Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dharma transmission

Various circumstances of late seem to have been the springboard for a thought that popped into my mind: 
As is fitting and correct, my own Zen teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, left no Dharma heirs ... and I am one such grateful heir.


  1. This post may be seen to imply that Kyudo did not completely buy into the mythos of dharma transmission even as he accepted transmission from Soen Nakagawa and participated in the appropriate training and ceremony. I am not saying this is a completely incorrect opinion. However as is always the case "there is a little more to that story."

    It is would be naive even irresponsible to think that Kyudo would have not cared enough about Ryutaku-ji's future to have not wanted some input into what would happen after he "joined the Great Majority."

    Clearly, after Kyudo Roshi passed away Eizan Goto was made abbot of Ryūtaku-ji. Now, normally, the current abbot would have had a successor in mind (most likely after discussions his "board" and the Rinzai Daitakui-ji administrators). Further, there is evidence that the prior abbot of Ryutaku-ji and Kyudo's good friend, Suzuki Sochu (1921-1990), was already grooming Eizan to be his successor. So Kyudo may have felt bound by friendship, duty or politics not to prevent Eizan from taking over the reigns. If my recollection from the time is correct I believe one of stories was the Kyudo had indeed decided that Eizan would be next in line which means, chanting, bowing and circus aside, Kyudo accepted Eizan as his successor.

    We do know is that Eizan considered himself a "disciple of Soen Roshi."(1)

    Also, if you look at one of the lineage charts as provided to the
    you will see a graphic outline with an unbroken succession of abbots / dharma heirs going from Eizan back to Kyudo to Sochu to Hakuin Zenji and further back. But since we know Kyudo was Soen's heir and not Sochu's we know that that the chart doesn't strictly indicated a transmission linage. Without detailed commentary or evem footnotes for the lineage charts eventually people will see the that chart and perhaps assume Eizan was the direct and chosen dharma successor of Kyudo and that Kyudo was Sochu's heir, etc.



    There is a more detailed chart entitlled the Ryutaku-ji Lineage with a 2010 date that does not list Eizan at all nor any abbot after Kyudo. More information is needed; and at least an updated lineage chart. (It's that same chart that completely omits Shimano from the Rinzai / Hakuin Lineage that Shimano keeps giving lipservice to.)


    Wouldn't have been nice if instead of the mysterious dharma drama Zen students decided to look for teachers and abbots more along the lines of:
    1. Good practitioner
    2. Good character
    3. Personable
    4. Creates a safe, pleasant and harmonious environment
    5. Solid knowledge of Buddhist teachings
    5. Solid knowledge of Zen Lore
    6. Good speaker
    7. Good non-profit administrator
    8. Good fund raiser
    9. Other appropriate characteristics (e.g. interested in educational and charitable activities, good writer, involved in social issues, etc.).

    1. Opps! Sorry the the misnumbering of the list at the end.
      It's not a ranked order.