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When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Pedestrian on Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:05 pm

I have come to feel that one of the core components of my relationship to my teachers in the Boundless Way Zen sangha involves their pulling the rug out from under me. (I have one primary teacher, James Ford, but also work with the other three transmitted teachers: Melissa Blacker, David Rynick, and Josh Bartok.) Here on ZFI we've spent a lot of time talking about the ways in which teachers do this in unethical, inappropriate ways that devastate their sangha, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm referring to that moment when, in response to something you have presented in an attempt to clarify, explain, and so on, a teacher says, more or less, "Nope."

These Nopes aren't mean or cruel -- quite the opposite. They are for me a remarkable manifestation of compassion and wisdom, expedient means to provoke a face-to-face encounter with the rugs I don't know I'm walking on and really, really like! They are the moments when my capacity for engaged practice widens, when in an instant I watch some seemingly firm foundation go poof and I'm standing in midair like Wile E. Coyote with that "uh oh" look on his face.

Afterward, the Nopes really go to work: what the heck happened? what was I thinking? why was I thinking? who was doing that thinking? It's as if I had all my delusion dominoes set up in one nice, neat row, and for three weeks I can't stop hearing the "click click click" as they fall over, with that single, first domino having been poked by a very precisely aimed finger.

For me, this is the red hot ball of Mu my teacher tosses down my throat; this is Majushri's sword aimed straight for my heart and mind at once. Does this have a name? Does it happen to you?
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby So-on Mann on Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:56 pm

Oh yes, I am familiar with this!

I see both my teacher, Kyogen, and his wife Gyokuko in sanzen. I remember two particular instances, one with each. I had sanzen during a particularly intense sesshin with Kyogen, he asked me a question, I gave him a stupid answer, and he just sighed. That was all, you know, one of those long "are you serious?" kind of sighs. I went back to my bed and cried about it. Got to laugh about it later.

Another instance, I was in sanzen with Gyokuko, and spouting off some nonsense, and she just looked at me, smiled, and rung the bell. STFU!

Its painful some5imes when they cut you off at the pass, but very necessary. I was full it. :PP:
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Ko_Shin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:29 am

Not sure about a name other than Teaching :)

I have definitely experienced it. The example that always first comes to mind for this is a time I went to dokusan during a sesshin, I'd been struggling over the past day and night with a koan. I finally gave an answer that was acceptable and then we talked more about the koan and my answer, expanding on it, bringing in all the other aspects. At one point the teacher made a statement about the meaning of the experience and I nodded my head and said "yes, yes that is it."

"Don't believe me."

Smile faded, "Oh ummm."

Ring

What followed was a pretty little mind hurricane on the cushion. :)
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Carol on Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:39 am

Ko_Shin wrote:What followed was a pretty little mind hurricane on the cushion. :)


Great description of it!
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Pedestrian on Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:00 am

So are we in agreement that it's a particularly important component of the interaction with a teacher? I spent weeks sitting with and reading about the word "intimate" after one of my teachers responded to a koan answer by smiling, shaking her head, and saying, "We're going for something much more intimate." That put some gas in the practice engine, I'll tell you! ;)
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Ko_Shin on Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:53 am

It's been important to me in that it has help me remember to put my own feet on my own path when I needed to.

And I don't think it would be as helpful if the same teacher did not also place the rug carefully and compassionately under me at other times too.
"Whether the water is cold or warm, only you will know, and it is not something you can describe to others."
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Pedestrian on Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:06 am

Ko_Shin wrote:And I don't think it would be as helpful if the same teacher did not also place the rug carefully and compassionately under me at other times too.


Agreed and well said. The idea of someone with whom you haven't established a relationship based in trust trying to pull this stuff -- it just wouldn't work.
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby nowornever on Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:47 am

I was the last. A peronal interview with Andrew Piotrowski JDPSN. I knew we had a lot of time(3 more rounds of sitting) so
I said to him: "We can spend a lot of time talking."
He said: "I prefer a direct question!"
...

The dokusan lasted 1 minute instead of my planned 1 or 2 hours. I felt terrible. After a few years I understood that it was the rug out from under me :)
Thank you for your expectations-plans teaching :)
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Seeker242 on Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:42 pm

"Nope" is the best teaching ever! If a teacher can not pull the rug out from under you, then they fail as a teacher! Either that or you got enlightenment, ha!
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby nowornever on Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:26 pm

I am not sure if I understood. I somehow feel that Seeker242 went from one extreme to the other.
Seeker242 wrote:"Nope" is the best teaching ever! If a teacher can not pull the rug out from under you, then they fail as a teacher! Either that or you got enlightenment, ha!
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby ed blanco on Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:09 pm

Yep. I get headshakes a lot. Now I get silent treatment too, at dokusan, eventually it gets to a 'go back to the cushion.'
I never thought it would be otherwise, though. I don't think it is going away anytime soon.
I am not going away anytime soon either. Well, unless I really go, know what I mean?
:O:
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IN SPEECH YOU HEAR ITS SILENCE

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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Carol on Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:42 pm

I remember a few years ago, I travelled across the country to attend a 10-day Huatou retreat at Dharma Drum with Ven. Chi Chern Fashi. I was ill, it was summer and hot and I don't tolerate heat well. Ven. Chi Chern Fashi's dharma talks focus primarily on "the method" -- and he gives detailed instructions in his talks.

Maybe about the 3rd day of the retreat I went in for a private interview with him and was whining about some part of the method that I found difficult. His reply was "Oh, well, this method isn't for everyone."

That completely floored me. I was outraged! How could he say such a dismissive thing to ME, I thought, when I had travelled thousands of miles to suffer in this heat and illness to do this retreat? He's saying "maybe I'm not up for it -- it's not for ME?" I was so angry that I left the interview as quickly as possible (they don't do the ring you out bit so much in these Chan places) and then went to ask the practice leader in the meditation hall for permission to leave the hall, which he granted.

I then stalked down the hill and across the road onto a large lawn -- fuming all the way -- and threw myself onto the ground where I had a full-blown temper tantrum -- kicking my heels on the ground, if you can imagine a 60-year-old woman doing such a thing! Eventually I wore out my fury and then started laughing.

I can't say a great awakening occurred, but I can say that I had a wonderful laugh at myself that loosened my grip on the identity I was clinging to. The rest of the retreat some interesting energetic things occurred that I can't describe and have not happened again since.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby ed blanco on Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:14 pm

Too funnee our little dramas.
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Seeker242 on Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:39 pm

nowornever wrote:I am not sure if I understood. I somehow feel that Seeker242 went from one extreme to the other.
Seeker242 wrote:"Nope" is the best teaching ever! If a teacher can not pull the rug out from under you, then they fail as a teacher! Either that or you got enlightenment, ha!


What I meant was that if you aren't enlightened and the teacher can't pull the rug out, then they aren't a very good teacher for you, IMO. But if you are enlightened, no one can pull the rug out from under that no matter who they are. IMO of course. :)
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Carol on Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:10 pm

ed blanco wrote:Too funnee our little dramas.
:O:


You know, these are the things we make the self out of. They're so funny when we see them, and so serious when we don't. I wonder how long I'll be struggling with taking myself too seriously? :blush:
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:53 pm

Dramas is a good word for them. Norman Fischer calls 'em "playlets." We all have our roles, whether comic or tragic....
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: When the Teacher Pulls the Rug Out From Under You

Postby nowornever on Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:30 am

I was asked by a teacher after I created the facebook group "Only Real Sittings" to talk to him in a zen temple:
Teacher: "Only real sitting is here!!!"

That pulled the rug out from under me.
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