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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 09 48 to prepare and lead effective Zen rituals, offer spiritual solace in times of human need, and take care of our own emotional and physical needs and teach those self-care skills to sangha members. The most basic skill of all, however, is just being able to talk and listen to another human being. During training this is practiced in dyads to create the experience of intimacy and tenderness that arises between two people. There is a saying in Zen: “You cannot eat a painted rice cake.” To fully appreciate the vulnerability of being with another human being, balanc- ing wisdom and compassion, we need to actually be present in the doing of it. The SPOT faculty models this willingness to be present through its own frank discussions and interactions with each other—much of which is shared openly with trainees. In teaching students how to prepare and deliver a dharma talk, we address the importance of knowing the needs of an audience in various settings—including prisons, hospitals, schools, and retreats for beginners—so that we can match the talk to the needs of that audience. Zen master Yunmen was once asked: “What is the teaching of the Buddha’s entire lifetime?” Yunmen answered, “An appropriate response.” The Buddha himself always tried to offer the best medi- cine to his followers, discerning what was needed in each We took heart in similar efforts being made at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. Jack Kornfield, Spirit Rock’s founder, has pioneered a teacher-train- ing program that in the last twenty years has produced over a hundred Vipassana teachers and practice leaders. Once, when asked what kind of people his training program was designed to produce, Jack answered, “Mature adults!” He meant mature in all senses of the word—emotionally, psychologically, and socially, as well as spiritually. Author John Welwood has coined the term “spiritual bypassing” to describe the way meditators try to achieve spiritual matu- rity while ignoring, or “bypassing,” their personal and emotional problems. Welwood and Kornfield are saying much the same thing. Real spiritual maturity cannot happen on the superhighway of spiritual bypassing. We have to wend our way through all the local roads of emotion and ego, transforming each obstacle as it goes. We cannot skip pain or conflict by spiritual workarounds that bump us to a higher plane while repressing or bypassing our human condition. We must instead use our carefully honed attention to honestly encounter our vulner- ability and suffering, one breath at a time. The Curriculum Rather than refine the core skills of meditation and ritual that trainees already study with their own teachers and within their sangha or residential community, SPOT faculty decided to focus on the trainable and measurable skills that Zen priests or teachers need to minister to their groups effectively. These skills include the ability to provide spiritual counseling in one-on-one situations, and to give dharma talks that teach laypeople the benefits of Zen practice in everyday life. Priests and teachers-in- training also need group leadership skills in order to guide their sangha or group to become a cohesive whole. Other important skills addressed in the training program include learning how SPOT is not a substitute for the one-on-one relationship of teacher and disciple. Our intention is to supplement and support traditional training methods. Rev. Zenju Earthlyn Manuel of the San Francisco Zen Center. PeTerSchireSOnrenShinBunce