What the teacher really offers the student is literally living proof that all this talk and the seemingly impossible goals [of Zen] can be realized in this lifetime.” – Baker Roshi in the Introduction to Zen Mind, Begineer’s Mind
Stuart Lachs, who for many decades has studied Zen from within and from without, challenges the legitimacy and authority of the Zen Master by deconstructing the structures and invisible institutional systems that grant this authority to the Zen Master. Listen in to find out how Noam Chomsky’s notion of “useful doctrinal fabrications” applies to Zen, how the story of an unbroken lineage of Zen masters going back to the Buddha himself is basically bogus, how all of the elements of Zen itself weave together to form a seamless web of nearly unquestionable power, and why it’s so hard to leave these communities even if you want to.
This isn’t to say that the practice of Zen isn’t extremely powerful, and Stuart himself is a huge fan of the practices therein, but it is to say that many of us aren’t aware of the ways that the institution itself defines reality for us.
This is part 2 of a two-part series. Listen to part 1, Zen Masters: Dressing the Donkey with Bells and Scarves.