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About Zen Teachers

What’s the Good of Zen Teachers? by Domyo Burk

Why, in a tradition like Buddhism in which you are supposed to verify everything for yourself, is there such an emphasis on Teachers?

In Zen our relationships to teachers are complex and multilayered. Relationships with teachers, whether brief and informal or long-term and committed, are every bit as complex, nuanced and varied as any of our human relationships. Every teacher-student relationship is different. Like our other relationships, they can be supportive, rewarding, instructive, challenging, frustrating, painful and ambiguous. Like those other relationships, the teacher-student relationship can be transformative. Read on…


Provocative Zen Teachers by Domyo Burk

Some Zen teachers are pussy cats, and some are tigers. Some are emphatic, some are ambiguous, some are dogmatic, and some eschew all dogma. Which Zen teachers are right? Read on…


From others:

“…when visiting a teacher or a center examine the teacher’s students. Are they simply clones-in-training of the teacher? This is probably not a good thing – after all, Zen is about becoming more fully yourself, not becoming more like your teacher. On the other hand, do the students seem to be people you like, and might like to be with? Can you recognize the values they advocate? Are they independent and engaged in the world? Can they joke about themselves? And, importantly, can they joke about their institution and teacher? And more important still: Do they seem to be genuinely on a path that is freeing them from their suffering? “
– Zen teacher James Ishmael Ford, from Zen Master Who? A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen. Read the whole article: Finding a Teacher: What to Look for When Looking for a Zen Teacher

“Teachers who think they are actually teachers teaching something are to be avoided. Good teachers are people who are themselves simply working on their own practice and are willing to share their lives as best they can with others. In this sense the ‘best’ teachers are often the worst teachers; the more briliiant the teacher, the more exciting, the more enlightened, the worse it is for the student. The student ends up lusting after time with the teacher, hanging on her every word, and forgetting that this is about him or her, the student, not the teacher.” – Zen teacher Zoketsu Norman Fischer

Recommended Articles on Teachers:

Unconditionally Steadfast by Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron. Great and personal description of different kinds of teacher-student relationships and how they can be challenging and beneficial to practice.

Listen to/Read more from Domyo’s Podcast: