Frequently Asked Questions
What is Boundless Mind Zen?
Boundless Mind is a term applied to the practice and understanding of Zen that is not limited to the cultural practices and sectarian methods that are often specifically promoted as Zen. In Boundless Mind Zen what is most important is the opening of an individual's mind to a direct experience of higher consciousness and/or an understanding of transcendent reality apart from cultural bias, religious dogma and sectarian tradition. Although those who teach and practice Boundless Mind Zen may use very traditional methods and styles, they are careful to point out that these methods and styles are merely tools and are not to be mistaken for Zen. As the saying goes, "A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon."
Why is there no Buddha statue on the altar?
In Boundless Mind Zen, the altar is primarily decorative and acts as a stand for the candles and incense bowl. Since our practice involves letting go of preconceptions, religious abstractions and symbolic delusions, the use of symbols is avoided whenever possible. Despite mainstream arguments to the contrary, having a statue or image of the Buddha on the altar is a distraction that leads many people away from truly understanding the nature of Buddha consciousness.
It is our view that objects on the altar are on the altar for aesthetic reasons and are not representative of anything other than what they already are. For example, a flower may be said to represent all flowers, but its identity as a flower is not an abstraction. An image of a Buddha is an image, not a Buddha. Buddha images found in various locations around the grounds are purely decorative and have the same significance as concrete gnomes.
Why is there no Biography of the Teacher?
In Boundless Mind Zen, we are not generally interested in promoting teachers. Our teaching and methods are focused on two principles: providing a venue for personal spiritual development and familiarizing people with standardized Zen training practices, protocols and etiquette. We strive to be "teaching" centric rather than "teacher" centric, since introducing personal egos tends to lead to extraneous attachments and guru worship. However, short biographies of individual teachers are available on their individual websites. If you are interested in knowing any additional biographical information about someone you should feel free to ask them.
What is Dharma Transmission?
Dharma Transmission is the process by which a person becomes aware of and comes to live by the Dharma. As people learn and experience the Dharma they incorporate these teachings into their lives and through this process the Dharma is said to be transmitted to them. This transmission happens in various ways including; serendipitous discovery, personal research and inquiry, studying Buddhist literature, personally practicing Buddhist disciplines, interactions with Buddhist practitioners and receiving instruction from Buddhist teachers. Traditionally, Dharma Transmission occurs in an official way when someone becomes ordained in a Buddhist tradition. The concept of using Dharma Transmission as some form of official endorsement is a sectarian practice that varies greatly among Buddhist traditions and sects.
So then, what of Mind-to-Mind Transmission?
Mind-to-Mind Transmission or Transmission of the Light is an expression that refers to our realization of our own Buddha Mind. It is the process of self discovery, of our realizing the inherent perfection that is the core of each one of us. The light that is transmitted is precisely the original wisdom we are born with. This transmission doesn't give us anything that is different from or outside of us - it is our root being. In truth, transmission is actually an unveiling rather than a transmission, the revelation that each one of us truly possesses Buddha consciousness. Once this is truly realized, one has received Mind-to-Mind Transmission. While this is often acknowledged ceremoniously by the teacher, one no longer really feels a need to have their understanding confirmed or recognized. The great gift of Zen is the realization that the teacher actually has nothing to transmit.
What about the Teacher Student Relationship?
The Teacher-Student Relationship or Master-Apprentice Relationship has existed in every spiritual tradition. Because of the specific nature of spiritual disciplines, the Student-Teacher relationship is intensely personal and is regarded among the most sacred of relationships. Such associations typically consist of a mutually understood pact by which each is bound to the mutual principles of integrity, honesty, admiration, and respect.
In the case of the Master-Apprentice relationship, there is an additional promise of commitment. Apprenticeships require that the additional terms of a specific period of training and level of competency be attained before the apprentice can be endorsed by the teacher. Typically, apprenticeships are not just about understanding Zen, but acknowledging a certain level of expertise in specific arts and/or practices related to Zen.
What is the Role of the Zen Teacher?
The role of the teacher is to mentor the student when such mentorship is needed or requested by the student. Just as in other disciplines, the Zen teacher is an aid, not a requirement. Teachers are sought by students to help them through struggles and over barriers that could otherwise impede their progress, or to teach them a specific technique or discipline.
Zen teachers should assist students in their practice, encourage students to be diligent, guide their meditation practice in both public and private meetings, offer personal aid in difficult times, and talk about Zen texts to enrich the student's understanding of Buddhism and Zen concepts. Most importantly, Zen teachers should strive to inspire students by setting a living example through their interactions with students and others and how they conduct their own everyday lives. A good teacher will, through example, demonstrate that Zen practice can make one a wiser and more compassionate human being.
What is the structure of the Boundless Mind Zen School?
As previously stated, The Boundless Mind Zen School is "teaching" centric and therefore lacks any hierarchical structure. No one is specifically trained to become a teacher and teachers are considered equals among practitioners. Even though a person may be recognized as a teacher and fill that role within the relationship or sangha, they are never considered in any way superior to their students or other practitioners.
All ordained members are of equal status and are known as Wayfarers (Jp.-Dojin Ch.-Daorin), those who choose to become teachers or are chosen to become teachers usually open their practice to others and become known as Gate Keepers. Any specific titles they may use to identify themselves (such as student, practitioner, mentor, teacher, monk or priest) are typically used to correlate their peer status among other religious sects.
Why is everything in Asian Style?
Though the Boundless Mind Zen School is independent of cultural style and forms, the Order was founded by individuals who were attracted to Zen through the Asian arts, aesthetics and related Zen practices. There are no requirements for activities, practices, decor, architecture and/or clothing to be "Asian style" this is simply an aesthetic preference of many of the practitioners.
What is the Difference between Members and Non-Members?
Anyone who attends practice sessions, receives training or otherwise contributes to the sangha is considered a member of the sangha. Other than being mindful and observing proper etiquette when present, there are no membership requirements for becoming sangha. All Sangha members are welcome to officially join the Order if they wish to apply, but there are no requirements for sangha members to join the religious order.
Individuals may seek ordination for various purposes, including personal enrichment, spiritual commitment and/or religious affiliation, or to extend their practice into teaching and/or the ministry. Members of the order who choose to become clergy and/or live as monks are expected to choose a path of commitment corresponding to those lifestyles/vocations, and as such, are legally recognized and sanctioned to provide all of the services normally associated with this vocation.
Other than the lifelong commitments and responsibilities inherent with ordination, there are no special rights or privileges granted to ordained members. Ordained members are expected to maintain a higher degree of humility, compassion and tolerance.
How does one become a Member of the Order?
Practitioners who choose to become members of the religious order do so by approaching an ordained member for an apprenticeship. Upon acceptance of both parties, the initiate undergoes a prescribed course of study and training that culminates with ordination. The terms and duration of training vary according to the initiate's background, knowledge and applied life experience.