Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

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Meido
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Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Meido » Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:26 am

KeithA wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:03 am
Meido wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:54 pm
heart wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:16 pm
Don't follow a lineage, follow a Guru.
Excuse me for chiming in here, but to my mind this is essential advice that applies across traditions.

I wouldn't be disappointed if these words were added to the top of the site page.

~ Meido
:offtopic:

Really? That's interesting. I would love to see you drag this topic over to the Zen forum for discussion.

Keith
Dragged.

Basically (and vis a vis the other thread where this was raised): beginning Dharma practitioners commonly seek out specific practice methods, lineages, styles, schools, cultural aspects, ideal environments, etc. that they find fascinating. In some cases their attraction to these things has roots that may be valid and deep. But in many cases, it is largely just due to their own self-referential and irrelevant notions, romanticizing, fears, comforts, and so on.

It doesn't make sense to seek out lineages, methods, styles and so on, and certainly not to choose a teacher based on them. This is because the path is actualized within human relationship with a teacher with whom one shares affinity. One should therefore just seek one's shisho, the teacher (of any tradition) with whom one has deep affinity, and take that relationship as the foundation of one's path and the source of lineages, methods, and the rest. To seek a teacher based on those things rather than affinity is exactly backwards.

In Zen this ties into what is meant by "transmission outside the scriptures, not dependent on words and letters": the lifeblood of the path is realized within face to face human relationship, that is, within the ba ("field") of the teacher. It is also related to what is meant by "direct pointing at the mind" as the function of the teacher.

Actually today I experienced an example of this kind of thing. Since Korinji will be done in the spring and our first extended retreat period will begin, i've been reviewing applications from interested persons. One of these applicants let me know today that he's actually sent applications to several Zen places simultaneously. I told him I wished I'd known that earlier, as it would have made things easier: I'd have just told him to go elsewhere.

The reason is that it means to me he is not seeking relationship with a teacher and community in order to actualize Zen. He is not engaged in the careful, patient process of examining a teacher to see if there is affinity. He is just seeking *MONASTERY*, as he imagines such places must be. In other words, he is seeking a place or environment, not a teacher.

~ Meido
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by passel » Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:49 am

But affinity can catch us unawares. I had moved far away from my first teacher, and he wasn’t teaching much. So I applied to join a training period at a monastery that was a little closer to me, just wanting to get in some training and not expecting to really even meet the teacher who was quite old. I wound up training with him for ten years.
"I have made a heap of all that I have met"- Svetonious

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Meido » Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:55 am

I'm not saying we should avoid anyone or anyplace. Just that our seeking should not be based on the mentioned outer factors.

You were fortunate to find that affinity. If that teacher had been of a different school or tradition, or taught methods different from what you thought you preferred, I expect you would have stayed anyway?
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:58 am

A very interesting point, and I hadn’t thought about it like that at all.

In my case, I haven’t had a whole lot of experience with teachers and centres, for one reason or another. But my specific attraction to Sōtō Zen was because, of all the spiritual books I read, those made the most sense. To put it in the vernacular, I thought they had the best product offering ;-) . In particular, I’m referring to Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind and also the later To Meet the Real Dragon. What spoke to me, was the realistic attitude of not expecting a special experience, but also the emphasis on just sticking with the practice day in day out, and many other aspects of their general pragmatism and no-nonsense style.

I read hundreds, or even thousands, of such books in my teens and twenties, but that kind of pragmatic attitude really struck me. Since then I have had various degrees of engagement with some traditions, but I don’t feel an affinity with the Tibetan traditions, on account of their particular styles of ritual and iconography. I have sought out a Zen few centres in my region, although I haven’t found one that I can stick with yet; I’ll keep trying to do that. So, as for which particular lineage, I have not made a decision, although Sōtō does interest me, but I think it has to be generally Zen/East Asian.

:namaste:
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Anonymous X » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:09 am

Suzuki Roshi was the first teacher I had ever met as a young man. DT Suzuki's books ignited an interest in Zen in me and Suzuki Roshi's Zendo was the only one I heard about in my area. So, I went and met with Suzuki Roshi. I found him a very charming and warm fellow, likable and with a noticeable sparkle. I was a complete novice in these matters. My meeting with him always stuck in my mind, but I didn't stay as a committed student. I would go and practice at the zendo but not regularly. I never thought about choosing a teacher, lineage, or anything like this. I was committed to Truth. Eventually, I went to other teachers but never felt any committment to them or what they taught. Eventually, I met the person fulfilling what the Buddha referred to as a 'spritual friend'. When I heard his words, I no longer had any doubts or questions about teachers or lineages. In India, there is the saying 'when the student is ready, the teacher appears'. It was certainly this way for me and many others I have met in this life.

