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is Thomas Cleary a Zen Master or what?

To: alt.zen,talk.religion.buddhism
Subject: is Thomas Cleary a Zen Master or what?
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 12:21:16 -0600

ok, stupid question.  But inquiring minds want to know.

does anyone know if Thomas Cleary studied with a roshi like Suzuki Roshi
or Maezumi Roshi, or someone else established in some lineage?

I know he has the harvard phd, and an affiliation with SF zen center
in the 70's, which apparently gave him a stipend while he was engaged in
translation work, and must be an incredibly devoted, dedicated,
and inspired disciple of Buddha to have done what he has done,
but did he ever study under a 'living' roshi and receive
transmission of some kind or other?  If not, I might suspect that
his dedication and hard work are more symptoms of academic idiot-savantry
rather than devotion and inspiration.  After all, logorrhea is a
chronic disease of uninspired academics.

Of course, this would be an irrelevant and offensive question,
were it not for Cleary's many criticisms of western zen practice
found in the forewords and prefaces of his many books.  Such
criticisms, it seems to me, require some confession by the author
of where they are coming from.

Maybe Cleary is like Stephen Mitchell, striking out on his own after a
brief affiliation with and disassociation from a teacher, hoping
someday to give himself transmission?  Mitchell also refrains from
the personal anecdote, but he also, I notice, unlike Cleary, refrains
from criticism of western zennism.

I have heard Thomas Cleary lecture a few times, and he cant resist
jabbing at the American Zen establishment of priestlets, schedules,
rituals etc.  Even the forewords of his many books, seemingly composed
from stream of consciousness, contain many snide remarks about the idiocy
of westerners in their approach to Zen practice and trusting the
prescriptions of a few oriental priestlets.  Maybe he was snubbed in some
way by some teacher like Suzuki Roshi?

So, makes me wonder, from whence doth he pontificate?
Is he more than a 'mere' translator?
He seems to be careful to rarely refer to himself,
from what I've read or heard, avoiding the western confessional
style of Augustine, Merton, and myriads of Beat zennists,
never referring to his own ups and downs with practice and
'teachers'.  (except once I remember him making vague allusions
to his personal experience of the transformative power of the
Avatamsaka which he encountered while translating it.)

So, if he wants us to think he is a 'mere' translator by not ever
referring to his own practice, why then does he sprinkle his
prefaces with these criticisms?   Why should zennists listen
to him at all?  Is he just a zen crackpot?  Or is he a prophet crying
in the wilderness of good-little wannabe western zen priestlets
who are carefully tippy toeing up the hundred foot pole of delusion?

cats, katz, kwatz, whatever...

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