SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39474

    SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

    Hi,

    I TRIED TO SPLIT THIS TOPIC INTO ITS OWN, AND APPEAR TO HAVE LOST A COUPLE OF SEIRYU'S POSTS BY ACCIDENT. WELL, GUESS THAT SHOWS THAT THE TEACHER DOESN'T ALWAYS KNOW EVERYTHING!
    ops:

    Seiryu wrote ...

    Guru vibes...ok, didn't really pay much attention to that.

    But it seems that some do not like "gurus" here. May I ask why?

    _/_

    Seiryu
    Then Taigu wrote ...

    Sure enough. I will give you my answer in the next vid. To cut a long story short, a bit like the monastery thing, the guru trip and its implications is very much a thing from the past.

    gassho


    Taigu
    Then Seiryu wrote ...

    Looking forward to your next vid for the answer. But just to say, I feel the implications of anything arises insomuch as we are unwilling to let them go.

    _/_

    Seiryu
    Then I wrote the below.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39474

    #2
    Re: GURUS AND TEACHERS

    Originally posted by Taigu
    Sure enough. I will give you my answer in the next vid. To cut a long story short, a bit like the monastery thing, the guru trip and its implications is very much a thing from the past.

    gassho


    Taigu
    Yes. For "thing of the past", I might say that it is perhaps not really suitable for these times and our current culture, especially in Zen practice, and even a bit dangerous. I will just add this, awaiting your talk ...

    "Guru" practice is a key part of many "Eastern Religions", including in much Tantric/Tibetan Buddhism. To make a complex topic too simple: one comes to "pour one's own self" into the person of one's teacher/guru, becoming selflessly one with the guru while dropping one's own ego aside in total self-effacing dedication to the guru. Further, the guru comes to represent and embody in the flesh the god/buddha/teaching that is being practiced.

    That is actually a very very powerful practice, and I am not saying otherwise. However, it also has the ability to create very sick and unbalanced relationships in anything but the most skilled hands, plus can easily cause a dependent or "cult" mentality of total worship of the guru (which, in the worst case, leads to Aum, Jonestown, the Rajnish/Osho or the many lesser cases of student abuse).

    This was never really a part of Zen practice, although sometimes many traditional Indian-Chinese-Japanese views of the "master-disciple" relationship were about the same. These were traditional and feudal societies, so it was not just in Buddhism ... but all through the "top-down/lord & master vs. slave, servant and serf" society. In Japanese "samurai" society, the image was that if a "master" tells his disciple to fall on one's sword ... the disciple falls on one's sword unquestioningly (Ah, sometimes I wish we had some of those "good ol days" more around here at treeleaf! :twisted: ). On the other hand, if one reads the old Zen stories of students and teachers slapping each other, questioning and teasing each other ... well, maybe the relationship of Zen teacher and student even in the "old times" was often closer to a mutual wrestling match (pretty much describes my relationship with Fugen and Mongen :roll: ), a dancing school where two must tango, "tangled vines" twisting in and around each other ... in which the teacher is a guide/coach pointing out the way ... but the student must ultimately do all the climbing of the mountain for his/herself.

    Now that Zen has "Come West" to less "top-down" societies, to more so-called "democratic", "equalitarian" and questioning societies ... things may actually have gone too far the other way. I mean, almost nobody listens to the teachers any more or abides fully to the teacher's taught practices (as you can see around this place! :? ) Everyone just wants to "do their own thing", make their own practices and rituals and altars ... choose those practices from the dessert line of the "Buddhist cafeteria" which they find tasty, and leave the bitter spinach practices. The result is a great looseness and confusion, a kind of "spiritual materialism" teaching/teacher shopping for fashions and styles that are personally pleasing (not to be confused with finding the medicine among medicines which one truly needs ... a kind of positive "teacher/teaching shopping").

    In my view, the Middle Way is again called for here. If one is in a Buddhist school for practice (which is really what a Sangha is, no different from a Karate school for Karate, or a dancing school for dance), one should really try to master what the teacher points to in how to throw punches or do the waltz. However, one does not become a slave of the karate/dance teacher ... and ultimately (once the fundamentals are mastered for oneself) one must fight one's own fights, dance one's own dance.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Seiryu
      Member
      • Sep 2010
      • 620

      #3
      Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

      Very True Jundo. Some people tend to put everything onto the teacher and hope the teacher will not only have all the answers, but will bring them to enlightenment for them. The shut up and follow me mentality can really kick in at times for some.

