Long-time American Zen practitioner Stuart Lachs has spent some 40 years practicing Zen. First with Suzuki Roshi at the Tassajara Monastery in California and then with Eido Shimano Roshi, Walter Nowick, and finally with Ch’an Master Sheng-yen. In all of these communities Stuart ran up against strange and unfortunate dynamics playing out between the Zen Master and their communities. After getting heavily involved with the academic and sociological study of Zen, Stuart began seeing some of the cultural (and invisible) reasons that these communities would falter, whether from sexual scandals, the intense vanity of the teacher, or worse.
In this episode he shares with us some of the ways that the legitimacy, authority & power of the Zen Master are spread through the Zen institution, and how these sometimes ridiculous ideals are accepted without questions from many intelligent, well-meaning, people. If you’re a Buddhist practitioner of any sort, you won’t want to miss this conversation!
This is part 1 of a two-part series. Listen to part 2, The Darker Side of Zen: Institutions Defining Reality.