Filed in Zen (Chan)

Straight Ahead: An Interview with John Daido Loori

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John Daido Loori is the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery (ZMM) in Mt. Tremper, New York. He is a Dharma heir of Hakyu Taizan Maesumi Roshi, founder of the White Plum Asanga, and has received transmission in both the Rinzai and Soto lines of Zen. Daido Loori is also founder and director of the Mountain and Rivers Order, an organization of Zen Buddhist temples, practice centers, and sitting groups in the United States and abroad. In addition, he is president of Dharma Communications, which promotes Buddhist teachings through videos, audiotapes, meditation supplies, Mountain Record quarterly, and Internet activities. Under his guidance, ZMM has established a Zen Environmental Studies Center and engages in an array of social action programs for, among others, prisoners, the homeless, and people with AIDS. This interview was conducted in Daido Loori’s office at ZMM, photographs by Stuart Soshin Gray. Interview by Jeff Zaleski.

John Daido Loori Roshi

In December, you’re giving a course at Zen Mountain Monastery on the “Vows for the New Millennium.” This year, you've offered “Zen Teachings for a New Millennium” at the Smithsonian Institute and throughout the country. What does the millennium mean to you?

In a sense, it’s a millennium because by agreement we make it a millennium within our particular calendar. But because it seems important to people all over the world, it becomes an opportunity to teach. As a teacher, one aspect of my job is to seize opportunities like this and use them to bring focus and awareness to our vows, morality, and ways in which we can improve the lot of people who are suffering all over the world.

Are your teachings for a new millennium different than your teachings for the old millennium?

Of course not. The teachings are basically a moment-to-moment nonstop flow; each breath follows the previous one. Yesterday it was like that; today is like that; tomorrow will be like that.

In the catalog description of your workshop on the vows for the new millennium, you mention “complexities and challenges of the twenty-first century.” What are the particular challenges facing Buddhism as we enter into this new millennium?

I really feel that Buddhism has something very special to offer. I think that understanding the nature of the universe and the nature of the self from the Buddhist perspective can help us take care of many of the problems in this world if enough people are practicing. I think that we need to address our relationship with the environment, population explosion, hunger, and peaceful coexistence. Buddhism is equipped to deal with these issues. The Flower Garland Sutra describes the universe as a net of diamonds that exists in three-dimensional space and in the fourth dimension of time. It goes backward and forward in time. Every diamond in this net is multifaceted and reflects every other diamond in the net. When you see one diamond, you actually see every other diamond in the net. You see the whole thing. Nothing is left out of the picture. When you touch one diamond, you’ve touched every diamond in the net. It’s incomprehensible that each thing contains every other thing, that there’s a mutual identity and causality, that each thing contains the totality of the universe. But that’s the nature of reality.

Those are nifty ideas and they sound right, but what does that mean for me sitting in this chair here? How does it work on a personal level?

This is where practice becomes indispensable. All of the teachings are an abstraction to the listener. Some of it’s not even logical. This morning I talked to my students about formless form. What is formless form? Those are contradictory terms. It’s a paradox. The phrase doesn’t make sense. It is an intuitive and intimate realization; that’s why you can’t explain it to somebody. That’s why practice is so important. Each person needs to see it for themselves. There’s a skillful process and the process says to “take a backward step.” Go very deep into yourself. Let body and mind fall away. Experience the absolute basis of reality. But the path doesn't end there. This is just the peak of the mountain. You need to continue the journey. Where do you go when you’re at the peak? Straight ahead. It’s always straight ahead. Straight ahead when you’re on the peak means down the other side of the mountain back into the marketplace. That’s where your realization needs to manifest. Otherwise, what’s the point? It surely isn’t to spend our lives contemplating our navels on a 245-acre monastery hidden in these mountains. It’s got to do with manifestation in the world. Realization needs to be actualized. And having realized the fact that there’s no separation, an imperative arises to reach out to take care of things. That’s compassion. We take care of things because everything is this very body and mind itself. What we take care of is another question.

Is that the challenge for Buddhism at this point, to really figure out what to take care of?

I don’t think that you can determine that precisely in terms of the institution of Buddhism. The point of view of the institution of Buddhism is to take care of it all. When we get down to each individual Buddhist, each person needs to look at their own resources, power, position in life, commitment; how much are they willing to do?