      But this can also happen with anything...some might get caught up in the words and koan type talk of zen and not be able to see past it. Then for that person a 'if it is not from a zen point of view then I don't want to hear it' attitude can develop, and I don't think that is good either.

      I'll add one more thing (awaiting Taigu vid) That I wouldn't necessarily call Guru practice or even monasteries out dated. It all depends on the person engaging into them. Some people really do need a guru for them to finally drop all ego, some don't. Same thing for traditional monasteries. We have some practices here that might seem out dated to others, like the sewing of the Kesa, to some this practice just won't work, but for others it is a greatly profound and life changing practice.

      As long as we do not get attached to our practice we will be able to see beyond it, since practice is just a pointer...the problem comes when people hold on to their practice too tightly

      Enough of that ramble... :mrgreen:

      _/_

      Seiryu
      Humbly,
      清竜 Seiryu

      Comment

      • Ankai
        Treeleaf Unsui
        • Nov 2007
        • 913

        #4
        Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

        In my early studies of Tibetan Buddhism I saw and learned a lot about guru practice, and the danger I saw is that guru PRACTICE can eaasily devolve into guru WORSHIP. That happens two ways... either the student begins to think too highly or have greater expectations and ideas about the guru than are warranted (and which a good guru will immediately spot and take steps to correct,) or the guru will begin to subtly demand more than the due ammount of reverence and devotion. I'm thinking of one American woman in particular that I ran across, who claims to be a tulku and have been recognized by a Tibetan sect, but has mixed in elements of new age and Western astrology into her group, in which she is unquestionable and infallible... living wealthily while demanding obedience, obeisance and even financial tribute from her followers. There's the thing... it can easily become a personality cult, and in the West, where the Guru thing isn't really part of our culture and wherein certain subtleties could be more easily missed, it's really, really easy to abuse.
        Gassho!
        護道 安海


        -Godo Ankai

        I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

        Comment

        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39474

          #5
          Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

          Originally posted by KvonNJ
          ... she is unquestionable and infallible... living wealthily while demanding obedience, obeisance and even financial tribute from her followers.
          Hmmm. Sounds tempting. :twisted:

          Gassho, J
          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39474

            #6
            Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

            Originally posted by Seiryu
            I'll add one more thing (awaiting Taigu vid) That I wouldn't necessarily call Guru practice or even monasteries out dated. It all depends on the person engaging into them. Some people really do need a guru for them to finally drop all ego, some don't. Same thing for traditional monasteries. We have some practices here that might seem out dated to others, like the sewing of the Kesa, to some this practice just won't work, but for others it is a greatly profound and life changing practice.
            Well, it might be a good practice for some. I do not know. The idea of the "guru" in order to aid dropping the ego may be helpful if done skillfully (I do not know, as we do not practice in such way), but I have seen too many cases of abuse ... terrible abuse and very bad endings. Further, the idea of "surrendering" the ego rings of the wrong kind of surrender in search of freedom ... worlds away from the freedom from ego found in Zen practice.

            In any case, it is not our way in this Sangha.

            Gassho, J

            ps - I have seen many scandals in Zen groups too, but almost always where the teacher has turned himself (sometimes herself) into a kind of spiritual guru demanding subservience and dependence.
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • murasaki
              Member
              • Mar 2009
              • 473

              #7
              Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

              Originally posted by KvonNJ
              I'm thinking of one American woman in particular that I ran across, who claims to be a tulku and have been recognized by a Tibetan sect, but has mixed in elements of new age and Western astrology into her group, in which she is unquestionable and infallible... living wealthily while demanding obedience, obeisance and even financial tribute from her followers. There's the thing... it can easily become a personality cult, and in the West, where the Guru thing isn't really part of our culture and wherein certain subtleties could be more easily missed, it's really, really easy to abuse.
              I strongly dislike this kind of "spiritual soup" that people mix together, a bit of astrology, a bit of rose quartz, a bit of dakini, a bit of Native American creation story, a bit of blah blah blah...it looks impressive to some because it's all so esoteric that the beholder says, "wow, that's above my head, she must be a master at it to even think of combining them." It makes the soup-mixer look well-experienced and world-knowledgeable. But in the end, I see it as just a soup, things put together that weren't intended to be, you can't possibly eke any kind of useful outcome out of it. And it's just a real turnoff; I don't see a mystical adept, I see a cry for attention and validation.

