Friday, December 21, 2012

Eido Shimano's lineage

The following statement from Myoshin-ji monastery in Japan appears on the Shimano Archive:
"Myoshin-ji has received many inquiries regarding its relationship with the Zen Studies Society in New York ever since the publication on 20 August 2010 of an article in the New York Times regarding the behavior of the Society's former director, Eido Shimano."

"On the occasion of establishing the Zen Studies Society, Eido Shimano stipulated that the Society was to have no relation to Myoshin-ji or any other branch of Japanese Rinzai Zen Buddhism. As far as Myoshin-ji is concerned, all along it has had no connection with Eido Shimano, his activities or organizations, including Dai Bosatsu Zendo and all affiliated Zen Studies Society institutions, nor is Eido Shimano or any of his successors certified as priests of the Myoshin-ji branch of Zen or recognized as qualified teachers."
Those who have been clinging (overtly or covertly) to their authorization as handed on by Eido Shimano may find new reason to reconsider their 'authority' and 'authenticity.'

In the past, of course, the mounting chorus of questions about Shimano seems to have aroused little transparent self-examination among those who had their tickets punched by Shimano. But, for those who take lineage seriously, Myoshin-ji is the big bopper of Rinzai Zen.

In the past, those playing Zen have asserted that a "lineage reaching all the way back to Shakyamuni Buddha" was not only credible (a point hardly born out by history), but also provided a reason for their own latter-day authority and, perhaps, wisdom. Similarly, in the past, when lineage has been challenged, these Zen playmakers have been wont to claim, "Oh well, lineage is not that important."

It probably won't be any different this time around, but still, with Myoshin-ji's statement, the world of K-Y Jelly Zen Buddhism becomes a little less credibly slippery.


  1. Thanks for posting this.

    All of this is complicated and troubling for me. I started practicing a few years ago with the local Rinzai Zen group because, well, they were local.

    My teacher's teacher is Jun Po Denis Kelly, whose teacher was Shimano, so I pay a lot of attention to all of this and have particularly been thankful for your "signal" amongst all of the "noise" around this.

    I respect and love my teacher, the other teachers in the sangha, and the sangha I practice with, but I also try to see all of the messy humanity we all have with my eyes open.

    I've also been known to harp on the idea of "lineage," period, not just that of Shimano's line. The "unbroken line" image presented as historical fact makes me uncomfortable.

    I sent a link to this to my teacher and looking forward to discussing it.

    Mostly, I just wanted to say thank you.

  2. I read this as confirming the fact that already is well-known among Shimano's Dharma heirs and, I assume, his students: there is no relationship whatsoever between Eido Shimano and Myoshinji.

    It is cited here that Eido Shimano himself broke off with Myoshinji on the occasion of "establishing" ZSS; ZSS was in fact established in 1956 for the Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki in order to help him introduce Zen to the West and Eido Shimano took over its leadership in the mid-60's.

    I have heard that it may already have been Soen Nakagawa Roshi who broke off the relationship.

  3. Does legitimacy come from a corporate body in Japan (leaving aside wider questions of Eido Shimano's legitimacy)?

  4. "I have heard that it may already have been Soen Nakagawa Roshi who broke off the relationship."

    Mugen -- If this were actually the case, why then would Myoshin-ji maintain Soen on its lineage charts ... as it has?

    Al -- Yours is a good question, of course. The fact is that those who credit 'legitimate' lineage rely on the support of others, sometimes other individuals, sometimes other institutions. Without such support (and sometimes with it), any damned fool could run around pretending to be a Zen teacher.

    So, it's about like any other group hug (or cluster-fuck, depending on the point of view): If enough people agree, then it must be true. But is it actually true? I don't know.

  5. Any damned fool CAN run around pretending to be a Zen teacher! That's whether you have a piece of paper from a "legitimate" lineage or recognized group (recognized by whom?) or not.

  6. Hi Adam, I have looked for some documentation regarding Soen Nakagawa's relationship to Myoshinji, but since I am not a member of the "immediate family", so to speak, I don't have access to anything other than what everyone else has. I know that Soen's teacher, Gempo Yamamoto, certainly belonged to the Myoshinji lineage; I believe he served as abbot for a short period - and Soen would definitely not disrespect this as long as Gempo was alive by breaking off. So, Soen would most definitely be recorded at Myoshinji.
    I have only hearsay to go on, but Soen did refuse the honor of residing as "abbot for the day" when formally invited by Myoshinji. This was in the 70's, I believe, already after Eido Shimano chose to establish the US line as a new lineage, free from Myoshinji - and definitely unheard of in Japan.
    My teacher, Denko John Mortensen, regarding the statement from Myoshinji, has written:

    "This is no news!

    I was told this more than 30 years ago by Eido Shimano himself. Either Soen Nakagawa or Eido Shimano broke with Myoshin-Ji, since it did not make much sense for a monastery in the USA to keep up this formal and expensive connection. So: of course I am not certified as a priest or recognized as a qualified teacher by Myoshin-Ji; Myoshin-Ji priests and Dharma Heirs aren't certified and recognized by Buddhist Society (of Denmark), either. We/they are simply different organizations - nothing more, nothing less.

    A monk or nun will become a priest upon completing 1000 days of formal training in a monastery. The monastery as well as the priest will have records of that.

    A "qualified teacher" will be designated as such by his teacher in a public ceremony (or several), and several documents will be presented to this now designated "qualified teacher". Eido Shimano went through such a ceremony, as is well documented. His Dharma Heirs went through such ceremonies, and that is well documented as well.

