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What is a Zen master?

 
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shikisoku
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:06 am    Post subject: What is a Zen master? Reply with quote
I thought Zen master was a Zen school 禅宗 buddhism monk but it seemed the English meaning is different.
What exactly is a Zen master?
And how do you translate in Japanese?
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JLBadgley
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
"Master" can refer to several things in English. Usually a "Zen Master" is anyone who has said to have "mastered" (perfected?) the practice of Zen.

Usually, this can refer to a monk, a teacher, etc, but it doesn't necessarily mean a monk. I guess it is kind of like how "sensei" doesn't just mean a teacher.

Why do you ask?

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Tornadoes28
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Below is a quote from Brad Warner, a fairly well known Soto Zen monk in the United States. I think I've heard this stated elsewhere as well, that traditional Zen monks do not refer to them as masters.

Quote:
The term Zen Master is a joke. There is no such thing as a Zen Master.

It may be a translation of the Japanese term 禅師 (zenji), which could indeed be translated as "Zen Master." But I have never heard this term used to refer anyone who is currently alive. It's considered much to respectful of a designation to be applied to anyone who might actually hear you use it. It would be highly embarrassing to be called "zenji."

To refer to anyone living as a Zen Master is simply ridiculous. To refer to yourself as a Zen Master is so ridiculous as to be bizarre. I have applied the term to myself occasionally just to demonstrate how incredibly absurd it is for anyone to call himself a Zen Master.


http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/12/whats-so-wrong-with-genpo-roshi.html
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ltdomer98
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:13 pm    Post subject: Re: What is a Zen master? Reply with quote
shikisoku wrote:
I thought Zen master was a Zen school 禅宗 buddhism monk but it seemed the English meaning is different.
What exactly is a Zen master?
And how do you translate in Japanese?


It would be impossible to translate what most Americans unfamiliar with Japan think of when they say "Zen Master", because the concept just wouldn't make sense. You, as a Japanese, have an understanding of what Zen is and what Buddhism is. "Zen Master" is a term used by those ignorant of that to describe a concept they think exists, but doesn't. Say "Zen Master" to me and I think of a caricaturish Buddhist monk in a kung fu movie, that has magical powers from studying at the Shaolin Temple. Some people are stupid enough to think that has a basis in reality. Just like some Japanese people think all Americans wear cowboy hats, or that Beverly Hills 90210 is an accurate depiction of American high school.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
For starters, most Westerners think that Buddhism=Zen; they're unaware that there are lots of other Buddhist schools in Japan (and elsewhere), and ones that are much bigger. So any oriental-looking monk (whether Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, etc) is apt to be seen as a Zen Master by Westerners-at least the ones that they don't think are Shaolin Monks. This is a lot like how many Japanese think all Christians are Catholic.

Because of the success of the book "Zen in the Art of Archery", "Zen Master" also became inextricably intertwined with the martial arts. You have sammyrai wannabes and bogus martial artists reading this and Musashi's 'Five Rings' calling themselves Zen Masters. So a Zen Master is also usually seen as a 'martial arts master'. Of course, the variety of 'Zen' passed along in martial arts classes has little to do with actual Zen-it's more along the lines of exercises designed to clear one's mind of distractions and promote focus.

Usually anyone who practices Ikebana or Chanoyu is assumed to also be a Zen Master as well.
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nagaeyari
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Actually, I would argue that the term zenji (禅師) *was* used to refer to living individuals contemporaneously, based on appearances in primary sources (beginning with Shoku Nihongi).
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shikisoku
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
It's pretty easy to become Zen master. Very Happy
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ltdomer98
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
nagaeyari wrote:
Actually, I would argue that the term zenji (禅師) *was* used to refer to living individuals contemporaneously, based on appearances in primary sources (beginning with Shoku Nihongi).


But that's not what my sensei, Grand Master Ronald Uyeno, told me!
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Glyre
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
This reminds me of a world history teacher I once had. He was really interested in Zen, and of course got to talking about Zen Masters.

To him, a Zen Master was someone who was incredibly spontaneous and went "against the grain." Of course, this was usually a monk who had mastered the "Four Noble Truths" through some intense meditation, though all people could, at some points in their lives be "Zen Masters." Being able to "understand" a koan was also essential. Just one perspective, but I'm sure there are other Westerners who share it.
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shikisoku
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
When I travel rural area, sometimes I see Westerner monks.
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