Becoming a disciple means you want to follow your Shifus’ (Zen Masters) instructions to advance your Zen practice in order to uncover the nature of self (or get enlightened) and to carry on the lineage teaching of None Zen Center.
1. What is a disciple?
Becoming a disciple, a formal student, to a Zen master means:
- You want to continue your Zen meditation with this particular teacher because you’ve been inspired, had progress, or become more interested in or curious about Zen (your nature) and Zen meditation in your previous learning experience with this particular teacher;
- You want to follow this teacher’s instructions to further your Zen meditation level and reveal your nature, no matter how difficult the entire training process may be; and
- You acknowledge and appreciate this teacher’s Zen lineages, since it is the tradition that this teacher’s teaching comes from and it is the tradition that you benefit from. You are also willing to carry on the lineage teaching and provide a Zen meditation environment of the lineages for the public when you are assigned to, reach certain Zen level, or get enlightened, no matter how much effort it may require.
2. What would happen when I become a disciple?
When becoming a disciple, you will be given more intensive training and straightforward teaching to advance your Zen level efficiently.
The scope of your Zen training will not be limited to the on-cushion sitting meditation but will expand to the off-cushion working meditation. You will be participating in the Center’s day-to-day operations, conducting assigned jobs which you probably have no previous experience with, organizing and/or hosting events for the Center, sharing your Zen experience with your fellow practitioners and the public, collaborating with your fellow practitioners, working with your Shifu (your Master) and/or other Shifus (Zen masters) of the Center, etc. You will also develop a personal shifu-disciple relationship with your Shifu(s).
All this on-cushion and off-cushion discipling is not only for your enlightenment, but also serves the purpose of training the Center’s future Zen masters in order to lead more people to enlightenment.
3. How can I become a disciple? Am I qualified?
Students who have been taking classes at the Center continuously for more than 6 months are qualified to apply for the discipleship, although some exceptions may apply. You will need to fill out the Discipleship Application Form and submit it to the Center. Once your application is received, you become a novice (disciple-to-be) and are allowed to join the Disciple Program. When you pass the disciple assessment after a 3-to-6 month training, you will be accepted and given a Discipleship Ceremony to become a disciple. Please note that your disciple status won’t be officially confirmed until the Ceremony is completed, whether the form of the Ceremony is formal or informal.
4. Why do I need a ceremony to become a disciple?
It is not necessary to have an official ceremony, a ritual or symbolic behavior, to become a disciple since Zen has nothing to do with the form but the nature. However, a ceremony is often helpful because it will always remind you that you become a disciple to follow your Shifu’s instructions, reveal your nature, and carry on the lineage teaching which you benefit from. This will enable you to focus on the purpose, continue your Zen meditation, and further your Zen level when you encounter difficulties during Zen training, in delivering the lineage teaching, and even in your daily life.
5. What would happen in the Discipleship Ceremony?
During the Discipleship Ceremony, you will be led by your Shifu to:
- Proclaim to become a Buddhist (Chn. 皈依稱為佛教徒）
- Undertake the Five Percepts (Chn. 誓守五戒 )
- Adhere to the Code of Ethics and Conduct of None Zen Center (Chn. 誓守無有禪社道德及行為公約 )
- Make the Four Great Vows (Chn. 發四弘誓願 )
After that, you will be given a Dharma Name and become an official disciple to your Shifu(s) and the Center.
6. Why do I need to become a Buddhist before I become a disciple? What is the ritual of Proclaiming to Become a Buddhist?
Actually, you are a Buddhist already when you practice Zen meditation to reveal your nature.
Buddha is a title given to people who reveal the nature, get enlightened, or achieve liberation from the loop of duality. When the Indian teacher Siddhartha Gautama revealed the nature of no self 2,500 years ago, people gave him the title “buddha.” He then became the Buddha, the first buddha, or the historic buddha.
Buddha’s teachings are called Buddhardharma. People who follow Buddhadharma and work toward liberation from the loop of duality, get enlightened, and reveal what the Buddha reveled, are Buddha’s followers or Buddhists. So when you practice Zen meditation to reveal your nature, to become a buddha, you already are a Buddhist, one of Buddha’s followers.
The ritual of Proclaiming to Become a Buddhist is to acknowledge the purpose of your Zen meditation is to become a buddha. You are committing to follow Buddhadharma to reveal your nature, as well as learn and meditate with Sangha (people who are capable of delivering the teaching and/or a community dedicated to revealing the nature, to work towards enlightenment) since the historic buddha had passed away.