              I know a lot of people disagree with me, and I can easily be accused of hard-line purism and such (bring it!), but I feel much better when I can choose one way, look at it and understand it, and commit to it for what it is, having a reasonable idea of what I can expect to learn and gain. So when I start seeing mishmoshes of eclectic artifacts, practices and notions, I take my leave. I have no time for the mystical minestrone.

              gassho
              Julia
              "The Girl Dragon Demon", the random Buddhist name generator calls me....you have been warned.

              Feed your good wolf.

              Comment

              • Seishin the Elder
                Member
                • Oct 2009
                • 521

                #8
                Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

                Jundo,

                My Dear Friend, Brother, Teacher, Chum and all-around Gumba.....what you said here is just about the clearest, cleanest and best description and declaration of what has been, can be and ought to be that I have read yet on this forum. For me this simple concise response of yours ought to be the Mission Statement or Manifesto of Treeleaf Sangha. I've known that this is what is in your heart, but here it has finally been said as simply as I have ever read (without all the Zenny squiggles that sometimes happens!!! :roll: ).

                Gassho, gassho, gassho,

                Seishin Kyrill

                Comment

                • ghop
                  Member
                  • Jan 2010
                  • 438

                  #9
                  Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

                  Like any relationship, the guru-disciple relationship can be either healthy or unhealthy. I can't imagine what Pema Chodron would be like today had she not met Chogyam Trungpa.

                  That being said, I agree with Jundo that gurus are becoming a thing of the past. Teachings that were once "secret" are now available at the click of a button. We are evolving. The original teaching was always that "the guru is within you." Still, it took people a long time to believe this. They wanted someone else to show them the way. Unfortunately, many of the "gurus" had bad motives.

                  If it works for you, fine. Go with it. I've tried it. It's not for me.

                  gassho
                  Greg

                  Comment

                  • Mari
                    Member
                    • Jun 2011
                    • 45

                    #10
                    Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

                    I strongly dislike this kind of "spiritual soup" that people mix together, a bit of astrology, a bit of rose quartz, a bit of dakini, a bit of Native American creation story, a bit of blah blah blah...it looks impressive to some because it's all so esoteric that the beholder says, "wow, that's above my head, she must be a master at it to even think of combining them." It makes the soup-mixer look well-experienced and world-knowledgeable. But in the end, I see it as just a soup, things put together that weren't intended to be, you can't possibly eke any kind of useful outcome out of it. And it's just a real turnoff; I don't see a mystical adept, I see a cry for attention and validation.
                    Couldn't agree more. I see it as "Lemme just jam in as much exotic stuff that Average Joe/Jane American will be drawn to since they're tired of the same ol' Hamburger Helper (to extend the soup analogy) that they've been eating for years." I'm judging here, but I see the creators of such soups as jaded, cynical merchandisers because there are always accessories and trinkets to buy, expensive seminars, endless books and videos, and so on. We like "stuff", we like "new ideas" and "new experiences", and even better if those experiences are "mystical and profound" because the every-day experience is one that seems to lack any meaning or purpose.

                    Finding these sorts of so-called teachers (throw a stick and you'll hit one nowadays) is dangerous, not just because they can (I'm not saying they always do, some might genuinely be trying to be helpful, but are misguided themselves) abuse the student/guru relationship, but also because what they teach is such a mish-mash that the student has no WAY to question it.

                    This is particularly true if the student comes from a background that has no experience whatsoever of these thrown together beliefs as they exist in their own contexts and doesn't know HOW to question it. How can there be critical analysis or questioning if there's nothing "solid" in the system in the first place? What if the student doesn't know how to examine a belief system if they come from a background where blind faith is expected, so they're already primed to follow whatever the person "in charge" is teaching?

                    Add to this that criticism or questioning of the organization or leader can lead to ostracism (no one wants to be rejected, losing old friends who still practice and believe in the guru) and you get a nasty little psychological stew that can reinforce itself with threats of abandonment, telling the student that they're not advanced enough to understand or have become close-minded which is tantamount to calling someone an ignorant bigot. I can think of at least two organizations (not naming names) that practice exactly this sort of thing.

                    I've got your back when it comes to seeming hard-lined about this subject. I see a trap as a trap, quick-sand as quick-sand, and I call it as I see it.
                    skype - justmari73

                    Comment

                    • disastermouse

                      #11
                      Re: GURUS AND TEACHERS

                      Originally posted by Jundo

                      Now that Zen has "Come West" to less "top-down" societies, to more so-called "democratic", "equalitarian" and questioning societies ... things may actually have gone too far the other way. I mean, almost nobody listens to the teachers any more or abides fully to the teacher's taught practices (as you can see around this place! :? ) Everyone just wants to "do their own thing", make their own practices and rituals and altars ... choose those practices from the dessert line of the "Buddhist cafeteria" which they find tasty, and leave the bitter spinach practices. The result is a great looseness and confusion, a kind of "spiritual materialism" teaching/teacher shopping for fashions and styles that are personally pleasing (not to be confused with finding the medicine among medicines which one truly needs ... a kind of positive "teacher/teaching shopping").
                      May I offer a few thoughts? My first one is this: The genie is out of the bottle. The myriad dharma paths and schools that arose in vastly different cultures and contexts have all arrived at the single-most consumeristic society in history. This is simply where we are, so yeah, there's going to be a little mix-and-match going on. Also, for many of the people coming here for the first time, this is going to be one of their first exposures to a genuine Buddhist Sangha. They don't yet know that they shouldn't mix-and-match, or at least that such mixing-and-matching will be greeted with some amount of skepticism here. Further, some people who come here won't stay because the way set forth by Dogen doesn't match what they expect from Zen practice. Where's all the slapping? Where are the ferocious koan battles? And for the love of Sidd, where is the kung fu??? :lol:

                      We live in a society where not only is 'a la carte' accepted, but to do otherwise is downright backwards. We have grown up in a market society where not getting what you demand is simply unacceptable. Add this to the culturally skewed expectations of what Zen, what spirituality (Man, that's a terrible label for what Zen is, but it's the one we're stuck with) is...and it's going to be a bit of a madhouse.

                      I say this as a primary offender - as someone who went into pitched battle in these very forums against the simple lesson that you and Taigu were trying to teach - our egos are strong and carefully cultivated in this consumer society. All you can do is offer the teaching and hope that the will to truth is stronger than that. Dogen went to China, was driven from one temple, and burned out of another. Even in ancient Japan, there was resistance.

                      Gassho,

                      Chet

                      Comment

                      • Ankai
                        Treeleaf Unsui
                        • Nov 2007
                        • 913

                        #12
                        Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

                        Originally posted by Jundo
                        Originally posted by KvonNJ
                        ... she is unquestionable and infallible... living wealthily while demanding obedience, obeisance and even financial tribute from her followers.
                        Hmmm. Sounds tempting. :twisted:

                        Gassho, J

                        For you, I'll put on the bedsheets and beat a tambourine for donations at the airport. Anyone ELSE, and it's just wrong, man.
                        Gassho!
                        護道 安海


                        -Godo Ankai

                        I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

                        Comment

                        • Ankai
                          Treeleaf Unsui
                          • Nov 2007
                          • 913

                          #13
                          Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

                          I strongly dislike this kind of "spiritual soup" that people mix together, a bit of astrology, a bit of rose quartz, a bit of dakini, a bit of Native American creation story, a bit of blah blah blah...

                          Ahhh... Murasaki, you know who I'm referring to. LOL
                          Aw well. Hope things work out for her and her followers as beneficially as possible. It may not be what I think of as a healthy path, but you know what? If they're happy and she's meeting some need for them, so be it. They certainly don't need my blessing. And they definitely don't need my money.
                          Gassho!
                          護道 安海


                          -Godo Ankai

                          I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

                          Comment

                          • Kyonin
                            Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
                            • Oct 2010
                            • 6742

                            #14
                            Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

                            The Guru practice is much more common than I'd like it to be.

                            Sadly, people don't like to think. If they find some new age woo-woo talking charismatic man or woman, they'll follow as long as wisdom comes out of his/her mouth.

                            And yes it can be very dangerous because as soon as people find a "guru" they stop thinking and that everything he/she says at face value, without researching or even questioning. And that's the sad part because they'll give everything for the Guru.
                            Hondō Kyōnin
                            奔道 協忍

                            Comment

                            • Seiryu
                              Member
                              • Sep 2010
                              • 620

                              #15
                              Re: SPLIT: GURUS AND TEACHERS

                              The only guru I'll listen to is my heart... Too bad he is not wise enough...


                              Gassho

                              Seiryu
                              Humbly,
                              清竜 Seiryu

                              Comment

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