The Role of the Teacher
Taking refuge in the Buddha generally means taking refuge in a formal teacher. Even though the Buddha encourage us to verify the teachings from our own experience, the teacher’s role in our practice can certainly accelerate our spiritual development. In modern times, the teacher/student relationship has increasingly complex due to the nature of cultural context of the west. With the advent of the digital age, the types of relationships between the student and their teacher multiple ten folds as teachings/transmissions transcend the limitation of physically. Explore how these practitioners view their relationships with their teachers.
Teachers on the subject
With the commercialization of Buddhism in the west, the teacher’s role is in danger of being relegated to a popularity contest. Traditional Buddhist teachers accept ‘dana’, a donation based form to honor the teacher but in our modern world, that system has become less sustainable. Teachers not only have to grapple with making a living in a modern world but the cultural complexity of a stained student/teacher relationship.
Teachers from different lineages
Jogen Salzberg, Sensei has been practicing Zen since 1997, he entered monastic training at Great Vow in 2003 and received Dharma Transmission from Chozen Bays, Roshi and Hogen Bays, Roshi in 2017.
My experience with Tibetan Buddhism as both a student and teacher has been truly life changing. I have been drawn to the Himalayan region of the world since I was a small child, and realizing that the path I was on wasn't working , more than 20 odd years ago, I started to study the Buddhadharma in earnest.
I started my Zen practice in 1975, got ordained in 1980, and trained in Japan briefly from the fall of 1981 to February of 1982, so I had one training season there.
Mark is an authorized Guiding Insight Meditation teacher who began his meditation practice more than 45 years ago with insight meditation teachers Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield. His primary teacher has been Joseph Goldstein, and he has trained more recently with guiding senior insight teachers Rodney Smith and Narayan Liebenson. His teaching emphasis is the essentials for a skillful wise affectionate life and how Mindfulness/Awareness in all aspects of daily life can provide an opportunity for Awakening.
“No sessions, no breaks.” This is a saying in the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition that seems to be the theme for my spiritual journey.
Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat Roshi is abbot of the Zen Studies Society’s mountain monastery, Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji, and New York City temple, New York Zendo Shobo-ji, and is also abbot of the Zen Center of Syracuse Hoen-ji in Syracuse, NY.
Well, first of all, when I was young, I was I was interested in Zen. And, you know, interestingly, there's a connection between music and Buddhism for me because my very first violin teacher, he was interested in Zen Buddhism. And, and so he would he would sometimes say a few things. He was really amazing guy just, you know, really talented in so many areas of, kind of kind of a genius type. Um, and, um, yeah. So, you know, based on that, I thought, oh yeah, that sounds like a really cool thing. So I explored a little bit, right, a little bit when I was young, you know, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I love that.
My one year old son came running up to me, Daddy, Daddy! He put his arms around my leg and he hugged my leg and this probably isn’t what happened, but this is what I remember. I kind of shook him off because I was busy. I’m important. I got stuff to do right, plugged it out, went to the office, and then I went off to Brazil and sometime later this came back to me like a ton of bricks. Oh, my goodness. What happened there? And I realized, you know, with a little reflection that I was missing what really mattered in life. So actually, I started listening to a series of lectures on classical music, and Bach dedicated every manuscript he wrote, including the practice pieces for his kids to Jesus Christ, studied, listened to medieval polyphonic masses, and somehow or other they would just hit me.
So my parents immigrated in the 1970s. And so I grew up there and I was born into a Won Buddhist household. My dad was a very devout Won Buddhist. My mom was a Presbyterian.
So my my spiritual journey, I started the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship about almost nine years ago after reading a book called River of Fire River of Water. And it was interesting because I had picked up the book off of the used bookshelf many times before. It had put it down, put it down, put it down. And then one day it just picked it up and read it. And it was pretty transformative, even though I didn’t I even though I didn’t buy everything in the book, like hook, line and sinker and like, Oh, this is Nirvana and this is what I wanted.
Geshe Denma Gyaltsen was born in the Dolpo region of northern Nepal. In 1981 his father brought him to Menri Monastery in India, regarded as the most important Bön monastery, to begin his program of study toward the Geshe degree.
Alejandro is a Senior Teacher of The 3 Doors, an international organization founded by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche with the goal of transforming lives through meditation, and since 1995, he has been teaching meditation classes and Tibetan Yoga (Tsa Lung & Trul Khor) workshops nationally and internationally under the auspices of Ligmincha International.
And when I arrived in India in 1971, I went up to the Himalayas and did a trek from outside of Katmandu to the base camp of Mount Everest. And during that trek, I there were no hotel walls or roads, just paths and the Tibetan villages. And so one could either stay in the home of a Tibetan family and you could sleep on the floor and share their food, or you could stay in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. And so that's where I first got introduced to Buddhism was on that trek to the base camp of Mount Everest.
And I was known for talking people down from bad trips and things of that nature. And he said, Oh, I don’t do that anymore. I just do Zen. Okay, well, that’s interesting. What’s that all about? And so I said, Well, I’m going this weekend. Why don’t you come with me? So that weekend I went with him to the temple on Halsted Street near Fullerton, on the North side of Chicago. I met Matsuoka Roshi, who became my teacher, so I sort of backed into that. Like everything else, I think I’d read maybe a book on Zen or to not not much.
I resonated with Buddhism because of its emphasis on silent meditation. I was always attracted to silent meditation, remembering the quiet time after Communion and silent prayer in Christian traditions. The old saying, “Be quiet and you will know God."
But I went to this bookstore, I got there and I was soaking wet with sweat, and I went to the bathroom and I’m standing in the stall and I’m take off my clothes and I’m flapping my clothes trying to dry them off, you know, and and I was like, God, this is just not a way to live, you know? And and the reason I was going to this, bookstores, I love books, but also they had a Starbucks and I was going to get my Frappuccino and my chocolate chip cookie, you know, and as I came out of the bathroom and headed for that Starbucks there, as I passed by an end cap of books, and there was this white cover book with a slice of an orange on it, and it just said, savor mindful eating, mindful living. And I don’t know why that caught my attention. I don’t know why I even bothered picking it up. And, you know, I don’t know. But I picked up that book and I saw it was by this Buddhist monk and a Harvard nutritionist.
I would go to bookstores and actually the first book a guy recommended to me was, um, Sex, Spirituality and Ecology by Ken Wilber. And it's a thick, rough going read, right? But I dove into it and it just kind of really opened me up and I thought, okay, I'm going to go further. And I started reading other stuff of his and of course he talks about Buddhism and the relative and the absolute and, you know, these kind of things in there. And one thing led to another. I picked up a book by showing him Trungpa, uh, spiritual materialism, I think it was. And I read two or three of his others, uh, and then I found a book by Sylvia and became the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and which is written in even more plain English than Trump was even.