In the ritual of Proclaiming to Become a Buddhist, you will be proclaiming that you:
- Adhere to the Buddha (Chn. 皈依佛 )
- Adhere to the Buddhadharma (Chn. 皈依法 )
- Adhere to the Sangha (Chn. 皈依僧 )
However, as taught by the 6th generation Zen Master Huineng (Chn. 慧能) in the Platform Sutra (Chn. 壇經), the more important thing is to know that your nature is no self originally; you are a buddha originally. All you need to do is work hard to reveal your nature, and then you become a buddha, become a member of Arya Sangha (a community where people at least reach the Zen level of stream entry and are capable of delivering the teaching), and your teachings become buddhadharma.
As Master Huineng led his disciples to adhere to the self-nature buddha, self-nature buddhadharma, and self-nature sangha, in the ritual of Proclaiming to become a Buddhist at the Center, you will also be led to proclaim that you:
- Adhere to the Self-Nature Buddha (Chn. 皈依自性佛 )
- Adhere to the Self-Nature Buddhadharma (Chn. 皈依自性法 )
- Adhere to the Self-Nature Sangha (Chn. 皈依自性僧 )
After the ritual, you become a Buddhist formally. With the right view about your nature or buddha, and with the commitment of revealing your nature or becoming a buddha, you are qualified to become a disciple to a Zen Master at the Center.
7. What are the Five Percepts? Why do I need to undertake the Five Percepts?
Buddhist Percepts are rules shared by the Buddhist community to regulate and benefit their common living.
Originally, there were no percepts when Buddha’s followers were Arya Sangha, prominent practitioners who at least reached the Zen level of stream entry. However, as more and more people joined the sangha (community), practitioners’ meditation level were different and uneven. People in the community found they needed rules to regulate their common living, so they introduced the concept of percepts and required every member of the community to follow these percepts.
In the 2,500 years of Buddhist history, there hundreds of percepts have been developed and applied to different types of Buddhists. Among which, there are Five Percepts which represent the essence of these percepts. As a member of the Buddhist community, you are supposed to undertake the Five Percepts, and follow the code of ethics and conduct of the Buddhist community.
To deliver the authentic meaning of the Five Percepts as well as to provide an up-to-date version for people to apply, the Five Percepts shared at the Center are:
- Live harmlessly (Chn. 無害)
- Do not take what is not given (Chn. 不取他人未允之物)
- Do not misuse sexuality (Chn. 不濫用性行為)
- Do not talk about what I don’t know (Chn. 不說不知道的事)
- Do not take any substances to cause mindlessness, incapability of making decision, or out-of-control behaviors (Chn. 不使用任何物品以致於心智不清，喪失做決定的能力，或導致行為失控)
8.What is the Code of Ethics and Conduct of None Zen Center? I just want to become a disciple to Shifus (Zen Masters) at the Center, why should I adhere to the Code?
Being a disciple to a Shifu at None Zen Center, you inherit your Shifu’s Zen lineages and the purpose of the Center.
None Zen Center is founded by Zen Masters 常惺元定 (Chn. Changxing Yuanding, or Chiching “Jeremy” Wei) and 常寂元慧 (Chn. Changji Yuanhui, or Hueychuan “Linda” Huang). Both our Founding Masters, Shifu Jeremy and Shifu Linda, are Dharma Heirs to Zen Master 果如正湛 (Chn. Guoru Zhengzhan, or Huowang Lo), which makes them the 59th generation successors of 臨濟(Chn, Linji; Jpn. Rinzai) lineage, the 53rd generation successors of 曹洞(Chn. Caodong; Jpn. Soto) lineage, and the 3rd generation successors of 法鼓 (Chn. Fagu, or Dharma Drum).
Becoming a disciple to Shifu Jeremy and/or Shifu Linda at the Center, you become the 60th generation successor of Linji lineage, the 54th generation successor of Caodong lineage, and the 4th generation successor of Dharma Drum lineage when you follow their instructions to get enlightened.
Becoming a disciple to Shifu Jeremy and/or Shifu Linda at the Center, you become a member of the Center, since the Center is the assembly that provides you the environment to practice Zen meditation and the community you practice Zen meditation with.
