Saturday, June 11, 2011

Spiritual check-and-balance

I find that the Chan or Zen practice of having an enlightened master certifying one's achievement of enlightenment something beneficial. I feel that it functions as a spiritual check-and-balance. In this way you know whether you have achieved a certain standard or not. In their traditions, they call it "mind-to-mind dharma transmission". And whoever has been certified, will be given a certificate. It is something like your graduation scroll. Of course, it is always open to being abused, like anything else, but it is better than not having such a system in place. Without such a system, anyone can claim to be an enlightened master. With an inka (that's what it is called in Zen) in hand, the holder is more believable than someone who does not, especially if his inka is from a reputable master such as Master Hsu Yun or Master Hsuan Hua. These two masters may not be around anymore, but there are still masters that have these certifications and they may not have such high profile as the masters I mentioned. You may even be surprised that some of these low profile masters have such certifications. Hence don't look down on low profile masters and always think only of high profile gurus. Do not generalise everyone. You'll be surprised that there are masters even in Malaysia with such dharma transmissions. We just need to seek them out. However the inka may have a different meaning according to each school. For example, in the Kwan Um School of Zen, it could just mean that the holder is a certified teacher. Not necessarily his level of enlightenment. Refer to But some teachers tend to down play this since they do not want their disciples to have too much attachment to this "paper certificate". If you do not have it, it does not mean you are not enlightened. These masters do not want this "certificate" to become an indirect hindrance or obstacle. I can understand their concern, but I still think that as a system, it was and still is a good spiritual check-and-balance. You can discreetly seek an audience with an enlightened master and ask him to test your understanding. The Lin-chi school of Zen had an interesting record or tradition of dharma sparing between a Master and a would-be-heir-of-dharma-transmission. Finally, if you got it, you do not need to show it to everyone that you have got a enlightenment certificate. "Hey... look, I got an INKA. I am certified as enlightened!". Nowadays, people do not even have anything and yet they shamelessly advertise themselves as "Living Buddhas" (not in the sense of Tibetan Buddhist tulkus, they have a different system). Instead, you keep it as a secret and do not divulge it to anyone, except your closest disciples (so that they can develop faith and to inspire them).   

However not every Buddhist tradition has this system. Theravada do not have it, neither does Tibetan Buddhism. Personally I find it a good thing to have, ... it is a spiritual internal control mechanism. If I ever become a Vajrayana Master, and IF ( a big "IF") I ever achieve enlightenment, I will seek certification from a Zen Master and then begin this system in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. You think this is feasible? Hahahah... a big fat hope! I know somebody who is laughing now - "You ... enlightened??...impossible with all your delusions". Yeah... all my delusions. So it is a dream for now. :)

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