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Sesshin 3 Day 5 Teacher-student relationship

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Now, Suzuki Goshi talks about a student-teacher relationship. But I think if you think about this not just as a student-teacher relationship, but student-student relationship as well, because everything that he says about student-teacher relationship applies to student-student relationship, or teacher-teacher relationship, peer relationship as well as hierarchical relationship. Someday I'll talk about hierarchy, but not right now. Maybe I will. We tend to think that sometimes we don't like the word hierarchy. People don't like the word hierarchy because hierarchy has the connotation


of being domination, because there's a hierarchy, someone's on the bottom and someone's on the top, and then someone else is in the middle somewhere. So we don't like being in the middle. We don't like being on the bottom. We don't like being on the top either. Maybe. We don't mind being on the top, but we don't like it when someone else is on the top, necessarily. But hierarchy just is. There's no way to get rid of hierarchy because in its true sense hierarchy simply means the place of each thing in relation to everything else. So there's no way you can get rid of hierarchy because every single thing exists in relation to everything


else and that's called its hierarchical position. We use higher-archy, higher-archy, maybe lower-archy or middle-archy. It's simply the place that everything has in relation to everything else. So some things are in a high place, some people are in a high place, some people are in a low place on the stem. If you think of the tassajara as a flower, a flower has petals and a stem and various nomenclatures for all the little parts, and so all those little parts add up to a flower, even though the flower is empty. But without all those parts the flower doesn't exist. The flower cannot exist without all of its parts, and those parts are called the hierarchy. So in tassajara


we all exist in a certain, each one of us exists in a place in relationship to all of the other positions and that's the hierarchy. It's not like the hierarchy is the boss position. The boss position is only one, or the top position is only one aspect of the hierarchy. Everyone, if each one of us takes our position seriously and does our best in our position and relates to all the other positions from our position, then each one of us is the boss of the practice period. Each one of us


is controlling the practice period, the person at the bottom of the hierarchy, so to speak. If general labor, if you're general labor, if you're picking weeds and you do that position totally with confidence, without weeping, and just totally are into that, you are controlling the whole practice period, because you are as important, your position is as important as anyone else's position in making the whole thing work. So we say actually, this is what Tatsugami used to say, this practice is the practice of just one monk, with many aspects. So everyone's position is


important. Some positions seem more important than others, but actually each one is as important as any other one. So this is true hierarchy, in that all the parts are working harmoniously together for the same purpose. That's the vertical position. The horizontal position is that everyone is the same. Everyone vertically, horizontally, everyone is on the same level. There's no upper or lower. If you only have hierarchy, then you have power, trip. But because we have the horizontal, we have equality. So the balance of the vertical and the horizontal, just like I was showing you


in the Svastika, the horizontal is equality, the vertical is hierarchy. The wisdom of when manas, our ego, wises up, then we have equality. Everyone is exactly the same. And manu-vijnana becomes the wisdom of seeing everything in its individuality, the vertical. So how these two operate together is where our practice is. Each one of us has our position which is different, and we recognize all the differences, and we appreciate all the differences. That's


vertical. Horizontally, we're all the same. The abbot is no different than general labor. General labor is no different than the abbot. But vertical is vertical, and horizontal is horizontal. Suzuki Roshi used to say to people sometimes, I am the teacher and you're the student. Next lifetime, you can be the teacher and I'll be the student. But this lifetime, I'm the teacher and you're the student. So sometimes the teacher is the student and sometimes the student is the teacher. But even so, the teacher is the teacher and the student is the student. So this is how we understand our relationships. So he says, how a teacher points out the student's mistake


is very important. If a teacher thinks that what his student did is a mistake, he is not a true teacher. And then he qualifies that. He says, it may be a mistake. But on the other hand, it is an expression of the student's true nature. When we understand this, we have respect for the student's true nature, and we will be careful how we point out mistakes. So nobody likes to have mistakes pointed out. Even when we're simply teaching, no one likes to be taught. We say we like to be taught, but when it comes to, we like to be taught theory, but we don't like to be taught actual practice. I want you to chop the carrots like this. Damn it, I like to chop like that. Why


is she telling me what to do? I want you to sound the bell like this. Why are they criticizing me? They don't like the way I do things. We always think in this way. It's so hard to teach somebody something, because we resent. It's not that we resent being taught, but we feel hurt that someone recognizes or feels we're not doing something right. So we're very delicate creatures. We can take a lot of emotional pain, it's really hard. But we're pretty good at that. The thing is, when we criticize, when we teach, it's not criticism, but we receive it as criticism. We take teaching personally.


So the teacher is not criticizing you personally. The teacher is simply saying, I would like you to do it this way, because this is the way we would like to have it done. But we take it personally. It doesn't like me. It's not that it doesn't like me, it's just that he's criticizing me and I'm hurt. So this happens all the time. I've been through this for years, so one has to have some skill. So, how we address the situation is very interesting. Siddhigaraji says, don't think of the mistake as a mistake necessarily, even though it is a mistake. And when you correct someone, how do you correct someone? Who are you addressing, is what he's


saying. He's saying, although when we correct someone, we're correcting their nirmanakaya, but we have to remember that they are dharmakaya as well. So, when we address their nirmanakaya, we're also addressing the dharmakaya. So, because dharmakaya is everyone's true nature, but we only see the nirmanakaya. We don't see the dharmakaya. When we're interacting with each other, we're not aware of the dharmakaya, we're only aware of the nirmanakaya. We're only aware of the manifestation called this person, Joe or Mary or Susan, but behind, or not behind, but


as well, we're addressing the dharmakaya, we're addressing Buddha nature. The thing about Suzuki Roshi that everyone felt so good about and didn't always understand was that he was always addressing your Buddha nature. Whenever he would talk to you or even correct you or whatever, he was always addressing your Buddha nature, your dharmakaya, your essence of mind. So, you didn't ever feel that you were being criticized, really, because he didn't just address you. He was very careful not to offend Buddha nature. I think that's what he means here, he says, when we understand this we have respect for our student's true nature


and we will be careful how we point out mistakes. You know, also, it works the other way around, that sometimes the students will feel offended by having things pointed out which are simply training points, and it's almost never that the students will say, how are we offending you, or how are you managing to deal with all of our mistakes over and over every day without making a fuss? We never think about that. Well, maybe we do, but I never hear it. I never hear people say, I'm so sorry that I keep doing this over and over again, and how can you take this day after day?


Anyway, if we realize that our lack of concentration, our forgetting what is being taught day after day, not paying attention, not how that actually affects the person that's doing the teaching, if we think about that, I think it will help us to work a little harder to do things in a correct way. Sometimes I will make some comments on how I think certain things are going. That's the tip of the iceberg about how I feel. It's the tip-top, tippy-top of this big mountain of how I feel about it. But it's okay, because


I just accept that that's part of my life, totally. So I have no resentments. But it used to be really frustrating. It used to be very frustrating, but I don't let it frustrate me as much as it used to. I remember Suzuki Ryoji saying, when I walk through Tassajara, I don't look from one side to the other. I just go where I'm going. So, in the scriptures, five points are made about how to be careful. One is that the teacher has to choose his opportunity, or her opportunity, and not point out the student's mistake in front of many people. So you have to be very careful about this point, not to point out someone's mistake


in front of other people so as to embarrass this person. What happens is, the way we do something is so important, because when a person feels attacked, or they may feel attacked or offended, then their back is up against the wall. And when your back is up against the wall, there's no way out. And so you have to retaliate in some way. People feel they have to retaliate in some way by getting angry or having a fit, or something like that. So, if possible, the teacher points out the mistake personally, in an appropriate time and place. Secondly, the teacher is reminded to be truthful, which means the teacher does not point out


the disciple's mistake just because she thinks it's a mistake. In other words, you can't just keep pointing out mistakes. When the teacher understands why the disciple did so, then she can be truthful. So, we have to understand more than just what happened. And when we deal with each other, we deal with each other kind of face-to-face, but behind the face are all these reasons why something happens. And when we go deeper into why is this happening, what is it about this person that creates this kind of response that we take as mistake? And what's in the background of this person?


You can go fairly deep and somewhat psychologically, but psychologically, it's okay. In order to understand, try to understand why things happen the way they do. So, to go around to the other side and put yourself in this person's shoes. To have this kind of identification with the person. When we know how to identify with the person, then relating is on a different level. It's not just reaction to something that happened, but it's getting beneath some face value and down to a deeper understanding of why things happen the way they do, and why does this person always respond this way or react this


way, or what's going on in a deeper way. And when we put ourselves in that other person's position, then we can understand the person better. And when we have this kind of interaction, that's what allows things to move, and allows growth to take place, and allows for transformation. Otherwise, just keep beating people for making mistakes in some way, and then drive people into a corner, and nothing will ever change, except that people get more angry. And also, we become loyal to our resentments. We have a certain loyalty to our resentments. And loyalty to our resentments


