11/16/2019: Interview - Shuso: Part 5 and 6 - What Happens After the Shuso Hossen Ceremony?

Imagine a time -- a decade or two from now, or however long it takes -- where we have a dozen capable of true Shuso students here in the Sangha. Many many voices can now get on the high seat and contribute to their level of empowerment and initiation and to the teachings with the encouragement of the community. It’s going to make the Sangha even more colorful and strong. 

For now, I'm really looking forward to hearing Shokai speak and to receiving what her teachings have to offer.
-- Rev. Jay Rinsen Weik 

 

Shokai sewing the blue Shuso rakusu with help from Sewing Master Yugen.

 


This post is based on interview on Sunday, October 20 where novice Zuisei and Revs. Jay Rinsen Weik and Karen Do’on Weik Osho chatted about their experiences with Shuso students, and becoming Shuso students, as well as their work guiding Shokai through the Shuso preparation process this Ango, and what it will be like for BTT to have an acknowledged Shuso student after the ceremony. 

Read the fifth and six parts of the interview, about the role of the acknowledged Shuso in assisting with Teaching, and the relationship between the Shuso and the Sangha. The remainder of the interview will be published tomorrow.


Segment 5: What is the role of a Shuso in the Sangha after the ceremony? 

Zuisei
Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect the role of the post-ceremony acknowledged Shuso student is in the community? 

Rinsen: 
Sure. First, I do want to say the [becoming a] Shuso is open to anybody in the community, not just seminarians who have ordinational aspiration. Hopefully, there will be more seminarians who move through the Shuso process and there will also be lay students who move through the process. 

Do’on: 
And also, for Shokai [and others who aspire to ordain], becoming a Shuso is one of the markers on the long way towards ordination. 

Rinsen: 
Yes, it’s absolutely a prereq for ordination. And then, whether it's a lay person or a seminarian, the most notable difference [in their role in the community] after being acknowledged as a Shuso] will be that they will be empowered to give talks -- Dharma talks. There are levels of Dharma talk with specific guidelines and frameworks, and there's a gradated structure of empowerments which are not public. Each Shuso will have clear guidance on [what types of talk they are ready and empowered by the Guiding Teachers to give] and will definitely be acting on behalf of the Abbot and Guiding Teachers when giving a talk.  

Rinsen:
So one thing that we could see would be on given Wednesday or Sunday, or at a Sesshin, that it will not only just be the Guiding Teachers that give the talks all the time. There will be space for the Shuso to step up and give talks according to their level of empowerment. 

Do’on: 
Also, Shokai will be wearing a new rakusu. She is currently sewing a new rakusu in the Nyoho-e style [with visible stitching]. It’s a dark blue color, and she got to pick her own thread. She chose green, kind of a nod to her Irish ethnicity. So you’ll see her with this dark blue rakusu with green stitching in it. And so the next Shuso will also have a dark blue rakusu and they’ll also pick their own thread, so each Shuso will have a different color thread on their rakusu. And of course, Rinsen and I will be signing the back of it. 

Rinsen: 
it’s important for the Shuso to have a visible marker. Just like when someone takes Jukai there is a tangible physical marker of the process. Traditionally, a new teacher receives a teaching stick. Once they receive the official teaching stick, they can grab any stick and it becomes the Dharma Stick immediately when they touch -- but first they have to receive their first stick.  

Rinsen:
For the Shuso it’s the [new] rakusu and they’ll also be holding a fan. Shokai will first receive a ceremonial fan -- not an electric fan, by the way, a hand-held fan! [Rinsen makes electric fan sounds, group laughter] -- and after that she’ll be expected to have a fan with her as part of her liturgical gear when it’s appropriate. 

Rinsen:
So that’s it. And, going forward, I hope that we will have a much deeper bench. Imagine a time -- a decade or two from now, or however long it takes -- where we have a dozen capable of true Shuso students here in the Sangha. Many many voices can now get on the high seat and contribute to their level of empowerment and initiation and to the teachings with the encouragement of the community. It’s going to make the Sangha even more colorful and strong. It will also erode any tendency to fetishize a single teacher or the two of us. You’ll be able to see there are many voices that can contribute to this and will. And at the same time it will be happening within a hierarchical growth structure that is attuned to the lineage and to empowerment.  

