Our Teachers and Lineage
Our teachers are part of a lineage that has handed down the Buddha's teachings - the Dharma - in an unbroken chain since the lifetime of Shakyamuni Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. Our founding teacher, Fred Eppsteiner, is an ordained Dharma Teacher. He is the spiritual director and founding teacher of FCM, having received transmission and authorization to teach in 1994 from the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, whose lineage goes back to the ninth-century Chinese Chan master Lin Chi (known as Rinzai in Japanese) and ultimately back to the Buddha. Fred has also practiced extensively in the Great Perfection tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
Fred is is assisted with FCM teaching responsibilities by FCM Dharma Instructors. Dharma Instructors have been selected by the Fred for ongoing teaching responsibilities and for their spiritual leadership. Typically they have practiced with the Fred for 10-20 years, completed many Intensives and retreats and participated in an intensive three-year course of study.
Our lineage emphasizes the conscious integration of daily life and spiritual life so that our practice of mindfulness, meditation and the development of wisdom and compassion can permeate and transform all aspects of our lives and relationships.
Zen and Mahayana Buddhism
Zen is based on the practice of sitting meditation, on direct non-conceptual awareness of our everyday lives, and on a belief that we all have “Buddha minds” that are clear and perfect just as they are, if we will only drop the veil of thinking and delusion that obscures them.
Introduced into China about 1500 years ago by the Indian monk Bodhidharma, “Zen” comes from the Chinese “Ch’an,” which in turn is based on the Sanskrit word “dhyana,” meaning sitting meditation. Zen is practiced in Japan, China, Vietnam, Korea and now in many western countries as well. Despite Zen’s reliance on direct experience rather than a more theoretical study of Buddhist sutras and writings, there are many wonderful Zen stories and anecdotes of teacher-student dialogues and wordless interactions resulting in sudden enlightenment.
Zen is a form of Mahayana Buddhism, as is Tibetan Buddhism. “Mahayana” is a Sanskrit term meaning “the great vehicle”; its practitioners do not seek enlightenment and liberation only for themselves, but they seek it for all sentient beings. The Mahayana wisdom teachings emphasize the inter-connectedness and unity of all things – called “interbeing” by Thich Nhat Hanh - and the non-existence of a separate self. Thus, our practice includes selfless service. We practice for one another and for all beings, to diminish suffering and increase happiness for all, including ourselves, but not putting ourselves above anyone else.
Thich Nhat Hanh and his monastic community have incorporated many of the Mahayana teachings into the Five Mindfulness Trainings, based on the five ethical precepts of the Buddha, as expanded and applied to today’s world. Many members of our FCM community have received transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings from our teacher, from other teachers, or from Thich Nhat Hanh himself. Our sanghas and retreats include regular recitations and study of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.