None Zen Center inherits the Founding Masters’ Zen lineages of Linji, Caodong, and Dharma Drum, and, as a church, serves the purpose of:
- Leading people to enlightenment
- Establishing and developing Arya Sangha, a noble monastic community where clergy is built upon the Zen meditation level and the capability of leading people to further their Zen meditation level and get enlightened, rather than the form of appearance, lifestyle or livelihood
- Carrying on the teachings of the Zen lineages of Lingji, Caodong, and Dharma Drum
- Worshiping all buddhas and Zen masters, and appreciating their teachings
- Promulgating and advancing the faith of Zen Buddhism
Becoming a disciple to Shifu Jeremy and/or Shifu Linda at the Center, you also become a Preparatory Member of Arya Sangha, or Club None, the clergy of this church.
As a member of the Center and a Preparatory Member of Club None, you are required to adhere to the Code of Ethics and Conduct of None Zen Center.
The Code is somewhat equivalent to the Eight Percepts of Mahayana Buddhism. To deliver the authentic meaning of the Eight Percepts as well as to provide an up-to-date version for practitioners to apply, the Code of Ethics and Conduct of None Zen Center shared at the Center is:
- Live harmlessly (Chn. 無害)
- Do not take what is not given (Chn. 不取他人未允之物)
- Do not misuse sexuality (Chn. 不濫用性行為)
- Do not talk about what I do not know. (Chn. 不說不知道的事)
- Do not take any substances to cause mindlessness, incapability of making decision, or out-of-control behaviors (Chn. 不使用任何物品以致於心智不清，喪失做 決定的能力，或導致行為失控)
- Do no evil (Chn. 止惡)
- Do all good (Chn. 行善)
- Benefit all beings (Chn. 利益眾生)
9. Is Arya Sangha really a Buddhist term or a term invented by None Zen Center?
The Sanskrit term sangha means a community, group or assembly; sramana means seeker, one who seeks for truth; and arya means noble, holy, valuable, precious, etc.
Arya Sangha refers to the noble or holy assembly of people who at least have reached the Zen meditation level of stream entry; whereas Arya Sramana refers to individual practitioner who has reached that level. Both Aria Sangha and Arya Sramana are built on the meditation level, rather than the form of a person’s appearance, lifestyle, or livelihood.
The authentic meaning of Arya Sangha and Arya Sramana is clearly stated in the Mahayana Sutra of the Mahayana Great Assembly of Ksitigarbha’s Ten Wheels (Chn. 大乘大集地藏十輪經）, a Mahayana Buddhism sutra which was translated from the Sanskrit into Chinese language by Master Xuanzhuang (Chn.玄奘） in the Tang (Chn. 唐） dynasty of China, stating:
What is Arya Sangha? The Buddha, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas who have reached the highly respectful level and feel at ease with any situation and phenomenon, the Pratyekabuddhas, the Arahants, the Anagamis, the Sakridagamis and the Srotapannas, these seven pudgalas compose the Arya Sangha. Pudgalas who remain the forms of a layman, not shaving the head and mustache, nor wearing the kasaya robe, nor undertaking the pratimoksha vows, nor practicing Buddha’s teachings on the Upavasatha Day, nor confessing their offenses and repenting their errors on the Pravarana Day, but have the holy dharma to attain the holy fruit compose the Arya Sangha; they are named Arya Sangha…. Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas who, not depending on any other-than-self causes, have the wisdom and insight in everything without any obstacles, and assemble and benefit all beings are classified to Arya Sramanas.
So now you’ve learned the meaning of Arya Sangha and Arya Sramana, and know that None Zen Center has never invented the terms Arya Sangha and Arya Sramana to serve its own purpose.
10. What is Four Great Vows? Why do I need to make the vows?
Zen Buddhism shares one of the core values of Mahayana Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism, which is that all the efforts of practicing Zen meditation or Buddhism is not (or not only) for one’s enlightenment or one’s peace and happiness but (or but also) for all beings to liberate from the suffering of trapping themselves in the loop of duality (Chn. 不為己身求安樂，但願眾生得離苦）. Members and Preparatory Members of Club None are required to bear this in mind from the very beginning when they become disciples to the Center, and, for this cause, make every effort to work hard, learn and follow the teaching, and get enlightened. That is why you will be making the Four Great Vows in the Discipleship Ceremony.
The Four Great Vows applied in None Zen Center are:
- I vow to liberate the innumerable beings. (Chn. 眾生無邊誓願度）
- I vow to eradicate the inexhaustible vexations. (Chn. 煩惱無盡誓願斷）
- I vow to learn the immeasurable Buddhadharma. (Chn. 法門無量誓願學）
- I vow to achieve the unsurpassable Buddhahood. (Chn. 佛道無上誓願成)