Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Virtual" Priest Oridination - A Sign of Things to Come?

Speaking of online sangha and practice, the following event occurred recently and was announced on the Treeleaf Zendo blog on the Shambala Sun website:

Taigu and I (Jundo) are very content to announce that, last Thursday, our Treeleaf Sangha ordained three new novice Soto Zen priests in the traditional manner.

What was not so traditional, however — and rather groundbreaking and somewhat controversial — is that it was, we believe, the first time that a Buddhist Ordination has been performed simultaneously on three continents (with the preceptors, Taigu and Jundo, in Japan, and our three ordainees in Canada, Germany and Sweden) all linked by audio-visual media via the internet.

Like it or not, things are changing, at least to some degree. Although Treeleaf seems to be alone in doing these major ceremonies, it's very clear that Buddhist teachers are taking to the online world with classes, Buddhist practitioners of all flavors are taking to the online world with our blogs, virtual communities, and discussion boards, and Buddhist folks online are having an impact on the practicing world around them.

Gotta wonder what's coming next? And how will all this impact our practices? Certainly, I have written about these issues before, but I continue to find the crossroads between the internet world and the "in the flesh" world totally fascinating.

A pack of crows just flew over my head. Have a good weekend!


Petteri Sulonen said...

I believe the term is "a murder of crows."

As omens go, that is perhaps not the most auspicious…

Fugen said...


For just a few years ago Internetdating, was considered something "strange" and now it's the second (or third) way of finding a partner here in sweden.

This thing with combining something traditional with something new is very Japanese (in my understanding) and if it hadn't been done now it would inevitably have been done.

When the rock and roll and other such things started happening and coming into out lives, there was resistance, and there will be now to.

It's all good practice.
Thank you for your practice.


Kevin said...

I tried making it through the video, but I couldn't. It may be the wave of the future... but it still doesn't make sense to me that people have never met in person. Just my opinion.

I think it's important to spend time in person with people and to see how they act around others. It's possible for people to pretend to be something they are not via email and phone. Look at what Barry Graham did to Kobutsu Malone.

jundo cohen said...

Hi Kevin,

May I ask you some questions about "knowing"?

How much time must one talk with people, read their writings every day, counsel them through personal exchanges during the ups and downs in life to "know" the person? In the instant case, it has been several years of such exchange.

And how much time would I have to spend in the same house with them to truly "know" them? Do mothers and wifes truly know the secret inner lives of teenage sons and husbands? My own wife of 20 years surprised me this week by professing that she did not believe in the Japanese traditional custom of visiting her parent's grave from time to time, something I would never have thought of her. Yet I "know" her so well that often not a word is necessary to convey.

I guess we now discount the old stories, such as in the "Passing of the Lamp" collections, in which Patriarch met Patriarch in a dream or intuition and, meeting once ... passed not only ordination, or Transmission, but the Patriarch's torch itself ... all within a short conversation.

Anyway, Taigu and I went ahead because we felt that we "know" these guys enough to be assured that they are sincere, committed to the Practice, gifted. What is more, "Ordination" is merely the start of the endless road of training ... not the endless end ... and a long road lies ahead in the kitchen washing dishes before handing anyone a chef's hat.

Gassho, Jundo

Nathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan said...

I'd like to add this comment that was just sent to an older post on the same issue.


Kaishin Michael said...

Perhaps my personal experience of something similar might be of interest.

I was ordained face-to-face, but only after a largely on-line training. My "distance learning" was necessitated by geography: my teacher lives in America and I live in England.

The face-to-face encounter at my ordination was helpful. However, this helpful personal enounter could instead have occurred during training with the on-line part of the process being the ordination.

At the time I saw things differently: it was MY desire that I should be ordained in the flesh. I was attached to the idea of it being "official" - and there is little precedent for on-line ordination. I now realise that this attachment to precedent was a delusion brought on by ego.

An on-line ordination would have been just as meaningful and rather better in terms of my carbon footprint.

To see how I reached this conclusion, you may wish to sit with this koan:-

How can the Master shave a bald man's head?
August 23, 2010 8:03 AM

Kevin said...

Hi Jundo,

I don't know.

palm to palm


Kevin said...

@ Jundo again....

also, I noticed you quoted "know".... I never said that....

I said it's important to see how they act around others. And I also said.. it's an opinion.

palm to palm


Adam said...

I'm reminded of the recent movie "Surrogates" which starred Bruce Willis. In the movie, no one experiences life first hand. They all have these remotely controlled robots that do everything for them and they can just lay in bed all day and experience everything second hand.

I love the internet for it's wealth of information, but fear that we're heading down a slippery slope toward a world of avatarism at the same time.

As for what treeleaf has done, I don't have much of an opinion either way. It doesn't really concern me. It don't think that we'll see this as the new trend in Buddhism, outside of a few people such as Jundo.