A few myths about the Transmission of the Lamp: (with commentary)
- It’s an unbroken lineage to the original Gautama Buddha,
- Those who are Transmitted have achieved Buddhahood,
- Transmission confirms that one is Enlightened,
- Transmission holders are Bodhisattvas (Those who seek Buddahood)
- Transmitted priest are infallible!
History is a lie: It is written and rewritten over and over again to promote the political agenda of the times.
The Real Transmission
Directly pointing to the light of your own mind,
Seeing and holding one’s true nature,
Thus realizing Buddhahood,
The holy transmission completed,
The confusion of the scriptures is transcended
In Japanese Zen, Transmission signifies the end of formal training
- Monks have put in the required time in temple monastic training, typically a year.
- Monks have completed all classes (theology and history) and learned all ceremonies required,
It would be considered greatly scandalous for a Monk to go through the monastic training and NOT be transmitted. In Catholicism, the priest has a similar process of Acceptance, Seminary, and Ordination. It would again be greatly scandalous for a person to go through the training and NOT be given the Rite of Ordination that makes them a Priest.
Transmission in Wester Zen Centers
In my own discussions with Sectarian Transmitted Zen Teachers here in the west, this is what they say about Transmission:
- It’s to encourage a senior student to further their studies and commitment,
- To recognize a senior student time, dedication, and effort,
- To create priest so there are successors to the existing temples, and where new satellite temples can open
The criticism is that the Path to Transmission is subjective and ambiguous in many of the western Zen centers. This opens the door to malicious politics, in-group preferences, and arbitrary and unjust decisions on who is transmitted and who is not.
Here in the West, the Sectarian transmission to non-ordained persons has become accepted, and is practiced in many American Zen Centers. Korean Zen has also started with Layman Transmission as well.
Western Christianity has similar layman ordinations such as a Church Deacon, Eldersman, or even a ‘lay-priest’ that can perform ceremonies and church functions when a fully-ordained priest is not available.
- These are methods that are done when a organization is either growing, or
- When the organization is in recession and no new priest are available.