Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: Zen Practice

  1. #1

    Zen Practice


    While at my last zendo, someone asked if one can practice zen without a teacher. The answers were mixed with some saying yes, self realization comes through our practice of zazen (direct experience) and no, one needs a teacher in order to help them get there.

    What are everyone's thoughts?



  2. #2

    Re: Zen Practice

    Hiya Matt!

    Having a teacher is a good thing for guiding along the way. Only you can walk on this path as you know, no one can do it for you or even give you the answers. They cannot hold your hand but you can look at where they are pointing (just do not get caught up looking at the teacher or their finger!)

    That said a teacher on this path is a guide or... a guide post

    Some one who has been through some of what you are going through and may offer a pointer, or the like. More often than not there are times we get caught up thinking we have it and a teacher may help us to help ourselves! To help us understand that even though we think we have it our little self is getting all puffed up and were heading a bit off course. Some one who has been there before, will often see this, point it out and help you get back on track.

    Finally, Teachers teaching in all manners through out the ages from Buddha all through the ages... Where we would be had these folks went off on their own and not shared or helped others?

    So my opinion and experience, is yes a teacher is needed, however you need to take all the steps and do all the work and answer all the questions


  3. #3

    Re: Zen Practice

    Thanks for your feedback Shohei; and I completely agree. This was a topic of conversation one night. Some viewed having a teacher as you just described. We all may stray off the path from time to time, but only someone with teaching experience can get us back there. Others, had a reciprocal view. *note: this was a night that a younger monk was leading services while our roshi was away. It was never brought up again, but got me thinking.




  4. #4

    Re: Zen Practice

    Hi Matt,

    Thank you for your mail and yes i ll get in touch soon for dokusan.
    A teacher is absolutely necessary for many reasons:
    This practice has to be real, not a fantasy , and it is within the frame of a relationship that we, as human beings, make things real .
    A tradition exists before and after you and me, namely the lineage, this tradition is like a long standing corporation of craftmen who pass on from one generation to the next the tricks of the trade and the skills. Only a teacher of flesh and blood can do this, only a student made of flesh and blood can receive this.
    Many traps on the track, many difficult patches on the way, a teacher is a spiritual friend, miror, advisor, partner, guide, and even student sometimes. He knows the path and has experience because he or she has been there.
    A teacher is somebody that works with you so you can tap into the very heart of Buddha teachings: your time bing here and now. At the same time, he-she is there, by your side, to eventually give you the opportunity to let him go as he will let you go. A teacher is only a teacher if he gradually help you to free yourself from him or her, if a teacher makes bonds, conditions, keep a form of leash, run!

    People that tell you that you can do it without a teacher have no idea what they are talking about, as Trungpa used to say: i left my teachers behind and circumstances and events in my life are now the body and the voice of my teacher.

    I hope this helps.

    Gratitude to the lineage
    Bows to as it isness
    Two arrows in mid air



  5. #5

    Re: Zen Practice

    Of course, as one of the sailing instructors around here, I am not completely unbiased on this question ** ... but I once wrote this about practicing with a Teacher & Sangha:

    ** (though, of course, fully beyond all biases and opinions!) 8)


    Can one learn sailing a sailboat on the open, often stormy sea by oneself, teaching oneself? YES!

    But is it best, especially in the early days, to 'learn the ropes' from an experienced teacher, and perhaps to have some experienced mates to show one how to know the wind? YES!

    Otherwise, good chance you will misread the weather at some point because of naivete, end up washed up on a beach or smashed against rocks and reef.

    Sure, each sailor must truly do most of the hard work by herself with "her self" ... just the "me myself and I" alone on the open ocean. Nobody can do your sailing for you, nobody can tie and untie the knots for you ... all they can be is a wise voice to point out a good way and show ya a couple of tricks.

    And maybe, eventually, the teacher just becomes a good compass, and the words of Buddhist Teachings are good charts ... something that any good sailor, even the most independent, will keep close by on the whole trip to show where the channel is, the hidden icebergs in the fog, the strong currents ...

    Zen Practice is like a sailing trip with no particular destination or, better said, the sea is ever all around us and the voyage happens in each moment, and in each salty drop. There is no destination, no right or wrong way to sail. Yet, there are perils out there, ropes can become tangled, sails torn and masts broken, storms (both outside and within us) can spin us around, one can go mad in the darkness and loneliness at night as the mind plays tricks, monsters can spring out of the deep. There is no place ultimately in need of going, but we can end up going around and around in circles before we get there. There is nothing to attain, but never leave the wheelhouse unguarded. There is no place to fall, but DON'T FALL OVERBOARD!

    Thus, it is good to have a teacher, an experienced voice, an arrow pointing to whom one can always turn about which way to turn ... getting one's bearings.

    Something like that.

    Gassho and Good Sailing, Capt' Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Zen Practice

    Hi All,

    I believe the proper teacher is an integral component to the overall experience!
    Not only does a student need a teacher but as spoken by my Tea teacher "Even a teacher needs a teacher." It's similar to the idea that even a surgeon, no matter how good or long they have been practicing, also needs a surgeon. Doctors do have Doctors!

    So once again, thank you to our teachers here Taigu Sensei and Captain Jundo Sensei! And to everyone else(and there are a great many) at Treeleaf who have also taught me a tremendous amount!


  7. #7

    Re: Zen Practice

    Hi Matt!

    Well, I look at it this way. I"ve had many "teachers" when it came to living "anti-dharma." :twisted:

    So it seems only natural that I would also have many "teachers" when it comes to walking the Middle Path.

    I don't believe in perfect gurus though. Just like those people who instructed me in ignorance were not "depraved," or all bad, so my teachers in truth are not gods, just guys (and gals) who are a few steps ahead of me on the path and have some valualbe insights that make my life richer.

    But we all have ignorance, in truth. Welcome to Treeleaf.


  8. #8

    Re: Zen Practice

    I would say, like learning anything else, a teacher is necessary. A teacher is necessary for academics; sure you can read a book and learn, but there is a reason they have teachers at schools and academic institutions. A teacher is necessary in martial arts, even if you are learning "long distance." You can't read a book or watch a video and suddenly be a black belt. A teacher is also necessary for sports, though they call them "coaches."

Similar Threads

  1. The Practice of Judging Others' Practice
    By ChrisA in forum Archive of Older Threads
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 06-28-2011, 07:18 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts