Practicing Zen without a teacher

Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Wed May 08, 2013 9:48 pm

I consider myself a Zen Buddhist. I know that Zen is big on the student/teacher relationship, and some even say that you cannot properly or actually practice Zen without a teacher. However, I live well over an hour away from the nearest Zen center, and have no real way to get to either of those places. Is it possible for one to practice Zen without a teacher? If so, what's the best way for one to go about doing this?
"If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing." -Dogen
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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby Meido » Wed May 08, 2013 11:03 pm

dyanaprajna2011 wrote:I consider myself a Zen Buddhist. I know that Zen is big on the student/teacher relationship, and some even say that you cannot properly or actually practice Zen without a teacher. However, I live well over an hour away from the nearest Zen center, and have no real way to get to either of those places. Is it possible for one to practice Zen without a teacher? If so, what's the best way for one to go about doing this?


With modern communication it's obviously very easy to get in touch with a hundred or a thousand teachers in order to ask questions. Having no teacher nearby need not be an obstacle in all ways.

My advice would be to start researching teachers that interest you, and take your time doing so. In the meantime it may be possible for you to learn a foundational practice - like breath-counting - from someone, and so start actually practicing on your own. Practice a lot. Once you choose a teacher (and assuming he/she chooses you back) go meet face to face as soon as your situation allows and start to practice according to the instruction you receive.

As experiences and issues arise, you'll need to check in with your teacher however it works to do so: many will make themselves available by email, even skype and so on. Of course ideally you should meet face to face as often as possible. But my point is that it might not be necessary to meet in person that often, especially during the foundational stage of your practice. There are many possibilities depending on your particular situation, capacity, obstructions and so on.

Good luck.

~ Meido
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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby shel » Wed May 08, 2013 11:14 pm

A thousand Zen teachers will take on virtual students? Me thinks thou exaggerate a tad. :tongue:
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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby Meido » Wed May 08, 2013 11:24 pm

shel wrote:A thousand Zen teachers will take on virtual students? Me thinks thou exaggerate a tad. :tongue:


Got me :smile:

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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby shel » Wed May 08, 2013 11:33 pm

Never trust a Zen teacher, Dyanaprajna2011. :smile:
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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby Ayu » Thu May 09, 2013 7:59 am

There was, 7 month ago, a thread "How often do you see your teacher?". I cannot find it anymore.
Many answered something like "Once a month" or "Two times a year". Some even said "Once in two years".
To learn from a teacher and then go home and practice there, i find very fruitful.
But i am not in Zen, i'm tibetean Gelug.
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby kirtu » Thu May 09, 2013 8:11 am

dyanaprajna2011 wrote: Is it possible for one to practice Zen without a teacher? If so, what's the best way for one to go about doing this?


No, you need a teacher to practice Zen. However you may not be able to see them once a year. You can also interact with them by media including email or forms of instant messaging but you will still need to physically go and see them once a year or so.

Kirt
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HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby plwk » Thu May 09, 2013 9:32 am

I dunno dyanaprajna2011...
One opinion says the trinity of a teacher/kalyanamitras/consistent self cultivation is to be upheld if a successful practice is to be expected.
Another one says not necessary, the Teaching itself/kalyanamitras/consistent self cultivation would suffice...
Then yet another one which goes the gung-ho 'pratyekabuddha' style...

In this age of centres/temples/monasteries with snarky and suspect alongside genuine and motivated teachers and students,
it should be enough to drive one to renunciation without the need for a keisaku I guess...no? :mrgreen:
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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby Astus » Thu May 09, 2013 9:42 am

Whether you need a teacher or not is up to you. Most people need some level of instruction before they can get started on the path. As for what and where you learn from is again a question you have to answer. I think that unless you have serious obstacles you should visit one (or more) Zen (or at least Buddhist) communities to familiarise with the teachings and practices.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby seeker242 » Thu May 09, 2013 1:16 pm

Daily Zazen practice can be done without a teacher. :smile:

Although, a temple an hour away is pretty close. I would bet you could find transportation there somehow if you really, really wanted to. Perhaps not literally tomorrow, but sometime in the future. People sometimes visit temples and teachers that are thousands of miles away. Sometimes they spend a year saving up money just so they can do that. An hour away is pretty close compared to New York to California.

:namaste:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: Practicing Zen without a teacher

Postby gordtheseeker » Mon May 27, 2013 7:55 pm

I am reading Shut Up and Sit Down and the author mentions (based on Dogens' words) that while one can practice zazen without a teacher, one should not practice Buddhism without a teacher. The example given is when a person thinks they have figured something out, a teacher is there to say "good job, now forget about it and go practice more". In essence a teacher keeps your ego in check and helps keep you from delusions of grandeur.
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