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Teachers with a Capital T, Lankvatara, Practice, PERIOD.

Obligatory picture of majestic animal completely necessary- If you don't understand, you better ask somebody!

The practice period kicked up with tangaryo,Parinirvana, opening ceremonies, and I was swept away. And now, swept away again- independently studying Lankavatara, while taking Jeremy's (the Tanto) class on Genjo Koan and Fu's (the leader of the practice period) class on the three trainings. In addition, my practice leader and tea teacher is away in Japan, so tea ceremony is on hold. I've been thinking about retiring from calligraphy, also...I've put in a year, took about 6 classes, and it's fun but...not very alive for me. What is alive for me is writing, so I've been work shopping stories with an online writing community and in turn reading a lot more short fiction. Just short fiction for now. And of course, writing here.

 I'm also hanging around our Ecosattva group a lot more. I'm learning about navigating the channels of activism through legal means; I must say, Deep Green Resitance's tactics were much more entertaining, and much more convincing if you're interested in rearranging the chairs on the deck of the titanic, again. However, paying attention to how to draft a letter to our board about devesting from Bank of America is my resignation to bury my hardly used monkey wrench. I'm resigned to practice and organic farming, pushing in ways that don't create more harm, and pulling up a lawn chair to wait for the petroleum apocalypse. I wish DGR the best of luck; they continue to help me decolonize my heart/mind. 

The Lanka continues to challenge. I'm a third of the way the through. I've been taking breaks during interim and I'm not sure that's been helpful. Loosing that momentum makes it much harder to return to the study. I plan to push through after practice period until it's done. I move about 3 pages a day when I can find at least 2 hours to study. However, most pages are really,really packed with Dharma! This morning, I got to the part where the Lanka gives 4 reasons that the purification of the mind takes place in degrees, 2 reasons it happens suddenly, and 2 that are neither nor, and emphasize personal realization as the means of purification. Every time I read this sutra, I think this sutra is not what people think it is, like substantilist or "stage-driven." I also enjoyed reading Branching Streams Flow On in the Dark during the last interim, where Suzuki Roshi says that Jinshu's gradual approach is just as valid as Daikan Eno's sudden approach. It was all I could do from bursting into Tenshin Roshi's dokusan room to tell him the good news. 

On a side and more personal note, Kosho and I have ended our teacher-student relationship. I feel a little heart broken about that and a little lost as I look around here and try and find someone. Ordination, which at some point meant so much to me, seems to be shrouded with formality, possibly privilege (like why is it going to take me three to four years to take novice ordination! I just want to wear the Buddha's robe of drizzle and dew!), and I'm just feeling really aggravated with this whole one teacher model, because I'm not sure it exists. I think if we're sensitive enough, we're being taught by all teachers, all beings, throughout time and space; I sit in practice discussion with Meiya and something is transmitted, I sit with the Lanka and something is transmitted, I get on the tractor and something is transmitted! So...what are we talking about when we talk about teachers with a capital T? 

What do you think? Are these growing pains? Is this just another phase?

Deeply bowing, 


  1. "I think if we're sensitive enough, we're being taught by all teachers, all beings, throughout time and space; I sit in practice discussion with Meiya and something is transmitted, I sit with the Lanka and something is transmitted, I get on the tractor and something is transmitted! So...what are we talking about when we talk about teachers with a capital T?"

    Yes. I'm right there with you on this. It seems really easy to get hooked on this idea of having one person who is "your teacher." And the old Zen models promote this very heavily, perhaps too much so.

    It seems to me that there are periods of life when working with/committing to work with a specific person is absolutely correct. The thing being called for. And it's also true that sometimes, this relationship lasts a lifetime or very long time. But it changes too. Dogen's relationship with Rujing wasn't the same or even similar over the course of his practice life.

    I've heard that priest training takes a really long time out there. Longer than what seems like average at other centers, both lay and other American monasteries. Not sure what exactly is behind that. It makes me think of the stories of wanna be monks who are refused at the monastery gate over and over again. Something about how you respond to the waiting, and not receiving in a certain sense.

    1. It seems pretty slow. I think it might come from trying to express what a long time 3 years is to one of these teachers who have sat here for over 40 years! They just don't hear it, or they do, and know better. My favorite response from these teachers is, "Who's going to stop you?" or "Oh good, you can practice like one now."

