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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
51 winter 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Dharma is not make-it-up-as -you-go-along. There’s something that must be learned, and there is tradition, but that tradition has to be delivered clearly in dialogue. When young people are in the room, we older teachers are going to have to listen and be challenged and changed. —Norman Fischer ➤ continued page 80 If he sees a quality in a younger person, he asks them to come and give a talk, even though they may not have dharma transmission, because he knows they are going to offer some insights that come from their practice. It helps young people to see that they have peers who are teachers. I’d like to see a lot more of that kind of mentorship. Sumi Loundon Kim: There also has to be financial capability. Those who can afford not to work are going to be the ones who end up becoming dharma teachers. They will be the ones who can do the extensive retreat practice that leads to becoming a dharma teacher. norman FiScher: Young people spend a lot of time in their twenties and early thirties in various kinds of unpaid intern- ships. People interning at centers could get years of practice under their belts to give them a very good foundation. Also, Sumi mentioned earlier all of the wealth that baby boomers will be leaving behind, so maybe some of that will have to be used to underwrite the training of teachers. As we recognize the value of what we are inheriting, we’re going to realize that making sure teachers are well trained and have the time to practice is a high priority. Sumi Loundon Kim: I would love to intern if I knew that even- tually I could earn a living as a dharma teacher. It’s hard to earn enough to support a family, unless you become a cult leader! [Laughter] norman FiScher: Society, people of wealth, and foundations will see the wisdom of supporting dharma centers, but this will require dharma centers to shift focus. The more the tradition begins to articulate itself as a much broader movement—on the one hand being a religion, but on the other hand having an agenda beyond just protecting the flock—it will get sup- port from society at large. In ancient times, people supported the monastery because it protected the realm. In our times, people will support dharma centers because healthy dharma centers are going to make a healthy society. Sumi Loundon Kim: That dovetails with young people’s culture of activism. proclaims the dharma, with less of the dialogue that Norman was talking about earlier. norman FiScher: We learned that style from Asian teachers, or Western teachers who were very close to Asian teachers. It’s a style that came from an authoritarian, feudalistic culture, and it worked great in that culture. Now the generations are shift- ing, and it’s obvious that’s not workable. This presents a chal- lenge, because the dharma is not make-it-up-as -you-go-along. There’s something that must be learned, and there is tradition, but that tradition has to be delivered clearly in dialogue. If you’re a young person going to a retreat and people are talk- ing about aging and menopause, that’s not skillful teaching. When there are young people in the room, we older teachers are going to have to listen and be challenged and changed. iriS BriLLiant: In addition to trying to lessen the heavy author- ity role that seems to come with a lot of teachers, one of the things that makes people want to come back, especially on teen retreats, is when they make close bonds with their peers, and then stay in touch and check in with one another. Trying to foster areas in which young people can meet other young people who are as dedicated as they are and are willing to support one another would help a lot. The Bay Area Young Adult Sangha is flourishing, and that started with just a few young people who came out of the Young Adult Retreat at Spirit Rock. It helps to find young leaders who are willing to rally people together. Having a great teacher isn’t quite enough. You really need people your age. Buddhadharma: While peer support is essential, we need teachers, and as Iris said, younger teachers. In an earlier time, many of the teachers we have today dropped out completely in order to be trained. Is that model going to work? iriS BriLLiant: I don’t think so. Buddhadharma: While not everybody who participates in Bud- dhism has to be become a formal teacher, we do need some. How will they be trained? rod meade Sperry: Boundless Way Zen, a sangha I’ve prac- ticed with a lot over the years, is spearheaded by James Ish- mael Ford, who is very good at cutting across the generations.