Discussions of Zen Buddhism in all shapes and sizes.
over the span of over two years i've noticed on this forum that there are quite a few ppl who don't really appreciate the role of teachers in the chan/son/zen tradition. they fancy themselves with the self conceit that they don't need anyone, especially teachers, or they hold onto views that they can make it on their own like bees, taking a little from this teacher, and taking a little from that teacher (like flower hopping taking pollen here and there), or they have such an anti-authoritarian bias that skew things so far to the left that they can't possibly imagine their views might be problematic. after many years of practice, they are the same old self--still vexed, still stubborn, still infecting others with their vexations like spreading germs. like a rock soaking in water--even after two decades, the rock is still the rock.
i was browsing the words of jiexian today, and came across something that shows what a teacher does, how s/he train students, and the caveats that comes up in practice. i thought i share it here. the passage is in the book Attaining the Way (http://www.amazon.com/Attaining-Way-Gui ... 1590303725). for those who are already practicing under a teacher, this may inspire you to practice harder with your teacher. for those who are practicing alone, this may inspire you to find a teacher. for those who refuse to study with anyone, this post may stir up vexations.... but i invite you to examine within yourself.
words of chan master yuanyun jiexian (1610-1672):
"As for the secret of successfully cutting through [various layers] barriers, the work lies in pressing and pushing the practitioner; the abstruse subtlety lies in turning the practitioner around; and the power depends on giving the practitioner guidance and spurring on his development. If the master does not give the practitioner guidance, then he may travel a path that leads off in the wrong direction. If the master does not spur the practitioner’s development, then the fire [of his determination] will not burn hot enough. If the master does not press and push him, the practitioner’s discriminatory faculty will not be cut off. If the master does not turn the practitioner around, his thief-like sentiments will not come to an end...
There are some practitioners who are in the prime of life and hale and hearty and full of energy, but whose Chan investigation becomes shallower by the day. To deal with those who are alive but cannot put to death [their mind of delusion], the master must use killing methods. There are those who are called veteran practitioners, who are deeply absorbed in their meditation work, but for whom indifference has become a sickness, and who cannot transform their clinging [to this]. With them, the master must use methods that bring them to life. If [a supposed master] uses methods that bring life when he should use methods that kill, he will pierce through and break the practitioner where he is weakest. [This mistaken use of methods shows that this so-called master’s] Chan is not genuine. Often it is very easy to accept emptiness and receive echoes. If a supposed master uses methods that kill when he should use methods that bring life, the practitioner will be sunk in apathetic nihilism, and the disease will become incurable. The master should not add more chains to the fetters the practitioner is wearing. If we assess supposed masters who are not enlightened, ninety percent of them use methods that kill, while only ten percent use methods that bring life. This is because killing methods are easy to apply, while life-giving methods are hard to use...
In sum, if practitioners do not encounter [genuine] training and tempering [at the hands of a true Chan master], then they will drink the bitter dregs to the end, and totally waste their spiritual energy. They will exhaust a lifetime of strength wearing through the seat of their pants [in sitting meditation], but have no way to penetrate through to liberation. If masters do not know how to train and temper practitioners, then they will scan the horizon in vain while rigidly holding to lifeless routines, and they will be unable to take action to cut through [practitioners’ delusions]. Even if they preside over so-called Chan centers for decades, it will all be in vain and they will not turn out anyone [capable of perpetuating the life of wisdom]..."
more can be found in jiexian's and other teachers' words.
this post is not to sanction the teacher, that a teacher is always right. of course not! and one should be careful not to grant someone that authority. that said, a teacher is absolutely important. yet, a lot rest on affinity... sometimes there's affinity with a teacher but a barrier sets btn them (e.g., long distance or wrong timing). other times, it is only through some hardship and problems working with one teacher that one finally meets a genuine teacher. once a person has found a teacher and the relationship deepens, then s/he should do everything s/he can to stay with the teacher and soak up everything.
a good teacher sees students as friends, and will not hold her/himself up on the pedestal, will never harm students (psychologically or physically). a good teacher has flaws, but is quick to admit them and strives to overcome them. a good teacher continues to practice and knows her/his place, is humble. her/his job is to clear away the obstacles of delusion so students can be awakened so as to continue the three jewels in the world in whatever lineage the teacher belongs to. this is the life of the teacher.
Dear Guo Gu,
Thank you for your post, and for your presence on the forum.
I was especially struck by this statement: "If the master does not turn the practitioner around, his thief-like sentiments will not come to an end... "
I wonder what "thief-like" sentiments are.
Thank you for clarifying the nature of student-teacher relationship, and its importance. I'm definitely motivated to cultivate and commit to such a relationship in my practice, and this post has spurred me on even more so!
"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." -Andrè Gide
Thank you Guo Gu!