Let’s talk a little bit about this monastery and the way that you practice Zen here in these mountains. You’re a Japanese lineage, and you're in the middle of the Catskills. You walk around the monastery in Japanese robes. Yet, you don't seem to be involved in what I call American Buddhism. You’re really an authentic model of Japanese Zen.

I would disagree. A lot of people think that—except the Japanese. When the Japanese come here and see what we’re doing, they call it “cowboy Zen.” Many of the forms and trappings that seem exotic or foreign have to do with the fact that this is a monastic setting. If you were to enter a Trappist monastery, you might feel equally estranged by their exotic forms and rigorous discipline.

John Daido Loori Roshi

What role do you think monasticism will play in American Buddhism in the upcoming century?

It will be pivotal. Until deep monastic roots are established on American soil, Buddhism will not fully have arrived here. Ten years ago, at one of the Buddhism and psychotherapy conferences, somebody on the panel said, “There is no model for monasticism in the West.” In a single stroke they wiped out centuries of Christian monasticism. There’s definitely a model and a place for monasticism in Christianity and in western Buddhism. It’s not going to be popular. It never was popular, even during the golden age of Zen. It doesn’t need to be. Zen training is very demanding. Monasticism is the core of this practice tradition. It shows that it’s possible to do this all-out. The monastics here dedicate their lives to the Dharma: seven-day sesshins every month, sitting every morning and night, year after year after year. They maintain the archive of sanity and serve the sangha. The rest of our sangha comes into the monastery to recreate themselves and then brings their practice back out into the world. And it definitely affects their lives and how they do the things that they do, the ten thousand things they do—teaching, mothering, doctoring, loving, working. There is an interdependent relationship between lay practice and monastic practice. The monastic role will always be important.

I found a wonderfully provocative statement of yours that I’m going to read back to you. It’s from one of your commentaries on a koan: “There are hundreds of Buddhist centers throughout the country and hundreds of teachers but very little real Buddhism.” What is real Buddhism?

Essentially, I’m talking about authenticated teachers. There are very few teachers in this country who are authenticated by their teacher. There are many self-styled and self-appointed teachers. Much of what we have in North America is a self-styled Buddhism, and it’s easy to sell style when you have not come out of twenty or thirty years of training. You don’t know the difference between the baby and the bathwater. It’s easy to miss and dismiss important dimensions of practice. I think that the more training a teacher has the more clarity they develop and the more cautious they are about making changes too swiftly.

One of the things that you have maintained here is hierarchy, and there’s no doubt who’s in charge, and that’s you. I saw a film of a Dharma combat you had with your students, and you were literally sitting on a pedestal What’s that about?

What you are calling a pedestal is the “high seat,” common to almost all schools of Buddhism and indeed most religions. What I was sitting on was a ten-inch-high platform, a compromised version of the traditional high seat, which is three feet high. We have one of those also; it is kept in the corner of the room and has only been used twice in the past twenty years for special ceremonies. Hierarchy is a fact of life. Whether you like it or not, you have to deal with it all the time.

We only like it when we’re up in the hierarchy.

Exactly. And we don’t like it toward the bottom. Most people are frightened by hierarchy, recoil from it, rebel against it, but never resolve the problem. Hierarchy is a convention. It’s there because we allow it. How do you learn to be free of it? In the context of practice, you deal with it within the hierarchy itself. You “use the entanglements to cut the entanglements.” We’re not going to solve the problems that arise within hierarchies by declaring that everything is equal. The face-to-face interviews in dokusan, the Dharma combat—they are set up in the traditional, hierarchical way. I’ve got an altar behind me, incense is burning, people prostrate themselves, come forward, and ask for the teachings. All the while my responsibility is to help them see their own inherent wisdom and power. There is an incredibly different way that the senior students deal with hierarchy from the way the beginning students do. Within the hierarchy, senior students have learned to trust themselves.

Still, there’s the idea that the guy on the pedestal knows the truth at every moment, and the student doesn’t know. And that isn’t the truth of it.

You’re right. The person on the high seat doesn’t “know the truth at every moment”—not at all. Students inevitably do want to give their power away, and one of the things that the teacher does is to constantly throw it back at them.

How do you do that?

By having them take responsibility. I’m not going to solve their problems. I have nothing to give them. There’s nothing to be given; there’s nothing to be received. And if a spiritual teacher says that they have something to give you, run for your life. You are dealing with a charlatan.

I would imagine that people constantly come to you looking for something. They want something from you.

That’s the illusion. What I inevitably do is what my teacher did for me. Turn it back to them. Each one of us must realize our own power. In many religions, there is the tendency to surrender to a higher authority. That’s not the case in Zen. In the beginning of training it may seem so but, ultimately, the student needs to be free of the teacher, free of Buddhism, free of the whole catastrophe.

Zen Mountain Monastery, 1999

I question whether how much of what you’re saying applies when you move from your role as spiritual guide to your role of administrator. After all, it seems like the buck stops with you.

According to the bylaws of our corporation, the spiritual leader is also the president of the corporation. At board meetings, if I take the chair, people are always trying to figure out what I want. So, someone else runs the meetings. I usually sit back. Usually I abstain from voting. The power is definitely there if I choose to use it. We also have a Board of Governors. I am not on that board. It consists of the representatives of the people we serve. It’s a group of about one hundred people that meets every few years over a weekend to develop a consensus about the future of the community. There are three other formal groups that have real power and make decisions. I’m not a member of any of them.

Do any of these groups ever actually contradict your wishes?

Definitely. Recently they decided to expel a student. The student was a cause of a lot of disharmony. Well, you know, I have done similar things in my time. I had a soft spot for him and felt that we should cut him some slack. So I argued strongly in favor of the student being retained. I gave a pretty strong argument, but I also said I would honor their decision, and they decided to ask him to leave. I trust the individual and collective wisdom of these groups. They are, after all, my students.

[The following questions to Daido Loori are about his most innovative teaching vehicle: his vigorous exploitation of electronic communications, particularly the Internet, to spread the Dharma. We turn to his computer where he accesses a beta, or test, program, “Cyber Monastery,” a Zen training program that will be accessible only online. On the screen appears a list of requirements. The first two point to the future: “1.zafu. 2. IBM Pentium (computer).”]

Is this a secret site?

Zen Mountain Monastery, 1999Yeah, it’s not available to the public yet. I’ve got five of my seniors working on our new project for the last year and a half. It’s called Cyber Monastery, an online Zen training program. People will register and go through the same screening process that any student that comes here to practice has to go through. If they are accepted, they will enter the program. They will receive in the mail an interactive CD-ROM, and several video and audio tapes. The CD-ROM will contain links to the chat room. They’ll have an assigned training advisor who will be available for them in real time online for dialogues and discussions. There will be assignments, projects, and exams online, and the whole course will end with a traditional online Dharma combat with me.

Then what do they get? Enlightenment?

[Laughter] What happens at the end of a Zen training workshop? It’s an introduction to Zen practice, but I’m also trying to get a couple of colleges to acknowledge it and give credit for it as a Buddhist studies course.

All of it seems like a very wonderful expression of what can be done with computers. But on the other hand, it seems like a very poor substitute for the real thing.

The obvious question is, what’s the real thing? As I said before, a teacher really has nothing to give. The Dharma can’t be given; it can’t be received. Practice is a process of discovery. It’s got to do with realization—not knowledge or information but realization. But that doesn’t mean that knowledge and information don’t play a role in the Dharma. The course in cyberspace is an extension of what we already do. We create videos, audios, CDs. We publish a journal and books. If you package that differently and use an instrument such as the Web, you can communicate with people anywhere on the face of the earth. You make the Dharma available to anyone who has a phone line and a computer. You can bring the Dharma to those who may never be able to come to a training center. People that are housebound, isolated by distance, institutionalized. This is an experiment. I am trying to find out if it can work. Is somebody going to come to enlightenment on the Web? I doubt it, but you can never tell.

It seems highly unlikely.

It also seems highly unlikely that somebody would become enlightened by hearing a pebble strike a bamboo or seeing a peach blossom. But it happened.

It seems much more likely that people are going to be hypnotized by watching the screen.

