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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
23 summer 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly SEND yoUR qUESTIoNS By MAIL oR To TEACHERS@THEBUDDHADHARMA.CoM PHOTOSBy(l-R):BARBARAwENGER,MARyEllENMCCOURT,MARylANG Zenkei BlanChe hartman: A great deal depends on the mutual trust already established between a teacher and student. When I began to practice with Suzuki Roshi I was very unsure of myself and sometimes self-dis- paraging. In that circumstance he was very kind and encouraging, sometimes even complimenting me on the sincerity of my practice. Later, I went to see him in dokusan (a private interview) during a one-day sitting when I had become quite concentrated on my breath. I was quite pleased with myself and said, “Roshi, I can count every breath now, without missing any. What do I do now?” I think I expected him to say, Good for you, or something like that. Instead, he became very fierce and said, “Don’t ever think that you can sit zazen. That’s a big mistake. Zazen sits zazen!!” That’s as close to wrathful as I ever experienced, and it was very effective. I could see how much I was focused on myself and on his approval, and how far removed I was from sitting with “no gaining idea,” as he so often instructed us. There was, however, an event in the history of our sangha in which Suzuki Roshi was wrathful with the whole sangha, and I would call that incident quite skillful as well, because it was so rare that we never forgot it. I was not present because it was my hus- band’s turn to sit sesshin (we still had children at home, so we took turns). During sesshin one morning, the person who rang the wake-up bell misread his clock and rang the bell an hour early. Then he realized it and went around saying, “I’m sorry, it’s an hour early. Go back to bed.” The only ones who went to the zendo were Suzuki Roshi, my husband, and one other student. An hour later the bell rang again and everyone else came and ask the teaChers ZenkeI Blanche hartman is former abbess of the San Francisco Zen Center Geshe tenZIn WanGyal rInpoche is a lineage holder of the Bön Dzogchen tradition of Tibet narayan lIeBenson Grady is a guiding teacher at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center question: Is it ever appropriate for a teacher to be wrathful with a student? If so, how can wrathfulness be used effectively to teach a student and when is it potentially harmful? How does a student know when a teacher’s wrathfulness is skillful means rather than a symptom of the teacher’s own problems?