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Thread: Teachers checking students

  1. #1

    Teachers checking students

    I'm familiar with Rinzai accounts of Dokusan in which a student is required to demonstrate knowledge of a Koan in order to see if the student has achieved Kensho. In some books there is talk of degrees of enlightenment, etc.

    In Soto Zen there is no striving, even as we strive. I see that there is Dokusan that is informal.

    So since we do not sit with koans, though we study them, how does the master know that a student truly understands in Soto Zen?

    How can the teacher know that the student has learned that which cannot be taught? How can the student demonstrate understanding of something that is not a concept?

    Gassho

    Klb

    Sat today

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Benbow View Post
    I'm familiar with Rinzai accounts of Dokusan in which a student is required to demonstrate knowledge of a Koan in order to see if the student has achieved Kensho. In some books there is talk of degrees of enlightenment, etc.

    In Soto Zen there is no striving, even as we strive. I see that there is Dokusan that is informal.

    So since we do not sit with koans, though we study them, how does the master know that a student truly understands in Soto Zen?

    How can the teacher know that the student has learned that which cannot be taught? How can the student demonstrate understanding of something that is not a concept?

    Gassho

    Klb

    Sat today
    I think there is a secret that goes back to the ancient masters, both Rinzai and Soto, and even to the Buddha's time: When the student knows and it has gotten into the student's bones ... and that fact becomes obvious to both the student and those around by the glimmer in the eye and, most importantly, the attitude of wisdom and compassion by which the student has come to live ... then the teacher and others can see that the student knows and, more importantly, is walking the walk.

    It is not, and has never really been, some sudden one insightful inspired answer to a koan or the quoting of a witty poem. In fact, that would be kind of silly (ridiculous) if the student is otherwise not acting right! Only romantic Zen fairy tales of the past, and teachers with much to much confidence in their own supposed abilities to read minds, would trust that someone is enlightened by a moment in the dokusan room. In fact, this misunderstanding has caused nothing but trouble in modern western Zen! Most of the romantic stories and beliefs of what goes on in a Koan Introspection Dokusan room are simply deluded and a crazy fantasy, if ya ask me. It has let to a lot of students wondering "is that all there is," and a lot of disappointment when the guru turned out to have clay feet!

    Rather, show me someone who is acting with grace and equanimity through the obstacles of the "ups and downs" of this life, and day to day demonstrates their character, and I will show you someone who is truly passing life's tests, life's Koan, the Genjo Koan. My guess is that the old teachers, only after observing their disciple day in day out in the monastery, through passing seasons, sickness and health and all manner of life's trials ... only then ... might take the formal step of approving someone. It has little to do with someone's wit in the dokusan room, but rather The Whole Package.

    What is more, it is not up to the teacher ... but up to you. What are the tests, if you ask me? How do you handle midnight emergency room visits, funerals of loved ones, sick kids and flat tires, the news of the world, happy days and sad days? Do you manifest acceptance and balance in life's win and lose and in between, good times and bad times and so so times? Do you find yourself less fearful of death and all the rest, with some insight in your heart into non-self, impermanence, the Wholeness of Emptiness such that you feel not so bound to this little frightened self? If someone has been practicing this Path for some years, they are the best judge of their life ... and the true "Dokusan Room" is their own heart.

    You know when you know, and I bet those around you will see something too. You know when you know ... beyond just "you" and "knowing."

    (As well, if someone is only faking or fooling themselves, that is not hard to see either.)

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-29-2019 at 06:43 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Thank you Jundo. The heart of your response is exactly why I feel this is the right path for me.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  4. #4
    Thank you Jundo

    Gassho

    Rish
    -stlah

  5. #5


    Doshin
    St

  6. #6
    Wonderful, Jundo.
    Thank you for these words

    Gassho
    Ben


    Stlah

    Enviado desde mi PLK-L01 mediante Tapatalk

  7. #7
    Jundo you are really taking all the mystique out of this. But thank you nonetheless.

    Gassho
    Ishin
    Sat/lah
    Grateful for your practice

  8. #8
    Thank you for your wisdom, Jundo.

    Gassho

    Klb

    Sat today

  9. #9
    Thank you for this, Jundo. Its a real mic drop.

    Gassho
    STlah
    James

  10. #10
    Thank you Jundo.

    I think that yes, it's up to us students to live by the dharma and our precepts to keep the dharma alive. It goes beyond validation or verification from a teacher... but at the same time we need our teacher to keep an eye on us

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  11. #11
    Wonderful thank you, Jundo.

    I think I'll stop polishing this roof tyle now then.

    Gassho,

    Neil

    StLah

  12. #12
    One more point ...