is called revenge. If I don't feel some kind of vengeful attitude, then I'm not being loyal to my feelings. So that's why it's so hard to let go of feelings of resentment, and revenge, and so forth. Because if we don't, then we're not loyal to our feelings, and we feel defeated. So it's hard to let go of emotional reactions, because we will either feel defeated or disloyal to our feelings. But if we want to be loyal to our bodhisattva feelings,


then we can let go, because we have a place to land. So I'd rather try to be understanding than to be loyal to my resentment. So the third reminder is for the teacher to be gentle and calm, and speak in a low voice rather than shouting. Shouting drives a person into a corner. So, speaking in a very low voice, actually almost whispering. Whispering sometimes can be very good, because then you bring the person into your confidence. This is what lovers do, right? They whisper to each other, because it brings you closely into confidence and intimacy. So it's important to set up a feeling of intimacy. And when there's a feeling of intimacy,


then something can happen. You don't feel separate from each other. It doesn't mean seduction. That's an aberration of intimacy. But true intimacy is to feel that you're in the same place, and so there's no threat, no danger, and you can be open to each other. So this is something very delicate, like truthfulness. But here the scripture puts emphasis on having a calm, gentle attitude when talking about someone's mistake. So the fourth one is that the teacher gives advice, or points out the disciple's mistake,


solely for the sake of helping that person, and does not do this just to get something off his chest. Here the teacher is very careful, noticing that the student is making some excuse for what he did, or when the student is not serious enough. We're always making excuses. We can't help it. It's really nice when somebody says, I did that. I made a mistake. I have no place to stand. That's really wonderful. Then you have freedom that frees you totally. So then the teacher should just ignore that person until they become more serious.


More serious means not to have any excuses. I remember when I learned that, when I was a little kid, and I lived in Long Beach, and I used to work, they had this old bathhouse built in the 80s, you know, it was wonderful architecture, and I worked there as a towel boy, and I used to get there late every day. I'd get up in the morning, every single day I was late, and the boss said, you're late every day, and I said, well the reason I'm late is because, no excuses. No excuses. He won't take any excuses. But these are reasons. They're not excuses, they're reasons. So the fourth one is the teacher gives advice or points out the disciple's mistake solely for the


sake of helping that person, does not do this just, okay. So sometimes we should be, yeah, yes, this is the other side. Even though we give advice only for the sake of helping the student, still this does not mean to always be easy with a student. Glad he said that. Sometimes we should be very tough with the student, but we cannot help in a true sense. Yeah, so there's a point at which, bam, just do this, because no matter what you do, it doesn't help. So sometimes the student just needs to be shaken up, or directly addressed, and no nonsense. Either do this or get out. That's also necessary, and it's very clean, very clean. It has nothing to do with, there may be an edge to it, but it's


simply, there may be an edge to it and there may be some anger in it. Anger sometimes is okay, but it's controlled anger. It's not anger controlling you. When anger gets the upper hand, then it's a problem. Even that can be good sometimes. But anger will come up, some kind of anger or disgust, or I'm at the end of my rope. And so that emotion is used to make a point, rather than being used by the emotion. And then you have no control. So all these emotions can be used, if they're used properly. So the last one is to point out the student's mistake with compassion,


which means that the teacher is not just the teacher, but also the disciple's friend. So this is different than being a therapist. When a therapist-client relationship is psychological and separate. So if you are a client of a therapist, or psychologist, or psychiatrist, you don't have any social relationship. It's simply business. But in our practice, we practice, we live together, we eat together, we sit together, we do all of our activities together. So it's a different kind of relationship. So teacher is sometimes mother, sometimes father, sometimes brother or sister, or friend, or


teacher, or whatever. So the teacher has aspects of all of those relationships, even though the teacher is the teacher, and is distinctly separate from the student. Teacher position, student position. There has to be distance in order for that to work. But at the same time, sometimes there's an aspect of fatherliness, or motherliness, or friendliness, or whatever, depending on what's needed or necessary at the time. So all of those positions are useful. But they're not positions to be attached to. So as a friend, the teacher points out some problem, or gives some advice in a friendly way.


