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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
18 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 4 TENZIN WANGYAL RINPOCHE: In order to mature on the spiritual path, it is impor- tant to have a teacher with whom you make a heart connection. When you receive instruction from that teacher, you need to take those instructions into your life and practice them until you have experiences and realization. This process requires trust, love, and commitment. There are individuals with enough realization, and more important, stabil- ity, who can be exposed to many ideas and process them without weakening their commitment and the stability of their practice. If someone is open, capa- ble, and stable, then it is fine to learn from different teachers and traditions— and areas outside of Buddhism, such as science, anthropology, and philosophy. But while there is no limit to what we can learn from others, it is important to narrow down the number of practices you engage in, because practice requires long and deep commitment in order to bear fruit. It is important to explore what’s moti- vating you to learn from many traditions and teachers. Listen deeply to discern if you are in search mode, driven by an underlying feeling of dissatisfaction. Without realizing it, we can spend years in this mode, wandering and collecting knowledge, all the while not connecting with our underlying hunger. If this is the case, we are not really trying to find a teacher or to become more intimate with our actual experience. This is a form of spiritual materialism, and it is an obsta- cle to spiritual realization. If you look more deeply and honestly you may real- ize that you are lost, and this realization can be a genuine beginning to your path. If this is the case, it is important first and foremost to find a teacher you respect and will come to love, and a path and practice you can commit to, then dedicate enough time with that teacher and the teachings and practices to develop confidence and maturity. During this time you can be open to others, not replacing or rejecting your master or your practice, but comple- menting, enriching, and expanding your enough. Others, like you, will be open to the many traditions within Buddhism. For me, it’s not that there was or is any- thing lacking in the Theravada tradition; I simply met a teacher in the Chan lin- eage with whom I had a strong affinity. I don’t see your openness as necessar- ily problematic so long as you have wise view and know precisely how to prac- tice. But if you find yourself succumbing to confusion, you need to choose one tradition and stick with it. ZENKEI BLANCHE HARTMAN: I agree with you that there is much to learn from each of the Buddhist traditions that are now available to us in the West. In the early years, San Francisco Zen Center hosted many Buddhist teachers from dif- ferent traditions, and I appreciated the opportunity to hear them teach. Over the years, I have done retreats with teachers trained in the various schools of Zen, Vajrayana, and Insight Medita- tion, and I have been inspired by many teachers who are living their lives guided by the teachings of the Buddha. However, once you make a strong connection with a teacher who inspires you, you should consider moving from search mode to engagement. When I first met Suzuki Roshi, I thought, “I want to be like him!” The best teacher for you is someone who inspires you by the wis- dom and compassion you see in them as they go about their daily life and inter- act with the people around them. I wouldn’t recommend engaging with multiple teachers at once. It’s best to give your full attention and effort to one teacher and sangha. If the sangha has multiple teachers available, you may need to speak one-on-one with several teachers to discern who is the best fit for you as a primary teacher. Kobun Chino Roshi once said, “When you realize how rare and how precious your life is, and how com- pletely you are responsible for how you live it, how you manifest it, it’s such a big responsibility that naturally such a person sits down for a while.” Are you willing to sit down for a while and com- mit to a teacher, sangha, and practice?