11/17/2019: Interview - Shuso Conclusion - May This Be The First of Many Mazel Tovs

There's a very specific [high bar] that's involved, but anyone who makes that criterion is going to be asked to serve as Shuso. So the great hope is that someday, we see a new Shuso every Ango. But, even at Zen Mountain Monastery, it didn't happen every Ango. I remember sadness on Roshi's part when it would be the case that he would say, “I'm sorry, but no one is really ready yet to be acknowledged so I'll be leading the Ango again.” I could always feel him get just a little greyer because he was waiting for students to ripen, to deepen. And, in a way, that sadness became a big motivator for me. 
-- Rev. Jay Rinsen Weik 

 

A field of possible future Shuso students.

A field of possible future Shuso students.

 


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 conclusion of the interview here, about the Shuso training model and wishes for the future.


Segment 7: Is the Shuso training model more like the Sith model or more like the Jedi Academy? 

Zuisei
The goal of this very serious question is to make Roshi laugh. I’ve heard there may be more Shuso students in our Sangha in the future. Is that true? Will it be more like the Sith model where there is one master and one apprentice, or is going to be more like the Jedi Academy, with a lot of a Shuso students? 

[Group laughter] 

Rinsen
Yeah, I like that question.  

Rinsen:
It’s definitely an open field. There could be as many Shuso as we have Ango to acknowledge them. But there would never be a class. There are certain things we do and acknowledge as cohorts, and there are certain things that must be done as an individual experience of acknowledgement. Shuso is always an individual experience. 

Rinsen:
So, there is a little bit of a bottleneck [since only one new Shuso can be acknowledged each Ango]. Heretofore, it has not been a problem because the standards are quite high -- it’s not just a feat on the Teacher’s whim, “I like your sweater today so you’re a Shuso!” 

[Group laughter] 

Rinsen:
No! There's a very specific criterion that's involved, but anyone who makes that criterion is going to be asked to serve as Shuso. So the great hope is that someday, we see a new Shuso every Ango. But, even at [Zen Mountain Monastery’s] height when we were there, it didn't happen every Ango. I remember sadness on Roshi's part when it would be the case that he would say, “I'm sorry, but no one is really ready yet to be acknowledged so I'll be leading the Ango again.” I could always feel him get just a little greyer because he was waiting for students to ripen, to deepen. And, in a way, that sadness became a big motivator for me. 

Another field of possible future Shusos.

 

Do’on
Yeah! So, if you think you are on the Shuso track, make sure or remember that the road to Shuso lies in Koan study. It's not the only criteria, but it's the main criteria, that a Shuso has to be at a certain place in their Koan study in order to be acknowledged. 

Do'on:
And, I would definitely say that it’s much more on the Jedi side than the Sith side.  

[Group laughter]  

Do'on:
Make that really clear, Zuisei.  

[More group laughter] 

Rinsen: 
I guess it almost goes without saying that we wouldn't see someone as a candidate for Shuso if they are not a Shoken student. You have to be deeply connected to us as Teachers and to this community as your Sangha. Strange as it is, about once a month or so someone, somewhere will write to me and say, "Oh, can you acknowledge me?" [and I respond] "Oh, no I can't." Or, "No, I won't." 

Zuisei
That leads into my next question. Some of our Sangha members are probably thinking, Dear Buddha, not me. Don't call on me to be Shuso -- not now, not ever. And some are probably thinking, where do I sign up?  And so, you've addressed just a little bit, how would one walk down the path to becoming a Shuso student? Could someone say no? Could Shokai say no? How does it work? 

Do’on: 
Well, it’s interesting because Shokai’s practice, and anyone’s practice, is actually for the community. So, Rinsen and myself at this point, have decided her practice is at a point where it’s not only for herself but for the community. For her to say: "No I don't want that," she would really turning her back on the spiritual development and growth of the community as a whole.  

Do'on:
I don’t imagine that we would ask somebody who would say no, because the foundation of all of this is the Bodhi mind, the mind of awakening, for the sake of all beings. Being a Shuso has empowerments to teach and to share the Dharma in that way, and it’s part of the life of the Bodhisattva. 

Rinsen: 
Yeah, I would say it even a little more strongly. I would say: “You can't ask to be a Shuso.” It doesn't work that way at all. In fact if someone starts saying "I want to be Shuso, I want to be Shuso" it's not going to go well. On the other hand, if you are asked by your teacher to be Shuso, you might not want to, you might think it’s crazy, you might think the Teacher is making a mistake and this has got to be wrong, and even so your answer would be “Yes”. 

Rinsen:
By the time we are anywhere near that conversation actually happening, this would be a moot point. But it is important to realize that this is not something a student should feel like you should be asking about or trying to get connected about how to sign up to make this happen. Becoming a Shuso is absolutely not in that terrain. From the student’s perspective, [the initiative to have the student become a Shuso] comes entirely from the Teacher.  

Rinsen:
And [when it does come], in some ways it won't be a surprise and in other ways it's shocking. And you can feel it is great or it is horrible. Probably you will feel both. But that's not a factor [in saying “Yes” when asked].  

Do’on: 
… I mean, the reality though is that sure, something could happen and somebody could say no, and then we would have to say… you know, I don’t know! What would we say? 

[no laughing here, this is a real stumper] 

Rinsen: 
I don't know. I can't imagine. I don't know. 

Do’on: 
I can't imagine it either. 

Rinsen: 
If someone is ... I don't know… 

Zuisei: 
I get the sense from what you just said that for someone to be at the place where you would ask them to become Shuso, you would have such a close student-teacher relationship, and see each other so often at sesshin and other times, that if there was something misaligned you would know and would not ask. I suppose someone could have a heart attack or situation where they literally say “I can’t do that because I’m in the hospital” -- but that is a different kind of “no” than “I don’t want to”. 

Rinsen
Correct. I agree. That’s the only thing I could think of too. I'm fantasizing, okay ... heart attack,  hospital, I can't now. Beyond that, I know it's a strange teaching, in some ways. In some ways a person needs to be able to say “my practice is no”, “my practice is limits and boundaries” and that kind of stuff. But “my practice is yes”, this is also necessary. So, I'll leave it at that. 


Segment 8: May This Be The First of Many Mazel Tovs 

Zuisei: 
Is there anything else that you'd like to share with the Sangha about what's coming up at Shuso Hossen or Ango closing? 

Rinsen: 
I would like to say that this is a singularly joyous time. It's deeply encouraging to me personally because I feel that this is clear evidence of our training in the Sangha doing right by the practitioners that engage it. The fact that Shokai’s practice is at this place is an immensely encouraging sign for the tensile strength of our community going forward.  

Rinsen:
To be clear, she has a long way to go. She is not a fully authorized transmitted teacher or anything like that at this point. My practice has a long way to go -- we're all on this train together.  

Rinsen:
Nonetheless, I think it's an incredibly joyful thing. To me, this is almost like the birth of a child. It's like the Sangha has grown its own new Shuso person who is engaged with these teachings, and this practice, and this place, with these folks. And may it be the first of many Mazel Tovs. 

Yet more possible future Shuso students, and these are just the ones we can see and hear today.

 

Zuisei: 
Would one of you like to dedicate the merit of our interview here today? 

Osho: 
By these merits, may we quickly attain a state of enlightenment and take every being without exception, and bring them to that state. We especially dedicate the merit of this time together to our Shuso, and to our community. May it help us to strengthen our Bodhisattva vow and help us to fully awaken. How wonderful that we have the merit of all of our work together to give away to all sentient beings!

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