My transmission was done in a non-hierarchical way decided by a circle of transmitted women. This is very unusual. We had all been together in Katagiri Roshi’s sangha for a long time. This story is a great example of the women’s way – communal, gentle and appropriate to a difficult situation. It was not hindered by bureaucratic red tape or adherence to an inflexible rule of hierarchy. This was a decision made from the heart of the women who cared about me and my sangha.
I had been promised transmission by the teacher I was under at the time. As that relationship began to break down, I knew that transmission wasn’t going to happen. Because of his ethical breaches, I felt forced to leave the sangha. This was a deep heart-break. I felt lost and in deep grief. A broken web. I sat by myself for several years and then that same community wanted me to come back as the guiding teacher and help them repair the trauma left by the previous teacher.
Alas, I was full of experience, nine years of co-teaching, running a sangha, having students, running sesshin but not transmitted. In order to return to help the sangha as the guiding teacher, I needed to be transmitted.
Here’s the beautiful non-hierarchical story and circle of care that was demonstrated by my dharma sisters. I needed to be verified to be able to lead and for the sake of the sangha. But who should do it? One can’t just change teachers and be transmitted. I was looking at years of studying with another teacher before I could get that authorization. Three of my transmitted dharma sisters from Katagiri Roshi’s sangha got together by phone. Knowing me for all these years, they all were willing to transmit to me and acknowledge my understanding. My sisters decided together, in circle, who would be the best transmitter in this complicated case. There was a communal decision that Joen Snyder O’neal was the right person for me. We lived in the same town, we were close friends, and doing the transmission ceremony would also benefit Joen. We proceeded to perform a very traditional and powerful ceremony in conjunction with one of my dharma brothers who taught us the ceremony directly received from Japan.
A most beautiful example of the non-hierarchical way often associated with women.