Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

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Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby DGA » Sat Mar 24, 2012 6:55 pm

The Five Mountain Zen Order has come up in discussion surrounding some controversy surrounding the Taego Order. As it happens, some of the criticism directed at the Taego Order is produced from at least one ordinand in the Five Mountain Order:

http://www.lawrencegrecco.com/blog/2011 ... -monk.html

So it seems worthwhile to take a closer look at the Five Mountain group and Paul Lynch's leadership. This is something I know very little about; I am merely posing the question. Here's the official website. http://www.fmzo.org

This is presented as a part of Seung Sahn's transmission. Lynch himself was given inka by one of Sahn Sunim's students, Ji Bong (Robert Moore). I'd like to know what relation obtains between Five Mountain and Lynch and the other schools in Sahn Sunim's transmission (Kwan Um, Golden Wind...). And Moore Sunim in particular. Does Lynch's teacher teach Five Mountain ordinands, for instance?

Haemin
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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby Haemin » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:56 am

I would write to FMO directly rather than post here. A lot of what came up about the Taego Order on Dharma Wheel was speculation and assumption, with no one bothering to check directly.

jrzen
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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby jrzen » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:50 am

I inquired with Paul Lynch and his Five Mountain Order of Zen in 2010.

I was very impressed with how friendly Paul was to me, a complete stranger, and he gave a lot of his time to me by phone as I had a lot of questions about Zen in general as well as Five Mountain. He never made me feel pressured to sign up with him and stressed how it is important that people find a teacher that resonates with their heart. He is incredibly knowledgeable about all kinds of Buddhism and has traveled throughout Asia. He was a really helpful and smart guy.

He seems like he just wants to help people and while I am not on an ordination path, if I wanted to study Zen more or if I wanted to be a priest I would have no problem going through the Five Mountain seminary program.

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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby DGA » Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:01 pm


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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby DGA » Sun Mar 25, 2012 2:27 pm

Why does this matter?

Because Lynch's claims on behalf of his authority as a teacher (inka from Moore) are at odds with Moore's own words on the matter. Lynch states that Moore authorized him to teach in a particular context; he does not state that Moore revoked that authorization in 2008. In fact, Lynch's teaching activity only accelerated at that time, from what I've seen. That's one aspect.

Here's another. If you take seriously Bodhidharma's statement that Zen is a special transmission outside the scriptures, and that teaching authority in Zen schools is given at the discretion of the master, then Lynch's situation on its own (even without going into some of the goings-on of those Lynch has authorized to teach) is... problematic.

These are two fundamental reasons why I would like to caution against presenting the Five Mountain Zen Order as some kind of progressive alternative to the Taego Order for potential ordinands. The group's culture may be more progressive, true, but if the point in joining a Zen Order is to join a Zen Order, then one may be better advised to seek a group that better represents the Zen and the Order parts.

Rebuttals?

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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby jrzen » Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:50 pm

Haemin brings up a good point--why don't you contact the FIve Mountain people now and see what they say about this? Especially since Foster is gone. Also you can do this with the Taego people if you want a direct response.

This reminds me of Charlotte Joko Beck's rescinding dharma transmission to one or two of her heirs as she became older and less mentally stable.

Having met Jibong personally I believe the same problem is at play here unfortunately. He has done this not just with Paul Lynch but others that he has authorized to teach.

Incidentally the claim of "unbroken transmission" of most if not all lineages is questionable at best.

Check out these two articles on the subject:

http://sweepingzen.com/2011/02/08/linea ... rican-zen/

http://rzc.org/drupal/sites/default/fil ... achers.pdf

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Malcolm
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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby Malcolm » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:28 pm





འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby DGA » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:08 pm

I agree with jrzen that many historical claims to an unbroken transmission from master disciple amount to a pious fiction. In contemporary terms, however, this is what we have to go by: when examining a potential teacher, his or her authorization to teach should be subject to close scrutiny. If the teacher trusts the student, then perhaps the public can trust the student too.

What happens when the authorized student's claim is in contradiction to that of the authorizing teacher? Lynch is promoting himself as an heir to Moore. Moore is saying: Yes, I authorized him to teach under my direction, in-house, but when it became clear to me that his personal problems prevented him from teaching properly, I asked him to stop and he declined.

If you take Moore's point of view at face value, then you have to admit that Lynch appears to be a poor student of Zen. If you take Lynch's point of view, then you have to admit that Moore's point of view, his locus standi, is valid a priori (as it is this point of view that authorized Lynch as a teacher to begin with). See the bind?

I'm not familiar with other such cases among Moore's authorized-to-teach students as jrzen alludes to. Perhaps someone can shed some more light on that.


*I should also say that I don't know Robert Moore sunim, but I have had very positive interactions with his students, and a great deal of respect for Seung Sahn sunim's contribution to Zen practice in the English speaking world generally. If Ji Bong came to my town and gave a public teaching, I'd certainly be present and listen attentively.

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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby jrzen » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:45 pm

Last edited by jrzen on Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby Astus » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:51 pm

I'm not saying that the FMZO or Lynch is OK or not OK. But questioning their validity on the basis of personal relationships within a Buddhist community is pretty much bureaucratic. Why not ask and analyse if what they actually teach is correct or not? Isn't that what should matter?

A good point by Ven. Chong Go:
In the comments, where Lynch mentions the transmission between Ko Bong and Seung Sahn, he replies, "This type of transmission was almost never heard of before the era of the Japanese occupation, and has since basically disappeared."
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



jisahn108
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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby jisahn108 » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:04 pm

I find all of this utterly fascinating. First, Paul Lynch and his students are denying that the Jibong letter is real, saying a Moore "student" wrote it - though there is no denial from Moore to be found, and the letter is all over the place. Weirdly though, Lynch and friends don't deny the contents - that there was a schism, and actual transmission didn't take place. On that point (and this is crucial) - "Inka/Inga" in the Kwan Um/related traditions of which Lynch claims to be part, is NOT "dharma transmission." Again, this is key. Inka/Inga is a provisional teaching authority to teach koans and lead retreats, under supervision. You are not authorized to ordain others, or give transmission. You are not a lineage holder. That's what this letter is about. Confusion arise because in many schools of Japanese/American Zen, "inka" = "dharma transmission".

So, in many ways and in many places, Lynch uses the word "inka", followed by the words "dharma holder" or "transmission" or "lineage holder" or "in the lineage of." In certain instances he seems to be hedging, not outright saying transmission, but clearly implying it. How else does one start one's own school and ordain people?

This is only the start of the questions around Lynch. As Jikan pointed out I think, it was the same time that this letter and split with Moore occurs that Lynch starts his own school and starts ordaining people, self-publishing books, opening new centers, starting online seminaries etc. In less that three years he's given transmission I think to Foster at least, maybe others; he's mysteriously adopted a Chinese Dharma name and taken to wearing a cheap-looking, ill-fitting machine made Taiwanese-style 'kasa'; and he claimed until recently on every ones of his websites (which seem to proliferate like rabbits) that he was a student of James Ford-roshi. I understand that this wasn't the case, they had a very casual acquaintance, and Lynch no longer claims to have been his student, but many old bios with this claim linger (I sort of presume he was asked to stop saying this by Ford, but this is guessing on my part.)

Lynch also tends to drop a lot of other names, for instance in a exceedingly lengthy profile on Sweeping Zen, in which Lynch goes much deeper into his personal bio than any other teacher profiled there that I've read - which I simply find aesthetically distasteful. As for this seminary, that now Foster has renamed and taken over (???), the for-the-12-time-redesigned website says tuition is over $10,000 - but I guess in the fine print, everyone receives a "scholarship" and the "actual" cost is ONLY $1800. What a deal, right? Except that no one accredited this thing, there is no oversight by a larger more established organization, and everyone involved has internet controversies following them around.

"Transmission" is not about magic powers. But as James Ford eloquently describes in his book, if you want to play the game of Zen Master/Zen Student, you have certain rules to follow, and seekers should evaluate their teachers carefully. There is a lot of ignorance and lot of confusion about the American Zen landscape, that I conclude Lynch is taking advantage of in order to play the role of "patriarch" for whatever reason. He's practiced and been immersed in that world a long time, and after a lifetime of looking up he probably wants to look down for a change, I don't know. If things blew up with Moore, and he had a good case and was in good standing, then I say he should have gone to another teacher in that tradition and seen if he could be "confirmed" by someone else - many others have done similar. But instead to just plow ahead roughshod, with increasing velocity? It doesn't pass the smell test, any of it.

In other words, I wouldn't go near any of these people for spiritual guidance if my life depended on it.
Last edited by jisahn108 on Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby DGA » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:47 pm

I've started a separate thread to discuss some of the circumstances surrounding Foster, particularly his claims regarding ordination and transmission:

viewtopic.php?f=50&t=7769

Foster's claims on Tendai and his participation in it vis a vis Hayes should be understood in this context:

viewtopic.php?f=64&t=3949

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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby jisahn108 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:25 pm

Astus writes:
"I'm not saying that the FMZO or Lynch is OK or not OK. But questioning their validity on the basis of personal relationships within a Buddhist community is pretty much bureaucratic. Why not ask and analyse if what they actually teach is correct or not? Isn't that what should matter?"

