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Thread: Practice without a teacher or sangha

  1. #1

    Practice without a teacher or sangha

    Let's imagine a person in a country where there are no zen teachers. Let's say he is not familiar with computers and doesn't have access to internet either.

    If someone explains him the practice or mail him the "opening the hand of thought" book and he starts practicing will it even work?

    How important is working with a teacher (and sitting with a sangha)? In other traditions, they say the teacher transmits energy to awaken the student. Is that what's happening in Zen too when you interact with the teacher (sit with him, have dokusan with him, listen to their dharma talks etc).

    How less effective the practice will be for a person without a teacher or sangha?

    Please no zenny answers saying "it is useless practice" etc..; I'm genuinely curious as to the role of sangha and teacher and how effective zazen alone can be

    Gassho,
    Sam
    STLah

  2. #2
    How effective has it been for you so far? The beginner videos were exactly what I needed 15 years ago. I observe people on this forum that still wander through reams of un-required readings and searches after becoming familiar with the resources available here. One either connects with a teacher that resonates or they don't and move on to keep searching. IMO it's a matter of commitment (to yourself.)

    gassho, Shokai
    stlah
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Let's imagine a person in a country where there are no zen teachers. Let's say he is not familiar with computers and doesn't have access to internet either.

    If someone explains him the practice or mail him the "opening the hand of thought" book and he starts practicing will it even work?

    How important is working with a teacher (and sitting with a sangha)? In other traditions, they say the teacher transmits energy to awaken the student. Is that what's happening in Zen too when you interact with the teacher (sit with him, have dokusan with him, listen to their dharma talks etc).

    How less effective the practice will be for a person without a teacher or sangha?

    Please no zenny answers saying "it is useless practice" etc..; I'm genuinely curious as to the role of sangha and teacher and how effective zazen alone can be

    Gassho,
    Sam
    STLah
    It is as risky to practice without "friends along the way" including teacher or Sangha as it is to teach oneself Karate or tennis or ballet or from a book without a teacher. However, it can happen I guess. It may seem that we are not moving so much as the Karate or Ballet folks, but the mind moves ... life moves ... so we are moving, and it is good to have a teacher and experienced companions to help one learn the moves.

    I do not know about literal "energies" but I believe that they are describing something. For example, when I was in college, I had some teachers whose very presence and charismatic energy changed my life, enlivened by learning, inspired me. Like that. Likewise in my Buddhist practice as a beginner in the past. That is why I am still here now, and I think for many other folks the same too.

    Gassho, J

    STLan
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Hi Sam

    Probably like many people I learned meditation and Buddhism from books for some time before finding a teacher. I will not say I did not learn anything but the addition of a teacher, and a sangha, made practice so much better and more fulfilling.

    I see a lot of people on Facebook Buddhist groups declare that you don't need a teacher but suspect that the number of people who would not benefit from one is actually quite few, if any at all.

    As Jundo says, if you are learning most skills you have a teacher. It kinda works better that way. But, everyone gets to choose their own path and we are not in the business of forcing all Buddhists to have one!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  5. #5
    I think the danger of not having a teacher or Sangha is when false ideas and views come up that are not corrected by someone. For example, when I started meditation and I had the first satori like experiences I was confused and had the idea that these states are the goal, so i aimed to attain again and again that states and I hoped that one day they will permanent. So, finally Jundo was the one that made me clear that it's not about any particular state at all..so I learned the way how to sit in a correct way, what mushotoku really is... Also other aspects, I probably wouldn't have learned in an autodidact manner.
    The people in the Sangha are pulling one's own practice too, it's a cultivation of effort and also a place to interact in a way according to the path...
    And this is at least for me an important part. Yet, if one isn't on a detour with false ideas, I think its possible to just sit alone without a Sangha or a teacher too.

