The following stages are not automatic in the sense that a given level is the result of meeting certain requirements. The assessment of a teacher (and in some cases senior students) will be important. Each level contains all practice elements of the previous levels achieved.
(a) Practicing Student
Practicing Students are those who begin to engage in Zen practice under guidance. They commit to daily zazen and may eventually take the Five Zen Buddhist Precepts.
(b) Senior Student
When the teacher feels the student is ready, the student will begin working with specific Koans, although alternative practice methods may be appropriate, based on the student’s ability and spiritual preference. He or she also may take the Ten Precepts and become lay- ordained (Jukai).
An Upasaka is a student, who has achieved enough realization to demonstrate willingness in committing more time and energy to practice. This commitment may take many forms, incl. leading meditation practice and orientation of newcomers. It is rooted in the karmic practice of Dhana. An Upasaka will continue to go into deeper realization with Dokusan practice, as well as other methods designed to awaken Buddha Mind.
Assistant Zen Teacher
Assistant teachers demonstrate an understanding of the workings of the Dharma in their lives and relationships. They are firmly rooted in the experience of awakening. They develop the skill and experience to teach.
Zen Teacher (Fashi)
Zen Teacher status is ordained when the Master feels the candidate can be entrusted to teach classes or individual students on his or her own. A Zen teacher is skilled in teaching the Dharma and will obviously be manifesting the Dharma in everyday life. He or she has demonstrated leadership. The position of Fashi is a confirmation by the Master that the student is beginning to embody the Dharma in a tangible way. Fashi is not identical with Zen Master or priest. Though the person may give Dharma talks, he or she is not authorized to conduct religious and pastoral Services, such as weddings, funerals, Dokusan, etc.
Kalyanamitra (Spiritual Director / Zen Priest)
This level of spiritual director (or simply: priest) may be recognized when a Fashi has completed all other requirements, he or she may be ordained (Tokudo) as being honored for this distinction. The Kalyanamitra is considered a full clergyperson on public, legal and functional levels.