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Thread: Teachers

  1. #1

    Teachers

    Why is it important to have a teacher?

    Well, firstly the teacher is a kind of short cut. They've been there, done that and express what they've experienced when they speak, which might continuously keep pushing us in the right direction.

    Another reason is because when I say blue, how do you know I don't mean green? When I say fear, maybe you mean frustration. You see, teachers are there to point us in the right direction. Let's say you are a really hardcore perfectionist and always worry about this and that. Then saying something like "try hard stick to the precepts", might just enhance your worry and fear. General statements are great, but are no substitute for one on one.

    Anyway, Sangha is important. Keeping up practice is important. Honest inquiry is important, and all that. If one keeps inquiring honestly for how ever long, they're bound to come across some truth, and perhaps don't even recognize when it does come around.

    When Dogen wrote the Shobogenzo, it was a great effort. The Shobogenzo can't be read only once. It must be continuously studied with honest effort or honest reference, not intellectual acquirement. Mostly, it should be dropped. That was Dogen's goal. Zazen, Buddha mind, Dropping.

    Alright. That's enough from me this morning. Time for breakfast.

    Gassho

  2. #2

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Why is it important to have a teacher?

    Gassho
    Um, Dogen wrote ".... to forget the self is to be enlightened by all phenomena". So where is this shortage of teachers? Fugen, I know, is particularly fond of stones. Myself I like Mountains and Rivers (homo sapiens make fine teachers too )

    gassho,
    rowan/jinho

  3. #3

    Re: Teachers

    Yes. Yes. Yes. But all rocks aside. There's something to be found in those jolly men.

    Gassho

  4. #4

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Yes. Yes. Yes. But all rocks aside. There's something to be found in those jolly men.

    Gassho
    and women :wink:

  5. #5

    Re: Teachers

    Here's the thing right, Jundo's probably going to think I'm on drugs (kidding Jundo), your teacher is the rock and the rock is the rock and your teacher is your teacher. There are rocks, friends, teachers, caterpillars, and ants.

    The thing with teachers is, we put to much in the them. Like they are some holy God or something. However, the whole point of their teaching is so we can stand on our own two feet, and know that a rock is our teacher as well.
    We shouldn't discard them so quickly. And we shouldn't rely on them for everything.

    In fact, we should give them a great big hug.

    and women
    I knew you were going to post that as soon as I left for the store.

    You say tomato I say tomato.
    It's all just ketchup :lol:

    And yes, women are included in with the jolly men.

    Gassho

  6. #6
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by Jinho
    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Why is it important to have a teacher?

    Gassho
    Um, Dogen wrote ".... to forget the self is to be enlightened by all phenomena". So where is this shortage of teachers? Fugen, I know, is particularly fond of stones. Myself I like Mountains and Rivers (homo sapiens make fine teachers too )

    gassho,
    rowan/jinho
    I think sometimes you need an actual fellow human being to help point out your blindspots. We all have them, but we needn't remain blind to those areas.

    One can project all sorts of fantasies onto 'rocks' and 'mountains and rivers', but a really could teacher will resist those projections. In my experience.

    Chet

  7. #7
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Teachers

    Thank you Chet. Thank you Will.
    The whole issue of teachers is rather complex. Even more those days when Buddhism goes West and people don't buy anymore the old ways of bowing to the Guru.
    A real teacher to student relationship takes place when the teacher helps you to breakfree from your old beliefs and patterns and eventually helps you to breakfree from him or her. Exactly like in a relationship, the chemistry has to be right and if it is not, it doesn't mean the teacher is wrong or you are wrong. It simply is just not right. And it is very important to have real people in front of us, not just mountain fantaisies or river deams. The role of the guy is to show us how to undo a lot of useless constructs and stuff. He or she needs to be human, to go through the same problems as we do, to experience the very same emotional ride. Otherwise, it is all in the air. And yes, we have also a big job to do as students, we have to walk the walk and learn to be humble in front of life itself and cultivate gratitude and joy. Not just a spiritual materialistic trip like: I only want the very best for my own important understanding of the Dharma!!!

    Sometimes, they wear robes and have titles. Or just are lay people diligent and dedicated.

    Nobodies, people without kesas, robes, titles or the likes make also excellent teachers...your crying child, your peers and collegues, the guy reading the newspaper in the bus...Situations, moments.

    And yes, I am kind of tired to hear that master Dogen wrote the Shobogenzo. It is not exactly true. One side of the story. Dogen wrote Dogen. Shobogenzo wrote itself and Shobogenzo wrote Dogen.

    And then get rid of all this. What is left?


    Taigu

  8. #8

    Re: Teachers

    Hi Will,

    I certainly agree one can put too much into a teacher. I have been studying the koan "how can a Roshi make a mistake?" for several years and I think I am almost there. But I do have trouble with this "you, you, you". This "you, you, you" makes me think that the writer is making judgments about me personally and other people in general.

    Maybe we should give everybody a great big hug?

    Standing on one's own two feet is, for me, another way of saying "leaving home" (in the buddhist sense). And, of course, what other feet can I stand on?

    I think "teacher" can function as a delusion. It is all just interactions of phenomena (home sapeins, trees, cats). It certainly has on one occasion for me.

    thank you for your time,
    Jinho

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Here's the thing right, Jundo's probably going to think I'm on drugs (kidding Jundo), your teacher is the rock and the rock is the rock and your teacher is your teacher. There are rocks, friends, teachers, caterpillars, and ants.

    The thing with teachers is, we put to much in the them. Like they are some holy God or something. However, the whole point of their teaching is so we can stand on our own two feet, and know that a rock is our teacher as well.
    We shouldn't discard them so quickly. And we shouldn't rely on them for everything.

    In fact, we should give them a great big hug.

    and women
    I knew you were going to post that as soon as I left for the store.

    You say tomato I say tomato.
    It's all just ketchup :lol:

    And yes, women are included in with the jolly men.

    Gassho

  9. #9

    Re: Teachers

    Jinho
    I think "teacher" can function as a delusion. It is all just interactions of phenomena (home sapeins, trees, cats). It certainly has on one occasion for me.
    Yes. It's all very imaginary and yet we still have to deal with "people" or "homosapiens" as you like to call them. Kind of like what we're doing now.

    By the way, my names Will. I enjoy the movie Ratatouille. And so on. Long walks on the beach might be in there somewhere.

    The thing is, is that those things aren't me and are. So...we talk. We chat.

    Some people say it took a thousand years or so for a Buddha to appear in this world. How can one expect to understand the Dharma without a teacher of some sort. Bodhidharma recommended it. Dogen recommended it, and probably a few others. Anyway...Rocks are great and have their place. So do does, and beavers. But beavers can't smack you in the head (usually), and they definitely don't have a well known ability for writing prose.

    Gassho

  10. #10

    Re: Teachers

    Don't forget those of us who have (relatively) recently discovered this 'Zen' thing... where would we be without a living, speaking, typing teacher to grab our collar and say "Hey, dingbat, the trail is over here!"... We would certainly be lost, wandering in a vast forest of books, koans, YouTube videos, self-help gurus, and charismatic scam-artists.

    When one goes looking for an authentic thing in this world, it is actually easier to find ten thousand cheap imitations first. I appreciate sincere teachers who know what they are doing and are willing to interact with 'beginners'...

    So, you are all my teachers. Everyone here who is not trying to be devious and undermining (haven't pegged anyone for that yet!) or speaking from ignorance (aren't we all?) has the effect of being a teacher to every other one of us.

    Having said that, I still feel that this is a Sangha, meeting in a zendo, which traditionally and historically (and necessarily) has one seat for the abbot. He's a teacher, and he's also the teacher.

    gassho

  11. #11

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobiah
    Don't forget those of us who have (relatively) recently discovered this 'Zen' thing... where would we be without a living, speaking, typing teacher to grab our collar and say "Hey, dingbat, the trail is over here!"... We would certainly be lost, wandering in a vast forest of books, koans, YouTube videos, self-help gurus, and charismatic scam-artists.

    gassho
    Indeed! Even "Seasoned new sitters" need that time to time... even the guide gets turned around Great thread by the way - thank you all for the posts... for give my stinginess as i have nothing to offer- and yet i get a lot.

    Gassho, Shohei

  12. #12
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Teachers

    Teachers need students to be teachers, and students need teachers to be students. They are one.

    Students should not rely solely on teachers, and teachers should not rely solely on students. They are independent of each other.

  13. #13
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Let's say you are a really hardcore perfectionist and always worry about this and that. Then saying something like "try hard stick to the precepts", might just enhance your worry and fear. General statements are great, but are no substitute for one on one.
    Thank you for this Will.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  14. #14

    Re: Teachers

    Hi.

    To open a can of worms, ask yourself, "what is a teacher"?

    I often say that "a teacher is something that teaches something to something".

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  15. #15
    Myoshin
    Guest

    Re: Teachers

    I think a teacher (Human ) is related to a parent who pushes a child on a swing. The child may ask for help to get started. The parent gives a push and the child is content. However the child maybe come dependent on the parent and the parent should let the child fuss and whine and not always push him or the child will never learn to swing on his own.

    A teacher is there to help push one in the right direction, while still letting the student become independent.

    Gassho,
    Kyle

  16. #16

    Re: Teachers

    A teacher is there to help push one in the right direction, while still letting the student become independent.
    Not only that Kyle, but sometimes the teacher is the student, and the student is the teacher. There's really no separation. The teacher depends on the student as well. It's hard to say, but basically, it's just all part of the big pie. When the teacher is sick, the student will most likely be the one to look after them. When the teacher pulls the weeds, you pull the weeds the same as the teacher. Something like that. The teacher and student realize each other.


    Okey Dokey Smokey.

    W

  17. #17

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by Myoshin
    I think a teacher (Human ) is related to a parent who pushes a child on a swing. The child may ask for help to get started. The parent gives a push and the child is content. However the child maybe come dependent on the parent and the parent should let the child fuss and whine and not always push him or the child will never learn to swing on his own.

    A teacher is there to help push one in the right direction, while still letting the student become independent.

    Gassho,
    Kyle
    I agree with this so much. Thank you, Kyle.

    I like the image of a mentor, advisor, guide and mirror ... a voice of some experience, someone who points out the direction of the path, someone who reflects light on that path. But each person needs to do all the hiking on their own. Each person must make their own mistakes too, stumble, get lost from time to time ... and learn to find the path again and again on their own. And as Will said, both realize each other ... and each member of the Sangha supports the other.

    There are some definite matters to teach, some specific knowledge and practices to pass on which must be "book learned" and "body learned" (all through the history of Zen Buddhism in all its flavors, there has been a curriculum of philosophy ... usually in the form of Sutras, Commentaries and Koans ... as well as rituals and practices to "body learn" ... that must be learned in order to give the practice form. It was only after learning all that and memorizing 'the books' that some Zen folks would burn the books ... you can't do that too early, and it is a misunderstanding of our tradition to say you can leave all the Buddhist philosophy behind all the time!). Yet the teacher ultimately has to leave the student to digest all that rich food ... the teacher cannot do the chewing.

    A good teacher or parent must also be willing to tell the learner some things quite frequently that the learner might not want to hear. That does not mean that the parent is always right, but there is usually a reason. (In the marketplace of "Eastern Wisdom", it is no surprise that many folks who sell a lot of books often simply tell folks what they want to hear :roll: That's the best way to get on Oprah. ) Selling folks on "Perfect Enlightenment" is easy ... telling folks about "Perfectly-What-It-Is Enlightenment" sometimes hard. 8)

    Finally, I think it is important for the teacher to "keep it real", keep it human. It is important to show that, while the teacher may be a good mountain man ... he still must take to the path each day, step by step, like everyone else. The "skill and mastery" does not come in never stumbling, or never falling into poison ivy, but in how one handles the falls and little disasters! Thus, many in Zen Buddhism (not everyone) have tended to emphasize the human, fallible face of the Buddhas and Ancestors ... not stories of beings who never fall, never get lost, never stumble. But what makes them worthy of emulation as "Buddhas and Ancestors" is their skills in rolling with the tumbles, maintaining a good path (and recovering the path with ease when lost), keeping balance even on the slippery rocks ... then seeing through the scrapes and bangs. Beware one who will lead you to think that the goal is to float over the trail, levitating on a cloud.

