Case 21 never ends, yet now comes ...
Case 22 - Ganto's bow and shout
A good one for finishing the year here at Treeleaf, where many folks come and go.
A student, with her own opinions and eye for appraisal, shows up at a Sangha and demands, "Is this place common or special? Is it what I think I want from the Zen I picture? Is it 'Real Zen' or fake Zen, and are the Teachers enlightened as I want 'enlightened' to look or be?"
The Teacher demonstrates Dharma with a Shout ... perhaps a GREAT Wordless Teaching in that Shout or perhaps just a cliche clunker ... and the student bows down, uttering "You are so wonderful, Teacher!" Is the student correct in the appraisal, or even in a position to judge at such an early date? Or perhaps the gesture of bowing is insincere, mere flattery, with fingers crossed behind the back? Even if sincere, flattery is really not called for by any Teacher, especially if the "yes man" kind. Some few students might stay for years, finding value in the Practice there, illumination, a life ... and that is really the only thing needed by a Teacher. But, after a time, some students are disappointed and go away, thinking "there is no True Dharma here". That always breaks the Teacher's heart, who always wishes he could have done better.
For what the Teacher, like an old friend, wants to help any Student find is This which is Common-Holy, Specially Unspecial, fulfilling all desires ... both with what is wanted and what is not. Can one know the Real that sweeps in and sweeps through 'real' or 'fake'? Can the Great Teaching be heard that shouts at the Unbreakable Heart of both the sparkling talks or thrilling moments and the dull or dumb, the Timeless both in the 'time well spent' and so-called 'waste of time'? Can one find that True Way from which there is no way to "go away"? Helping the student find so is the only "compliment" a Teacher requires.
There are two kinds of Sangha or Teacher that, I feel, do a disservice to students. One is a place or person that is too lax, too careless, which fails to provide beneficial opportunities for Practice, or (in some fortunately very few cases) where real abuse and other bad acts occur. But, counter-intuitive as it may seem, a Sangha or Teacher which meets all the student's expectations, golden dreams, ideals and desires too would be a disservice (not to mention unlikely to ever truly appear, at least over the long haul when the rose colored honeymoon is done). Why? Because as with all of this life, all this world, one must come to see through personal judgments of both "sacred" and "ordinary", good and bad, flashy or dull, entertaining or painful, satisfying and disatisfying, true vs. fake ... thus to find a Truth beyond selfish expectations, disappointments, dreams, ideals and failings to meet a mark, thus to find the Mark Always Met. The best Teacher or Community, as strange as it sounds, may be one that ... like the universe ... sometimes inspires and sometimes frustrates, sometimes energizes and sometimes bores, sometimes astounds and sometimes leaves cold ... all so that one might find Astounding Energetic Inspiration even right at the heart of the frustratingly, dully cold.
Our Sangha is a wonderfully imperfect place. Our Teachers here are well-meaning but mediocre clods and fools. No flattery is needed (sincere or insincere ... although anyone appreciates a sincere, kind encouraging word, even Zen Teachers), no criticism welcomed (except the constructive kind to let us do things better). This Place, This Dharma, This Buddha, sits beyond all human weighing and rating.
- Please discuss how this Sangha or any part of Zen Practice sometimes is golden, and sometimes sucks eggs, and whether it is possible to find the Golden Egg.
- I wonder if this presentation of Koan 22 is a "keeper" or a "clunker". Did I do a good job?