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deci belle

Who is a Zen teacher?

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This post is the result of what was initially my response to a thread on the International Zen Forum (though it seems to have taken on a life of its own). Its original length was eighty percent shorter.


There is an overt concern on the IZF website with “authenticity” (in terms of buddhist teaching tradition) with respect to an individual’s certifiable capacity to teach in acceptably formatted buddhist communities. A veneer of gossip and “looking over one’s shoulder” on the part of the resident northern European and North American (clerical?) organizational hierarchy in terms of who’s real enough, or not, i.e.: who may or may not be justifiably (judged as credible in terms of) making money facilitating buddhist ministries (comparable to them)— not to mention (however it is deemed quantifiable) who’s really qualified to do it “correctly”. There is a twang of complicity in this regard on the part of a few …politics as usual— and that’s a fact.


The rank and file is no different than which comprises the Tao Bums forum— seeing as how it is made up of (at least) a few taobums, replete with the usual concerns, issues, attitudes and problems.


It seems to me to be set up as a typical discussion forum as well as an organized practical venue for “professionally indoctrinated” buddhist teaching candidates (that’s a good thing, for religious buddhism). The website has its own (doctrinaire) flavor, which I find upright, friendly, compassionate and sincere— with a quality certainly a bit more disciplined than The Tao Bums, given its focused application (and a bit more open, regarding the certainty of that focus within its discipline).


By "open", I do not mean a permissiveness in terms of tolerance.


That means they are actually sure of themselves, and they know why~ BRAVO!!! Whereas the Tao Bums are inclined to stand (hide) behind a veneer of laissez-faire leadership, because they don't know why.


I have no inclination to be allied with any idea of what IZF's mission means, and they (IZF) are quite sure of their premise themselves though (concerning “real” teachers), at least. I’ve only posted twice outside of my introductory thread (where I was not shy).


I have also noticed a degree of “good-natured” (passive-agressive) guilt-tripping dripping from the hoi polloi responding to my presence there, which might be more of a case of the sangha policing themselves by peers, which is also a good thing for religious buddhism. From the administration, my response to a question was dis-allowed (rejected, actually, because I’m not a “teacher”). Hey, it’s not my religion. I can respect that.


Anyway… the expanded text of 仙's response to (you can view the thread yourself on the International Zen Forum by the same title):





Real teachers are the power of real recognition. Universal good is the virtue of real power.

One’s own recognition, to the extent its activation is impersonally real immediate knowledge, is experience of real teaching.


Seeing this is zen without beginning to have seen this as zen. So where is the teacher? It seems reality does not depend on “who”.


It is who.


Ultimately, one must endeavor to see realization of recognition in terms of the self that is the source of recognition, not the idea of one’s thoughts relative to real experience (which is defined as immediate knowledge). The ideas relative to one's thoughts is an impostor, false, delusional.


Mind "referring everything to the self" is not indicative of the self who reflects essence …it is essence. Purity directly penetrating is "who". Reflectivity is inability to penetrate essence.


"Who" is one’s own knowing unborn reality, in terms of presence beyond not just reflection but also action— this is selfless action of seeing through situations as spontaneous response. There has never been any other zen teacher.


This is zen teaching by virtue of your own recognition of reality pervading situations. This is indicative of Suchness.


This is the teacher whose recognition is potential awaiting subsequent illumination on the well-trod path rising gradually. Teaching being sudden as well as gradual is one without beginning.


"Who" is perennially awaiting you. Zen isn't a matter of premonition, it is readiness incarnate at the pivot of awareness, incipiently inevitable.


Joe wrote:

"Although those things may be true, it’s good to have a HUMAN teacher, and sangha, who will definitely put the challenge to you in all those vanities (maybe you know). Take the test?"


Yes Joe, always ready according to the time and circumstances~ but wouldn’t that be up to the bigger fish— not to mention everyday ordinary situations, hmmmmm?


In terms of enlightening function, what teaches is the same as what recognizes— and responds; neither of which is the person’s own (intelllectual) power.