    (of course, we also teach that ... while we may fall or not fall, there is no place we can fall ... no trail to loose ... no way to stumble even as we tumble. In fact, there is no mountain. )

    G, J

    PS ... and, yes, we learn from the rocks and trees on that hike.

  18. #18

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobiah
    Don't forget those of us who have (relatively) recently discovered this 'Zen' thing... where would we be without a living, speaking, typing teacher to grab our collar and say "Hey, dingbat, the trail is over here!"... We would certainly be lost, wandering in a vast forest of books, koans, YouTube videos, self-help gurus, and charismatic scam-artists.

    When one goes looking for an authentic thing in this world, it is actually easier to find ten thousand cheap imitations first. I appreciate sincere teachers who know what they are doing and are willing to interact with 'beginners'...

    So, you are all my teachers. Everyone here who is not trying to be devious and undermining (haven't pegged anyone for that yet!) or speaking from ignorance (aren't we all?) has the effect of being a teacher to every other one of us.

    Having said that, I still feel that this is a Sangha, meeting in a zendo, which traditionally and historically (and necessarily) has one seat for the abbot. He's a teacher, and he's also the teacher.

    gassho
    Hi Tobiah,

    I agree! This is an important feature of Treeleaf when compared with other online forums and Sangha's (thinking about one in particular). Personally, I hope for unambiguous direction from a suitable teacher. Forum discussions have been valuable but it's difficult to work through the contrasting viewpoints. It's all good "food for thought" but clear signposts are important to keep us on the path.

    JohnH

  19. #19

    Re: Teachers

    Hi all,

    I have been treated badly by several zen "teachers". I choose not to be treated badly.

    The first thing I look for in a zen teacher is someone who believes his/her understanding is not the absolute understanding, but only their personal understanding. I am tired of zen teachers who make assumptions, opinions and judgments about me. I only want some who can gently offer their personal understanding to me.

    But the history of zen is 2000 years of abuse of students by "teachers" (it is also 2000 years of other things). Having read the books, it is all there.

    I envision a zen buddhism which is free of abuse. I believe it is possible!

    To anyone who says that beating, shouting, insulting and other rude and abusive ways of treating people are expedient means, I wish to assert that if a teacher's kindness is less eloquent than his/her abuse, then that teacher has a lot of work to do.

    I do not believe that violence can lead to peace. And I do know that y'all will assert the "it's for your own good". But I believe that an ethical life BEGINS with renouncing force/coersion/verbal violence , etc

    END THE VIOLENCE NOW!

    gassho,
    rowan

  20. #20

    Re: Teachers

    I wish to assert that if a teacher's kindness is less eloquent than his/her abuse, then that teacher has a lot of work to do.
    Agreed.

    btw abuse doesn't always fit the context.

    I also don't see the need for thick wooden sticks made for head smacking, that's why I practice "Soto" Zen. However, being presented with a less abusive practice has been my experience.

    END THE VIOLENCE NOW!
    lol

    Gassho

    W

  21. #21

    Re: Teachers

    BTW that was one of the first things my first teacher pointed out. The over use of kyosaku.

    W

  22. #22

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by Jinho
    Hi all,

    I have been treated badly by several zen "teachers". I choose not to be treated badly.

    The first thing I look for in a zen teacher is someone who believes his/her understanding is not the absolute understanding, but only their personal understanding. I am tired of zen teachers who make assumptions, opinions and judgments about me. I only want some who can gently offer their personal understanding to me.

    But the history of zen is 2000 years of abuse of students by "teachers" (it is also 2000 years of other things). Having read the books, it is all there.

    I envision a zen buddhism which is free of abuse. I believe it is possible!

    To anyone who says that beating, shouting, insulting and other rude and abusive ways of treating people are expedient means, I wish to assert that if a teacher's kindness is less eloquent than his/her abuse, then that teacher has a lot of work to do.

