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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
FALL 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 65 Kindness and the wisdom of practice are the main thing. In the last decade or so, Zen Center also has been giving lay transmission, which we call lay entrustment. We now have a number of lay teachers who are empowered to teach Zen, lead retreats, and have students. The only difference at this point is that lay teachers are not ritually empowered—they can not officiate at services and so on. If they want to pass on precepts to their students or appoint a successor in their personal lineage, they would need a priest to give blessing to whatever rituals are involved. BLANCHE HARTMAN: One of the people who has worked the hardest to complete the formal training of people who have been practicing for years and have given their life to this community is my teacher, Sojun Mel Weitsman, who is also Norman’s and Steve’s teacher. He became the teacher’s teacher. There are two long-standing teachers here who are responsible for the transmission of most of the current teachers at Zen Center, Sojun Mel Weitsman and Tenshin Reb Anderson. But Sojun in particular focused on completing the training of those people who were sort of orphaned after Richard Baker left. Sojun is obviously not the only person who’s given dharma transmission to people, but he gave dharma transmission to a certain generation of people who had been Suzuki Roshi’s strong students and were left to drift when Richard left. We owe a great deal to him for doing that. Personally, I did not want Richard to leave. I wanted him to understand what had been harmful about his actions, truly repent, and stay and practice with us. But it didn’t seem to be possible for him. I think he has since apologized, but at the time he couldn’t really understand how he had caused harm. I still love him, you know. We would not have survived through the period following Suzuki Roshi’s death without him, and I think he needs that appreciation and recognition. NORMAN FISCHER: Several years ago we were at a big gathering of Buddhist teachers and there was a panel on training future teachers. When it was Zen Center’s turn to present our training program, we sort of looked at one another and said, “Well...” Because we don’t really have a formal training program. We just live together and practice together and we train in taking different roles, and years go by. Even if it’s not explicit, it’s an effective kind of training program and we have confidence it will produce good dharma leaders in the future. So I think we’re okay on this score. We’re still doing it. MARY MORGAN: Another aspect of our strength going forward is that we are committed to widening our circle in so many different ways. While residential training is core to producing our future teachers, we’re also very aware of the importance of non-residents and their needs. It’s important to remember that there isn’t a wall around Zen Center and the residents who live there. Zen Center is porous. People go in and out. When Steve became co-abbot, he had not lived at Zen Center for a significant period of time. When Christina Lehnherr became abiding abbess at City Center recently, she had not lived inside Zen Center for several years. People go in and out, which is one reason why paying attention to the needs of the wider sangha, as well as to training teachers who are currently in residence, is a mutually beneficial process. STEVE STÜCKY: That’s an excellent point. We appreciate the value of residential training, and at the same time we know that people benefit from life experience outside of monastic training. I’m involved with several other teachers with the Shogaku Zen Institute, which is a kind of an adjunct to the residential training. It prepares people to take on a pastoral role in a sangha outside of Zen Center—things like understanding psychological issues and modalities, being flexible in how to present the dharma, and specific training in group process and sangha dynamics. We now have about forty official affiliate sanghas, and people are training in their affiliate sanghas and then coming to Zen Center for some of their training. So I think in the future the permeability of the identified edges of San Francisco Zen Center will continue to expand. I’m excited by the number of people at Zen Center in their twenties and thirties who are really dedicated and beginning to take on leadership. It doesn’t mean that the future is guaranteed, but I do see potential future leaders, teachers, and abbots. —Steve Stücky ©ANDREAC.ROTH©ALISONBANKPHOTOGRAPHY