Rinsen:
I'm really looking forward to hearing Shokai speak and to receiving what her teachings have to offer. 


Segment 6: How Does the Shuso’s Relationship with the Sangha Change? 

Zuisei: 
A few Sangha members have asked me “Once Shokai is officially acknowledged as a Shuso, it seems like people are going to treat her differently. How do we make sure we have exactly the same relationship with her that we had before?” and similarly when someone enters the Seminary or is ordained. I said, “Hmmm! I’m not sure it’s supposed to stay the same! Let’s ask Roshi and Osho.” 

Rinsen: 
How do they keep exactly the same relationship? Short answer: they don’t.  

Rinsen:
The fact is that Shokai is being empowered as a senior student. Inevitably, the relationship between her and the Sangha will shift in some way. The relationship will also shift in some way when a person receives Jukai, becomes a Shoken student, takes up a leadership position, or joins the Seminary. But even more so, when someone becomes a Shuso, they are being empowered and initiated into the participation of the spiritual authority of the Abbot to some degree.  

Rinsen:
I don’t think it's actually of value to try to keep the relationship the same. This doesn't mean the relationship has to become formal and strange, and awkward, and weird, but we do have to acknowledge that this is a person who has now been empowered and acknowledged with a certain level of spiritual authority.  

Rinsen:
For some [Zen practitioners], this relationship change is a big point of practice for them, because when they started practicing, they came with a sense of themselves as already having a great deal of spiritual authority. I hope for them that when they see what Shokai is doing, and the level of training going on there, that it will be both sobering and encouraging. It’s not just a whim, and not random, and there is a lot of training involved, but people can do it. 

Rinsen:
So, yes, the relationship will have to shift. And it’s going to be more challenging for Shokai than it will be for future Shusos. Once we get to having ten Shusos, people will know a lot more about what it is than they do now. Because until now, the Shuso has been kind of always enmeshed with teaching in our community. When I was a Shuso, the level of authority that I had to teach was the fullest level that we had here. So, our Sangha has always equated Shuso with full teaching authority, even though it’s never been that.  

Do’on: 
I just hope that Shokai is an inspiration for everybody, like this is actually possible and doable and people are doing it in this community. 

Rinsen:  
Yes -- and it's real part of training to recognize spiritual authority. The lineage is transmitted based on that. In some ways, James Myoun Ford Roshi is just another guy and in other ways he's not just another guy, he's my Teacher. So, part of the skill is to not be stuck but to be able to know how to meet the moment correctly. Too tense, not good. To loose not good.  

Do’on: 
And just to underscore -- this is pretty obvious just from our [BTT] culture -- this spiritual authority actually comes from Shokai’s own spiritual development. And we are recognizing her spiritual development. So it's really not coming from the top down, it's coming from her presentation of her life as a Bodhisattva. 

Rinsen: 
That's true and it also is within the initiation and empowerments and blessings of the lineage, which does make a difference. 

Do’on: 
Right. But I do want to emphasize that she's already showing up as a Shuso before she is empowered as a Shuso.  

Rinsen: 
Of Course. And, it will take her time to grow into being a Shuso. 

Do’on:
Right! 

[Group Laughter]  

Rinsen: 
Yes -- see -- this is what is so easily missed. 

Rinsen:
You can get [a credential of] spiritual authority by going to Japan and living there [in a monastery] for a couple of years. You get the [Zen training] equivalent of a High School diploma and come back here like it’s a big authority marker, but it’s actually a bureaucratic administrative acknowledgement. If it’s purely an institutional, top down acknowledgment, that’s insufficient.  

Rinsen:
You really need the healthy self-expression of your own Dharma eye. You can’t be parroting my way of being in the world, or Do’on’s way of being, or anyone else’s. Who are you now? Speak for yourself, show yourself.  

Rinsen:
And then, it’s also got to be blessed and empowered by the lineage. Both. 

Do’on: 
Both!

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