    In Master Dogen's way of continuous "Practice-Enlightenment" ... any "Enlightenment" is not a "once and done" kinda happening. That can be rather misleading from many of the old stories said to recount ancient folks' enlightenment experiences that close with a "And then he was enlightened, and lived happily ever after" fairy tale feel. It is not so final and simple.

    In Master Dogen's way, we are Buddha and enlightened from the beginningless beginning, and so is every stone, mountain and star. For that reason, "enlightenment" is not something to ever be attained from this viewless view, because we are already so and never apart. One cannot attain what already one has and is. Nonetheless, that is not the only view ...

    ... because, in Master Dogen's way, it is up to us to live accordingly, and to bring it to the surface, with every thought, word and act we choose. In other words, you may be "already Buddha" but, if you then go on burning and pillaging, robbing banks and stealing candy from babies, that fact will be well hidden and lost. So, there is this "Karmic Katch 22." In other words, one can have all the breathless insights and experiences of the wholeness of Emptiness, Peace and Prajna Wisdom to blow one's socks off ... and one can even be acting like a saint on Sunday ... but then might muck it all up on Monday by falling back into excess desire, anger and violence, jealousy and other divided thinking and all the rest of the mess. It is something like being a trained athlete who lets herself go all the heck by not training/practicing. So long as we are "Buddhas" continuing to live in this complicated day to day world we call "samsara," then it is a real minefield and endless opportunities to fall off the horse.

    However, the good news is that, even falling off the horse, it is usually still possible to get back on and keep riding again! (Boy, I really mix my metaphors sometimes! )

    (Really, for the Rinzai folks, it is also a lifetime practice, not just for Soto folks by the way. Furthermore, I think that someone can have a deep experience or insight into Emptiness, Wisdom and the like in one part of his/her persona, yet "still be a jerk" ... as Bro. Brad Warner would say ... in others. Thus we see those scattered cases of the renowned Zen or other Buddhist teachers who can really express the Dharma in their words and teachings, yet in another part of their life, can't keep their hands off of fondling students in the Dokusan room, or off the alcohol bottle.)

    In other words, don't think of "enlightenment" as something far away to get whereupon you and your life will be "perfect" and all your problems and the world's troubles will disappear. Better said, your life is already "perfectly just what it imperfectly is," so do your best not to mess it up! The world has never had, in its Wholeness, one "problem" or "trouble" from the startless start, nonetheless, it is also a world of sometime problems and troubles so do your best to fix what you can. (Zen folks always see the world from these two angles as one .... no troubles, yet troubles ... no birth and death, yet birth and death, etc.)

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-29-2019 at 08:57 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  13. #13
    Thank you Jundo. I don't know why, but your metaphors made me think: It's like sweeping a clean floor. hahahah

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    Thank you Jundo. I don't know why, but your metaphors made me think: It's like sweeping a clean floor. hahahah

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah
    It is like sweeping a clean floor constantly because the dust keeps coming back ... because as Shen-shiu wrote in the famous poetry contest ...

    The body is the bodhi tree,
    The mind is like a clear mirror.
    At all times we must strive to polish it,
    And must not let the dust collect.


    ... and yet, and yet ...

    ... as Zen folks, we also believe this too, as written by the 6th Ancestor, Hui-neng ...

    Bodhi originally has no tree,
    The mirror(-like mind) has no stand.
    Buddha-nature is always clean and pure;
    Where is there room for dust to alight?


    Really, it is not that Hui-neng was right and Shen-shiu wrong, but that both are true at once.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-30-2019 at 11:46 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    ... Rather, show me someone who is acting with grace and equanimity through the obstacles of the "ups and downs" of this life, and day to day demonstrates their character, and I will show you someone who is truly passing life's tests, life's Koan, the Genjo Koan. My guess is that the old teachers, only after observing their disciple day in day out in the monastery, through passing seasons, sickness and health and all manner of life's trials ... only then ... might take the formal step of approving someone. It has little to do with someone's wit in the dokusan room, but rather The Whole Package.

    ... What are the tests, if you ask me? How do you handle midnight emergency room visits, funerals of loved ones, sick kids and flat tires, the news of the world, happy days and sad days? Do you manifest acceptance and balance in life's win and lose and in between, good times and bad times and so so times? Do you find yourself less fearful of death and all the rest, with some insight in your heart into non-self, impermanence, the Wholeness of Emptiness such that you feel not so bound to this little frightened self? If someone has been practicing this Path for some years, they are the best judge of their life ... and the true "Dokusan Room" is their own heart.

    You know when you know, and I bet those around you will see something too. You know when you know ... beyond just "you" and "knowing."

    (As well, if someone is only faking or fooling themselves, that is not hard to see either.)

    Gassho, J

    STLah


    By the way I would add too that this goes both ways; it is also how you know when you have found an authentic Teacher.

    Gassho
    Byōkan
    sat + lah
    Please take my words with a big grain of salt. I know nothing. Wisdom is only found in our whole-hearted practice together.

  16. #16
    Thank you everyone. And Kevin, this was a great question to ask.

    Gassho
    Ishin
    Sat/lah
    Grateful for your practice

  17. #17
    Member Anna's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    Jundo wrote (As well, if someone is only faking or fooling themselves, that is not hard to see either.)

    I regularly think I'm kidding myself or faking it in relation to practice. Not sure if that's my brain's unique design features at work sabotaging progress or if I'm subconsciously trying to justify holding on to elements of the life I'm trying to move forward from.

    Gassho
    Anna
    stlah

    P.S. I concur with what Byokan said above too.


    Sent from my Lenovo TB-8304F1 using Tapatalk
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously.
    No Gods No Masters.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    It is like sweeping a clean floor constantly because the dust can keeps coming back ... because as Shen-shiu wrote in the famous poetry contest ...

    The body is the bodhi tree,
    The mind is like a clear mirror.
    At all times we must strive to polish it,
    And must not let the dust collect.


    ... and yet, and yet ...

    ... as Zen folks, we also believe this too, as written by the 6th Ancestor, Hui-neng ...

    Bodhi originally has no tree,
    The mirror(-like mind) has no stand.
    Buddha-nature is always clean and pure;
    Where is there room for dust to alight?


    Really, it is not that Hui-neng was right and Shen-shiu wrong, but that both are true at once.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    That's a low blow - pulling out the 6th patriarch story; just when I throw out the form, you counter with the emptiness

    Seriously, and uncannily, I felt like you were going to respond with that story. I remember the first time I read your explanation of it, and it really flipped a switch; I previously always thought that Huineng had "won". But that's not it, as you explained. It's both form and emptiness, sudden and gradual. It also draws comparisons to the transmission from Buddha to Mahakyasapa. I mean there was more going on than just a smile and a flower.

    To echo Ishin, really good question to kick this off and great discussion!

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  19. #19
    Thank you all so much for your collective wisdom.

    I feel that a lot of misconceptions are falling out of my head as I participate here and practice.

    Gassho

    klb

    sat today

  20. #20
    I am sitting in my easy chair recliner with alter in basement about down half flight of stairs and 40 feet (ca. 12 meters) away and I feel hurting in my neck, I decide not to descend stairs because it makes more hurt; I fix pot of coffee, drink two cups at 5 am, taking morning med. I eat my healthy breakfast thinking how great I am I will think wow let's keep at friends to eat a healthy breakfast-- it comes to me they probably need to find healthy breakfast on their own, I think of the 1/2 cake I've eaten in two days and the 2 lb (ca. 907 g). I've gained, and how I can't do that again, I have applied the home remedy to my sinuses recommended by my P.A. I have decided to be lazy, and try zazen in my easy chair. I check the time as I usually go thinking I'd like to sit 20 minutes, tune into free sitting room on Treeleaf thinking two thinks-- boy I would like to join the live Zazenkai, and to turn the old Chromebook kilter I bow- I'd like to use that sleek i 5 HP; I got it for $250 which is not paid for yet. The old Chromebook was paid for long ago, so I bow while sitting to the free room, I begin to focus on breath in out, in out like cow chewing cud, and my thoughts are straggled. Hear there, then I'm into my breath relaxed with no pain, I'm breathing, and sometimes I stray then come back to safety of breathe then breath, Then a thought comes to me.

    I say reality is boundless, and sitting in easy chair is okay, It's okay the bananas that they are slightly brown, and my A.S. support probably won't care, reality is boundless, then I think I'd like to tell my Sangha, reality is boundless, those grapes five days old are okay to the folks will eat them. I remember, to save all sentient beings, I think of the man I am going to eat breakfast tomorrow with, a sponsoree, and to save all sentient beings, I'll order that vegetarian, but they only make it with two eggs maybe order other omelette with bacon or another egg, reality is boundless, I can't tell him save all sentient beings now I atone for them all, he won't do anything at all, will he bring his Big Book? I'll bring mine, and should I bring my 12, and 12? Reality is boundless, I'd really be okay with death or life, so far I'm not hurting, breath in out, in out, I decide I will end zazen. I check the time 25 minutes have passed I did not know, should I claim more, now this new honesty is important. I want to tell my Sangha what I've discovered, I don't hurt, I end Zoom, I notice It'd be hard to get back into right now, reality is boundless, to save all sentient beings. Right now I ask if I've exaggerated just a little maybe about verse of atonement, besides that's my discovery, maybe he needs to learn on his own.

    Tai Shi
    sat
    Gassho
    I proof my entry-- Reality is boundless-- I'm hurting just a very little bit.
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 11-16-2019 at 01:28 PM. Reason: spelling
    "We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow." Thich Nhat Hanh

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