of setting up shop.
Here again I encountered some unclarities. I thought my teacher and I agreed on several issues. He made some promises, small but for me significant, like finding a way for me to participate in a group or finding me a daily teacher so I was not sitting all alone anymore like I had been doing for over a year at that moment. I never heard from him again and this was half a year ago. This is his habit. He promises and does not deliver. And this time I thought it rather annoying. I needed to be in touch, but I am still out here on my own.
Then a little over two months ago, all hell broke loose. My teacher had a fall out with his former monastic buddy and in the conclusion of that dispute, broke all connections with his former monastery. Just like that. The fight started with the monastery denying any formal or informal transition. As in “there is no lineage and he is not a teacher”. They even go so far as to publicly call him a liar and they deny him all future access to the monastery.
But maybe that was not really important. Zen history has many a story like this. A monastic fleeing from his buddies, fearing for his life, and we know him today as one of the great sages of Zen. And besides that, anybody you learn from is a teacher.
The next fact revealed though, was that my teacher never was a monastic. He was a lay person training a couple of months as a guest of the monastery. He was no monk, no priest.
Hang on. I did my Jukai with him. No priest, no Jukai. My raksu is a farce.
From then on I went through all the sentiments and emotions; anger, doubt, denial, sadness… And then I went calm again. I learned from this man. I learned a lot. I laughed with him, I fought with him, I cried with him. And I consciously chose to ignore smaller signs of possible mischief, like little white lies or inexplicable harshness as a response to some of my more inquisitive questions. I ignored him breaking promises. I wanted him as my teacher despite the obvious flaws. Him being my teacher was my own responsibility.
But all what happened now, fucked up my Jukai. And for that reason I today left my teacher. After years with him and grateful for all he did for me. I loved him, but not being a monk or priest, knowingly still let people go through their Jukai ceremony, giving them a dharma name… No.
I love that guy still and wish him wisdom and all the best. My time has come to move on though. Looking for a new teacher now. And a sangha, a place to do a proper Jukai. Give up my old dharma name, Fushin – No Truth. Find out what other jokes life has to offer me.