Here is something that was brought more to the foreground during my time at the Zen center:
The main purpose and function of institutions is to keep themselves going, and that also goes for religious or spiritual organizations, including Zen and Buddhism.
That’s of course very good. It provides continuity and stability, and makes the resources, experience, and knowledge in these institutions available to new generations.
The drawbacks are equally obvious: It means that those who are willing to play the game (follow the rules) tend to be promoted and will eventually lead the institutions. And change tends to be slow. There is a certain inflexibility and slowness in taking up new approaches and insights, and adapting to or aligning with current needs and worldviews.
For some, institutions feel a bit confining for a variety of reasons. And one of these is that truth may be more important than institutions or traditions. The teachers I am most drawn to belong to this category. Adyashanti struck out on his own after his traditional Zen training, and Byron Katie was tradition-free from the beginning. The value in this approach is the ease of drawing from any tradition and teacher, there is freedom to follow what seems most true independent of traditions, and some new perspectives and insights can come out of it – which may even feed back into the traditions. The drawback is of course a possible lack of guidance from traditions.
And although I may have set it up that way here, there is of course no inherent opposition between institutions and truth. Some fit into and continue institutions in an excellent way, and are also sincere in exploring what’s (sometimes more) true for them.
– zen, got the impression that it was the people who played the game who got promoted, rather than people sincerely working on themselves, finding what’s true for them (and, of course, sometimes both were there in the same person)
– makes sense, the main purpose/function of institutions is to keep themselves going, looking for people who are willing to play the game