WHAT IS ZEN? - Chap 8 - Teachers - Top of P. 99 to end

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39272

    WHAT IS ZEN? - Chap 8 - Teachers - Top of P. 99 to end

    Well, now a hard topic.

    What about when teachers prove to be human, a little too human ... or even harm doing humans?

    Do we put too much trust in teachers? Maybe not enough trust? Maybe a little of both?

    My own take on when teachers fall down (sometimes taking others with them) is here ...

    It is a fallacy to think that Zen priests are ever completely free, during this life, from being human. In any large group of people ... whether Zen priests, other Buddhist, Christian or Jewish priests and clergy of all kinds ... there will always be examples of greed, anger and ignorance. Furthermore, in the lifetime of any one individual ... even among the best of us ... there are sure to be moments of greed, anger and ignorance.

    But our Practice does, more often than not, free us from the worst. It makes us better people. (In fact, most clergy I have met ... not just Buddhist clergy, but of all religions ... are good, caring, ethical people, the bad apples aside). Most of the Zen teachers I have met ... especially those with a few years and some maturity under their belt ... tend to be lovely, gentle, well rounded, self-actuated, moderate, compassionate, healthy people - balanced, living life with fullness and well.

    What is more, a teacher can be 95% good, wise and decent, a caring and profound minister ... yet have a proclivity in the remaining 5% that is an inner devil. ... The question is whether the 95% that embodies Wisdom and Compassion is completely canceled and nullified by the 5% which is an ass and a human fool. Certainly, if the 5% is serious enough (child abuse as seen among some rabbis and priests is certainly an example, as are other acts of violence or truly malicious conduct), I say it does, certainly. (In fact, while recognizing that even the victimizer is too a victim of beginingless greed, anger, ignorance ... toss the worst of them in a cell, and throw away the key!). On the other hand, if what is seen is a relatively minor human weakness or failing ... I say it does not. What is more, it may make the teacher an even greater teacher because of his/her humanity.

    In other words, I would rather learn about some things from a fellow weak and fragile human being wrestling, right now, with Mara than from a stone Buddha statue, a Dharma machine, a Flawless Saint (although how many of those long dead saints and ancestors in religious hagiographic story books, their lives cleaned up and dipped in gold and set on a pedestal after their deaths, were truly so flawless during their flesh and blood lives?).


    All human beings have the tendency to fall down from time to time. I guess it is just a matter of what the person does then ... picking themselves up, recovering balance, getting back on the trail, apologizing and learning from any damage caused. Like any great athlete, the point is not that we never get knocked around, never trip or stumble ... but how we handle the fall (as in the martial arts ... there is no training offered on how to never fall, but endless training on how to fall well). Show me the man or woman who falls down sometimes ... but who demonstrates how to fall well and recover one's footing ... and I will show you a great Zen teacher.

    Hi, This posting has taken me a very long time to sit with and write ... years perhaps ... Today's subject in our "BIG Questions" series ... "When Roshis Act Ugly, Small And All Too Human". First, let us set out the Indictment ... and it just scratches the surface. Nothing should be hidden. Many skeletons
    Trust me on that.

    How do you feel about this?

    Gassho, Jundo


    PS - A reminder that the author of this book, and a GREAT teacher (whether he wants to be called so or not), Norman Fischer, will be coming to lead Zazenkai at Treeleaf on January 5th ... details in the coming days ...

    "What Is Zen?" Author & Zen Teacher Norman Fischer Coming to Treeleaf in January
    Dear Book Club Readers and All Treeleafers, I just confirmed that the great Zoketsu Norman Fischer will be coming to lead a Zazenkai, offering a Talk, on Saturday January 5th (from 9:30 AM California time, should last about 90 minutes). So, he will help us celebrate the New Year at Treeleaf, right before our upcoming Jukai
  • Anka
    • Mar 2017
    • 202

    There will always be a small part of me slightly disappointed that you don't get magical powers and the ability to levitate at the moment of "enlightenment". Seeing teachers as simply other humans is not something I was able to do when starting to practice.

    They were different...they had to be different. As mentioned in the reading. I feel this belief that teachers are infallible or special can be beneficial to the beginning student. It gives the student a foundation to push their understanding and way of viewing things somewhere new. However, once a student has matured more in their practice the relationship changes to what is required. Perhaps becoming one based more of friendship. This is wonderful and a mirror of life. The only definitive thing is that all things change.

    James F
    Sat lah

    Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk


    • Jishin
      • Oct 2012
      • 4819

      Originally posted by Jundo

      Trust me on that.


      Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_


      • sosen
        • Oct 2018
        • 82

        A teacher is not the moon – they are the finger. Teachers are human. They are more skillful, and see into the nature of self and reality differently to other people, but they still relate through personality structures, with unique strengths and vulnerabilities. Perhaps the true value of a teacher does not rest in their being ‘special’ or ‘perfect’ (these are attachments we project onto the teacher-student relationship), but in their capacity to facilitate experiential understanding of our true nature.




        • Kotei
          Treeleaf Unsui
          • Mar 2015
          • 3935


          a teacher is a human being. How else can I assume that he's able to teach another human being (me) sufficiently?
          Her 'job' is teaching the Dharma, the precepts and to help seeing ones life in relation to that.
          Imho, she should, as much as possible, be able to reflect her own life and thoughts regarding the above, being an example in doing so.
          But that's a tightrope walk, as it is to all humans. Spotting harmful tendencies and thoughts soon enough, reflecting, seeing the source of them, transforming them.
          I would assume, that the teachers own education and practice made her advance in that somehow.

          I do not consider it as wise, building ones own ethical and moral foundation solely on one teacher or one teaching.
          You cannot project your own responsibility for your own actions on another person.
          That doesn't work and most likely, the teacher can't handle that either. It's not fair.

          Kotei sat/lah today.

          義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
          Being a novice priest doesn't mean my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.


          • Doshin
            • May 2015
            • 2644


            All I can ask of my teacher.


            PS just realized that after downsizing to post here that image is not sharp. So if you do not recognize the face he is our teacher.
            Last edited by Doshin; 12-20-2018, 07:54 PM.


            • Seishin
              • Aug 2016
              • 1520

              We are all fallible, teachers and students alike, we are human. And as such we learn from each other. Teacher becomes student. Student becomes teacher. Not one not two.


              Sei - Meticulous
              Shin - Heart


              • Meitou
                • Feb 2017
                • 1656

                I've been constantly surprised by how much Moon and Fischer pack into these chapters and how much food for thought the carefully constructed questions give rise to. This section was overflowing with interesting ideas.

                I've not been aware that Zen produces any more unethical teachers than any other Buddhist school - is that really true? If so, perhaps it's due to the Westernization of Zen, or because there are so many lay teachers. I know that in the Tibetan school, the 'old school' Lamas expected their students to submit to their authority over the direction of their studies, even though those studies had to be experiential, but then the student/teacher relationship was/is more formal- the student has to ask formally to be accepted, the teacher has to formally accept the student. I can already hear voices off citing the example of Chogyam Trungpa as a damaging example of this, and yet, and yet..his Dharma teachings are extraordinary and like Master Dogen's, use language in an amazing way (especially given that when CT first came to the west he spoke no English). So where does that leave us? Should we disregard years of wisdom filled and inspiring teachings because of the teacher's human failings?
                What I respectfully ask of a teacher is that he/she guides me gently to looking at my own experiences on this path and helps to support me on its twists and turns. Strange as it may seem, I wouldn't expect this from someone with whom I was in a sexual relationship, so I wouldn't even consider entering into one with a teacher, nor would I look to this guide to be a flawless human being - no-one is, and besides I feel that the Precepts are my teachers on morals and ethics, looking to my own behaviour before judging anyone else. Perhaps also part of the problem today is related to the present culture of entitlement which is the antithesis of humility, the physical (and sometimes seemingly exorbitant) cost of courses, sesshin and retreats which in the current climate also raise expectations of something very special in return for money spent.
                I found Fischer's attitude toward himself as not-a-teacher very intriguing, I like his idea of just having a place in the mandala of practice, and it being the mandala itself as the transforming factor; "It's not me who transforms anyone". Such humility in acknowledging that is a teaching in itself.

                Satwithyoualltoday lah
                Last edited by Meitou; 12-24-2018, 06:12 AM.
                命 Mei - life
                島 Tou - island