Characteristics of a Capable Teacher

Post Reply
DGA
Former staff member
Posts: 8767
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm
Contact:

Characteristics of a Capable Teacher

Post by DGA » Mon Mar 14, 2016 12:24 pm

This post in a different thread reminded me of a question that has been percolating in my head in recent weeks.
Monlam Tharchin wrote:
jundo cohen wrote:It is not. So if other folks stop making a big deal of such things, who sits in front of the room and who in back, it is not important in the least. Let us all sit together everywhere, beyond front or back!
Perhaps I misunderstand your point, but it very much matters who has experience and who doesn't and how they represent that, especially when people are seeking guidance.
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... 73#p328425

Suppose I am interested in practicing Soto Zen under the direction of a capable teacher.

What are the characteristics of a trustworthy master in this tradition?

asking on behalf of a friend.

User avatar
jundo cohen
Posts: 650
Joined: Thu Apr 12, 2012 7:57 am
Contact:

Re: Characteristics of a Capable Teacher

Post by jundo cohen » Mon Mar 14, 2016 1:55 pm

Hi DGA,

I am happy to respond in my small view as one Soto fellow for your "friend."

In my view, a good Zen or any Buddhist Teacher (not only Soto) is one who will use any number of expedient means, methods, teachings and medicines to help individuals realize non-self, the wholeness of Emptiness, the presence and meaning of Buddha Nature, the Wisdom and Compassion embodied in the Precepts and any number of other Mahayana Buddhist and Zen Teachings for liberation from Dukkha and the rescue of Sentient Beings.

This "realization" means both the realization of knowing and the realization of "making real" in this life, for our way is called "Practice-Enlightenment". It is our moment by moment words, thoughts and acts by which the rubber meets the road, and Buddha is brought to life. One can realize a Boundless Light and Unconditioned Purity that steps through and beyond, is fully present in ... yet is not at all ... this world of sometimes beauty and ugliness, pure and impure, rain or shine.

Our central core way ... although not our only way, by any means ... is Zazen, in which we sit in Total Completion and "Nothing More To Attain, No Other Place to Go" in that time of sitting.

Not every Teacher or Teaching is good for every person, by the way.

That is my short answer.

Gassho, Jundo
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

User avatar
Monlam Tharchin
Posts: 1539
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Characteristics of a Capable Teacher

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Mon Mar 14, 2016 3:44 pm

How is one to determine any of those qualities?

User avatar
jundo cohen
Posts: 650
Joined: Thu Apr 12, 2012 7:57 am
Contact:

Re: Characteristics of a Capable Teacher

Post by jundo cohen » Mon Mar 14, 2016 4:20 pm

Monlam Tharchin wrote:How is one to determine any of those qualities?
Hi Monlam Tharchin,

It is not easy to identify a capable and trustworthy teacher in the Buddhist world, any more than one can find a capable and trustworthy doctor, employee, car mechanic or spouse to marry in the day to day world ... ... and, in fact, some of the same advice applies to all in various ways:

It is helpful to look at credentials, history, what they have written and how it resonates for you, the larger Sanghas and organizations they belong to, who trained and authorized them (their teacher), their reputation among their long time students, that their ethical record is free of reports of any problems, how long they have been active, and the like. Is their anything about them that makes them seem insincere or doubtful (like the sometime teachers who, like people in other callings, sometimes fake their credentials or have rumors of mistreatment of students circulated about them). Talking to people who are part of their Sangha, seem down to earth and not dreamy eyed folks who "drunk the coolaide", and who give a balanced and realistic assessment is perhaps the best way to go. If there are many reports that the teacher has been effective with many folks, good chance he or she is a good teacher!

Finally, one has to dive in, try them out and give it some time. Go with your gut about whether there is resonance and the relationship seems healhy, helpful and right. Unfortunately, that may take a bit of time, but give it a few weeks or months, and the benefit of the doubt.

I would also say not to have dreamy, idealized or stereotyped images of what a good teacher should be. Sometimes the fellow who seems human, or has a few small blemishes is the best teacher. We learn sometimes from their foibles and human side (I am not talking about someone who is, for example, truly prone to bad behavior, but just someone who seems human). The fellow who seems too much trying to project a stereotyped image of mystical perfection may be anything but.

Anyway, that is the best that any of us can do. Oh, and follow your heart! Luck and good Karmic connections (as they say old school) helps too.

Gassho, J
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

boda
Posts: 1664
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:40 pm

Re: Characteristics of a Capable Teacher

Post by boda » Mon Mar 14, 2016 5:34 pm

Jundo wrote:If there are many reports that the teacher has been effective with many folks, good chance he or she is a good teacher!
Effective in what way?

muni
Posts: 4301
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:59 am

Re: Characteristics of a Capable Teacher

Post by muni » Mon Mar 14, 2016 7:20 pm

a good Zen or any Buddhist Teacher
Many pointings I heard to Zen, show many wonderful fingers pointing to nature. My respect to Zen practitioners. Guess, I have some karmic connections...
Maybe we can say the description of selfless action speech and mind is a basic description for any Awaken ( this is meant with capable?) Buddhist Teacher.

This quote as well:
“Spending your time with true spiritual friends will fill you with love for all beings and help you to see how negative attachment and hatred are. Being with such friends, and following their example, will naturally imbue you with their good qualities, just as all the birds flying around a golden mountain are bathed in its golden radiance.”
Buddha said all is empty like my brain.
Let’s make a selfie!

Having meditated on love and compassion, I forgot the difference between myself and others. Yogi Milarepa.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests