Discussions of Zen Buddhism in all shapes and sizes.
Quoting and replying, a bit:
It could be good to explore that "weirdness".
"Other" people are not exactly "out THERE", somewhere. There is one being, if that many. Teachers point to this too, not by describing it, but by directing and re-directing one's (Zen Buddhist, say... ) practice correctly, so that one may experience this fact genuinely and deeply, and one may thenceforth live naturally in accord with it.
Totally irrelevant. Except that it gives the teacher insight and encourages one's cultivation to open-up the mechanism and stores of true compassion, through the rising of true wisdom, made possible by correct practice (as understood and promulgated through Zen Buddhism, say). Again, there is one being, if so many as that.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that teachers of the kind in question have a job (to do). It's the student who has a job to do.
How does one respond? The proper response would be to examine oneself to see if one had such tendencies or other damaging tendencies and try to root them out if present. In short, to actually listen to a teacher and apply his/her words.
I can see in others when Buddhism (and Christianity and everything else) is used to reinforce petty egotism, set the inner spoiled child up as a judge and God, and create more blind, self-imposed dysfunction. The hard part is to see when I do it.
I very much welcome Guo Gu's kind warning.
Last edited by Caodemarte on Sat Jul 09, 2016 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If it gives the teacher insight and encourages one's cultivation, I see it as relevant- Not separate-
When speaking about an individual, I continue to feel weird because as you said, there is no other -- no us, no them- I'm shrugging my shoulders and smiling nonetheless ..
^This, yes. Guo Gu is a reliable teacher. We're fortunate that he offers his time and attention to this forum and its participants and joins us in the mud.
Welcome back Chrisd.
"Some people think they are enlightened, some people think they are not enlightened." -- Denko
"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".
Yes, this is on the money, and thank you for saying it. This is true wisdom and correct practice. I will go further and say it is better to have no teacher than the wrong teacher. A teacher merely points the way. This is not Tibetan Buddhism, a lineage that relies on a pre Buddhist guru teacher/student relationship. I suspect they do that because they deal w/ tantric practices, and w/o a good teacher (or someone, anyone,) those practices can easily backfire and consume the individual, as is clearly what happened w/ Trungpa Rinpoche.
Sometimes sitting practice, if not done properly, will result in empowering the ego rather than simply giving us insight into how it functions. There is a razor thin line between correct practice and incorrect practice for teachers and students alike.
I will throw these out as a mini koans of sorts...Who exactly was the Buddha's teacher when he sat down under that tree, and who was his teacher at the precise moment of his enlightenment ? Did he not, according to legend, sit all by himself until he "got it"? Is that same possibility not open to all of us that are diligent and unwavering in our practice? Where exactly was the Buddha's sangha when he sat alone under that tree?
No answers are needed, they are already there in the questions, but one must first look before it is possible to see. It all goes back to Suzuki's brilliant statement that in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few. So would the teacher be in the expert class? Thank you.
It makes sense to go to a teacher who has accomplished what you want to accomplish.
The Buddha Shakyamuni had 5 teachers. The yogis Alara Kalama and Udaka Ramaputta are the ones I remember now. I think their practices were based on mortification of the body.
But Shakyamuni was not satisfied with the results of the practices they taught. He then stopped starving himself, took nourishment, and sat down to continue his meditation after powerfully vowing not to arise until he was finally awake ("with the Earth as [his] witness"). His sighting of the morning star popped his samadhi bubble, and he awoke suddenly.
The value of a teacher cannot be exaggerated. I think one does not awaken unless one has one (to work closely with), and many and various other cooperating causes and conditions, in addition.
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There is nothing to accomplish. And wanting to is a mistake.
False. You just made that case. Or you could say he acted as his own teacher after five fruitless experiences, that he "taught" himself, as others might do, too. Not bloody likely that others might? Maybe, but still possible.
But don't take my word for it on any of this: ask your own teacher! (No potential conflict of interest there, of course.)
*Having said the above, I'll admit that if I lived within some reasonable distance of a teacher like Guo Gu, I'd go there gratefully, having seen much of his work here.
The work of Gotama with his five teachers was hardly fruitless.
In any case, it is theoretically possible to wake up without a "spiritual friend (teacher)," but the number of actual awakenings in this manner are "too small to talk about" as is commonly said. Sokei-an said he thought he had resolved dozens of koans with awakenings while he lived far from his teacher in America during the 1930s or so. When his teacher finally came to America and met him face-to-face, Sokri-an said he realized he had resolved nothing and had not had true awakenings. That is the value of a teacher! You can see yourself without distortion when you face another.
Say, to learn to play the 'cello, piano, or play golf well, it's good to see a pro'.
And it's only "wanting" to play the instrument, or the game, that is going to get you to lessons, and to excellence following the ten-thousand hours deep and continued training.
To practice Zen Buddhism, a teacher is necessary. It's just a fact about 2000 years old, or more. "Buddha; Dharma; and Sangha", are the three jewels. In that trio, the Zen Buddhist teacher is Buddha.
I think everyone should doubt that if the Buddha had not had teachers, he could ever have awakened, despite his strong spirit of questioning begun after he left the palace about why suffering, illness, and death exists.
Very often in the group of practitioners surrounding the teacher (sangha), we find the other cooperating causes and conditions for strong practice, and for awakening, and cultivation after awakening.
