Nov 042013

Maybe I recently read too much about abusive Japanese Zen Masters living in the West, causing severe harm to their (female) students, their Sangha and the development of Zen outside Japan. Maybe I recently read too much about Western Zen adepts pretending to be fully acknowledged Zen Masters (Roshi) in this or that Japanese tradition, and by and by it turns out they never got any of the titles they claimed, leaving behind desperate students who dedicated a lot of life-time (and money) working with and for their fraudulent want-to-be master. One “Zen Master” (who carefully avoids any hint to his lineage on his numerous web-pages) even boasts one Prof.h.c. and two Dr.h.c. titles you can buy here.

Very well I remember when my former teacher once was asked to translate what his owner supposed to be a “Zen Master’s Certificate” … just a monk’s name written, no master’s title. Proud owner will be enlightened to find out … he said with a smile. Though later friends told me, the mistaken master boldly showed off with a gold-brocade robe and his keisaku skills during a following sesshin.

I’m just so much fed up with all this!!

What is Zen? What is our Zen-praxis? Why and how and with whom do we study?

Not being affiliated with any of these “real” but evil Masters, not claiming any nebulous authority but my former teacher’s allowance to teach what I have learned from him, I am increasingly worried to be lumped together with those people. “You are Zen teacher? Well, I heard about these …!” It feels a bit the same as holding a “real” PhD gained after years of hard-working research, in the face of all the c&p thesis coming to light recently. You feel tempted to hide your qualifications, just to avoid being associated with those who boast with what they never mastered.

Said that, more worried I am about potential students. I well remember my time as a searching and clueless beginner. I hoped to find a “real good” teacher, but how to judge? That ranks, titles and coloured robes are the worst indicator for real qualification I did not know, and was just lucky not to get caught in the trap. Actually, I must admit I initially mistrusted all of my teachers, just because they were lacking of what I considered to be the necessary symbols of a Real Master.

My first encounter with the fabulous Hirokazu Kobayashi, my late Aikido teacher, was seeing an old man with slightly messy hair wearing a yellow t-shirt and carrying four plastic bags in his hands entering our changing room to put on dogi and hakama in the middle of his students. Can he really do Aikido? I wondered …

My Zen-teacher I mistook for a tacky monk’s statue somebody put in the Zendo next to the altar. I was not lightly shocked when the statue suddenly smiled upon my close inspection. Does a real Zen Master just look like that? I wondered …

The Shakuhachi sounded awful, and it seemed much too big for that little old man who sometimes seemed to produce more wind than music. It was so different from any Shakuhachi-CDs I loved to listen … Is that real Shakuhachi? I wondered …

Glad I mistook the old man in working-clothes riding his bicycle up to the temple I visited for Zen praxis not for one of the local farmers, since he was the Roshi … a real one by the way, and not at all evil as far as I know. He appears “just normal” … even when playing with a ball in the Zendo.

Though I fear it might not attract sufficient students to survive and pay the rent, I believe being just normal is the best a Zen-teacher can do. How’s your teacher?Well, nothing special, I guess he is just normal …

Thank you for reading! If you liked it, why not share it with your friends? Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Email this to someone