Purpose of a Zen teacher?

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  • disastermouse

    Purpose of a Zen teacher?

    Hey all,

    I've been thinking and conversatin' with people about Zen and Zen teachers and it seems like there are a lot of different ideas, some of them pretty whacked out IMHO, about what exactly a Zen teacher is supposed to 'provide' to his/her students. Some people seem to think that Zen teachers are therapists. Others get into this weird "you're so wise/you've done so much for me!" sort of dynamic with their teachers (completely ignoring the fact that the teacher really doesn't 'provide' anything but an opportunity for genuine interaction). Some people get completely disillusioned when they find out that their teachers have human flaws (men who fall prey to sexual temptation, women who bully, etc).

    So what role do you all think that a Zen teacher fills?

    Chet
  • Vic

    #2
    Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

    For me a Zen teacher is a guide, someone to get me started, help keep me on the right path and point out concepts that I need to know along the way.

    Comment

    • jamieguinn
      Member
      • Oct 2008
      • 13

      #3
      Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

      Since Jundo will probably reply shortly, my question is when should one start sanzen with him?

      Comment

      • Shindo
        Member
        • Mar 2008
        • 278

        #4
        Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

        Hi Jamie & welcome
        In answer to your question - right now
        Kind regards
        Jools
        [color=#404040:301177ix]"[i:301177ix]I come to realize that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and star[/i:301177ix]s". - [b:301177ix]Dogen[/b:301177ix][/color:301177ix]

        Comment

        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39456

          #5
          Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

          Hi Guys,

          Well, I believe a Zen teacher should be something like a third base pitching & batting coach (pardon the baseball reference for those not familiar with the game, but the meaning should be clear. Some of you can think cricket. Also, sorry to Keishin for not talkin' hockey). The coach watches the pitchers and batters from the field, suggests a few things to tone up one's swing or help one's pitching. But from then on, the players have to play their own game. I can't run the bases for you.

          Sometimes a Zen teacher is compared to a mirror, reflecting one's self back to one's self. Same idea.

          In this baseball game, by the way, there is no winning and losing no matter the score, and wherever you run on the field, that is 'home'. Strange game in that way. No matter how many bases you attain, how many points you score or strike out ... no gain no loss. Also, all the players on both teams, the coaches ... the whole stadium for that matter, and the hot dogs too ... all one beyond one. In fact, all is just playing!

          Although there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to play, and it is all a game, there are some 'right' and 'wrong' ways to play ... and the coach has to make sure that people are playing right ... we don't play with a tennis racket. Very often I get folks who want to play tennis on our baseball field, and I have to gently remove the racket from their grip and provide them a bat or glove. Sorry, no matter how open minded I am, we do not play tennis on our baseball field.

          The "Precepts" also make sure that we don't slide into each with our cleats, or throw spitballs and other harmful play.

          Practice is playing, playing is perfectly practice!

          Originally posted by jamieguinn
          Since Jundo will probably reply shortly, my question is when should one start sanzen with him?
          Hi Jaime,

          As to Sanzen, in the Koan-centered Zazen traditions such as the Rinzai schools (and some mixed Soto-Sanbokyodan lineages like Maezumi Roshi's students, Aitken Roshi and such), "Sanzen" is very important as a constant practice (it is also called "Dokusan"). In such schools, where a formal Program of Koans must be "passed" as part of the process, Sanzen/Dokusan is more a part of the process. In Soto Practice, we tend to have Sanzen/Dokusan when there is a particular matter to discuss about one's Practice. It is more "how is your Practice these days" than "What is Mu?".

          However, during a Retreat, it is common to have Sanzen times, so I will set up times during the Retreat to cover most time Zones, and we can "Sanzen-Skype". For folks doing the Retreat at other times, they can set up a special time with me for Sanzen.

          In this Sangha, I like to teach in the open, through this Forum, so that all can share (like right now! ). Also, the entire Sangha teaches the whole Sangha ... the whole team plays ball together. So, I prefer to work openly through this Forum. At other times, when private matters, and where personal questions of Practice come up, folks can Sanzen with me by setting a time.

          Let's Play Ball!

          Gassho, Jundo

          PS - As part of our Precepts study, I am planning to post a very good article by a long time Zen Practitioner, Stuart Lachs, on common stereotypes and misunderstandings that many folks have about Zen teachings and Zen teachers. Look for that in a couple of weeks. There are a lot of "whacked out" ideas (to use Chet's phrase) about Zen teachers, mostly from all those exaggerated and hagiographic old stories and legends of "enlightened" Zen masters. Anyway, I will post the article shortly, and we can talk about it.

