Teaching Authority within the Empty Moon Zen Network
For the protection and transmission of the Zen Dharma we cultivate various forms of leadership.
The following teaching authorizations are given in trust to individuals through the transmitted teachers: Practice Leader, Dharma Teacher, and Senior Dharma. The latter two titles are borrowed from the Kwan Um School of Zen. These teaching authorizations do not represent Dharma transmission in the sense used normatively in the Zen world. These appointed positions may be rescinded by the transmitted teachers. The authority granted is strictly derivative, held only as long as the transmitted teachers or the individuals themselves feel it helpful for the individual leader and the community.
Practice Leader: A Practice Leader holds responsibility for the functioning of an Empty Moon group. They are familiar with the forms of practice within the Empty Moon, and may give basic practice instruction. They are people with a stable meditation practice and some basic understanding of the Dharma and the sangha.
Dharma Teacher: A Dharma Teacher is a mature practitioner who has been given permission to give talks within the community. In general, five years of practice and substantial sesshin experience are expected of anyone advanced to this position.
Senior Dharma Teacher: A Senior Dharma Teacher may give talks, and may meet individually with students in private interviews (dokusan). Within parameters set by their shoken teachers, Senior Dharma Teachers may also work with students on koans. In general eight to ten years of practice and extensive sesshin training are expected of anyone advanced to this position.
Dharma transmission teaching authorizations are given a transmitted teacher through the authority of her/his own transmission. We strongly encourage any teacher considering offering transmission at any level to seek the approval of at least one other transmitted teacher, and ideally two.
Dharma Entrustment (for lay practitioners) or Denkai (for priests)
This is the beginning of formal Dharma transmission, the acknowledgment of deep insight into great matter of Zen in alignment with one’s teacher. The formal title is Dharma Holder and for priests, also Osho.
A Dharma holder may give the precepts and receive formal students through the rite of shoken. For priests this is full ordination, and an Osho may ordain others up to and through this rank. A Dharma holder may not transmit their own successors.
Among other expectations a Dharma holder is usually expected to have sat for a minimum of two hundred days of sesshin or zazenkai. If a koan practitioner, a Dharma holder is expected to have advanced significantly through the Soto Reformed Koan curriculum established by the late Daiun Sokaku Harada Roshi.
As acknowledgment of Precepts transmission, the first of the sanmatsu documents passed on in Japanese Soto Zen, the kechimiyaku is given. Priests will also receive the kiragami. There is a private ceremony followed by a public acknowledgement where the new teacher is given a kotsu. A lay teacher will also receive a colored rakusu and a priest a colored kesa.
Dharma Transmission (also Denbo)
This is full transmission, acknowledgement of mastery on the Zen way. The title for a Dharma successor is Sensei. A sensei is free to function as a Zen teacher in any way they find appropriate.
Among other expectations a sensei is usually expected to have sat for a minimum of three hundred days of sesshin or zazenkai. If a koan practitioner, a sensei is usually expected to have a mature understanding of the koan curriculum and can guide people through its intricacies.
As recognition of Dharma transmission, a Dharma successor is given the other two sanmatsu documents in a private ceremony, followed by a public ceremony where another lineage document is presented.
While Denbo is full transmission within the Soto school, because of our inheritance a transmitted teacher who also holds Inka may pass it on as they find appropriate. For us this is normally considered an acknowledgment of mastery of koan practice. But it may be conferred on non-koan teachers, as well.
A general guideline is that Inka should follow at least five years from Dharma transmission and the recipient is commonly seen as having become a senior teacher. (It is also important to note that Inka here is not meant to stand as an equivalent to the traditional Japanese Rinzai ceremony, but rather simply as an acknowledgement of seniority within our community of practice. For more on this, please go here.)
Inka Shomei is given in a public ceremony, after which the teacher may be referred to by the title Roshi (old teacher).