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Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
45 fAll 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly them. If the student is unable to stay clear within the relation- ship, then the relationship needs to end. That student can no longer study the dharma with that teacher. And ending such a relationship is the teacher’s responsibility. But the teacher can also get seduced. As deeply as the student is asked to enter, the teacher must also enter. And so if the teacher, being a human being, sees sexual desires arising, he or she must redirect those energies, must clarify them, and ultimately drop them off. Otherwise, that teacher cannot teach that student. This ensures that when the student encounters a teacher, the only thing he or she is seeking is the dharma; and when a teacher faces his or her student, the only concern is the prac- tice of that student. To acknowledge the power of sexuality means there is a need within all of us for diligence, sincerity, perseverance, and thoroughgoing awareness to avoid being seduced by our own desire. This is why we must not pursue self-serving forms of power, giving rise to a mind seeking “fame and gain,” as Dogen puts it. The Way-seeking mind must not become a self-seeking or an other-seeking mind. Thus, the Buddha said, “Those on the Way are like dry grass. It is essential to keep away from an oncoming fire.” Being like dry grass, it’s easy to be ignited when coming into contact with fire. Understanding this—and our own easy-to-ignite inclinations—skillfulness must include avoiding fire when necessary, for the well-being of others. In the Mahayana tradition, our ultimate challenge is to understand the dry grass and the fire as one thing and to live perfectly in accord with this truth. This is the realm of the layman Vimalakirti, who went into the brothels, into the bars, into all the places where the fire is burning and desires are abundant, so he could offer the dharma to beings in all the six realms. But that’s Vimalakirti—a deeply enlightened being—and a nonhistorical figure at that. Most of us are not in that advanced stage of practice. And so there is wisdom in being keenly attentive and careful around that which we may not yet have the strength or confidence to navigate. People in perceived positions of power will often attract those who also seek power and it’s important not to betray those people. Offer them what they need, which is the real dharma; not what they want, which may be just more delu- sion. While both parties are responsible—and the student is also accountable—the person with the greater power holds the greater responsibility for establishing and maintaining the correct understanding within that relationship. But we can’t do that if we’re not clear ourselves, which is our responsibility in this practice: to study and realize the self. Ultimately, this clarity has to arise from a deep motivation to live our lives in a way that is true to the dharma, true to ourselves, and true to others. Master Keizan said, “It is not necessary to ask about oth- ers. Just look back on your own very first determination of mind. Look into yourself and see what is right, and see what is not right. This is why it is said that it is hard to be as careful of the end as the beginning. If they would truly be beginners, who would not become people of the Way?” Students will come to a dharma teacher asking for guid- ance, wisdom, support. And the teacher, in turn, makes a commitment to offer the dharma to others, helping them cast away their attachments, bringing their attention to their hin- drances; helping them empower themselves to put out their own fires. But while helping others to turn the light around and see deeply within themselves, we, as teachers, can stop turning our own light around. We can become confused or arrogant about what is right and what is not right. It’s easy to lose that fresh, keen, alert mind of the beginner. My sense of this is that as teachers become more involved in working with students, it becomes more important than ever that their own inner practice remain strong and alive, just as it was in the beginning of training. The Buddha said in the Surangama Sutra: You whom I’ve given this instruction to have now dedicated yourselves to attaining great awakening, the supreme and wondrous enlightenment. You have the right method for practice but you may still not be aware of the subtle demonic events that can occur when you undertake these practices. If you do not purify your mind, you will not be able to recognize these states as they arise. You will not find the right path and you will fall into the error of wrong views. If your mind is not clear when this happens, you may well take a burglar to be your own child, or you may feel satisfied with a small accomplishment. (Translated by the Buddhist Text Translation Society) We can have insight into the nature of our self and not fully actualize that insight through our actions. In fact, it seems that perfect embodiment of one’s clear understanding is quite rare. ZenMountAinMonASteryArchive