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by MalaBeads » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:55 am

Good advice.
I am well aware of my idiocy. I am also very aware that you too are an idiot. Therein lies our mutuality.

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by MalaBeads » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:56 am

MalaBeads wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:55 am
Good advice. Don't pay attention to the lineage, just find a good teacher.
I am well aware of my idiocy. I am also very aware that you too are an idiot. Therein lies our mutuality.

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Larryo » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:43 pm

My primary teacher was a Taoist Master. Even I didn't know it at the time. She gave me mostly "Zen" because that was how I framed my questions. She flipped me over with a Live Koan :smile:

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Kim O'Hara » Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:08 pm

Meido wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:26 am
...It doesn't make sense to seek out lineages, methods, styles and so on, and certainly not to choose a teacher based on them. This is because the path is actualized within human relationship with a teacher with whom one shares affinity. ...
I would like to toss in a completely different set of reasons for following this (very good, of course) advice.

Many of us, including myself, are geographically isolated from Buddhist teachers groups of any school, let alone teachers or groups of the particular school we may have initially been attracted to.
In that case, the primary need, the primary path to further development, is to establish a real-world connection to other people further along the path, to find a community of 'spiritual friends' to support one's efforts.
Saying "Soto Zen or nothing" will probably be saying "nothing" ... and setting oneself up for discouragement. Saying "Zen or nothing" may be the same (I know it would be for anyone within, let's think, at least 200 miles of me). The best one can do is find a local teacher in any vaguely relevant tradition and, if s/he looks like a good person, join whatever they are leading.
Then, as one progresses, one might discover that the tradition one has fallen into is actually pretty good anyway, and stay with it, or explore other paths either online (thanks, DW! :group: ) or via occasional retreats, etc, a long way from home.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Jeff H » Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:48 pm

Meido wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:26 am
...
Actually today I experienced an example of this kind of thing. Since Korinji will be done in the spring and our first extended retreat period will begin, i've been reviewing applications from interested persons. One of these applicants let me know today that he's actually sent applications to several Zen places simultaneously. I told him I wished I'd known that earlier, as it would have made things easier: I'd have just told him to go elsewhere.

The reason is that it means to me he is not seeking relationship with a teacher and community in order to actualize Zen. He is not engaged in the careful, patient process of examining a teacher to see if there is affinity. He is just seeking *MONASTERY*, as he imagines such places must be. In other words, he is seeking a place or environment, not a teacher.

~ Meido
I agree that the personal connection is essential and supercedes selecting a lineage. But I'm curious about what you express here. As Anonymous X said, I believe that "when the student is ready the teacher appears". I think one's "readiness" includes some kind of active openness to -- even searching for -- a teacher in order to find the teacher. We have to be in the right place to recognize and receive the teacher.

Making a Dharma shopping list -- I'll have it my way, please -- is a mistaken way to proceed, but I think that if a person is appropriately open, it makes sense to reach out and put oneself in proximity to different teachers and their lineages to see what happens.

In this case, of course, you are the teacher so you can say that this applicant would not be a good fit in your case. But am I wrong to think that "shopping around" can be a legitimate means to find one's appropriate connection?
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Meido » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:05 pm

Jeff H wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:48 pm
But am I wrong to think that "shopping around" can be a legitimate means to find one's appropriate connection?
No, I agree: one should definitely shop around, and take one's time doing it. My advice to anyone looking for a teacher would be to read up on many of them without being limited to any one tradition, read their writings/talks, go meet them, examine their interactions with their students, attend retreats, etc.

My main point is that what we should be looking for is fruitful relationship with a person, not a specific practice/tradition/environment/etc. Since I consider this specific relationship to be the most important one in life, one should indeed enter it only after careful, patient searching.

Many folks seem to approach looking for a place to practice Buddhadharma the same way they might approach looking for a gym: what's convenient, cheapest, has the equipment I like, and so on. In the instance I mentioned, that applicant asked questions - and expressed concern or appreciation for - many things except the one crucial thing. Of course beginners might view something like an extended stay at a monastery - or membership at a local center - as something they are getting or purchasing, rather than as a family they are asking to join.
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:08 pm
Saying "Soto Zen or nothing" will probably be saying "nothing" ... and setting oneself up for discouragement. Saying "Zen or nothing" may be the same (I know it would be for anyone within, let's think, at least 200 miles of me). The best one can do is find a local teacher in any vaguely relevant tradition and, if s/he looks like a good person, join whatever they are leading.
I agree with this also. One need not wait for "the one" in terms of teachers in order to begin practicing, and to benefit thereby. Timing is part of what I mean by "affinity" also: someone can knock your socks off, but if the conditions haven't all come together, you might not recognize what actually happened and follow that person. I had an experience like that.

But a problem in some Zen in the West, I think, is that the centrality, indispensability, and actual function of the teacher in Zen practice is not well understood. Some of the popular books that drew many folks for various reasons don't really hit that point so strongly. Thus the widespread misconception, among others, that one can figure it all out and practice one one's own (there is a time for self-guiding, naturally: it is after a few decades, when one's teacher says so). Also, the inability many have to see when a teacher is unqualified or has gone of the rails.

I think it important to stress that practice is not something one does as an individual, such that any place will serve just as well as the other. Lineages are not storehouses of attractive bells and whistles that we get to play with and move on. Practice and lineage are fields or streams that one enters. If there isn't a fit, the best case scenario is that nothing happens and we've wasted precious time.

~ Meido
Last edited by Meido on Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by passel » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:32 pm

Meido- I agree with you; I only loved Rinzai zen about 20%- I stayed because I loved my teacher
"I have made a heap of all that I have met"- Svetonious

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Meido » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:46 pm

passel wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:32 pm
I stayed because I loved my teacher
Yea, in the case of one of my Zen teachers, me too.

I didn't know much about the differences between traditions - and definitely not much about Rinzai, Soto, and the rest - when I met him. My refuge teacher had actually been Tibetan. But I was just drawn by the quality of this guy's existence...his ba, or kiai.

When I say that people should take their time to carefully examine various teachers, etc., I'm speaking as someone who did exactly the opposite and just jumped in. I don't regret it at all...but it's not an approach to be recommended!

~ Meido
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by boda » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:09 pm

Affinity means a feeling of closeness and understanding that someone has for another person because of their similar qualities, ideas, or interests.

The problem with living in a bubble and only seeking likeminded groups is that one's world remains small and there's little room for personal growth. It may be good for the life of the group, organization, tradition, or whatever, but on an individual basis it is necessarily limiting.

Metaphorically, it's like advising that conservatives should only consume news from outlets that they feel a natural affinity for, such as Fox News, Breitbart, or Info-Wars, and liberals should only watch CNN, Salon, etc. This is folly.

It's folly because the world is quickly losing the capacity to sustain a tribalistic mentality. Our individual lives must breach the boundaries of what is familiar, comfortable, and selfishly meaningful. For each of us the world must become a bigger place where our affinity is boundless.

:sage:

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Grigoris » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:13 pm

boda wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:09 pm
It's folly because the world is quickly losing the capacity to sustain a tribalistic mentality. Our individual lives must breach the boundaries of what is familiar, comfortable, and selfishly meaningful. For each of us the world must become a bigger place where our affinity is boundless.
I can't see how that is going to happen by being informed by Fox News, Breitbart, or Info-Wars. One would think this would have the opposite effect to generating boundless affinity... :shrug:
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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by boda » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:52 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:13 pm
boda wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:09 pm
It's folly because the world is quickly losing the capacity to sustain a tribalistic mentality. Our individual lives must breach the boundaries of what is familiar, comfortable, and selfishly meaningful. For each of us the world must become a bigger place where our affinity is boundless.
I can't see how that is going to happen by being informed by Fox News, Breitbart, or Info-Wars. One would think this would have the opposite effect to generating boundless affinity... :shrug:
This is the second time we've agreed on something this year. What's happening?! :jawdrop:

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Meido » Tue Nov 14, 2017 12:34 am

boda wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:09 pm
Affinity means a feeling of closeness and understanding that someone has for another person because of their similar qualities, ideas, or interests.
Affinity in this context does not refer to a feeling arising from recognition of similar qualities, ideas, or interests, but rather innen i.e. karmic causes or affinity links.

~ Meido
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by Virgo » Tue Nov 14, 2017 12:41 am

Meido wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:26 am
Dragged.

Basically (and vis a vis the other thread where this was raised): beginning Dharma practitioners commonly seek out specific practice methods, lineages, styles, schools, cultural aspects, ideal environments, etc. that they find fascinating. In some cases their attraction to these things has roots that may be valid and deep. But in many cases, it is largely just due to their own self-referential and irrelevant notions, romanticizing, fears, comforts, and so on.

It doesn't make sense to seek out lineages, methods, styles and so on, and certainly not to choose a teacher based on them. This is because the path is actualized within human relationship with a teacher with whom one shares affinity. One should therefore just seek one's shisho, the teacher (of any tradition) with whom one has deep affinity, and take that relationship as the foundation of one's path and the source of lineages, methods, and the rest. To seek a teacher based on those things rather than affinity is exactly backwards.

