The other day, I was made aware of an unlucky mail exchange between two Zen teachers, posted in this blog. Usually I am not much interested in gossip and communication gone wrong, but this discussion rises the interesting question what qualifies someone to be a Zen teacher.

In addition to my earlier comments (“The Hidden Master”, “Teaching Zen” and “Licensed Pilots, and other Things”) on a similar topic, I will try to list some criteria I consider important. Hopefully, they will help you to find a good teacher, who…

  • … practised regularly Zazen for many years, and still does practise.
  • … has intensively worked with a good teacher for a long time.
  • … has gained teaching experience as student, helper and assistant teacher on many sesshin or seminars with a lot of different students.
  • … has received an o.k. (in a formal or informal way) from his teacher, that he or she is qualified to teach. 
  • … has developed a certain amount of compassion for his or her students.
  • … feels confident and happy to teach.

What I consider not sufficient, even not at all important to judge a Zen teacher’s qualification, is his or her…

  • … nationality. 
  • … success in the “Japanese Zen-Monk Look-Alike Competition”.
  • … monastic status or position within an organisation.
  • … teaching license, issued by some authority.
  • … title (such as “Master”, “Roshi”, “Sensei”, ….).
  • … business concept, driving the students into a ranking- and career system. 
  • … number of students.
  • … number of Zen-books published.

Don’t let you fool by shiny titles or a master-like appearance, judge yourself if the person in question is a real, authentic Zen teacher, worth your dedication, time and money!

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