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Zenji:
On Master Kapleau
and the Transmission carried on.

First written July, 2002. Revised July, 2011


A link to a talk on a meeting referred to below, plus some other comments, follows this text.

In the Zen tradition, as in all other traditions, there are certain ways of doing things that are passed on from one generation to the next. These keep the sincerity of the work. At times these may seem to be broken from an outer perspective. Sometimes, indeed they are, but it is not the so-called outer that determine it, but rather "inner" or more refined function. Thus sometimes people will get "caught up" in outer form to the exclusion or loss of the reality. This is a poor downward spiral that is experienced by most of the religions and crystalized traditions.

But also, at the same time, and within those more refined parts of everyday life, there are those who pay attention to what is going on and try to work with that. They include many who have gone before yet are not separate from each other or some of "those" today. They work together to insure the continuity of Teaching, harmony, breath, and heart. It is from this point of being that the following has been shown.

What is presented here on this page is really not much more than notes.
     'For some, this is not enough; and for those we say,
    "That is fine. Don't worry about it".
    For others this is too much. To those we also say
    "That is fine".
    So if you read this and find it either overblown or lacking, all we can say is "That is fine" '.

The "folks" who know what is going on in the various paths or traditions also include that which is known by different names; but the function is always the same. It can be "defender of the Dharma", "keeper of the flame", "protector of the faith", or by other names and forms. But it is always with the understanding there is a common working together. The different aspects are but various "faces".

It is very clear, has been recognized by those who know in these matters, and is stated unequivocally that since Phillip Kapleau functioned as Zen Master; he is also openly considered as such; and that the lineage and transmission is complete and unbroken as brought forth through him.

Through a web site such as this I am just reporting and therefore accept that recognition of him, and follow through with the understanding that it is real. This is simply nothing more than saying what already exists.

This in no way is in contradiction to the intent of the writings on the subject by Zen Master Dogen in 1235. He was speaking and writing for the time in addition to leaving work/guide for future use. But the needs of the local situation were primary. We find no conflict. The "Teacher" is the "Teacher".

He, Master Kapleau, resided in New York, was retired, and died shortly after a meeting between this writer and him. He also, in a larger way, looks over the work and includes it and the centers and people from a "semi-supervisory" position. This contact continues to this day, and he is transmission of heart and breath extends into this world. The daily outer work in this world is done by those entrusted with it, and with the transmission passed on through him - sanctioned by him. He is very clear and vibrant and would not have passed this on without reason. It is done rightly and clearly. If you have interest in a real school, they are the people to contact - after adequate preparation and in a grounded state.

If you wish to put the work of Master Phillip Kapleau and the transmission that is carried through him and on through his "heirs" into more perspective, you would do well to go to the Rochester Zen Center web site. It would also be beneficial to read both the "Afterword to The Three Pillars of Zen" and "Roshi and his Teachers", both written by Bodhin Kjolhede, Sensei. You can find these articles through the "library" link on that site. You would also do well to read in full the "Afterword - a Personal Note" found in the book "Zen, Dawn in the West".

It should be, and is clear that whether this transmission is carried on, at least to the extent it has been brought forth through Master Kapleau depends upon those doing this work. Here is a story.

The following is from the book "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" compiled by Paul Reps. It is one of 101 Zen Stories.

What Are You Doing!
What Are You Saying!

In modern times a great deal of nonsense is talked about masters and disciples, and about the inheritance of a masters teaching by favorite pupils, entitling them to pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course Zen should be imparted in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past it was really accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than profession and assertion. The one who received such a teaching kept the matter hidden even after twenty years. Not until another discovered through his own need that a real master was at hand was it learned that the teaching had been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite naturally and the teaching made its way in its own right. Under no circumstance did the teacher even claim "I am the successor of So-and-so." Such a claim would prove quite the contrary.

The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. "I am getting old," he said, "and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I also have added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship."

"If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it, Shoju replied. I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is."

"I know that," said Mu-nan. "Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here."

The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.

Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: "What are you doing!"

Shoju shouted back: "What are you saying!"


Hear a talk on this meeting and other topics.
Recollections of a meeting with Philip Kapleau: An mp3 of 10:28.



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