          PPS - Baseball Koan: Why did Babe Ruth Come to Yankee Stadium?
          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

          Comment

          • chicanobudista
            Member
            • Mar 2008
            • 864

            #6
            Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

            Originally posted by Jundo

            PPS - Baseball Koan: Why did Babe Ruth Come to Yankee Stadium?
            The beer was cold and the hot dogs were hot. :mrgreen:
            paz,
            Erik


            Flor de Nopal Sangha

            Comment

            • Undo
              Member
              • Jun 2007
              • 495

              #7
              Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

              One of the great things about an online sangha is a question can be repeated as many times as a topic is clicked, any time anywhere.
              This gives time for not only Jundo to answer but other sangha members.
              I can ask a question at 08:30am in Spain in my living room eating breakfast, Jundo may answer at 05:33 (Japan time?), using his blackberry sat in the bath, Kenneth may read the question and answer at 16:30 at work sipping his tea, in Germany, and Jools may read the question in England while eating his tea and think, "you know, I always wondered what type of socks zen monks wear".

              Well and truly timeless

              Take care,

              Philip

              Comment

              • Shui_Di
                Member
                • Apr 2008
                • 210

                #8
                Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

                Hi all,...

                I think Zen teacher can't really teach us about Zen. Because Zen is not some thing that can be taught.
                Teacher just like a guide for us, but to live in the "Way", we must do it by ourselves.

                That's why, we need to be open with our teacher, so our teacher can understand about our condition.
                "Say what you mean, and mean what you say"

                Gassho, Shuidi
                Practicing the Way means letting all things be what they are in their Self-nature. - Master Dogen.

                Comment

                • will
                  Member
                  • Jun 2007
                  • 2331

                  #9
                  Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

                  But we must not rely too strongly on a teacher. In doing so we prolong the trap of believing we are not it, and somehow teacher and student are different.

                  Gassho
                  [size=85:z6oilzbt]
                  To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
                  To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
                  To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
                  To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
                  [/size:z6oilzbt]

                  Comment

                  • Undo
                    Member
                    • Jun 2007
                    • 495

                    #10
                    Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

                    Comment

                    • Jundo
                      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                      • Apr 2006
                      • 39456

                      #11
                      Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

                      Originally posted by will
                      But we must not rely too strongly on a teacher. In doing so we prolong the trap of believing we are not it, and somehow teacher and student are different.

                      Gassho
                      Hi Will,

                      Yeah, well you also have to watch the tendency that happens to all of us, at a certain point, to think that we don't need teachers any more. I agree that we must not rely too strongly on a teacher, but we should also always be willing to learn from everyone as our teachers ... even little babies.

                      It is said that, at a certain point, we must "Kill the Buddha", which means to have confidence in our understanding, make the teaching our own. But, on the other hand, we must not be like the fellow who reads one Zen book and thinks he's "got it". One must know the important difference.

                      Even someone who has been practicing Zen for 50 years should be humble and willing to learn. Students need Teachers, but the Teacher must always be open to learning from the Students.


                      Generally, it is very dangerous (for the long term ... not for stretches here and there) to pursue Zen Practice without a competent teacher and healthy Sangha.

                      Something like that. It is late, and I am too tired to express this as well as I might.

                      Gassho, Jundo (Your Student)

                      PS - The concept of a "Guru" as found in Tibetan Buddhism and many other forms of Eastern Practice, to whom on is to basically yield one's ego without question, is very different from Zen Practice.

                      http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id= ... &ct=result

                      Depends on the Zen teacher and lineage though.
                      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39456

                        #12
                        Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

                        Originally posted by plankton
                        "you know, I always wondered what type of socks zen monks wear".
                        All questions answered ...





                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Undo
                          Member
                          • Jun 2007
                          • 495

                          #13
                          Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

                          Thanks Jundo, I hope the water didn't get too cold.

                          Comment

                          • aikoku tora
                            Member
                            • Jul 2008
                            • 110

                            #14
                            Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

                            Originally posted by Jundo
                            Originally posted by plankton
                            "you know, I always wondered what type of socks zen monks wear".
                            All questions answered ...






                            I tend to prefer modern streach tabi, and wear a jika-Tabi over it...less clasps to deal with ops:
                            ~ Mue

                            Comment

                            • Jundo
                              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                              • Apr 2006
                              • 39456

                              #15
                              Re: Purpose of a Zen teacher?

                              Originally posted by aikoku tora

                              I tend to prefer modern streach tabi, and wear a jika-Tabi over it...less clasps to deal with ops:
                              Yes, but the tabi are just for running around outside?such as in one's ”'waraji" straw sandles ...



                              during Takuhatsu



                              For ceremonies, you need a special type of sock without toes, like a mitten, called a "bessu" ...



                              I hope I have cleared this mystery up. That is what a teacher is for.

                              Gassho, Jundo

                              (Actually, I think Rev. Taigu knows a lot more about this than me, so any corrections welcome).
                              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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