There must by now be many Chan or Zen Buddhist teachers distributed over the map. Guo Gu is good, yes, and there are others, both older and younger than Guo Gu. He was for long a monastic disciple of our teacher, and I am a lay disciple, of Ch'an Master Sheng Yen, and Guo Gu is my Dharma brother, and friend. My name is Guo Xiang.
I can recommend him!
Time and distance are constant problems for lay practioners. The ancients solved the problem by walking or riding great distances under dangerous conditions. We can go to retreats by airplane, bus, car, or train. We are very lucky. Now for me to actually use my precious opportunities!
Those experiences actually made Buddha prone to awakening. Those teachers taught Buddha how to develop meditative concentration and absorption and according to the Pali Canon Buddha very fast mastered the four dhyanas and the 4 formless dhyanas. I am not saying that one need to master all those stages, but having some level of meditative concentration or samadhi is one of prerequisites in order to progress on the path towards enlightenment.
And even after one has the first awakening it does not mean that the job is done and teacher is no longer necessary, but can be needed more than before, it is just that the practice is taking another dimension.
P.S. People like Ramana Maharshi or Hui neng are very few. And Hui Neng did have teacher after his first awakening.
"There is no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end" - James Hutton
I agree that that's right. The Fifth Patriarch is also the teacher who, with his sangha, engendered Hui Neng's awakening, and enabled transmission of the robe and bowl, allowing him to become the Sixth Patriarch.
Idle talk about "not needing a teacher" is moot (by now; or, should be).
Not to make an analysis too simplistic, but to make it clear, I'd say that It seems to me there are two "types" who participate in the idle talk: First, there are those who know that a teacher is needed, because that is not only in the nature of human beings in delusion, but it is the nature of the Zen Buddhist tradition to make the pointing -- and the mind-transmission -- from person-to-person, mind to mind; And, there are those who don't know that a teacher is needed, and hence don't know the Zen Buddhist tradition, nor much about human nature, both of which "don't know's" are naturally a part of the delusion (so, no blame).
Bottom-line, one hopes it all works out for everyone!, without much harm done.
**A smiley face can really mitigate condescension and arrogance. Actually, let me tone that down, and substitute "bombast" for those last two qualities. I should try using it! (The smiley face, that is.)
This is a good point. Buddhist teachings are sometimes dervative and eclectic. Especially true for The Four Noble Truths (in following parentheses) vis-a-vis ayurvedic medicine: 1. Disease (dukkha); 2. Etiology (attachment, wanting, selfishness); 3. Prognosis (a cure is possible, but not easy); 4. Remedy (Sila, Samadhi, Prajna). --(David Brazier, Zen Therapy)
**See above. Where's that smiley face?! (Bold mine)
Buddhist compassion on the ZFI channel!
I'm sure Buddha's very last teaching may be subject to various interpretations, but, nonetheless, this is what it was:
Not so bold.
Anyway, this is a thread about a teacher's job. It's not about the need and value of teachers (which is moot). A new thread can be started to address what's off-topic in this thread. It may still be moot, but that's up to the thread-starter, and we'll see.
Not at all a statement about a teacher's job (duties, responsibilities, etc.), but likely intended to be about the need and value of that teacher.
Not a problem if a teacher defends the value and need of the teaching profession in this venue, or the nature of the job and what it should entail from teacher's and student's perspectives, but problematic to judge it.
P.S. Guo Gu described some students' behavior to "flower-hopping", taking a little from this teacher, and then that one. In my Jukai class in November,1994, at Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a woman described to us her experience over the years in the same terms, and hoped committing now would change things. Shimano's reply? "Good ruck!"
I sat with him a few evening times there at "the New York Zendo" in the late 1970s (when I was already a disciple of the Ch'an monk and teacher, Ven. Sheng Yen). I liked the kinhin proceeding outdoors into the back courtyard, even in the cold Autumn weather, in bare feet. And I liked the tea-room and conversation upstairs afterwards , ...and the tea.
This wasn't multi-flower-dipping: I was introducing a friend to practice who -- unlike myself -- was not willing or able to take the extra time to travel the extra distance by train regularly to Sheng Yen's place in Queens. Thus, the Shobo-Ji temple on E. 67th was a lot more convenient to him. But he didn't want to go to the zendo alone for his first few times, so I went along-with.
In those days, the Kongo-Ji retreat place in the Catskills still had not even been planned or built yet.
Although I valued the Roshi's teisho(s), and conversation over tea in the City, Eido Roshi himself was more important to me much later when he kindly put me in touch with his sangha's carpenter. This was when I, as a woodworker myself, was doing a survey on details of kyosaku sticks used (in America) by various lineages. The info I gleaned this way from over half a dozen sanghas around the country helped me to make better sticks.
Rev Guo Go,
Do you know PERSONALLY of any Chan/Zen teachers in the UK you could recommend?
Unless you have a meditation centre in your own town or city, it could be a difficult and expensive undertaking to travel around meeting many teachers. And even then... How would an inexperienced trainee be able to qualify what was or wasn't a good teacher to train with.
With deepest respect.
Remember teachers are not some mystical beings, they are humans and students themselves. So perhaps a way to identify a "good" teacher would be to find one you can be friends with, a personality that resonates with yours.
They are not there to act as a GPS on the way to enlightenment but more to give you nudges as you figure things out for yourself.
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