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Thread: What does a teacher? Teach!

  1. #1

    What does a teacher? Teach!

    Perennially it comes up here--the topic of teachers, various ones are mentioned and the wrongness or rightness of what they say.

    I think it's a good idea to think about what a teacher is, and what a teacher does
    and what our minds do with that concept of 'teacher.'

    I think it is perfectly appropriate for a teacher to say 'this is the only way.'
    I don't think that is any different from going to any kind of teacher who says--
    you must hold the yarn like this, or you must hold the brush/penicil/bow/mop/knife/whathaveyou, etc. like so.
    Certainly at some point (at any point) you can hold things anyway you please, but if you want to learn what the teacher has to offer, then learn from their perspective which starts from their 'form.'
    If, from the very start, their perspective strikes you as 'wrong' or 'flawed' or 'off,' or 'lacking' or whatever, then it is a kindness, a great kindness, that you don't have to work with them. This 'distaste' means spit it out, don't swallow it!
    It's how you get to find the right teacher for you.
    The 'right' teacher may change over time. There is tradition in monks being sent by their own teacher to study with another one.
    This is not the consumeristic -- let me sit with this (insert name of popularly known teacher/author/now on dvd and cassettes) person, and I've been on sesshin with that (famous) person and I took a seminar with that (also well known name) person. The role consumerism (spritual materialsim)plays is something to look at, no question about it. What I am talking about is keeping the flame under the zafu, so to speak: choosing to keep company with those whose embodiment of practice calls out in us a deepening of our own.
    Choosing to expose ourselves to others, taking our preferences and opinions, exercising setting these aside, however briefly, and letting all the windows of the mind be open, and letting a teacher's words/presence waft through like a current of air in the Spring--nothing to grab hold of, nothing to push away.
    It's great to try--I recommend it highly--try it with someone you absolutely love as a teacher and someone you absolutely hate.
    In the beginning I read one book someone gave me, when I was ready to start sitting, I found a place to sit. It was close to home. I didn't shop around, I didn't know that I could, or that it was possible. I didn't feel 'satisfied' and I didn't feel 'dissatisfied' in the years I sat with Matsuoka Roshi, I just kept not knowing anything and I just kept sitting. No one asked me, and I didn't have to explain what I couldn't explain to anyone.
    We think we know what we are looking for in a teacher. OK! Go try and find it!

    Our mothers, our fathers did/do their best with us.
    Teachers--same thing. Gratitude for them all! Even if we didn't like the meals they served, or the lectures they gave, they gave us their place to stay until we found 'our own.'
    They are 'ahead' of us in life experience, and then, comes a bend in the road, and we are all at the same place: equal, and we equally teach, nurture, help each other.

    In the best sense, parents and teachers remove dependency, with everything they teach us. 'My way or the highway' is just a way of stating the obvious--if you want/can do it another way--you're good to go!

    Anyway, I'm home sick today and had some time to ramble with some thoughts.
    Now it's to some much needed paperwork, for meetings I must be well enough to attend tomorrow.

    keishin

  2. #2
    Very well said.
    Thank you for that.

    Gassho
    Dirk

  3. #3
    Thanks Keishin,
    I agree, with the caveat that sometimes (and the student must be careful when doing this) we need to simply follow instructions for a while—trust the teacher. That trust should not be assumed too quickly. There have been too many stories of student/teacher dynamics being abused. So, students should spend quite a while watching their teachers before putting too much trust in them. But sometimes the teacher really knows what is best, in spite of our opinions or preferences. I think a careful balance is needed between skepticism and blind trust. This balance varies over time and from person to person.

    Teachers give us models and tools for how to pursue our own paths of self-discovery, but they cannot "give" us knowledge. This is true in music; I imagine it is true in Zen.
    William Butler Yeats wrote this, and I think I would agree:

    “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

    Gassho,
    Bill

  4. #4
    Hi Keishin,

    Thank you for this post; it “speaks to my condition." I agree with much of what you say; I also agree with Bill's caveat.

    I think it's helpful to do a good amount of searching up front when it comes to looking for a teacher. Sometimes geography and/or other issues dictate who and what is available. Hopefully, we'll find a decent fit, a teacher who we can trust, which doesn't mean we'll always agree but where we'll be challenged to go beyond our comfort zones. Then, if we are lucky to find such a teacher, I think to make real progress we need to stick it out with that person.

    When one jumps from teacher to teacher, I think that says more about the student than the teachers. As long as one is doing that, he/she will never need to make a serious commitment. They may be looking for a teacher to do "it" for them. It's like losing weight. Whether you join Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, the program and facilitators aren't going to do the work for you. Only you can do the work. The program/teacher can only guide.

    I've always liked the Yeats quote that Bill shared. Similarly, as part of my personal education philosophy I've learned that the word education comes from the Latin educare, which literally means "to lead forth" or "to bring out of." I think a good teacher strives to assist each student in bringing out that “something” that is unique to him/her.

    Anyway, Keishin, I hope you're feeling better.

    Gassho,
    Keith

  5. #5
    Greetings Keishin!! Hope this finds you feeling better in spite of the paper pushing!!

    What a wonderful topic and one that is very profoundly at the heart of my journey at this moment in my life.

    I started like you...found a book, found a group near my home, started sitting with them and continued to do so for seven years. Within that time I had the teacher I started with and moved on to the teacher who came to know the blood and bones of me.

    A teacher has pointed and guided me to the deepest truths I know, and a teacher has led me to the deepest well of disappointment and disillusionment with another human being that I have ever known. Both of these teachers came in the same human body.

    I have had to walk the past three years without a teacher due to both circumstance and preference. This seems to be the time for me to navigate the river without a life vest, so to speak, but not without some very good understanding of swimming and navigation. I have more to learn, but right now I must learn it without the guidance of a teacher. I am learning to appreciate sangha more and more.

    And always I will say...find a teacher that is right for you. The red flag guidelines that I was given are: if a teacher asks you for your will, your money or your body, run like hell. The yellow flag guidelines are the ones you will need to suss for yourself. I also echo what Bill and Keith have offered. Stick with one teacher for some time. Avoid the smorgasbord mentality. Carefully observe (without the judgemental mind) their disciples and/or longtime students.

    A true teacher, one who resonates with you and is truly your noble and spiritual friend, is worthy of not only the bows of your body, but the deepest bows from your heart. When your heart bows, you will know.

    In Gassho~

    *Lynn

  6. #6
    Lynn
    A true teacher, one who resonates with you and is truly your noble and spiritual friend, is worthy of not only the bows of your body, but the deepest bows from your heart. When your heart bows, you will know.
    Well put Lynn.

    Always, always, always we look for someone to offload our responsibility on. We think the teacher can even die for us or save us from death... or save us from life/ reality...

    It strikes me that the best teacher will make his/her position redundant within a short space of time.
    Also well put. It's not a teachers job to accomodate our preconceptions, likes and dislikes. That would kind of miss the point wouldn't it. Sometimes when the teacher points us to reality we get defensive because it doesn't fit in with what "we" want. If you go from teacher to teacher without giving your heart and trying out their teachings, then how much can you really say?

    The cushion is a great teacher, but sometimes a fellow person will say something and a light just clicks, that might just be a result of our sitting practice, but the two relate nicely. Sometimes, later when we look back we understand why the teacher was saying or doing that.

    Understanding this wonderful practice, and feeling grateful for being able to do it, the teacher would do anything to help a person who has chosen to take up this practice. For those teachers, a big Gassho is deserved.

    Gassho Will

    P.S. Being realized and willing to teach doesn't neccessarily make you a good teacher or it doesn't mean your methods are the best. I think?

  7. #7
    What does a teacher Teach?
    What does a student study?

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