A Pretty Cool Job

In May I opened my new Dojo, and luckily without further advertisement nice people start attending the “Zen Introduction” and regular classes. I very much do enjoy exchange with the interesting characters who found their way into my Dojo the past couple of weeks. Not much of a chance the place will ever become a dulled “House of Silence”, there is plenty enough Sound of Silence when we sit on our pillows …

The other day a mother of an eleven years old son told me she had difficulties explaining to him what she is actually doing in the Dojo. Just sitting on a pillow, not talking … and the “teacher” is also silent most of the time.

zendo“Zen-teacher sounds like a pretty cool job” her son replied, “even I can do it!”. “Let’s decorate our garden hut with some drapery, and people coming will pay me for doing nothing!”.

If running a place to study Zen was just that easy … a bit of decoration, and anything else to do is making people sit down, shut up (and pay). Said that, sometimes I get the impression certain Zen Dojo operate exactly that way: a place like a silent torture chamber with a pay slot, and all you can learn over the years is suffering silently in a prescribed posture. Well, you get what you pay for …

What then is “teaching Zen”? My approach after studying with and assisting good teachers over a long time, making many sorts of good and bad experiences, is: I can allow others to observe and participate my Zen-Way. Not just passively, as an onstage show-case which could as well be recorded and presented on youtube or TV, but actively, in a communicating fashion. When you come through the Dojo door, when you sit on your pillow, I see you, I see who you are … and if our communication succeeds, I have something to show to you which might help to improve your life!

My wish is this … not “teaching”, not “lecturing”, but an invitation to “participate” and “study” what I gratefully received and experienced with my teachers over decades of Zen-practise. The message might not arrive at first glance, we are so used to titles, authorities and other people cramming information into our over-full brains. Studying Zen is different, it starts with creating an empty space to allow growing something new. A garden hut is maybe not a bad place, I seriously thought about this alternative … just for the ambitious smart-pants: forget the drapery and the donation box for the time being!