In Zen this ties into what is meant by "transmission outside the scriptures, not dependent on words and letters": the lifeblood of the path is realized within face to face human relationship, that is, within the ba ("field") of the teacher. It is also related to what is meant by "direct pointing at the mind" as the function of the teacher.

Actually today I experienced an example of this kind of thing. Since Korinji will be done in the spring and our first extended retreat period will begin, i've been reviewing applications from interested persons. One of these applicants let me know today that he's actually sent applications to several Zen places simultaneously. I told him I wished I'd known that earlier, as it would have made things easier: I'd have just told him to go elsewhere.

The reason is that it means to me he is not seeking relationship with a teacher and community in order to actualize Zen. He is not engaged in the careful, patient process of examining a teacher to see if there is affinity. He is just seeking *MONASTERY*, as he imagines such places must be. In other words, he is seeking a place or environment, not a teacher.

~ Meido
I love your advice about teachers Meido.
Virgo

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by KeithA » Tue Nov 14, 2017 12:45 am

Meido wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:26 am
KeithA wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:03 am
Meido wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:54 pm


Excuse me for chiming in here, but to my mind this is essential advice that applies across traditions.

I wouldn't be disappointed if these words were added to the top of the site page.

~ Meido
:offtopic:

Really? That's interesting. I would love to see you drag this topic over to the Zen forum for discussion.

Keith
Dragged.

Basically (and vis a vis the other thread where this was raised): beginning Dharma practitioners commonly seek out specific practice methods, lineages, styles, schools, cultural aspects, ideal environments, etc. that they find fascinating. In some cases their attraction to these things has roots that may be valid and deep. But in many cases, it is largely just due to their own self-referential and irrelevant notions, romanticizing, fears, comforts, and so on.

It doesn't make sense to seek out lineages, methods, styles and so on, and certainly not to choose a teacher based on them. This is because the path is actualized within human relationship with a teacher with whom one shares affinity. One should therefore just seek one's shisho, the teacher (of any tradition) with whom one has deep affinity, and take that relationship as the foundation of one's path and the source of lineages, methods, and the rest. To seek a teacher based on those things rather than affinity is exactly backwards.
Thanks for clarifying. I agree completely.
In Zen this ties into what is meant by "transmission outside the scriptures, not dependent on words and letters": the lifeblood of the path is realized within face to face human relationship, that is, within the ba ("field") of the teacher. It is also related to what is meant by "direct pointing at the mind" as the function of the teacher.

Actually today I experienced an example of this kind of thing. Since Korinji will be done in the spring and our first extended retreat period will begin, i've been reviewing applications from interested persons. One of these applicants let me know today that he's actually sent applications to several Zen places simultaneously. I told him I wished I'd known that earlier, as it would have made things easier: I'd have just told him to go elsewhere.

The reason is that it means to me he is not seeking relationship with a teacher and community in order to actualize Zen. He is not engaged in the careful, patient process of examining a teacher to see if there is affinity. He is just seeking *MONASTERY*, as he imagines such places must be. In other words, he is seeking a place or environment, not a teacher.

~ Meido
I added emphasis on the point that was the source of my questioning your initial reply. I have heard the advice when someone is seeking a tradition, just practice with the community. It will tell a lot about the teacher. I always that was pretty solid advice. Anyway, I am glad you included community with the teacher. I can't imagine pursuing practice in the manner that the student you mentioned is. It sounds like a recipe for a lot of time wasting.

The face-to-face thing is a can of worms maybe best left closed, but I agree with your point. I do think that there is a place for online practice, particularly when the teacher and student know each other well.

I will completely cop to being the sort of practitioner who sees the teacher in the "good friend" model, not an infallible person worthy of selfless devotion. Respect and trust, for sure. But with a discerning eye. I recognize that won't be a popular view. :spy:

Thanks again for your sage words, Meido!

_/|\_
You make, you get.

New Haven Zen Center

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Re: Dont follow a lineage (etc.), follow a teacher

Post by boda » Tue Nov 14, 2017 12:47 am

Meido wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 12:34 am
boda wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:09 pm
Affinity means a feeling of closeness and understanding that someone has for another person because of their similar qualities, ideas, or interests.
Affinity in this context does not refer to a feeling arising from recognition of similar qualities, ideas, or interests, but rather innen i.e. karmic causes or affinity links.

~ Meido
If that doesn't translate to 'affinity' in English, what would be an accurate translation?

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