As your friend, I'm going to tell you this. As your friend, something like that. So it is not so easy to be a teacher, or to be a student. And we cannot rely on anything, even the precepts. We have to make our utmost effort to help each other. And we do not observe our precepts just for the sake of precepts, or practice rituals for the perfection of rituals. We are studying how to express our true nature. So this is important. We don't practice precepts just for the sake of precepts. In other words, we don't have a big set of rules, and try to fit into the rules. The rules are guidelines to give us some way to think about how to act. They're not rules to be... In the Vinaya school, there are 250 precepts for


monks, 300 precepts, or 350, or whatever it is, for nuns. And the practice is how you keep those precepts perfectly. But that's not our practice. For us, our practice is a practice of intuition, not of rules. So, when Buddha Shakyamuni was walking around with his students, people would come and say, so-and-so is doing this, is that a good idea? And you say, well, let's see, probably not. So, we won't do those things. Monks shouldn't do those things. Don't have... This is what it says in scripture, that don't have sex with a monkey,


or a statue, or don't tickle another monk to death. These things happen. There was a couple of monks who were tickling another monk, and they tickled him to death. So, that's where the expression comes from. I'm tickled to death. So, and Suzuki Gyoshi did not like to have a lot of rules. The more rules you have, the more you rely on rules, instead of relying on our intuition about what is right and wrong. And I'll talk about that tomorrow. Then he says, we don't practice precepts for the sake of precepts, but practice rituals for the perfection of rituals. We do this ritualistic practice. I don't consider what


we do rituals. I think the meaning of ritual in religion is for the priests. The priests conduct rituals because the priests are the intermediary between heaven and earth, and they conduct rituals. This is the Vedic rituals before Buddhism, where the priests were the intermediary between heaven and earth, and they would intercede for the lay people to the god, Brahma. That's ritual, and they created these rituals in order to do that. What we do is more like formal practices. That's the way I think about it. We're not doing that kind of practice. Anyway, we call them rituals because we come in and we do all our stuff, our formal practice. But we don't do it for the sake of trying to do something perfectly. We do it in order to harmonize.


We do this ritualistic practice in order to harmonize with each other and harmonize with our true nature. Let go of our ego and harmonize with our true nature. That's the purpose of our rituals. We all dress the same way, black and brown, and we give up our ideas about what we want to do, who we are, and we just participate all together wholeheartedly in this activity that makes us one person. We're individuals doing this one thing,


and we're not trying to make it perfect. We do it well, and we do it the best we can. Every time we offer incense, bow, we just chant. We try to do it the best way we can. We aim for some kind of harmony and bring it all together. But that's not perfection. We're not doing it to attain some perfect little jewel. Because the way we do it, given all of our mistakes, sometimes the chanting is cacophony, sometimes it's total harmony. Whatever it is, it's perfect. That's why even though when it's rough, you feel that roughness, you'll let go of your resentment. Otherwise, you carry that around all day.


Why don't they chant better than that? So why can't we do it perfectly? No matter how much we try to do it perfectly, it's still imperfect, just like our life. But it's perfect as it is. It just doesn't meet our idea of perfection. We let go of our idea of perfection and just do it perfectly. So, I wrote something that says, if we do things with mindfulness and with ease, even if we make a mistake, it will still be perfect. So, if we do our rituals and our formality with a kind of ease and with mindfulness, mindfulness and ease balance each other.


Even if we make mistakes, it will still be perfect. But we still try our best. We always try our best. I don't always make it. When I come in, I always feel like I'm trying my best to do everything as well as I can, but I don't always make it. But I always feel okay about it anyway. I do not worry about it. Maybe you do. Some of us do. Some of us worry. So anyway, um, so this is some aspect of teacher-student relationship, precepts, and so forth. Anybody have a question? Oh, yeah. Daiki. How about, you know, we only have a week left to go. Maybe you can show us a whole


bunch more of the iceberg for a week. A whole bunch of what? More of the iceberg. More of the iceberg? Maybe, you know, for a week, lay into his heart. Maybe, yeah. You said years ago once in a talk in Berkeley, Berkeley, maybe anything goes. I mean, it's pretty loose, the forums and so forth. There's a great spirit of toleration. And you said once maybe you wished in another lifetime you could be a really harsh, stern teacher. But as it happens, causes and conditions, being a Sangha at Berkeley forced you to be a teddy bear. I didn't say that exactly. Well, I don't think you said teddy bear. But also, I don't think the forums are loose. I think, but I don't, I can only criticize to a certain extent, and then I let it go.


That's all. I can teach people over and over again, but unless you teach the same thing over and over again every single day, it doesn't hold. It's true. So, that's why I don't let myself get frustrated, because I know, like, if I'm teaching these things that I've been, sometimes, I don't want to say what I'm teaching, but if I teach these things over and over every single day, it will work. But I don't know who can do that. Nobody can do that. Nobody has the time to do that. Ideally, you know, what would be, what I have thought is, it would be good to have someone who teaches the Doan Ryo, and that's all they do. Not the Ino, not somebody that goes from one


place to another and has, like, stays a month or a couple of weeks, and just strictly teaches the Doan Ryo every single day, over and over, the same stuff, so that it's in the bones. You can't do this stuff unless it's in your bones. So, everyone makes a valiant effort. That's true. So, that's why I can't criticize anybody, because it's not that everybody doesn't make a big effort, they do. But we don't have the setup to have that kind of schooling where someone is taught by, in a way that, the best way we can think of, every day, day after day after day, to make it work. So, even if I was real tough for a week, wouldn't help. May have been a little, but wouldn't help.


