A woman who called the Center today asked if we were Soto or Rinzai. I've yet to come up with a happy, quick, accurate and – yes – appropriately inviting answer to that question.
It doesn't help that the name, Philip Kapleau, doesn't ring as many bells as perhaps it once did. It doesn't help that his successors haven't exactly been cover story figures for Tricycle, Buddhadharma or Shambhala Sun. It doesn't help that his successors haven't been burning up the Amazon.com sales charts with their steady stream of books, audio recordings and the like.
Of course, though, all of those things that don't help are exactly part of the reason why I find this such an attractive lineage. At the end of the day, it's all about solid zen practice aimed at awakening, not fast media exposure and running around the talk or conference circuit. In this line, we do the work without a lot of clap-trap.
So after a quick history of the Harada-Yasutani line, the establishment of Zen in America after WWII, and fast comparisons with each of the major schools (koans - yes, face wall - yes, do ōryōki - no, speak English - yes) I told the woman that we in the sangha are a pretty average-looking but highly dedicated bunch. She found that appealing enough to be interested in coming by.
Many feel the need to leave their mark on something. I'm honored just to be able to pass on what I have received. I think that's what was meant when I was told that ordination meant becoming a vessel of the tradition.