That has a lot to do with the Web designer. If you make it entertaining and hypnotic, that’s what it’s going to be. If you make it challenging and introspective, that’s what it’s going to be. In the use of media—any media—we have the power to edit; we have the ability to shift perspectives. This can be done in a way that nourishes and wakes us up or it can hypnotize and poison. A key aspect of the Buddha’s teachings is to use what is at hand to nourish and empower. This project is about empowering people. If the Web can do that, it could be a very valuable adjunct in training.

You say “adjunct.” At what point is it necessary to give up the books, the audios, the computer, and step in front of a living breathing teacher?

I think that will always be necessary. Practice via cyberspace is not going to replace that. There are the Three Treasures—the Buddha, the Dharma and the sangha. The personal aspect of the Three Treasures is not going to be superseded by a computer. Buddha treasure is the teacher. Dharma treasure are the teachings, the direct pointing to the enlightened mind. Sangha treasure is the community of practitioners. All those three aspects are really necessary for authentic practice to flourish. It makes a big difference when you’re sitting with a group of other people than when you’re sitting alone. Or when you have someone making demands of you face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball, heart-to-heart, as opposed to talking via your computer about it, where the person on the other end of the line can remain some sort of an abstraction. Take a look at liturgy. That’s where the power of the sangha comes in. There’s a big difference when you’re in a room with a group of people who are chanting their hearts out and when you’re hearing it on tape, or even watching a videotape. But I’ve used that to help my practice along when I was unable to train at a center. In my early days of practice, when I was a lay practitioner, working in the world, I created a tape that had all the sounds of the monastery on it: the wake-up bell, then the wooden han [wooden block that is struck to call people to the zendo]. The regular morning sequence leading to my dawn zazen. It was hooked to my alarm clock. The alarm clock would go off, the bell would ring, and I was transported to the monastery. Sitting periods were timed so that I couldn’t cheat. During liturgy the whole sangha chanted and I chanted with them.

So why bother going to the monastery at all?

Because of the Buddha, Dharma, and the Sangha.

It’s been speculated that it won’t be too long before we’ll have computer programs so sophisticated that you won’t be able to discern whether you’re talking to a computer or a human being. What do you think distinguishes a human being from a highly advanced artificial intelligence?

I saw a TV a program about robots. They had several robots programmed with artificial intelligence. These robots were to pick up little blocks of wood in a room. The one that got the most was somehow rewarded. They were programmed to learn from their mistakes. The researchers found out that after repeatedly having the robots in the room together, they began to get aggressive and knock each other out of the way to get the wood. When I saw that I thought, no difference. We don’t even know what human consciousness is. I don’t think we have even scratched the surface of its possibilities. And not being able to appreciate what human consciousness is, it’s difficult to compare it to artificial consciousness.

With all that on your plate, if you were to project yourself ahead a thousand years, what will the forms of Buddhism we are developing now look like in the future?

[Laughter] Moment-to-moment, nonstop flow; breath after breath.

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John Haspel's picture

Perhaps nothing shows the difference between the Buddha’s direct teachings and the adaptations and accommodations to individual and cultural influences of the later-developed Buddhist schools than: “All of the teachings are an abstraction to the listener. Some of it’s not even logical. This morning I talked to my students about formless form. What is formless form? Those are contradictory terms. It’s a paradox. “

There is nothing abstract or illogical about Dependent Origination or The Four Noble Truths. There is nothing contradictory or paradoxical with the Eightfold Path. In the original teachings of the Buddha there is no mention about “formless form” or any magical or mystical realm to “penetrate deeply.”

With all respect to John Loori, his influence on modern western Buddhism is profound, the Buddha taught “suffering and the cessation of suffering. Nothing more.” (SN 22:45) The Buddha taught that from ignorance (of The Four Noble Truths) through 12 observable causative links “the whole mass of suffering arises.”

Becoming distracted by conceptual “dharmas’ often results in contradictory and confused doctrines. The Buddha taught a simple and direct path to understanding the three “marks of existence,” anicca, anatta, and dukkha. The Eightfold Path, including Shamatha-Vipassana meditation, brings wisdom to ignorance of The Four Noble Truths and the interdependence of the three marks.