    Don't get confused!"

  7. Mugen -- I was in the army for the better part of three years ... around 1,000 days. When I got done, I was handed an "honorable discharge" that hangs on my wall as a reminder of what I must own up to in my life.

    Was I a good soldier? The honorable discharge may suggest that I was, but actually it only stipulates that I didn't fuck up too badly. Lord knows there were a lot of others who were more idiotic than I was and probably a lot who were better soldiers.

    1,000 days ... don't get confused. Certification ... don't get confused.

    The Japanese, whose ethos Shimano believed in and instilled in his teaching (remember all that crap about bushido and other honorable qualifications?) is head-over-heels in love with group-think. Lineage is one expression of that group-think when it is reduced to 1,000 days and a couple of ceremonies. I become a good soldier because ... well, because I didn't get caught fucking up.

    Don't get confused. If paperwork and ceremonies create acceptable Zen teachers, what sort of Zen would that be? Merchant-mind Zen, I would say. And if one of your allies and progenitors suggests you are not actually worth acknowledging????

    Don't get confused. Did Shimano get his spiffy Shinto hat because he was so damned excellent? Do others wear equally spiffy robes because they lack connections that cannot be denied? But in the same way that an "honorable discharge" does not designate a good soldier, so 1,000 days and a couple of certificates from a man whose mediocrity is assured ... well, don't get confused. This is a responsibility that must be acknowledged if there is to be something more than a mediocre, merchant-minded lineage.

    Well ... never mind: I suppose I am just confused.

  8. This is when I point out, from personal knowledge, for some if not all Buddhist sects in Japan, different levels of certification often involve a test and then a *bunch* of money (often annual fees) changing hands in return for the certification.

    When I think of Japanese Buddhist organizations, they do in the same box I put the Vatican and the Catholic Church in.

    As someone who was an active Neopagan and whatnot for 16 years, I want nothing to do with that sort of thing. I may be a bit reactionary though.

    That said, we're all making our own way now.

  9. Adam, please, you won't catch me defending any of the unethical, dangerous, harmful, manipulative things that Shimano has done. You will never find Denko defending any of the unethical, dangerous, harmful, manipulative things that Shimano has done - and that is the cause of their split nearly 7-8 years ago. What has happened at DBZ and ZSS made Denko even question if what he had experienced as a student of Shimano was Buddhism. Nothing here about equating any piece of paper with true and mature realization. You must notice that there are "" in Denko's statement re: qualified teachers and the clerical work around that. As for the 1000 days - yeah - you become a priest, just like graduating anywhere else - good priest, unknowledgeable priest, realized priest, who knows?

    The whole point of Denko's statement was that the Myoshinji announcement isn't news at all, but rather a statement of fact that Shimano and the American empire have nothing at all to do with them. It is their way of distancing themselves from the whole story. His statement just says that the prerequisite paperwork will be found where it is relevant.

    This morning, I have been told that the Myoshinji statement could just as well apply to other Rinzai teachers, if they have no connection to Japan. And that similar statements could also have been written by the Soto organization regarding Soto monasteries and centers in the States that have no connection to Japan.

    The announcement from Japan is old news AND a tempest in a teacup, unless someone in the organization around Shimano "needs" there to be that connection to legitimize their existence. Or if someone outside that organization wishes to tear it down because of the lack of a connection. And in either case, well, how sad. You may know more about these things than I do.

    Thanks for the space.

    1. Patrick Eigan NewtonMarch 19, 2017 at 5:38 PM

      Reading this years later. Find it Denko's comments interesting given that he was also involved in sexual impropriety when serving as the Vice Abbot under Eido Shimano when at Dai Bosatsu..

  10. Koku left the following message at Eido Tai Shimano (cont) 4:

    FYI --

    Some reminders from the Shimano Archives currently at 813 documents.

    1. In 1982 Shimano and the ZSS Board formally reaffirmed that the organization was completely independent of the Rinzai hierarchy.

    .... [U]pon motion duly made and seconded, it was RESOLVED that the Zen Studies Society acknowledges and declares Eido Tai Shimano Roshi to be the founder, and the first and present abbot of Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji and New York Zendo Shobo-ji; and Soen Roshi and the late Nyogen Senzaki to be honorary founders; and that Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji and New York Zendo Shobo-ji are and will remain independent from any other Zen Buddhist organization here or abroad.


    2. References to actual lineage charts in the archive.

    To which I responded:

    Based on Koku's kindly factual lineage additions above, it seems that not only did Eido Shimano cut himself off from the family that raised him, but the family that raised him cut itself off from him.

    So it seems Denko was right ...

    "A monk or nun will become a priest upon completing 1000 days of formal training in a monastery. The monastery as well as the priest will have records of that.

    A "qualified teacher" will be designated as such by his teacher in a public ceremony (or several), and several documents will be presented to this now designated "qualified teacher". Eido Shimano went through such a ceremony, as is well documented. His Dharma Heirs went through such ceremonies, and that is well documented as well."

    1,000 days of training, a couple of ceremonies and a certificate or two and anyone is free to sell Zen trinkets as an authentic Zen teacher.

    And here I thought McDonald's had a good grip on how to run a franchise.

  11. I passingly read a recent circulation written by a former student of Soen, who later and still studies under Eido, regarding Shimano's lineage. This letter, distributed to Shimano's students, confirms Shimano's lineage is independent from Japanese Rinzai Zen. Considering the writer background and the letter details, this circulation is either coached or at least consulted to and approved by Eido. Hopefully, someone can put that letter in the website to settle the issue.