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Charlatans, teachers and grifters

yagryagr Veteran

I'm going to go with the 'sangha' category for $200, Alex. When considering the topics 'discussion title' - think Middle One Way. :)

So many questions are popping up as of late. It's rather tedious vetting them all to separate the wheat from the chaff, if you will, but I'm trying to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater here by simply dismissing them all out of hand. Here's one that survived the vetting process:

It has been suggested to me on more than a couple of occasions around here, that I find a meditation teacher - or sometimes the suggestion is simply for a teacher, sans 'meditation', although I have always assumed that was more or less implied inclusion. The suggestions that I've failed to receive, are helpful guidelines on doing so. Recently, while keeping my eyes and heart open, I was approached by a Zen monk who suggested we get together to answer some of my questions. What made that interesting was that I had never asked him a question or indicated that I had any questions that needed answers. So, I took that to be sufficiently serendipitous to take him up on his kind offer.

We met and frankly, I was left a bit disappointed. I took something valuable away from our get together, but it feels as if that was more accidental than by design. I understood very little of what he said. Between his very heavy accept and his challenge to understand me as well as delivering his message in English, communication was spotty at best. From what I was able to catch, his message was so very basic to Buddhism that I'm not sure that I would have gotten any more out of our get together if communication wasn't a problem. Too, his answers to my questions seemed to indicate that he didn't understand them.

I am now left trying to determine if I should meet with him regularly, which has been offered, or to search elsewhere. To this end, I have realized that I do not know the questions to ask myself in order to find that answer. I am familiar with the idea that understanding can be transmitted can in ways other than speech, but that seems like an unnecessary handicap to voluntarily sign up for. Perhaps my impression that he didn't understand my questions based on his answers were evidence that it was I that didn't understand my question, instead of him. That might be a long-shot, but I can't dismiss the possibility. On the other hand, whether the gift I was able to walk away with was caused intentionally by his choice of message, or whether he was simply an ignorant catalyst - I benefitted by the discussion.

Fwiw, I have searched for the answer here before asking. I have found the following from @Jason:

"True teachers will be busy practicing the Dhamma themselves, not going door to door advertising their teaching skills. After that, only time will tell if they really are any good or not" - Feb. 2006

So, not only did this fellow do the Covid-19 equivalent of knocking on my door, I'm ignorant as to what I should be looking for over time to decide one way or the other. As most of the threads that I've found covering this topic are very old, many of the members commenting on them are unknown to me and so I can't give a tremendous amount of weight to their thoughts on the matter. Jason, of course, was an exception.

Comments

  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited February 15

    @yagr
    When experiencing an ever widening heart & mind, is it possible to meet anyone who isn't your perfect teacher in that moment.

    A teacher....need only be whatever helps lessens ones practice from becoming mired in the subtleties of self.

    yagrShoshin1lobster
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    That his response was “very basic to Buddhism” was perhaps not a bad thing, I have noticed from videos that it happens often when a question is answered that the answer goes back to a basic principle. Also that he came to you could be interpreted as a good thing.

    Then again, that he didn’t seem to understand your questions is not a good sign. Perhaps you should try testing the teacher. These three questions are usually asked by a spiritual teacher of a visiting supplicant, but they might help you: who are you, where did you come from, and where are you going?

    The response you get can tell you a lot about a persons spiritual intentions. If it’s something like, I am Hayao, I come from Tokyo, and tomorrow I’m going to New York, then you might do well to pass the guy by, it’s a naive answering. You might get a range of more interesting answers.

    Also I would be aware of the unspoken when you talk to him. Sometimes there is more going on than just an exchange of words, and a teaching can be wordless, especially in Zen. If you feel you benefitted last time, try and be alert to see what happens the next time.

    yagrpaska
  • I think first determine if you think he can harm you. If no because he is honest with good intentions then stay with him awhile and give a chance to answer your dharma questions and listen to each other. If he can't harm you it might be worth it to give a try even if he eventually is not suited to you and you find a different teacher.

    yagr
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    I think it might be a good idea to give him another try. I know for myself, it usually takes an interaction or three to begin to understand where another person is coming from and how to adjust my own expression to better meet them where they are.

    yagrlobster
  • @how said:
    @yagr
    When experiencing an ever widening heart & mind, is it possible to meet anyone who isn't your perfect teacher in that moment.

    Ah ha.

    The flaw is not the charlatan teacher but us charlatan 'students' thinking we can discern. So the question is why are we unprepared?

    Wot we think we have questions? How many have barely digested the answers of dharma practice?

    yagrpaska
  • If he can't harm you it might be worth it to give a try even if he eventually is not suited to you and you find a different teacher.

    How many teachers do we need including the wandering appointees?

    Agendas. We all have them. Are we kind to our motives, impervious to our karma? Let us call the helping. Zen teachers are welcome here ... I for one need all the help available ...

    yagr
  • コチシカコチシカ Veteran
    edited February 26

    Follow your gut! But make sure you are sure . I would consider a few meetings before making a decision. Who knows, maybe there is a great opportunity lying ahead. But if you aren't liking at all what you are hearing, maybe ask yourself what is it exactly -exactly what you've expressed- and try weigh it out objectively.

    Also, good advice from Jeffrey regarding the harm aspect. If yes, automatic red flag.

    My case with my first instructor was hearing stuff like, "this isn't the right reading", "you must stick to one path", "our guru is Vajrayana master, you can't understand his actions". These comments were enough to let him go and continue my path elsewhere. Also, the only problem I see with prolonguing the meetings is then having to end them.

    Best of luck in the path!

    yagr
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited March 2

    "True teachers will be busy practicing the Dhamma themselves, not going door to door advertising their teaching skills. After that, only time will tell if they really are any good or not" - Feb. 2006

    I knew it!
    True students will also be busy practicing the Dhamma themselves, not going door to door advertising their seeker skills. After that, only time will tell if they really are any good or not ...

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