    Gassho
    Ben

    Stlah

    Enviado desde mi PLK-L01 mediante Tapatalk

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Horin View Post
    I think the danger of not having a teacher or Sangha is when false ideas and views come up that are not corrected by someone. For example, when I started meditation and I had the first satori like experiences I was confused and had the idea that these states are the goal, so i aimed to attain again and again that states and I hoped that one day they will permanent. So, finally Jundo was the one that made me clear that it's not about any particular state at all..so I learned the way how to sit in a correct way, what mushotoku really is... Also other aspects, I probably wouldn't have learned in an autodidact manner.
    The people in the Sangha are pulling one's own practice too, it's a cultivation of effort and also a place to interact in a way according to the path...
    And this is at least for me an important part. Yet, if one isn't on a detour with false ideas, I think its possible to just sit alone without a Sangha or a teacher too.

    Gassho
    Ben

    Stlah
    Of course, groups and teachers can go strange directions too, teach or practice questionable stuff, or be generally unhealthy environments. lt is good to go to a doctor or school, but make sure not a quack or diploma mill.

    So, keep your eyes open.

    Also, one place or teacher may be right for some people, but wrong chemistry for others.

    That's just common sense l think.

    l just read a pretty good essay by a Buddhist teacher that said that it is best not to choose a group simply because of some romantic "Shangra-la" monastery in Tibet image, or even because one's attracted totally by their practices, lineages, styles, schools, cultural aspects, etc. ln other words, don't judge a book by the cover, don't rum away too fast because it does not fit your image. l sometime get folks leaving here, for example, because l am not Asian or talk like Yoda (well, l do say weird stuff sometimes! ), or because the person does not enter some stree-free la la land within 30 days.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Member Onka's Avatar
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    Rural Queensland, Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Let's imagine a person in a country where there are no zen teachers. Let's say he is not familiar with computers and doesn't have access to internet either.

    If someone explains him the practice or mail him the "opening the hand of thought" book and he starts practicing will it even work?

    How important is working with a teacher (and sitting with a sangha)? In other traditions, they say the teacher transmits energy to awaken the student. Is that what's happening in Zen too when you interact with the teacher (sit with him, have dokusan with him, listen to their dharma talks etc).

    How less effective the practice will be for a person without a teacher or sangha?

    Please no zenny answers saying "it is useless practice" etc..; I'm genuinely curious as to the role of sangha and teacher and how effective zazen alone can be

    Gassho,
    Sam
    STLah
    Will what work comrade?
    Before I was gently steered towards Treeleaf I started the day sitting at 5am for 20-30 minutes. I understood from reading one of comrade Brad Warner's books that this WAS the practice. No goals just sitting.
    I kinda liked starting my day like this and understood that THIS was Zen a branch of Buddhism. I didn't really care too much about deepening my learning at that stage.
    I found a bricks and mortar Zendo but it was a long way to travel and this really upset my spinal disabilities. My practice at the Zendo was awful because I was in so much pain that I often had to leave early and at times considered sleeping rough overnight somewhere because the motorcycle ride home was almost unbearable.
    When I came to Treeleaf one of first things I heard from or read from Jundo is that learning about and understanding the history of Buddhism and how to apply Buddhist teachings to our daily life was an important part of Zen practice. This opened up a whole new world to me that I have chosen to pursue at a deeper level BUT this has not changed my daily 5am sitting regime one iota.
    So I guess what this muppet is trying to say comrade is that I believe that someone can indeed practice without a teacher or the internet BUT I think they will be missing out on the richness of deeper practice.
    Gassho
    Onka
    st
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  8. #8
    Hi Sam,

    You can not not teach and you can not not learn.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  9. #9
    Thank you all for your replies. I sit daily at a local zen center and last week I had to miss 4 days as I had to travel for work. I still sat at the hotel twice daily but realized my focus has worsened by the end of the four days. This made me wonder that this practice is somewhat dependent on a teacher and sitting with a sangha. Someone without a zen center nearby would miss this and we have to be very thankful for treeleaf the online sangha that exists everywhere

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST

  10. #10
    The Buddha sat and awakened without a traditional teacher. So, itís certainly possible. And he guided others not to rely solely on his teaching, but to prove out the dharma for ourselves.

    Thatís not to say itís advisable, beneficial, or wise to be wholly self-reliant. The record and tradition suggest we benefit greatly from joint practice with others and guidance from othersĎ wisdom.