The Buddha’s original teachings are clear and direct and develop his stated purpose of “understanding suffering” and “release from craving and clinging.” For forty-five years the Buddha taught an Eightfold Path developing profound understanding of The Four Noble Truths. Every teaching was presented in the context of developing understanding of The Four Noble Truths.

Diverting from his teachings and creating conceptual dharmas with no relation to Dependent Origination and The Four Noble Truths has brought contradictory “Buddhist” teachings. There is nothing contradictory, mystical, illogical or esoteric to the Buddha’s Dhamma. In his final teaching he declared “I have not taught like a teacher with a closed fist. I have held nothing back. I have taught a complete path. Decay (impermanence) is relentless. Strive diligently for you own liberation.” (Mahaparanibbana Sutta.)

The later-developed Buddhist schools and religions are no less legitimate practices. They all are adaptations and accommodations to the Buddha’s original teachings with abstractions and contradictions that often result in a simple path to enlightenment becoming confusing and inaccessible.

John Haspel

janetmartha's picture

Dear John,

In many of your comments criticizing traditions other than Theravada you use this quote, supposedly made by the Buddha:“I teach understanding suffering and the cessation of suffering, nothing more.” SN 56.11

Please read the Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's article refuting the veracity of this quote published in Tricycle:…

Some excerpts:
"Nowhere in the Pali canon does the Buddha himself actually say this...An online search through the thousands of pages of Buddhist scriptures turns up the sentence only twice. And the two places in which it occurs make it plain that the Buddha did not mean to say he teaches only suffering and its cessation and nothing else. Rather, he was saying something quite different, which on each occasion is determined by the context…. In both instances, the sentence shifts attention away from speculative hypotheses toward a practical project, but in neither case does it tie the teaching down to an exclusive area of concern….

"When the Buddha speaks, it is said, he always intends his words to lead to the welfare and happiness of the hearers. But his words are not always tied to the theme of “suffering and its cessation.” To insist on confining them to this topic is to drastically narrow the range of the dharma."

The most Ven Bhikku Bodhi, one of the most respected representatives of the Theravada tradition, continues:

"I have to confess that I am one of the perpetrators of this literary faux pas, for in several of my own past writings I authoritatively cited the wrongly rendered version of the statement as proof that the Buddha’s entire teaching was only about suffering and the end of suffering. But I’ve since learned otherwise. This experience has enabled me to see how linguistic misreadings of Buddhist texts can give rise to wrong doctrinal interpretations and even promulgate modern myths about the meaning of Buddhism."

I think your comments, when they highlight the universality and profound utility of the Four Noble Truths, are generally helpful and insightful. But when you push beyond to disparage the many other brilliant and foundational teachings of the Buddha I believe you are doing a serious disservice to the dharma, although I don't doubt that like many a fundamentalist missionary before you, you believe you are burning out evil weeds.

Please listen to a venerated teacher from your own lineage, and contemplate his words before you use dangerous misquotes of the Buddha to discredit other lineages again.
Thank you.

John Haspel's picture

Dear Janetmartha,

I am sorry if my comments offended you. It is certainly not my intention to disparage any individual or “lineage.” I have spent over thirty years studying in the various Buddhist traditions, taken vows in the Karma Kagyu lineage, and took many retreats and sat many Sundays at Zen Mountain Monastery. I knew John Daido Loori as a most wonderful, funny and deeply insightful man. I have also spent many years studying and practicing the direct teachings of the Buddha as preserved in the Pali Canon. I say this only to show that I am not interested in protecting a Theravadin view, or any other, and that I have actually studied the Dhamma.

I am not a Theravadin Buddhist. Disagreeing with much of the Mahayana teachings does not make me a Theravadin Buddhist or establish my "lineage." There is a dhamma that does not cling to any form. I simply practice the Eightfold Path and the supportive teachings of the Buddha as a way of developing my understanding of the unsatisfactory nature of life (dukkha) and cessation of ignorant views.

As far as the Buddha declaring the purpose and intent of his teachings he said these words consistently and often over the forty-five years of his teaching history. Also, the overall context of his teachings only are useful when taken within the context of developing understanding of suffering and the cessation of ignorant views.

When describing an awakened human being the Buddha states that “suffering has been understood” and that an awakened human being is “released” or “unbound” from clinging to objects, views, and ideas that perpetuate the delusion of an ego-personality.

The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that from ignorance (of The Four Noble Truths) “the whole mass of suffering arises.” This is Dependent Origination, the foundation for everything the Buddha taught. It was his observation of common human suffering that set him on his search for understanding and cessation of suffering.

Of course there are many variations to what is considered “Buddhism” and the purpose of modern Buddhism has many confusing and contradictory “goals” and practices. Even Venerable Bikkhu Bodhi found cause to change his thinking. I don’t agree with him, based on my own direct inquiry.

My only reason to comment in this forum is to provide an alternate view that is often dismissed here. Disagreement is not disparaging. You are right, though, that it is dangerous to misquote, misrepresent, and misapply the Buddha’s teachings.

If you read my comments you will see that my disagreement is with the statement “All of the teachings are an abstraction to the listener. Some of it’s not even logical. This morning I talked to my students about formless form. What is formless form? Those are contradictory terms. It’s a paradox.”

From my study of the Buddha’s teachings, and personal experience, there is nothing abstract, illogical, or paradoxical about the Buddha’s teachings. To claim otherwise is, too me, a misrepresentation of the Dhamma. This leads to continued confusion and suffering.

John Daido Loori did not agree with my understanding, as do many others. When modern teachers do not agree with me I don’t take it as disparaging to me or my understanding. I am not insulted by contradictory doctrines or intentionally hurtful comments. I only hope to provide a meaningful balance to the what is presented in this forum.

John Haspel

janetmartha's picture

Dear John,
Thank you for your response. I'm not at all personally offended by your comments, and I don't object to disagreement or discussion. Hearing many sides of an issue helps make the central ideas and choices clearer. I think many of your comments are useful and articulate. And I appreciate that you feel you're compensating for some kind of imbalance in this forum. That is also my motivation in responding to to your years of single-minded discourses designed to undermine the authority of any Buddhist teachings that do not deal explicitly with the Four Noble Truths. (Forgive me for assuming your lineage was Theravada. I also never meant to define the Theravada lineage, which I also respect very much, by your discourse.)

I don't doubt that your years of practice are greater and vaster than mine, or that your knowledge of the scriptures and their history is well beyond mine. And I most certainly agree that it's vital to look critically at the source of the teachings you're studying and either convince yourself that they are valid or go elsewhere. I sincerely respect your effort and commitment to truth. I just think you're in the wrong forum.

Tricycle is a MULTI-practice Buddhist forum. Tricycle is clearly committed to presenting a wide range of Buddhist teachings. You have stated in many past postings that you see any post-Pali teaching as not genuinely Buddhist. You repeatedly post this position on articles about Mahayana, Zen, Pure Land or Vajrayana teachings. I don't want to start a debate about how to establish the "validity" of the range of teachings beyond the first turning of the wheel in Deer Park, Varanasi. It's a huge, thorny topic that's been well covered in several articles in Tricycle itself. Suffice it to say that after having studied and reflected and meditated, I have concluded, along with many, many other Tricycle readers, that the second and third turnings of the wheel are far beyond valid, they are profoundly liberating.

The 2nd and 3rd turning teachings on developing compassion, abandoning clinging to self and phenomena, and eventually abandoning clinging even to emptiness, often do sound paradoxical and counter-intuitive on first meeting. Your experience of the Buddha's teachings has taken you in a certain direction, one that does not deal with the "abstract or illogical" or "mystical" aspects that you claim characteristic of the later teachings. (There is much that is highly abstract and can lead to "mystical" transformations within the the 4 Noble Truths!) It's great that you've found the inspiration and structure that you need from the dharma that speaks to you. I'm genuinely happy for you. I just ask that you restrain your urge to insist that yours is the only valid experience or interpretation in this forum explicitly dedicated to cultivating a wide range of practices, which the editors and most readers accept as Buddhist, tho you may not.

Best wishes,

melcher's picture

Is it just me or why is it that whenever I encounter one of Haspel's diatribes I feel like I'm reading the label of a Dr. Bronner's bottle?

muditakaruna's picture

It would be helpful, when Tricycle reprints an article by someone who has died, to make a note of this at the beginning of the article. John Daido Loori died in 2009. He was 78 years old.

