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Buddhadharma : Summer 2005
buddhadharma| 57 |summer 2005 that is what you do; if you are a potter, that is your identity; if you are a priest, you function as a priest. The crossing over of practices is not so common. The prac- tice that we have here is very unusual in that laypeople practice in a way that might look like a monk’s practice somewhere else. We have a peculiar situation that’s not easily defined; we can’t make the ordinary distinctions. Regardless of the problems, I think that given time, the resolution will come by itself. We must be able to sit with our headache, if that’s what it is. But if we are attentive, without ignoring the situa- tion or forcing it into resolution, we will be able to find some clarity. When people are ordained, they are not automatically teachers, and someone may already be teaching before being ordained. At a certain stage, a priest or layperson can counsel students. After being a shuso (head student for an ango or practice period), a student may be asked to begin counseling other students, depending on their maturity. There is a certain amount of psychology that goes with counseling, but students with crit- ical psychological problems are referred to therapists. The counseling that is done in dokusan and practice discussions is directed toward helping the students in their understanding of dharma and encouraging them to sustain their prac- tice. A good counselor should be able to meet every situation and help those with whom they meet to see themselves clearly. Sometimes a layperson can do this very well and a priest may not be able to. Sometimes a priest is completely immersed in practice but is not necessarily a teacher. That person may simply be a monk − a sin- cere student whose life of practice is itself a wonderful teaching. There are those who teach without teaching, but through their activity they are always transmitting the dharma and inspiring the sangha, whether knowingly or not. There are those who always have a very hard time, but their effort feels genuine and they inspire us because of their sincerity and dedication. This practice reveals many facets. Now, after many years of taking the backward step, we are testing the waters of socially engaged Buddhism. I have always left social engagement to each individual to do what seems appropri- ate, but I think we can do much more in this area. Still, we sometimes forget that opening our doors so that people have the rare opportunity to practice is per- haps our most valuable social service. In the future, though, we can be developing more ways to use our energy for social engagement on various levels. In most religions, priests have been thought to be mediators between god and the people, or god’s representatives on earth. What about the Buddhist priest? Most koans are about the nondual nature of heaven and earth, the absolute and the relative. A Zen student should realize that there is no gap, that a mediator is not neces- sary, and embodying this fundamental point helps others to realize it. You could say that the function of the priest or lay student is to express determination for realization and practice, regardless of the obstacles, and to be the seamless place where heaven and earth meet, becoming a lamp for oneself, and others, on the path.