    The suggestion that teachers and community are unnecessary may be an attempt to encourage people to start practice where they are, under what conditions they find themselves. But it seems easily misinterpreted and I wonder what other motivation there might be for such advice.
    Last edited by Ryushi; 02-13-2020 at 07:19 PM.

  11. #11
    Hi Sam,

    I used to practice without a teacher for two years. I read several books but questions remained that I could not resolve on my own because at that point, zen felt very contradictory to me. I remember reading a book by Shunryu Suzuki years ago in which he argued that it was not that important to go to the Moon (that's how I saw it back then). As a 25-year with an interest in astronomy I felt like zen was out of touch with our time so I felt kind of disappointed. Many years later (about three years ago), when I picked up my routine of sitting daily I started to read and dig deeper into the world of zen. I studied both Rinzai and Soto zen intellectually and like Horin mentioned, I wasn't sure about the meaning of satori or enlightenment and how I should experience them. When I came to Treeleaf, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. I also found out I had been reading books on Buddhism without any clear introduction, so when I followed the beginners' series, read Opening the Hand of Thought, and discussed my lingering questions here at Treeleaf things got clearer as to what the practice of Shikantaza truly entails. I still have so much to learn and I am convinced that it is enriching and encouraging to study and practice together.

    A teacher can be a great guide. In Japanese, the word sensei means something along the lines of "someone who already walked the path" (please correct me if I am wrong). Jundo already mentioned that it is quite a challenge to practice a martial art or any other sport without a teacher. As a martial artist (iaido/karate-do) I couldn't agree more. There is a level of fine-tuning that truly requires a highly experienced person who can observe, provide constructive advice, and correct when necessary. I also practiced iaido without a teacher for a long time when I lived too far away to practice at a dojo and after about a year my practice had worsened without me noticing.

    Ryushi mentioned that the Buddha practiced without a teacher and I think it can be done, but I also believe that it is a much longer and steeper path that requires tremendous effort, possessing unwavering encouragement, discipline, commitment, and an inexhaustible intrinsic motivation to keep going when things get rough.

    Gassho,
    Seibu
    Sattoday/lah
    Last edited by Seibu; 02-13-2020 at 09:02 PM.

  12. #12
    If you have to ask the question then you need a teacher.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  13. #13
    If I may, I dont believe a teacher is essential or even necessary. Some simple instructions should be all one requires. A teacher would be preferred, however.

    Gassho Kyotai
    ST LaH

    Sent from my SM-G950W using Tapatalk
    I am a student at Treeleaf. Please take what I say with a grain of salt. Gassho

  14. #14
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by Onka View Post
    Will what work comrade?
    Before I was gently steered towards Treeleaf I started the day sitting at 5am for 20-30 minutes. I understood from reading one of comrade Brad Warner's books that this WAS the practice. No goals just sitting.
    I kinda liked starting my day like this and understood that THIS was Zen a branch of Buddhism. I didn't really care too much about deepening my learning at that stage.
    I found a bricks and mortar Zendo but it was a long way to travel and this really upset my spinal disabilities. My practice at the Zendo was awful because I was in so much pain that I often had to leave early and at times considered sleeping rough overnight somewhere because the motorcycle ride home was almost unbearable.
    When I came to Treeleaf one of first things I heard from or read from Jundo is that learning about and understanding the history of Buddhism and how to apply Buddhist teachings to our daily life was an important part of Zen practice. This opened up a whole new world to me that I have chosen to pursue at a deeper level BUT this has not changed my daily 5am sitting regime one iota.
    So I guess what this muppet is trying to say comrade is that I believe that someone can indeed practice without a teacher or the internet BUT I think they will be missing out on the richness of deeper practice.
    Gassho
    Onka
    st
    I've been thinking more about Sam's opening post and my response a bit more so I decided to not sit first thing this morning and see how the day panned out and with that break my routine. It was different, not better, not necessarily worse just different. I had this weird sinking feeling that I had cheated on my sangha sisters and brothers and made a mockery of the Bodhisattva Vows I have committed publicly to follow as best as I can. I didn't go on a murderous rampage or liberate money from a bank, although to be honest I'd probably use the money to set up a community centre and fund local arts projects, but it didn't feel right starting my day without Shikantaza.
    So I guess for me I like having been welcomed into a sangha as I feel accountable to them to engage in my daily personal practice with as much commitment and sincerity as I engage with our weekly Zazenkai. This was the difference between pre-Treeleaf sitting by myself and now. I hope they are warming to me in their own way as well. As well as this I like that Jundo, the person I've chosen to be my primary Buddhist teacher (I actually unsubscribed to comrade BW's YouTube channel today because frankly some of his fanboys come across as right leaning online troll dicks who could use a bit of a private 'chat' from the old Anna) makes time for Dokusan, keeps my brain engaged, actively challenges me publicly and privately, leads a weekly Zazenkai that can be accessed by those who are often disadvantaged in other aspects of their lives, and has created a world class Zen Buddhist resource that no other western Zendo would have the courage to do. I hope that one day I am able to say that Jundo sees me as a student of his but it's very early days in our relationship.
    Make no mistake, this is not an arse kissing exercise. There are things about certain sangha comrades and Jundo that shit me to tears and I would be surprised if this wasn't reciprocated haha, but THIS is my learning, THIS is my practice as much as sitting daily is and living precariously housed in constant pain below the poverty line in an illegal dwelling is. I wouldn't change these learning environments for anything but a bit of respite every now and then might be nice haha.
    Sorry for the mind fart but it's been stewing and is better out than in.
    Gassho
    Onka (it still feels weird using my Dharma name no matter how perfect it is)
    Sat today later than normal.
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Let's imagine a person in a country where there are no zen teachers. Let's say he is not familiar with computers and doesn't have access to internet either.

    If someone explains him the practice or mail him the "opening the hand of thought" book and he starts practicing will it even work?

    How important is working with a teacher (and sitting with a sangha)? In other traditions, they say the teacher transmits energy to awaken the student. Is that what's happening in Zen too when you interact with the teacher (sit with him, have dokusan with him, listen to their dharma talks etc).

    How less effective the practice will be for a person without a teacher or sangha?

    Please no zenny answers saying "it is useless practice" etc..; I'm genuinely curious as to the role of sangha and teacher and how effective zazen alone can be

    Gassho,
    Sam
    STLah
    Hi Sam,

    I think you have had lots of great responses so far, I'll just throw in this little story.

    I got my first guitar when I was 14, in 1970. I learned to play by putting my fingers on the strings until I found something that sort of sounded good. I did this for years and years and eventually got good enough to play with others. I could figure out songs etc. But I had no idea what the chords were called. I couldn't read tabs or notation. I just figured it out as I went along

    About 10 years ago I decided to take lessons. It was literally mind blowing. It turns out I was playing a lot of the chords either upside down or backwards. They sounded fine but I was making my life harder than it needed to be. I also thought that, up the neck, all 6 strings had to be fretted in order for the chord to be correct. Nope, depending on the chord you might only need to fret three or four of the strings. What!!!!!!

    And for most songs in a culture the chords have pretty common relationships to each other so you can quickly figure out where a song might be going. I literally learned more in 6 months than I learned in all the time before I got a teacher.

    So, I think Zen can be a bit like learning the guitar. You can do it on your own, and you can make progress. But a teacher can really help you avoid pitfalls and keep you headed down the right path. I think the time I spent just banging on the guitar prepared me for the teacher. And I think Zen can be like that too. But mostly I think the teacher you help you guide you down the path they already know.

    At least that is what I think today.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    Last edited by Shinshi; 02-14-2020 at 04:29 PM.
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Shinshi View Post
    Hi Sam,

    I think you have had lots of great responses so far, I'll just throw in this little story.

    I got my first guitar when I was 14, in 1970. I learned to play by putting my fingers on the strings until I found something that sort of sounded good. I did this for years and years and eventually got good enough to play with others. I could figure out songs etc. But I had no idea what the chords were called. I couldn't read tabs or notation. I just figured it out as I went along

    About 10 years ago I decided to take lessons. It was literally mind blowing. It turns out I was playing a lot of the chords either upside down or backwards. They sounded fine but I was making my life harder than it needed to be. I also thought that, up the neck, all 6 strings had to be fretted in order for the chord to be correct. Nope, depending on the chord you might only need to fret three or four of the strings. What!!!!!!

