Am I An Authentic Zen Rōshi Or Just A Fraud? — Part 2

Explorations on the path to a spiritual life.

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Cover art by L. Harrison

Traditionally, the term rōshi has been applied as a respectful honorific to a significantly older Zen teacher considered to have matured in wisdom and to have attained a superior understanding and expression of the Dharma — the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence, divine law and conformity to doing what needs to be done in the expression of natural law.

Despite this historical reality, it has come in some modern Zen schools to be applied as a general title for a teacher regardless of the age of the individual who receives it. This is especially true in the United States and Europe where it appears that some confusion has arisen where the word rōshi has been conflated with many other generic terms for a Buddhist teacher who has received ‘transmission’ and completed her or his basic training. Historically, the term rōshi will only be applied to one after they have given many years of service as a teacher.

The transmission of Zen mastership is totally vertical from teacher to student, no peer control is involved.

That means that the Rinzai sect has no means to control who is made a roshi and who is not. In spite of that, the number of Rinzai roshis is usually less than 100 at any given time.


So I ask again as I did in the first part of the series. Is it possible, that after fifty years of learning and teaching that I have actually become a wise old man? How arrogant to even think such a thing….

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