When evaluating where to practice or seek trustworthy teachings, Aaron employs a discerning approach. He generally avoids projects or lineages that have fractured from a main lineage unless the departure is well-founded and transparent. For Aaron, spending time in relationship with a teacher is crucial, as lineage reproduction involves a teacher granting permission to teach. Departing without such permission may indicate a lack of integrity.

Key considerations in Aaron’s evaluation include examining a lineage’s reputation, addressing recent scandals, and observing whether teachers are ethical, kind, and trustworthy. Personal resonance with teachers and the desire to emulate their qualities also play a significant role. Aaron emphasizes the importance of understanding main lineages active in the Buddhist world to navigate emerging projects effectively.

Aaron advises scrutinizing the length and nature of a teacher’s training, especially the intensity and association with reputable figures. The credibility of claims often relies on the depth of a teacher’s training and their alignment with established lineages. He echoes the sentiment that a good teacher is reflected in the quality of their students.

In summary, Aaron’s approach involves a holistic examination of various factors, such as lineage integrity, ethical standards, teacher-student relationships, and the reputation of lineages. This multifaceted evaluation helps him navigate the complex landscape of Dharma teachings, enabling him to discern trustworthiness and credibility in potential practice environments.


Ben discusses challenges in modern society, emphasizing the abundance of choices and the lack of patience. He reflects on the impact of technology, short attention spans, and constant distractions. In contrast, Ben highlights the unique value of Buddhism, particularly the Nyingma tradition, as a proven solution with a 2600-year history. He underscores the importance of patience, not just for others but for oneself, in cultivating a transformative mental space. Ben observes that while many express interest in working on their minds, only a few commit to the profound and focused practice offered by the Nine Ways Buddha Center, noting the prevalent culture of seeking quick solutions and spreading attention across various activities. Despite the small regular group, Ben finds inspiration in observing people’s diverse motivations and challenges, reinforcing his dedication to the practice and the teachings.

Sensei Michael

In the perspective of Sensie Michael, the text discusses the challenges and responsibilities associated with transmitting Zen teachings and maintaining lineage in the Western context. Sensie Michael expresses concerns about self-anointed teachers and emphasizes the importance of finding a true teacher. The narrative delves into the apprenticeship model of Zen training, drawing parallels to traditional guilds. The text explores the role of lineage as a form of credentialing in a society that values credentials. Sensie Michael touches on the ritualistic aspects of Zen training, such as the chanting of ancestral names and the creation of certificates. The discussion also highlights the adaptation of Zen practices to Western cultural norms, reflecting a blend of traditional and contemporary approaches. Overall, Sensie Michael emphasizes the significance of the lineage in passing down the teachings while acknowledging the need for innovation and adaptation in a Western context.


Pema reflects on the unique emphasis within each religious tradition, such as Christianity and Buddhism, with distinct variations among denominations, sects, and schools. She explains the importance of lineages in Buddhism, where teachers confirm students’ understanding to ensure a clear transmission of teachings. Pema acknowledges potential challenges when practitioners draw teachings from multiple sources with different emphases, especially when lacking a deep understanding.

She highlights the confusion that may arise when attempting to integrate teachings with divergent emphases, using the example of practicing kindness in social interactions versus silent meditation. Pema suggests that, beyond the introductory stage, sticking to one school or teacher can provide consistency and avoid potential conflicts in guidance. Emphasizing the significance of consistent teachings, especially in considering the cultural context of practitioners, Pema underscores the utility of staying within a specific school or with one teacher for clarity and coherence in one’s spiritual journey.