    And for most songs in a culture the chords have pretty common relationships to each other so you can quickly figure out where a song might be going. I literally learned more in 6 months than I learned in all the time before I got a teacher.

    So, I think Zen can be a bit like learning the guitar. You can do it on your own, and you can make progress. But a teacher can really help you avoid pitfalls and keep you headed down the right bath. I think the time I spent just banging on the guitar prepared me for the teacher. And I think Zen can be like that too. But mostly I think the teacher you help you guide you down the path they already know.

    At least that is what I think today.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    Shinshi,
    That's funny. I was going to post pretty much the same guitar analogy. I started playing about 27 years ago. Self taught and never had a lesson. I am just an amateur hobbyist. Nothing special. But I have played with a couple of professional grade players who say I was good enough to hold my own and keep up with them. I really enjoy playing pretty much every day and I'm sure if I had a teacher I would be better. But I guess it is about the level of commitment you want to make and how much it means to you. I'm fine with doing it on my own. It's fun but it's not super important to me. I bought a ukelele a couple of weeks ago and same thing. I'm happy with teaching myself this. (It's much easier than a guitar).

    With zen practice; I sat on my own for a while then found a couple of let's say not really qualified teachers, read many books and then found Treeleaf. Jundo and this sangha have really taken it up a level. You can read books all you want but you can't interact back and forth with a book. Websites and videos are OK but can they guide you through Jukai, rakusu sewing, Rohatsu? If you want to sit on your own, I guess you can. Maybe it is an individual thing. But it's not the same for me.

    Gassho
    STlah
    James

  17. #17
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    San Diego County, California
    Same here with the musical analogy! I had played flute for about ten years prior to my first private lesson at age seventeen, but after just a few of those lessons, my sound significantly improved. It's amazing what a shift in perspective and someone else's experience can provide.

    Gassho,
    Sat today, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  18. #18

    Practice without a teacher or sangha

    Learn Spanish from a teacher for 10 years and a big Zilch. Nada. Zero Spanish. No fluency. No language. In one ear, out the other.

    Go to Mexico on an student exchange program for a few months, come back fluent. No teacher required.

    Highly motivated person picks up a dictionary, watches Telemundo and other Spanish channels on their own and tries to converse with Spanish speakers. Bingo. Learn Spanish with no teacher.

    It depends on the person.

    Again, if you have to ask if a teacher is necessary, then you obviously need a teacher to tell you that you either need a teacher or donít need a teacher at the very least.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Learn Spanish from a teacher for 10 years and a big Zilch. Nada. Zero Spanish. No fluency. No language. In one ear, out the other.

    Go to Mexico on an student exchange program for a few months, come back fluent. No teacher required.

    Highly motivated person picks up a dictionary, watches Telemundo and other Spanish channels on their own and tries to converse with Spanish speakers. Bingo. Learn Spanish with no teacher.

    It depends on the person.

    Again, if you have to ask if a teacher is necessary, then you obviously need a teacher to tell you that you either need a teacher or don’t need a teacher at the very least.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    Well, I taught myself Japanese by living here for 30 years. That is one way. I speak and read fluently.

    There are also some gaps, avoidable silly mistakes, little strange pronunciations and other errors that would otherwise have been avoidable because ... I taught myself Japanese including misteaching myself, and nobody to correct me, then reinforced by 30 years of misuse.

    So ... Middle Way.

    One must do their own "heavy lifting" and use the language ... and one should not be so stubborn that they can't be corrected and get some help.

    Did you teach yourself medicine, doc? Yes, to some degree, I am sure that you did because some things can't be taught in school.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  20. #20

    Practice without a teacher or sangha

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    Did you teach yourself medicine, doc? Yes, to some degree, I am sure that you did because some things can't be taught in school.
    Medical school is 4 years in the USA. The first 2 are classroom and labs only. The last 2 are with patients and doctor/mentors. I did not go to class for the first 2 years and taught myself academic medicine. Years 3 and 4 teachers were forced upon me.

    For psychiatry residency I had more freedom and taught myself without interference from the professors.

    Everyone is different.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

    Ps: also taught myself Spanish and English to a large degree. All with a GED (high school drop out).
    Last edited by Jishin; 02-15-2020 at 01:26 AM.

  21. #21
    Shinshi, Shoki, and Geika

    Funny I was going to post a very similar story. I was primarily a self taught guitarist from my early teens. I got good enough to play in some bands. I taught myself some theory and picked up techniques by watching others. Then at 40 I was given a dream guitar and decided that I needed to improve to be worthy of the gift. I started taking some lessons and the improvements in my guitar playing were dramatic and immediate. It made me question why I had resisted going to a teacher for so long.

    Zen is similar. I spent several years trying to sort through a bunch of information in books but it wasnít until I started practice under guidance of a teacher that I really started to piece it all together.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    Last edited by Tairin; 02-15-2020 at 12:54 PM.
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  22. #22
    Very good thread. Thanks to all for sharing. And no I don’t play the guitar

    Doshin
    St

  23. #23
    I just posted this elsewhere, when someone asked about the difference between lay members and "teachers/priests" and whether "Priests [are] the same as Lay People? ... I wanted to put it here too ...

    Yes, to be a priest or priest in training is to move from being a passenger on the ship to a member of the crew of service to the passengers, from diner in the restaurant to waiters, cooks and busboys. People think that it is some kind of "step up," but it is meant as a step down. It is an unpaid role of service and helping. The job of "teacher" and "priest" is to keep the ship moving, the nutrition coming, and to learn our Ways to help Sentient Beings in their Practice, and then to pass these beautiful ways down to some willing fools in the next generation. (By the way, I prefer the old Chinese terms ""shanzhishi" = a "good wise friend (along the path)" (善知識, Sanskrit kalyanamitra) instead of "teacher," and the proper Japanese word "Sangha companion" 僧侶 ("Soryo") instead of "priest")

    This came up this week when somebody who visited our Zazenkai in Tsukuba for the weekly Zazenkai, and asked why I stand in front of the Altar during ceremonies while others watch. Good point. For 2500 years, the priest is in the front, while the others watch. When I do so, I am just supposed to be the representative of everyone. However, it also implies some separation and rank. Therefore, time to change that, and we will take the lead. From time to time, I will invite some of our older members to "stand up there" during the ceremonies, lighting incense and representing all of us. It is also unprecedented in Zen and other traditional Buddhism to do that.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    As far as I am concerned, priests are the same as lay people, although sometimes the role is different. Nishijima had this philosophy ...

    Nishijima advocated a form of ordination that fully steps beyond and drops away divisions of “Priest or Lay, Male or Female”, yet allows us to fully embody and actuate each and all as the situation requires. In our lineage, we are not ashamed of nor try to hide our sexuality and worldly relationships, nor do we feel conflicted that we are “monks” with kids and mortgages. When I am a parent to my children, I am 100% that and fully there for them. When I am a worker at my job, I am that and embody such a role with sincerity and dedication. And when I am asked to step into the role of hosting zazen, offering a dharma talk, practicing and embodying our history and teachings and passing them on to others, I fully carry out and embody 100% the role of “Priest” in that moment. Whatever the moment requires: maintaining a sangha community, bestowing the Precepts, working with others to help sentient beings. The names we call ourselves do not matter. In Nishijima’s way, we do not ask and are unconcerned with whether we are “Priest” or “Lay”, for we are neither that alone, while always thoroughly both; exclusively each in purest and unadulterated form, yet wholly all at once. It is just as, in the West, we have come to step beyond the hard divisions and discriminations between “male” and “female”, recognizing that each of us may embody all manner of qualities to varying degrees as the circumstances present, and that traditional “male” and “female” stereotypes are not so clear-cut as once held. So it is with the divisions of “Priest” and “Lay”.
    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  24. #24


    Gassho,
    Seibu
    Sattoday

  25. #25
    This has been a great thread. So much has been said already.

    For me, being around a teacher and community is so wonderful and enlightening. Often, just being around a master, seeing how they live, listening to what they say, is in itself very informative. I can't say the number of times this has happened for me.