      As a result, I do feel more open around it. I can't see it happening and I can't see it not happening. I mean, they'll have to ordain me eventually! But I have no idea who will do it, let alone when.

      3 years is the fast track, by the way. The average is about 6-9. I think it could be done in 2, technically, but I don't know anyone who has done that.

  2. I've looked forward to this evening, when I could read your post slowly, but not this slowly. I stopped to look up Lankavatara, got into storehouse consciousness.... Found a chart of this heirarchy of consciousnesses, and see this must be the origin of "no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body mind" in the Heart Sutra. I have the thought that Zen was founded when somebody ripped all this up and said, It's not here! I had a time of intense study. Then moved far from it. Now moving back, but in a casual way. Koans speak to me. I want to know how to go to that place where there is no hot or cold. I sometimes feel desperate for it.

    You are writing and reading fiction. My favorite short story writer now is in the news with his new book, George Saunders. Big story on him in the NYTimes magazine a few weeks ago. He is a deeply practicing Tibetan Buddhist. I said, I knew it! (another exclamation point). What I knew was the subtlety of his grasp of human motivation and of how hard it is to struggle toward our true selves. His basic virtue, which you don't run across often in literature.

    Myself, I had sudden realization, enormous, and it has taken years and years of gradual realization since then. Everything in you and your context fights to keep you like you were. You are lucky in being seriously at this at your age - fewer decades of bad mental habits and bad friends. I agree with you: most of the work takes place off the cushion.

    I think where you are is auspicious. It sounds like growth to me.

    I have just started adding evening practice to my day. How hard it is to do, how good it feels. Window open. Train whistling four times at the crossing two blocks away.

  3. I just found again a fine treatment of the koan "No heat or cold" by Barry Magid.

  4. What's ironic about the Lanka is that it's supposedly the single text given to the Huike from Bodhidharma. It's like the zen sutra. I've heard these sutras come in and out of style and the heart sutra is what's been hot for the last couple hundreds of years.

    But I agree, it's um...well, just another rendering of the landscape, you know? Like Cezanne paints with a shakey mind and Monet makes everything look underwater, but it's all beautiful, and of course, not what's actually out there or in here, or neither out there or neither in here!

    1. After thought, I'm going to share with you a conversation I had with Daniel Terragno about just what was the path to becoming a Teacher. He finally sighed and said, "Jeanne, in Zen wanting to be a Teacher is considered a bad sign."
      That was worth thinking about. Some time after that, at one of his retreats, one of the most egocentric students started talking about how much she wanted to be a teacher. A person always making a real effort to seem grander than she was (an adjunct, not a professor as she'd said). Then I saw it.
      I don't want it now, but they still haven't tapped me.

    2. Oh, do you think I want to be a teacher? I actually am interested in taking these sutras and turning them into big practice question is can we go beyond living in the light shed from teachings and actually experience what they're talking about...Like, the Lanka says that mind-only is like a raging fire, when fire spreads it takes the shape of everything it consumes, and when we see fire, we react to its element, not so much its for me, if I "want" anything, it's to look at this world of internal and external objects projected from mind and register "mind-only" and react to it as if it were a fire.

      Just to clarify, while I have great respect for teachers here, it's not so benefical to be oneself to be get the same stipend as anyone else, you still work, and you have students, classes, and dharma talks to give...this is less time to be in the zendo, studying on your own, and um, having fun! So, hopefully I can side step that bullet. There's plenty of people who paint that target on their chest, and grattitude for them! Right now, my only dharma position is Anja, (I make tea for the abbess every morning, clean her office and stuff) and that's MORE than's an hour or two a day I used to spend studying and writing.

      Now, it Brad Warner's lineage, it might be a completely different thing to be a teacher...what is his responseability?

    3. Well, you want to be a priest, right? Maybe they think you want that too much, or want it for ego gratification....

      as for being a teacher - a few times I've had the genuine opening to share the dharma with someone who is sick or dying or has had a death in the family, like this - "It's hard. Life is hard." That helps people, you can hear the truth sink in. That is teaching without Buddhist jargon, and it is the best feeling of any kind of giving. They say sharing the dharma has the most merit, and it obviously has the merit for someone else who gets it and is a little better able to deal with their suffering.


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