This is a really important point! This is what everyone who is themselves, or whose teachers are under suspicion says as their "out." Of course in the end its the teachings that matter. But you have to look at the whole picture when evaluating a "spiritual teacher." Anyone can read a book about Buddhism and spout all the words. They can read about Zen, or even study it for quite sometime, and do a pretty convincing job of seeming to have it all sussed out. And if someone wants to say they are a "life coach" or "meditation teacher" or something, they can put up a shingle and have at it. there are no professional standards. It's buyer beware.

But if someone says they teach "Zen", then they should have credentials to allow them to do this. These will vary school to school, teacher to teacher. But generally its not unreasonable to expect them to have at least 15 years of practice experience, and certainly unequivocal authorization of their teacher or teachers. This isn't just "bureaucracy." This is the nature of the entire Zen and Buddhist system going back millenia. And this is true for many other spiritual and esoteric traditions. It's master to pupil.

If a person LIES about what there credentials are - well that's it, game over. I don't care what they say - it's based in manipulation and deceit. frak it. Go somewhere else. Next, please.

Also, there are a lot of Zen stories about how two students give the same response and one has "it" and one doesn't. "The tongue has no bone." Nor do a few words on a page. You have to know people by their deeds, their presence, and the patterns of behavior they leave in their wake. I say Lynch's are not very orderly, wise, or clear.

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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:43 pm

Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby DGA » Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:58 pm

I think that's a separate issue from the one at play here, Astus. Really, the question is much simpler:

Why would someone trust a teacher who is not trusted, and has been declared untrustworthy, by his own teacher?

This is important to consider, given that this teacher and his school have been presented as a superior alternative to another school (the Taego Order) in a separate thread here at DharmaWheel.

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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:17 pm

Jikan,

I agree that that part could go on the negative side regarding Lynch. But what I am asking for is that before rejecting the whole person and his school, it would be only fair and sensible to actually look at what he talks about. It does not refute the Buddha that he was not from the brahmin caste, nor does it refute Lynch that there was a disagreement between him and his teacher. It is nothing more really than clinging to a mostly irrelevant point. Buddhist teachers - whatever lineage or tradition it is - should be measured by their Dharma, since that is what actually matters. So if people feel like criticising or defending Lynch, they should do that based on the right arguments. And not because it makes a difference for Lynch, since I assume it does not, but it makes this topic and this discussion board a lot more sensible, sane, and transparent place, not to mention that for refuting or proving a teaching requires some effort on the part of the members.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



jrzen
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Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:33 am

Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby jrzen » Sat Apr 07, 2012 4:07 pm

What about Charlotte Joko Beck trying to take transmission away from two of her heirs?

Are teachers always infallible or do they sometimes age and lose their ability to behave rationally?

jisahn108
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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby jisahn108 » Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:19 pm


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Astus
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Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:29 pm

jisahn108,

This is the history of Zen lineages repeating all over again. Seung Sahn's lineage is only a little less problematic since he was a monk and came from Korea. Seongcheol, former head of the Jogye Order, had no lineage of his own, and it was not a problem. Gyeongheo, reformer of Korean Zen from whom modern teachers claim succession, did not state a transmission for himself, so others came up with one later. Now that the situation is a lot closer and the sources are in English, faults with a transmission history can be more obvious. But, for instance, can you check in any way Master Jinje's lineage (Gyeongheo 경허 (鏡虛), Hyewol 혜월 (慧月), Unbong 운봉 (雲峰), Hyanggok 향곡 (香谷)), who is the current head of Jogye? Unless you know Korean and have access to the relevant sources, it's not really possible. So, as I said before, it is not the lineage that defines a teacher, but the teaching. Lineage is used not to guarantee any kind of quality, but to promote oneself. And that's what happens in Lynch's case.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



jisahn108
Posts: 53
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:34 pm

Re: Five Mountain Zen Order & Paul Lynch

Postby jisahn108 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:03 am

Well, typical for discussions that veer into academic minutiae, you're missing the forest for the trees a bit. My point is that Lynch and now Foster say that lineage is important, and then they lie about theirs. Period. Simple enough?

Further, Lynch was asked by his teacher to stop his activity as a provisional teacher (ji do poep sa nim), take a break, and get some counseling. Instead, he immediately started calling himself "Zen Master", started his own 'order', and surrounded himself by a bunch of 30-something clearly ambitious young men, most of whom have now left and started their own school, where they are charging $10,000 for tuition for a useless 'degree', leaving Paul without a nod on their many websites. And there are so very many websites - they're popping up like mushrooms, everybody's names and titles changing like a chameleon's colors. We are not going to cause anything to change here, but I'd hope that folks could agree on a simple "gee, all that does seem to raise some questions."


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