I'm waiting, somebody else had a hand, maybe? I was just thinking, I think I said this in one of your classes, I remember when Vicki Austin was your teacher, and you corrected how she quoted herself, every morning, 98. That's right. She tells that story. And, to me, the significant thing is, your mind, throughout those 98, how do you keep coming back again and again to say it? You keep bringing it back without getting, well, most of your mind, how did she let go of the pain, and the hurt, and the frustration, and why is she doing this to me, and to not get caught up in, why can't she do it right? And I said this yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. So, to keep coming back, and not getting caught. That's right, it's not hanging on to what you did before. Today, is the first time I ever said this.


Even though I say it every day, but I'm saying it for the first time. There's no hanging on to anything. No, nothing behind it. And, she never did. I never did find out if she ever did it right. So, on the last day, you said, okay. Yeah, that's right, on the last day, okay. And I asked you about it, and you said, I just said okay. That's a good example. Very good example. You said that sometimes it might be okay to let anger control us. No, I didn't. Well, no, I said that sometimes, yeah. To let anger, not to, not to let it control us. Sometimes anger comes out and controls us. And it, and that can be okay. But I'm not saying we should let anger control us. Sometimes anger comes out and controls us.


And that may be okay. What do you mean by okay? Well, because the energy of that impresses the person. The energy that impresses the person that you're talking to. And they realize that you are so frustrated that this happened. And so it becomes, it impresses them. But it's not that you let that happen. It just happens. You shouldn't just let that happen. It just happens. Not everyone can always control their emotions. All the time. I'm wondering how all of this applies between student and teacher relationship as it's understood between both


and between two peers where one has chosen to assume the teacher role and the other may not understand it. Well, it's not assuming the teacher role. It's just the way we interact with each other as peers. Same thing. How you talk to somebody. How you, you know. But this is a good question because people take on, students take on the role of critic. Like the guy next door is not, next to you is not doing it the way you think they should be doing it. So you say, no, no, no. Do it this way. And then the person, well, who are you to tell me? You know. So the way to actually deal with that, sorry to say, is when you see someone next to you not doing it the way you think it should be done, you should tell the practice leader. If you're in the kitchen, you should tell the tenzo.


If you're in the shop, you should tell the head of the shop. Say, so-and-so, what do you think about so-and-so doing this way? Is that okay? And then the head of the shop or the tenzo can talk to everybody and say, now at this point, I would like us to do things this way. That way, you're not pointing out something to the person. You're not pointing out the person's mistake personally. You're simply showing everybody, telling everybody something that we all should know. So it's not just personal to this person. And then it becomes a lesson for everyone, and not just pointing out somebody's mistake. So I really think that we should, and that's something that we decided to do a long time ago, and it doesn't always happen, of course.


But that is how, that's the best way to take care of something, so that we don't all become critics of each other. I wanted to ask about a lot of what you are saying about how to deal with this, or how the teacher works with this situation. It sounds wonderful, but the question is, how do you get it like that? I often have the experience of a lot of energy coming up in response to something that happens. So some feeling of energy arises in me, and I don't always know how to take care of that feeling of energy. I wonder if you have had that experience, or how, in your years of practice, did it gradually change, or was there some physical change? I don't know. You always have to have compassion for the person.


If you always have compassion for the person, then that will help you to understand how to deal with it. And that will create a compassionate environment for yourself. Compassionate environment for what? For yourself. Instead of just reacting to the person, you are responding. Because it seems to me what you are talking about is reaction. If you are responding, you don't need to deal with that question. Responding means to step back and respond to somebody, rather than react. But react means acting the same way.


When you react, you become like the person you are reacting. You become that which you don't want to be. You become that which you are criticizing. As soon as you react, you are attached to the person through that reaction. When you respond, you are free of that situation, and you can act in a way that is not creating a problem. You don't want to create another problem. You just want to deal with the problem that's there. But when you react, you create another problem. Then the original problem is often obscured because of the problem that you create by reacting. Then it's called squabbling. So, response, proper response


is what it's all about. How do I make a proper response without reacting? So you always have to ask yourself that question. But the answer is in the question. Okay. ... [...]