Zen Initiation, Ordination, Priest Training, and Dharma Transmission
With deep gratitude, at MZMC we carry forward the Soto Zen tradition of lineal transmission from warm hand to warm hand, from mind to mind, of the Dharma, our practice.
Zen Initiation is an opportunity to deepen one’s commitment to the Soto Zen tradition and to formally receive the precepts and go for refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. MZMC members who have a commitment to the practice and community, a teacher, and have completed at least one practice period at MZMC are welcome to ask their teachers about the prospect of initiation. Initiation requires a mutual commitment, and ultimately the authority and decision to initiate a student is solely in the hands of the teacher.
Ordination, Priest Training, and Dharma Transmission
Ordination is a path of giving oneself to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, a path of practice for the liberation of all beings everywhere from suffering.
Minnesota Zen Meditation Center has been a training site for Soto Zen priests since its earliest days in the 1970s. Twenty three people have been ordained as priests-in-training and subsequently received Dharma transmission (full authorization to teach) at MZMC. At least a dozen more have been ordained and ended their training, completed their training elsewhere, or are currently in training. People who are ordained in the Soto Zen tradition only hold their status as ordained priests-in-training or priests if they are currently in training with a teacher or have received Dharma transmission.
MZMC works to be inclusive in empowering a diverse array of teachers. The people who have completed Dharma transmission include nine women, fourteen men, twenty one white folks, two people of color, and at least three LGBTQ people. People who have received Dharma transmission at MZMC have gone on to found Zen centers across the United States, and have ordained, trained, and given Dharma transmission to many others.
Ordination and training at MZMC require a long term commitment to zazen, the precepts, Dharma, personal development, an individual teacher who has received Soto Zen Dharma transmission, ritual, service to the community, and the liberation of all beings from suffering. There are many steps to the path, and it is a demanding commitment. Ordaining teachers have broad authority over the training of their students, and work together with other teachers at MZMC as well as others to provide a healthy and beneficial training process.
The first step to the path of ordination is to commit to Soto Zen practice, the MZMC community, and a teacher with Dharma transmission at MZMC. The next step is to talk to one’s teacher about the possibility of ordination. It is quite common for a teacher to decline to begin the process of ordination with an interested student for any number of reasons. If the teacher accepts, they will outline the next steps in the process. Ordination requires a mutual commitment, and the authority and decision to ordain, train, end training, or give Dharma transmission is solely in the hands of the ordaining teacher.