Author Topic: Teacher & $  (Read 1205 times)

Offline Skratch

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Teacher & $
« on: May 16, 2014, 08:26:19 pm »
Hi Folks,

I'm brand new here, and I have a question. I've been looking for a Zen group in my area with which to practice. I recently became aware of a small group very close to where I live. I contacted the teacher and we chatted on the phone. He seemed amiable, I liked what he had to say, and we had a pleasant discussion. Describing his group, he said that about 8 or so members meet in his home. He also said that they are only interested in those who are very serious in their practice; as he said, they don't want people to come simply to "kick the tires."

Before visiting the group, he assigned particular sections to read in "Three Pillars of Zen", after which I needed to write a letter explaining my intentions and mail it to him (no emails, he said). I saw nothing wrong with this, and happily did these tasks. So, today he called and asked if I was ready to get to work. He explained that I had to sign up for various days to sit; I couldn't just show up whenever they offered sittings. I needed to bring at least $5 each time, and for sessins, I needed to pay extra for food and lodging. I thought this was pretty reasonable; it is his home after all.

He then said I was required to go through an orientation to the zendo (how to enter and move around the zendo) only at 3:00 on a Wednesday. This time is during my work day, but I figured I could probably leave early one day. Again, okay. But then he said that this orientation would cost $55 cash (no checks). This raised a red flag for me. With the 5 or so groups I have sat with, I have never been charged for something like this. Sure, some groups put out the dana box and appreciate donations, but I've never heard of a group charge for an orientation. This was even after he said that I probably knew most of what he was going to show me. I've been shown similar things in other groups, which took all of about 10-15 minutes. They never charged me a cent for anything like that.

So, considering this seemingly strange charge, coupled with the fact that he constantly refers to himself as "sensei" (again, even those  who have received dharma transmission never referred to themselves in this manner to me), I am now reticent. In addition, while this individual studied with a renowned roshi, he was never given transmission. I even checked with the "home temple" and they said that if the roshi (who is no longer living) did give him permission to teach, "it is known only by him."

So, has anyone else experienced something like this? $55 is a lot to me, and it seems like my membership is predicated upon this entrance fee. Is my hesitation founded or not?

Thanks in advance for your kind feedback!


Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Teacher & $
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2014, 10:02:51 pm »
Hi Skratch and welcome to Free Sangha.

No one should be charging a fee for the Dhamma/Dharma, so your hesitation is well-founded.

Quote
The Buddha gave the Dhamma freely to all. He often underwent difficulties and inconveniences and on occasions even risked his life, in order to teach the Dhamma to others (Ud.78). The monk Puṇṇa was prepared to teach the Dhamma in a district where the people were known for their violence and where he had a good chance of being manhandled or even worse (M.III,269). Today, some Westerners go to traditional Buddhist countries to learn Dhamma or meditation, return to their homelands and then charge for teaching what they were taught for free. Likewise, some Asian monks put a price on the Dhamma, certain Tibetan teachers being the worst offenders. In doing so such people turn the precious Dhamma into a commodity although the Buddha clearly said: ‘One should not go about making a business out of the Dhamma.’ (Ud.66). When the Buddha said: ‘The gift of Dhamma excels all other gifts’ (Dhp.354), he clearly meant that the Dhamma should be a gift, not something to be sold.

During the Buddha’s time people knew that teachers of other religions charged a fee (ācariyadhana) but that those teaching Dhamma expected nothing more from their students than respect and attentiveness (A.V,347). There is nothing wrong with charging for the food, accommodation etc. used during a meditation course. Nor is it improper for a teacher to accept donations. But to charge a fee, even if it is called ‘sponsorship’or to announce that a ‘donation’ of a certain amount is expected, contradicts the most basic ethics and ideals of Buddhism. Those who teach the Dhamma should see what they do as a rare and wonderful privilege and an act of kindness, not a means of livelihood.

Source: A Guide to Buddhism A-Z
http://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=74




Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Teacher & $
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2014, 01:51:23 pm »
I am also turned off by his anti-beginner sentiments. Everyone has to start somewhere, and who is he to decide who is a "serious students" and who is "kicking the tires"? Personally, I would be worried about saying the "wrong" thing, and having others judge whether I am appropriate for the group or not.

But when we have access to limited resources... Try it for a few sessions and see if the group is a good fit for you. A good practice community is well worth overlooking some faults in the teacher, as few teachers are truly enlightened anyway. (As long as the teacher is not drinking with or sexing the students...)
« Last Edit: May 17, 2014, 01:55:49 pm by Monkey Mind »

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Teacher & $
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2014, 02:24:09 pm »
The "anti-beginner" sentiment is a common occurance within certain Chan/Zen traditions --- basically the teacher isn't obligated to teach anyone, no sooner than the teacher is obligated to waste his or her time trying to do so. This might be a turn-off for some people, but the fact of the matter is that when a student is ready the teacher will appear, then and only then.

Offline Skratch

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Re: Teacher & $
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2014, 09:09:19 am »
Hi Dharmakara & Monkey Mind,

Thank you for your replies. The more I think about this situation and talk to people, the more I'm feeling this particular group is not for me. I'm actually not turned off by the fact that the teacher is interested in only those he deems serious. It's a small group that meets in his house, and they want to work. But, the fact that the main temple within the tradition doesn't recognize him as a teacher, and the $55 charge for an orientation turns me way off. Enough more experienced people than I have helped justify my gut feelings.

Thanks again.

 


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