    I do not believe that violence can lead to peace. And I do know that y'all will assert the "it's for your own good". But I believe that an ethical life BEGINS with renouncing force/coersion/verbal violence , etc

    END THE VIOLENCE NOW!

    gassho,
    rowan
    Hi Row,

    I have to say that, reading your message, I felt much the same as when my then recently divorced lady friend told me that "all you men are fundamentally rapists and pimps". ops: "Well," I said, "some are, and all men could act a little better at times."

    The history of Zen for 2000 years is --not-- a "history of abuse", although there has been plenty of that ... given that we have 2000 years to cover. The only true "abuse" I know is in the "boot camp" like atmosphere of a training monastery, and that is "boot camp". And there have been some crazy guys who mix the macho-samurai thing with their Zen practice a bit much ... generally, the Rinzai folks yell and scream and beat with sticks, while we Soto folks are pretty tame pussycats. There have been some sadists among the Zen clergy, and some nuts ... but probably less than there have been sadistic high school teachers, driving teachers or movie theatre accounts personnel (inside joke to Rowan).

    My lineage does not use the Kyosaku stick, although I have actually appreciated it during some long Sesshin.

    So ... NOT GUILTY!

    It is true that some teachers hand out dumb spiritual and/or personal advice ... like they can read minds or something. That is why any advice has to be taken as that ... advice, and even then with a grain of salt.

    If the "assumptions, opinions and judgments" offered are wrong, there is no compulsion to take the advice ... which is usually not compulsory in any form. In fact, it seems that usually the other Sangha members "assumptions, opinions and judgments" get the goat of other Sangha members most often, without regard to what the teaching faculty does.

    When do I beat, insult or shout at you? I SAID WHEN DO I SHOUT AT YOU?? WHEN DO IT SHOUT AT YOU?? :evil:

    In all seriousness, NO EDUCATIONAL FACILITY / DOJO can be completely democratic, and most Western Sangha I know (not all by any means) are pretty democratic these days. The "teacher" is usually a gentle mentor and guide, and the Sangha members support each other. I believe that that is the atmosphere here, and I can only think of a couple of incidents of "abusive language" around these parts in our 3 years since opening the doors ... and that was Sangha member against Sangha member, and we quickly put out that fire.

    Now, with all due respect, as I am not there ... I would like you to find a wood stick and whack yourself 40 times. :|

    Gassho, J

  23. #23

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    BTW that was one of the first things my first teacher pointed out. The over use of kyosaku.

    W
    Hi Will,

    just to clarify, I wasn't referring to the present day use of the kyosaku. As far as I know, no one is beating anyone with a kyosaku because it would cause serious bodily harm (those things are really big!).
    I do find it disconcerting that many people refuse to believe that getting his with a kyosaku feels great, does not hurt and is very refreshing. FYI, I have no masochistic tendencies (to the point of always choosing a way to sit zazen that does not cause me any pain - I know this is a very radical step ).

    thank you for your time,
    rowan

  24. #24

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Row,

    When do I beat, insult or shout at you? I SAID WHEN DO I SHOUT AT YOU?? WHEN DO IT SHOUT AT YOU?? :evil:

    Gassho, J
    Darling Jundo!

    Did you think I was talking about you?! I am shocked by this idea. If I have any personal issue with you I would certainly not air it in public. I am very sorry if i was unclear. (rowan goes off whimpering at the thought that Jundo would think her so inconsiderate.......)

    Also, I was not referring to the use of the kyosaku (thank you for telling me how to spell it !) which would do serious physical damage if used in any way other than the very controlled and consentual way it is used. I think kyosakus are great and deffinitely miss them in the afternoon of a retreat (if it is not on offer).

    yours if a bit appalled.......
    gassho,
    jinho

  25. #25

    Re: Teachers

    Jundo Turner! Can you imagine it?

    Thwacks you with the kyosaku, then "Why you make me hit you, baby?"

  26. #26
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Teachers

    Jundo Turner! Can you imagine it?

    Thwacks you with the kyosaku, then "Why you make me hit you, baby?"
    :lol:

  27. #27

    Re: Teachers

    Quote Originally Posted by Mountaintop Rebel
    Thwacks you with the kyosaku, then "Why you make me hit you, baby?"
    mental image of Jundo wearing nothing but a wifebeater and boxers holding a can of keystone in one hand and kyosaku in the other

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