    Also, having a teacher and community that knows you (really knows you) puts you in a place of comfort and trust so you are able to share. When we share we are vulnerable and if we trust we are open to hearing what we might not want to. Also, we have blindsides and a teacher and Sangha area great we to check this!

    I specifically joined TreeLeaf to deepen my practice and Sangha and to find a teacher that has "walked the path" and can see well past my own delusions and put my back in the right direction when I get a little lost.

    As such, I am VERY grateful when Jundo gives me, what I call, a "nudge". A great teacher does this seamlessly and almost without effort but the effect is very noticeable and helpful.

    Other Sangha members can do this too (often without knowing) and it is very humbling and rewarding for us.

    So, Jundo, if you read this, I appreciate the "nudges" .

    Gassho,

    Ippo

    SatToday

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Ippo View Post
    So, Jundo, if you read this, I appreciate the "nudges" .
    For Monty Python fans ...



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  27. #27
    I "sat Zazen" for probably 20 years on and off with no teacher. I actually was, looking back, doing pretty true Shikantaza--I had studied what little instruction I could find and mostly based my practice perspective on Charlotte Joko Beck's teachings. I never sat longer than 15 minutes at a time though, and there were long gaps in my practice. I was easily and frequently distracted by the next shiny thing that came along: sometimes a helpful thing (Thich Nhat Hanh, Daido Loori), sometimes a confusing thing (Eckhart Tolle). I did learn what resonated and what didn't, but had no sense of grounded certainty; I was always wondering if the next "teacher" would have better advice than the last. I did not really know how to bring the practice fully into the rest of my life, either.

    It didn't take long at Treeleaf for me to feel that I had come home to the practice that I had been attempting on my own for so long. Jundo's videos and sit-a-longs answered every question in a clear and practical way. I rooted in the archives here like a pig looking for truffles, LOL and came up with ways to compare and contrast all the teachings in the books I had read and the talks I had listened to over the years, thanks to Jundo's clear descriptions of the different "flavors" of Zen and of Buddhism in general.

    Sometimes folks come here that are still in exploration mode, and are not sure that Zen is the path they are looking for. But once they have decided between Kwan Um, Rinzai Zen, Soto Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, and so forth, they will save themselves a lot of confusion and time if they find a good teacher within their chosen path, IMO.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  28. #28
    Hi all

    I have really enjoyed reading this thread, so thank you. You are all very unique in your practice, and I believe that is sometimes regarded as the true talent and purpose of the teacher - helping others to see the direction their path, their unique way to follow the way.

    All I will say, for my part, is that when I listen to Jundo talking it is often like my own inner voice saying, "see, I told you reality was like that, you always listen to Jundo but not me, why not!"

    Gassho, Tokan

    satlah

  29. #29
    I too have enjoyed this thread, it has answered a few questions I have thought, it also makes me glad to be a part of this, I look forward to learning more from each of you and feel at home here. After three years of reading books I am excited to be around others so I can learn hands on.

  30. #30
    I posted this the other day in a facebook discussion where some fellow was asking if a "teacher" is needed, and commenting that his local Zen group near where he lives is okay but not totally his cup of tea ...

    I am completely biased, of course, but to do without the mentoring and support of "friends along the way" (the term I prefer to "teachers") and Sangha companions many with years of experience, is like trying to teach yourself sailing or violin on your own. I mean, you can, but why? Also, be cautious about just learning something from books and videos. Zazen is Zazen (although it can run off in strange directions, or in circles, without some friends to help stay on track). So, find some teacher and group that resonates, and make use of the resources if you can.

    Also, you local Zen center may be imperfect ... but an imperfect Sangha can teach much, such as HOW NOT TO DEMAND PERFECTION and the PERSONALLY SATISFYING!! :-) It is not supposed to be "perfectly pleasing!"
    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  31. #31

    Practice without a teacher or sangha

    Hi,

    True life changing enlightenment (decreasing of suffering) occurs for many individuals with alcoholism in Alcoholics Anonymous. This occurs with a variety of teaching situations.

    The person learns from the group of recovering alcoholics (there are no recovered alcoholics, just the practice of recovery).