The issue is “who is the zen teacher”, not “who thinks they have a zen teacher and deems that "good”. I speak of the reality, and reality is in terms of potential: not the relative/karmic perspective of the student/social milieu. Perhaps the OP is more mundane than I assume, but the treatment I’m providing on this post is commensurate with the scope of my task.


Let us not avoid the specificity of "who", by getting side-tracked into your preferences for clinging to a community-based religious attachment.


It is not at all about what’s “good”. It is about what (who) the zen teacher is. It is mind to mind itself. It is empty— even in conventional terms relative to student and teacher.


The teaching is specifically about freedom, a freedom to actually see reality as is (in terms of ordinary affairs), which is not dependent on a matter of a sudden glimpse of one’s impersonal buddha-nature (the witnessing of which is not by virtue of the person, to boot).


"Freedom" is actually being able to realize the inconceivable function of awareness INDEPENDENTLY— not one’s relative aspect to the substance, which is the absolute. Nor is it pertinent to the conditional aspect, an utterly circumstantial illusion, both for those ignorant of the nature of reality and for those whose accomplishment enables seeing it.


I must therefore be concerned with Suchness, which is neither. And there are plenty of so-called zen teachers who aren’t even remotely “who”, in this sense, able to address completely the real transcendent capacity in terms of the Great Vehicle effectively responding selflessly in ordinary situations by virtue of the karmic energy itself inherently comprised seamlessly within, or rather, as, potential. The relative and the absolute are not two. Buddhism’s Suchness is the taoist’s Complete Reality. These two terms refer to the same totality of holistic being functionally unlimited by notions of separate identities defining rationals of action.


Enlightening being is the response-body according to the time, not seeking honor nor avoiding censure.


Again, independence is not relative to the person. It is the nature of enlightening being, which is an impersonally natural function.


So let us not also get side-tracked into the individual vs society rut, which is made an issue by not sticking to the import of this thread, Joe— even if I must clarify it on my own. “Who” won’t be holding your hand upon entry into inconceivability because it’s not even you (and never has been).


It has never been other than “who” all the while.


At this juncture, if “who” is full of seeing its selfless nonoriginated inconceivable unity for the first time, how could there be the slightest smidgeon of vanity in that? It is simply experiencing the totality of one’s self.


Going on to tread the gradual path of realizing the totality of one’s self is integrating the function of enlightening qualities in the midst of ordinary situations. This is precisely the kind of activity that "self-refinement" before the sudden alludes to: that which comprises self-sublimating harmonization within one's primal essence of Tao before sudden enlightenment occurs.


This is why I say that enlightening being is not dependent on the sudden.


One might still consider this as referencing the sudden, but in actuality, this is the seeing of reality in terms of sages, saints, buddhas and immortals transcending ordinary situations in the midst of ordinary situations inconceivably. Enlightening activity is naturally so.


Those who have the affinity simply accept their function independently without prior arrangements.


There is no thing. Ultimately, we cannot rely on anything in order to realize essence, much less to carry out the function of tathagatas in the aftermath of the sudden and its subsequent maturation. What of arrow-points meeting, Joe? And when aren’t they? It is a matter of seeing it oneself. Need isn’t teaching, need is ignorance of teaching.


One cannot hide behind a tradition in order to see reality. One must charge straight into an army of a million enemy troops without a prayer. Reality IS. The tao isn’t taoist; bodhi isn’t buddhist. Those are just words, fine words though they may be. It’s Mind— your own mind right now, the mystery of which is unknowable. The sword of authentic wonder …I recommend it highly.


The energy of fascination with objects becomes authentic wonder on the spot when one forgets ageless patterns of self-reifying thought.


The point is, the teachers and teachings and traditions of zen is itself zen through and through— it does not matter the context or cultural milieu in which it occurs. Otherwise, it’s not zen, it’s baby-sitting.


It is conventional to pair teacher and (whatever you want to call the relative aspect). If you want to discuss that, Joe, then do so. But avoid cleaving to what I have written because what I have written here has no correlate in terms of a myopic, social-centric method of comfort.


Zen's activation is not relative to culture. That certain cultures have come to harbor varied authentic traditions that would keep the knowledge alive is perennial. Universal good is not by a country. Universal good is the source of civilizations— not the other way around.


People become buddhas and buddhas become people is indicative of sameness within difference in terms of enlightening activity in the world. The authentic sangha is not so exclusive as you would make it out to be.


There have always been those who are born knowing and there have been numberless teachers, known and anonymous, who have not taught in the conventional sense (much less at all), and here I am referring to the enlightened individual— acknowledgeable or not.


What you are referring to (in the cultural sense of your response to my post above), is the teaching of provisional and formative disciplines. Well, I don’t do that, so please don’t hold me to that criteria. It simply doesn’t apply for those who have seen their nature— especially when it is voiced by one who hasn’t.


Your comment does not meet what I have addressed in response to the OP.


As for the challenge of taking the test you mentioned, those come and go~ as if there were only one… as I have said elsewhere, in terms of one’s knowledge and experience, one is always surrounded by a 360˚ spherical mystery expanding endlessly. Furthermore, enlightening qualities are not dependent on cultural definitions for the benefit of buddhists. It is mind, not a person. People are limited only by their views. We are inconceivable, without solidity.


In other words, in terms of awareness, that the small frequency within its vast, unfathomable function capably facilitated by a relative few realized human beings isn’t definable nor dependent on the effect of a teaching, much less an orthodoxy, not to mention categories of puny moral “precepts” for the benefit of the deluded is the good news. Inconceivable mystery of mysteries! How wonderful! Your essential nature has no limit!


Nevertheless, this open secret is complete reality itself in terms of people’s aware nature comprising ordinary situations, not by a culture, tradition or teacher.


No one knows why it is so. NO ONE KNOWS. Reality isn’t buddhist, even by virtue of the stolid pointing of all the buddhas, immortals and patriarchs. Even the Nagual Shamanism of the Americas is older still by eons than the liturgies of the historical cultures of Kashmir and Sanskrit spinoffs. As for its sources, it is mind itself, not by a country. Cultural conceits are moot. Awareness isn't attributable to people's experiences.


Knowledge is attributable to inherent aware nature awakened in oneself.


The adage is, “See essence on your own, then see a teacher”. In this sense of tradition, it is using teacher AND sangha to mature the forgoing achievement, i.e.: seeing your essential nature. Perhaps there is not a vanity you yourself, at present, are able to work with? Here’s a clue: there is nothing else to work with other than the vanity of the false self.


Self-refinement is refining away precisely the vanity of the source of one's existential ignorance. When the final subtle vanity ceases to exist, essence is exposed naturally, and the seed of one’s potential buddha-nature is then planted in the homeland of nothing whatsoever simply by virtue of seeing it. Real knowledge is by virtue of selfless experience of potential, not thoughts relative to the endless flow of after-the-fact reflections.


To suggest (however good-naturedly) that I am entertaining the expression of a certain vanity is to be expected, Joe. Just don’t make it a habit, ok? It’s not my problem. That’s just my style (and my ability) you are reacting to, so try not to hold it against me just because you do not know the specifics of what I am saying might be applicable to you…❤


I hope I don’t reek too much of the scandalized, self-flagellators I can’t be there for, not to mention the few who delight in my message. A lifetime is very short, so please don’t waste a moment of it chiding me on account of what you are inclined call vanity. I assure you, ones greater than yourself have tried and failed for naught on account of their own vanity.


Enlightenment is entry-level. Buddhahood is another matter entirely. “Who is a zen teacher” cannot be a specificity in terms of accord within a certain tradition per se. Awareness isn’t created— it isn’t people.


Human being is our link with essence; it’s not pus and blood and the organism’s psychological apparatus.


The Virtue of Reception of enlightening qualities requires one’s thorough harmonization in the nature of impersonal nonpsychological (spiritual) accord’s applicable expression in terms of the essential unity of ordinary affairs themselves, unbeknownst to anyone, according to the time.


This is because ordinary affairs IS reality for those who see it as is. Without entertaining views of self and other while simultaneously responding selflessly as self and other, one stands outside of creation to spontaneously absorb its potential. One doesn’t do this oneself, nor does one do this for oneself— it’s just how it is. Virtuous accord doesn’t have a moral implication, it’s just real. Resting in the highest good, potential naturally accrues. Where spirit is open, the Way naturally alights.


Buddhism calls this gaining power by saving power. Reality is its power; illusion is its karma. These are not two. The only difference is in one’s effective virtuous harmony with reality as is, or not. If it is not enlightening activity, it is self-reflective ignorance bound to karmic retribution.

Either one sees one’s own state of being as impersonal inherently unified essence or as an original separately identifiable self. One thereby endeavors to reap the consequences of assertion and adaption alone— this is the condition of the matter of birth and death.


Why not endeavor to penetrate the mystery independently during the interval in between? Neither relative nor absolute, one assumes the Great Vehicle.


Selfless adaption is an incipient transcendent movement inherent in the karmic situation itself, and does not admit of one’s own power. The matter of non-resistance is only in terms of the relative aspect likened to ice melting: so there is no capitulation relative to situations experienced by an enlightening being because its basis is perpetually causeless, therefore never having entered into the created is its nature.


I will bring up potential’s “release” in passing, as it is the critical juncture in the overall timing of the celestial mechanism. This is because one’s psychic clarity is paramount in recognizing the celestial timing in order to respond in human time. It is the meaning of the phrase, “If you know but cannot act on that knowledge, it is the same as not knowing”. It is also the secret of “Refine the self and await the time”. Using ordinary affairs to refine the self, one uses the polluted to arrive at the true. This is the same as “Watching over the medicines, refine the elixir, withdrawing the cauldron from the furnace at the right time”.


It is a matter of following the course of events until yang peaks and the killing energy of the yin convergence is about to go into action. At the peak of interaction, you withdraw the medicines from the alchemical fire and seal up the unrefined elixir in the empty vessel, allowing nothing outside to enter inside and nothing inside to escape outside.


The situation itself melts by degree releasing potential as the radiance of enlightening activity. Selfless response is as natural as it is audacious in its precisely measured accord relative to the situation, executed with selfless abandon. This is “matching creation”. It is a fluid yet inexorable process of inevitability which dictates the degree of release of potential. It isn’t up to anyone per se. The benefit of enlightening activity is the absorption of potential as it is released, that’s all.


Petty individuality can only work effectively, relative to a self-reflective psychologically created mechanical motivation— its logic is ultimately in terms of degrees of insanity (intellectualism) utterly bound by creation to a relativity of artificial cause. The karmic bondage of ratio-synchretic activity is a LAW of relativity.


Selfless awareness is the source of sane energy. Enlightening being is an inconceivable, nonlinear phenomena, whose subtle adaption arises incipiently within the potential of the situation itself. This is proof of the essential sameness of relative and absolute realized by enlightening activity in ordinary situations and seen as such by enlightening beings.


In terms of the subtle operation of spiritual transformation, one’s nonresistance is the working definition of spontaneity in terms of spiritual movement of the response-body, selflessly aware, when it releases (detaches in the midst of situations) after holding firmly through the course of events.


When potential is released, it is spontaneously absorbed by those who see it simply by virtue of one's having worked directly with essence from the start. In terms of alchemic process, this is precisely the time when one withdraws from yin (creation) and seals the unrefined potential (of the experiential situation) in secrecy, void of intellectualism.


Absorption in the gradual sense is analogous with sudden realization (all-at-once): it is not relative to oneself, nor is it accomplished as oneself’s person. Either way, the event is an acute phase, as the real work subsequently follows, and is, indeed, up to oneself alone.

Finally, “who is a zen teacher” is a predilection to effect that functional inherent capacity in others who are ready, according to the time, whereby enlightening qualities are recognized and cultivated.


As for Zen, where is the expression of the power of causeless enlightenment?

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This is singularly the most powerful piece I have ever read here at TTB.

Many fine enlightening qualities elucidated and pointed to............


Thank you Deci Belle!


(very timely)

Edited by Spotless

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Welcome back Deci and what a super and thought provoking post.


Zazen posture can be taught.

Once someone has been taught how to sit then it's up to them 'to' sit and take it from there.

In that sense, whoever teaches zazen posture and cultivation is a zen teacher.

In Jack's world a place akin to Papal Infallibility...

The only Zen teacher worth the candle is a lineaged teacher.

In that world one comes down to choice and there are several lineages on offer.



Online ( Jundo Cohen)



Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (Ms Kennett's sitters).

There's a fuller menu over on the Dharma Wheel website ' East Asian' sub forums or via Sweeping Zen forum or Dark Zen or that place you reference.

There's Brad Warner, Zen International Forum. ( Guo Gu - ' Pope' Jimmy Yu- the Ch'an dude seems to have made that last site his own).

Horses for courses is Zen lineage and folks will take to whichever flavour they like the taste of.

Ultimately it's all of it BS, likened to "one continuous mistake" (Dogen).

Lineage or no lineage.

Once you've learnt how to - then....

Just sit.

Job jobbed.





Edited by GrandmasterP

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Nice to hear from you deci belle -

Your voice is crystal clear and warmly embraced.



I'd like to quote a brief excerpt for emphasis:


"The adage is, “See essence on your own, then see a teacher”. In this sense of tradition, it is using teacher AND sangha to mature the forgoing achievement, i.e.: seeing your essential nature. Perhaps there is not a vanity you yourself, at present, are able to work with? Here’s a clue: there is nothing else to work with other than the vanity of the false self."

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I just find it strange that Deci Belle would complain about being denied the recognition of "Zen teacher", and the privilege that comes with that recognition, as an anonymous member of an internet forum. Why should the staff or forum members of ZFI be obligated to grant Deci Belle this privilege? Why bother complaining when they don't allow this privilege to just anyone who happens to create an account on that forum?


I think you are missing the point.

Deci belle's post is an attempt to empower, not enslave... at least that's my interpretation.


Then again, I've been accused of being idealistic and naive.

I like it that way.

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If it's Zen Forum International (ZFI) then they have an 'ask a teacher' sub forum and whilst punters can post questions on that thread only those teachers recognised by ZIF have reply privileges.

Here's what it says.....



A place exclusively to ask a Zen teacher a question. Questions for this forum are approved before posting and so will not appear immediately.

Moderator: Teacher.



ZFI's a self-referential forum, I don't know how they accredit and accept teachers for the forum.

It is very different to TTB.

I pop in there now and again but IMO , whilst they are all nice folks for sure it has something of a 'clerical' flavour to me.

There's a quasi 'priestly' caste who expound and it's the place of other forum members to listen to what those 'clerics' have to say.

That I can get in any Christian church of a Sunday.

Thing is though it is their forum so they can run it how they choose.

There are plenty of other Zen sites to join albeit there's nothing out there IMO to touch TTB for freedom of expression and light touch, equitable moderation.

Edited by GrandmasterP
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GrandmasterP, as a logical extension of the OP, you should also grant this title of "Zen teacher" to Thusness and "Zen teaching" to his awakeningtoreality blog, but you don't, why?

I'm not in the business of granting recognitions Jack and I've not really seen much of 'Thusness' work albeit his 'disciples' seem keen when they pop up on here from time to time.

Nobody's a teacher unless they have students to teach, hence; in a way it is the students who confer recognition.

I'm not 'knocking' lineage here, we've chatted about that issue before.

At best lineage assures a community of practice.

However the flip side of lineage is the endless and pointless " my lineage is better than your lineage" type of posts that make up far too much of the content on some fora.

IMO such position-taking is both unnecessary and uncalled for.

Edited by GrandmasterP

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Steve, Deci was going on about being disallowed from responding to a post for not having Dharma transmission, coining terms such as "professionally indoctrinated" and "religious Buddhism" (wtf?). It ends up sounding like the same boring neuroticism surrounding religion that you typically see with Westerners.

You're being rude again Jack.

I know it's not your first language but do try to be civil in English or the unintended ( I'm sure) slights simply detract from the interesting points you seek to make.

Religious Buddhism is a fact.

You'll find some very religious Buddhists out there.

Saying it 'aint right' does not detract from the fact that for many Buddhists ( as in all faith paths) their faith path is their 'religion' and consequently more of a barrier against than a bridge towards development and growth.

Religious folks on any path are easy to spot.

They all belong to the LAMIAR lineage.

("Look at ME- I am RIGHT").



Edited by GrandmasterP

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Racist as well - note the disparaging remark about "Westerners"


I don't think that he does it deliberately.

Time will tell.

Posters who seek to goad a reaction by 'snipey' posting never stick around because, eventually; no one talks to them.

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Steve, Deci was going on about being disallowed from responding to a post for not having Dharma transmission, coining terms such as "professionally indoctrinated" and "religious Buddhism" (wtf?). It ends up sounding like the same boring neuroticism surrounding religion that you typically see with Westerners.


I noticed that but I still don't take it the way you do.

I think it is more an attempt to break down the structure that is one of the very things that prevents us from breaking through.

And an attack on the institution that so often is oblivious and opportunistic.

I don't see deci belle as wanting to maintain or propagate the status quo through assuming the mantle but rather bring it all down on our heads in order to shake us awake.

And if deci belle responds to your accusation, it will simply look defensive.

Take it as you will, Jack.

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Posters who seek to goad a reaction by 'snipey' posting never stick around because, eventually; no one talks to them.

Are you sure about that?

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Yeah pretty much so.

Over time.

It's a subjective call and some responders seem to be gluttons for punishment but eventually the uber- snippy are generally ignored and decamp to pastures new.

Unfed Trolls starve.

Edited by GrandmasterP

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I don't think that he does it deliberately.Time will tell.Posters who seek to goad a reaction by 'snipey' posting never stick around because, eventually; no one talks to them.

Said the person with over 5000 posts in 2 yrs...


Grandmaster Poster?

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Are you sure about that?


Ignore prefs - what a great invention - but they still can troll out a great post.


I would enjoy seeing brat patrol with a very short leash for those infected with the bug.


Perhaps we could have a count of who is put on ignore prefs the most and when they hit a percentage based on posts they get a short warning. If the ignore prefs continue increasing by more members past a certain point then they are banned and all content removed from all postings.


We would get rid of them and the spew time stamped in the posts on the rest of us.


Even now in this post I am enjoying the relief ignore prefs affords but it would be nice if mounting negative stats could eliminate some / at least for a year wherein hopefully they would mature.


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From one perspective who is a Zen teacher is a Koan, with the same answer as most of the others.. ..


From the human perspective a Zen teacher is someone who can demonstrate their realisation creatively, skilfully and spontaneously, which is one of the strengths of the Zen tradition and lineages. They say to individuals in those lineages that yes you may have some sort of realisation but show it to us, don't repeat some other masters words or use tired old phrases and dogmatic teachings. The whole direction of the awakening is to arrive at the present moment so unless you can communicate from there freshly you wont be considered a skilful teacher in Zen, which can be difficult to do and can take a kind of training or practice combined with natural talent unless you are one of those rare individuals who it just flows out of.

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Jetsun, this is nothing more than an idealized fantasy, replace study of sutras and shastras with koans and the recorded sayings of Zen masters from antiquity, and you have the reality of Zen. Zen teachers quote and give lectures on the recorded teachings of ancient Zen masters all the time. There is a "right" answer, concerning a given koan, when a teacher tests a students understanding through private interview; the student is not supposed to bring any prior knowledge or experience when giving an "answer".


You more or less confirm what I was saying, that the students answer is not meant to include prior experience or knowledge, if that isn't speaking directly from the moment then what is it. What is Zen if not to always be fresh and spontaneous, in beginners mind? to be able to express from that place is how you qualify or pass through to become a teacher and get the "correct" answer to pass the test, it has nothing to do with learning knowledge or sutras by rote or getting the answer to the Koan through the intellect, otherwise anyone with a half working brain could do that and become a teacher.


Many Zen masters quote and give lectures on the recorded teachings of Zen masters but the genuine ones do it in the context of spontaneity and beginners mind, it isn't formulaic and rigid. While many masters and Zen lineages are full of pretenders and those who are just mechanically mimicking previous masters, but then you get a genuine one who comes through once in a while who is a destroyer of all the false ones.

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