Teaching Zen

With a Zen-friend, who is leading a Dojo in the south of Germany, I recently discussed which qualifications one should have for teaching Zen. Is it just showing how to properly sit on a pillow? Does it require a deep understanding of Buddhist literature and philosophy? Is an impressive personality with a master-like behaviour necessary?

Many years ago, I did not much enjoy teaching Zazen and Hitsuzendo. Most participants of our Sesshin were just going on my nerves. Was it their strange behaviour, their over-expectation, their demanding attitude or their laziness … what so ever, no student who came, was right. Only politeness towards my former teacher and ignorance towards our students made me not correct and criticise them all day long. I am sure, during all these years, I was a pretty bad assistant and teacher…

Fortunately, nowadays, all students coming to my Dojo are just right!

Did they change that much? I don’t think so … still, some appear to me a bit like big rocks or boulders tumbling down and blocking the way; others sit on their pillow like withered flowers in urgent need of water. Some students’ mind flies here and there, busy like the bumblebees breeding at my house; and others’ progress seems like that of a snail, aiming to climb up a high mountain …  very few are just the person they are, possibly close friends of the Buddha in the Zendo or in the garden of my Dojo.

My teaching is not much different from all the years before, just showing how to sit in a good and healthy posture on a pillow and breath deeply. Alas, it took me so many many years until I could learn how to just be there and see, and not criticise.

Today, I believe, the most important qualification required for teaching Zen is compassion. Enlightened or not, saint or samurai, witch or devil, I don’t care! Whoever takes the effort to come to my Dojo and practice Zazen with his or her own body, is heartily welcome!

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