Alex Caring-Lobel's picture

Hi Liz,
We do so when we reprint articles in our ebooks, but this is not a reprint; this piece is part of our magazine archives. It is our online archive policy to leave authors' bylines as they originally appeared in the magazine.

mkwart's picture

Did the computer zen training course actually happen? I feel drawn to this--the monastery IS our daily life and the teachers are all things we encounter. I also can't afford the gas to get to some remote place or the costs of retreats.

chujoe's picture

Zen Mountain / MRO does have a web presence with dharma talks & other resources, but it is (not surprisingly) not what Daido Roshi envisioned in 2000. The URL is:

I've been going down to ZMM -- a five hour drive -- for about a year now & obviously I can't get there that often, but I don't think there is any substitute for getting at least some face to face teaching. The website does provide a link back to the monastery during periods when one is practicing on one's own.

mkwart's picture

Thanks for the info. I do go south to Shasta Abbey once in a while to get some face to face teaching.

tina_mccoy's picture

I just turned 65 this year. I've been following Buddhist teachings (Theravada and Mahayana) for 5 years now. I don't have a Teacher per se, but I read the writings and follow the teachings of well-known Buddhist Masters, i.e.: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and Thich Nhat Hanh, whose writings and teachings are clear, practical, and easy to follow. I do believe "when the Student is ready, the Teacher will come" - not necessarily in the conventional/ traditional sense of being - but as a role. I've discovered that Dharma and the teachers are everywhere - all I have to do is pay attention and learn. With Palms Together, In Gassho.

jackelope65's picture

my concern in the west is the high price, in dollars, for retreats. i also believe buddhism would be great for the masses. retired, living on social security, with many illnesses and surgeries behind us, no health insurance, my wife and i cannot afford retreats. however, tricycle is very affordable, and we do appreciate the wonderful teachers that are represented here. nonetheless, buddhism must become much more affordable, and face to face contact with real teachers, such as my teacher,Thrangu Rinpoche, is invaluable as their attainment cannot be appreciated any more than a picture of mount everest could replace actually sitting on top of its peak.

myers_lloyd's picture

Run like a madman for a teacher. Get a good teacher. Run. Run.

Dominic Gomez's picture

And when you catch up with him, make sure he hands you the baton so you can continue the relay!

meditatortoo's picture

Thank you for your replies today, I really appreciate the community here at Tricycle.

Misha's picture

I practice along the Theravadan vein as well, and it's particularly hard to find those teachers, I think, though even the Zen options are limited here in Texas. The Theravadan centers around here are run by monks, and the people who visit are lay Buddhists from Thailand and Laos, they really aren't set up for teaching Westerners who are practicing meditation. I just study all I can and ask questions all I can when I go on retreats. If I've had a question in between I'll reach out to one of the centers where I've been on retreat, they have a resident teacher who is very willing to take time to talk. Those of us who are in the middle of nowhere (well, Buddhist-culture-wise) just have to make connections where we can and be content with that I guess.

meditatortoo's picture

Is it essential to have a Teacher? For eight years now I haver totted from one moment to the next, picking up the Dharma from all and sundry. I have yearned a Teacher at various points, but on all occasions been directed back to the Sangha (in it all it's guises) as being a very adequate Teacher.

I am not in a position to be able to commit to monaticism at the moment, so anticipate at least my near future years as being a lay person (housholder, husband, father, businessman, artist), I have been adopted by the Theravadan tradition, I like my spiritual parents ... any Teacher out there willing to take me on?

Should I be seeking a Teacher, or should I continue to totter on, one moment to the next, doing my best to make sense of life and allow the Dharma to wash away the nonsense?

By the way, I am fast approaching 64 years old by convention, by non convention I just am ....

Dominic Gomez's picture

Teachers are necessary in almost all areas of human activity, from the arts to business to sports to parenting. Buddhism is no exception. Buddhism simply offers the individual the means to bring forth and strengthen his or her buddha nature and be able to create the most value in society.

mcwcmurf's picture

If you should find out let me know. I too am 64 and have be sitting zazen on and off (tho more off than on) approx 12 yrs. Have just begun Shikantaza and have some questions.