    The person learns from a sponsor (someone in recovery who forms a more personal relationship with the sponsee than the group and shows them how they got sober. Like a golfer who has a good golf swing and teaches a student to swing the golf club too).

    The person learns from a door knob as the door knob does not inflict pain on itself and has a lot to teach by just being a door knob (this is not a joke and this teaching has been used by me and others).

    The person may also go to one or 2 meetings and decide they can do it on their own and simply quit.

    The person may go for years then practice sobriety on their own without problems.

    The person may learn to moderate and drink without pain.

    The person uses humanity in general as a teacher of recovery.

    One or more of the profound life changing (decreased suffering, enlightenment) situations usually occurs as described above and several do not require but a door knob or no teacher at all.

    In Zen and Buddhism, a teacher is a stepping stone and another attachment that causes suffering. A teacher is to be discarded when the costs of having a teacher outweigh the benefits. Different individuals reach this point at different times. Some never do and never become free.

    The point of a teacher is to not have a teacher. Examine your teacherís relations with her teacher.

    Hanging out with friends with similar interests having a beer at a local pub is a totally different matter. One of the friends may be more charismatic and tell better stories so we listen to this friend.

    In summary, a teacher is not needed for a substantial number of people from the get go. A teacher may even retard progress by fostering reliance when none is needed. In the beginning I asked Jundo ďhow to do this?Ē and he basically told me to get lost but hanging out and having a drink at the local pub (sangha) was ok.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    Last edited by Jishin; 02-24-2020 at 12:30 PM.

  32. #32
    Hi Sam,

    There is one reason why we take refuge in the Triple Jewel. We have our founding teacher the Buddha, his teachings known as Dharma and then there's the Sangha.

    I spent several years learning whatever I could about Buddhism years back when there was no Internet. I tried to grab onto whatever book or magazine I could find. There were no Buddhist sanghas anywhere and it was a lonely path. If there's no other option than to learn alone, I guess it's not so bad.

    The problem is that when you practice by yourself and have no one to touch base with or someone to discuss with, you might end up holding onto your own opinions of this practice. For me the sangha is invaluable to get feed back and to see things I wasn't aware of.

    Part of the sangha is the teacher, of course. At least for me, working with my teacher grounds my ideas, I get to learn from someone wiser and older than me who has understood things I am not even aware they exist.

    I need my teacher to tell me what I am doing wrong and to open my mind to a wiser view of the universe.

    I say this because I crossed the planet to sit with my teacher. I spent a month with him and even after a few months after the experience, I am still learning and realizing things that had escaped my attention while I was there (I was super nervous ) .

    As a matter of fact I gave a talk about this when I was in Tsukuba with my teacher, Jundo Roshi



    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  33. #33
    Part of the sangha is the teacher, of course. At least for me, working with my teacher grounds my ideas, I get to learn from someone wiser and older than me who has understood things I am not even aware they exist.

    I need my teacher to tell me what I am doing wrong and to open my mind to a wiser view of the universe.
    We all learn from each other (I really do prefer "friend along the way" to "teacher"), so we are all mutually supporting and learning friends in a Sangha. We learn from each other, so we all need to correct each other sometimes. We are all "recovering ignorant sentient beings" at the BA (Buddhas Anonymous)

    However, as with sailing or AA or Karate, some voices have experience to pass on. I think that there are aspects of Zen Practice which are like AA, but others which are more like Karate or piano. AA (I speak as an outsider with no experience there) is rather free form about living life free of the bottle. Karate and piano have particular knowledge and forms to pass on. Many westerners neglect the latter part, and the result is often not so good. They often end up do strange things, holding unusual beliefs about Zen practice and kind of half assed. Believe me, i encounter this each day (I am active on some Facebook Zen groups which I can only describe as "say and do whatever the hell you please" spiritual chaos and mess.)

    The best comparison may be sailing, which is a combination of real skills and knowledge to be passed on from experienced hands, but then one must get on to open ocean oneself.

    On this ship, Captain Jundo tries to keep things not too tight and not just "by the rule book," but hand on the rudder, good direction, neat ropes and avoid the rocks and shoals.

    Gassho, J

    stlah
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-24-2020 at 10:06 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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