To Jessica's question...I wonder if it is the same as when we are trying to manipulate someone, because we think we know what is better
for them for their own good, lurking, waiting for the "right moment" to interrupt, etc?
the thief mind is a technical term in chan. in chinese it is touxin 偷心. the thief is a metaphor for that which steals one's wisdom life.... the mind that refuses to do the hard work of practice, that likes to take short cuts, that cheats oneself and others, etc.
Wow, good posting! Zen Master Bon Haeng like to describe his job as "pulling the rug out from under people". I guess that would be the "killing method".
Could this also be referred to as "cleverness"? Or perhaps too much cleverness? It seems some zen people can become too clever for their own good. At least, that has been my experience. .
Perhaps these people are suffering from too much cleverness!
Kill a cat, with a dried shit stick, under a cypress tree in the courtyard, while eating three pounds of flax! Only a cow goes Moooo!
seeker, and others
thanks for asking. cleverness is not the issue; many chan masters were extremely bright ppl. it's only an obstruction to practice when it works toward self-referential ends.
a teacher is able to temper students because s/he has been there and is working through all the tricks, games, props of delusion. for example cleverness is a problem if it is under the control of:
the discursive proliferation--creating all kinds of narratives and stories--about this and that that we take as real (prapañca; 戯論);
the imaginative discrimination, erroneous assumptions, false notions about ourselves or others (kalpanā or vikalpa; 分別);
the constructs, contrivances, and fabricating reasons to weasel out of situations (parikalpana; 虛妄);
finally, our grasping (āgraha; 執著) onto views (dṛṣṭi 見).
i typed out these words because they are the big ones to watch out for. if fundamental ignorance--in the three poisons (ignorance, craving, and aversion)--is the architect that designs this house of samsara, then it is these mental states that actually build and perpetuate this house. they work in concert and under the supervision of the other two of the three poisons: craving and aversion.
as practitioners, what we can take from this is that we must expose their games, props, and tricks that these discursive proliferation, discrimination, constructs, and grasping of views present us from moment to moment. but exposing them is not enough. we must learn to be composed amidst of them and not be pushed or pulled by them. in time, they become weak and we are able to experience the world without being filtered by them. we let go. in letting go, we come to life to our life without shackles. meditation work--even the simple method of working with the breath where we recognize wandering thought and return to the method--allows us to do this. why? because one is trained to return to what's actually happening--the breath--as opposed to how one imagines or wish it to be. there's no way around it. lip service zen is just talk--when it comes to these vexations, it stands no chance. these discursive proliferation, discrimination, constructs, and grasping of views will have one dance around in circles in no time.
chan/son/zen practitioners should be well aware of these minions that builds this house of samsara. if we practice like this, you not only help yourself but also help your teachers. if you don't have a teacher, then a teacher will appear in your life.
as for those who stubbornly sits in stillness, chan master jiexian calls them those who just, "accept emptiness and receive echoes." for them, if causes and conditions are there, a teacher must bring them back to life and spark the fire within... this is when "creating a wave with no wind" is necessary.
that said, there are no fixed states. ppl are complex... practice change, and so do ppl. a person may go through phases in their practice. in a teacher-student dharma relationship, the teacher observes and tempers a student accordingly.
I think I'm the type of people/person you describe-
Please Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
Because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tine bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
you're the type. may you realize your true name...
Thanks Gu Guo.
This reminds me of the last prayer of Dudjom Rinpoche, it's a good read to remain humble may we be lost in arrogant self-grasping.
Mijn Oude Vriend uit de woestijn begrijpt geen Nederlands. <3
I don't have a teacher although I would like one...could probably DO with one. Geographical situations being different I would seek out Steve Hagen of Dharmafield, but...
I don't have a Scooby-Doo of someone close (or not so) I could fit with.
A monk asked: ``Who is the one who holds the sword in the state?''
The Master said: ``Ts'ao-shan.''
The monk said: ``Whom do you intend to kill?''
The Master said: ``I shall kill all.''
The monk said: ``Suppose you suddenly met your parents. What will you do?''
The Master said: ``Why discriminate?''
The monk said: ``But there is yourself!''
The Master said: ``Who can do anything about me?''
The monk said: ``Why not kill yourself?''
The Master said: ``No place to start.''
A monk asked: ``What kind of people are always sinking into the sea of life and death?''
The Master answered: ``The second month.''
The monk said: ``Don't they try to free themselves?''
The Master said: ``Yes, they do but there is no way out.''
The monk said: ``If they are free, what kind of people will accept them?''
The Master said: ``Prisoners.''
Question: ``Whenever there is any question, one's mind is confused. What is the matter?''
The Master said: ``Kill, kill!''
Mijn Oude Vriend uit de woestijn begrijpt geen Nederlands. <3
As a low level (and lowly!) teacher...i have always thought my job was to just show up and be there. To be present among the Sangha is truly a great gift.
Good luck and thanks for practicing,
You make, you get
New Haven Zen Center
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests