As a teacher for BDU, I try to help people with their Buddhist studies. In this case, the classes I am involved with are:
- The Mirror of Zen - Zen Master So Sahn
- The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment
- Dropping Ashes on the Buddha - Zen Master Seung Sahn
- Swampland Flowers - Zen Master Ta Hui
When I started researching meditation, around 1990, I found whole array of books with all kinds of ideas. Of all this research, the Zen books were the most interesting. Even narrowing it down to Zen books, I still spent a lot of time going down blind alleys, reading books that were less useful, or getting hung up on author's descriptions of enlightenment. Of course, I am happy to have done all of that as it has been a worthwhile quest. Although I did a lot of this research on my own, I also found some very necessary Zen friends along the way to help me. At this point, I am able to help others with their search.
As a teacher in the Five Mountain Zen Order, I have been granted authority to teach Zen students. I have worked as a novice teacher and have received Inka, meaning I can now teach without requiring a supervising teacher. For the most part, it means I help students with their Koan practice, usually on-line using Skype or ooVoo. It also means I have the responsibility of helping people wake up - not by explaining it to them, but by helping them to find it in themselves. It also means, if I wanted, I could break from Five Mountain and create my own Sangha. I am happy being part of Five Mountain. It is a very high class organization, and the teachers there really are in the world with helping hands.
So what is the point of this post? Zen Master Wonji, the leader of Five Mountain, told me that none of the teachers in FMZO ever asked him to be a teacher! I was no exception, Master Wonji asked me if I wanted to be a teacher multiple times over a period of years before I finally agreed. The funny thing is, I really didn't feel like I had anything to offer. Zen really is like selling water by the river.
On the flip side, we have had students who want to be teachers or monks. They ask about it. What do they need to do to become teachers? Why can't they be teachers, now? Historically, there are some Zen Masters who authorize many to teach and some who authorize few, or even none. Why would someone want to be made a teacher? Is there an ego boost? Waking up is not about ego. Is there a title boost? Waking up is not about titles. The reason we let people know that we are authorized to teach Zen is because we want to help others to wake up. Otherwise, what is the value?
Wanting to be a teacher is a big mistake. Wanting enlightenment is a big mistake.