Teachers and Students

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AI Summary: 

The talk centers on the exploration of inner conflicts and the metaphorical 'ogres' that one faces in various relationships such as those between parents and children, teachers and students, and within oneself. It describes these conflicts as battles with ogres that are both external and internal, reflecting on Zen teachings to find harmony and self-acceptance.

Key references and stories include:
- A poem by Zen master Hakuin about internal and external struggles, depicting them as ogres fighting within.
- A quote by Albert Camus about personal transformation and the responsibility to handle one’s inner struggles conscientiously.
- An anecdote involving Suzuki Roshi, the speaker's first official Zen teacher, challenging the traditional roles of teacher and student during a meditation session to emphasize mutual learning and respect.

The talk suggests that deep personal and relational issues can be addressed through introspection, meditation, and a reevaluation of how one interacts with and perceives others. By recognizing that conflicts often arise from misconceptions and external pressures, one can learn to embrace and transform personal imperfections and challenges into growth opportunities.

AI Suggested Title: "Confronting Inner Ogres: Zen Teachings on Relationship Struggles"


How are you doing today? I'm feeling nervous, but there's no help for it. I'm on the schedule to talk to you today. And I'm going ahead anyway. So, a friend of mine gave me a book recently about Zen art, and I found a poem in there by the Zen master Hakuin that I wanted to share with you this morning. A short little


poem. Hakuin, you know, is Rinzai's Zen teacher in Japan, 16th or 17th century, I forget. You know, he was famous for having had, whatever it was, 12 or 18 big enlightenments and three dozen little ones. So anyway, he also did calligraphy and paintings and wrote poetry and various things. So this is one of his little poems. The ogre outside shoves at the door. The ogre inside holds it fast. Sweat pouring from head to foot. They battle for their very lives. Fighting on all through the night until the dawn appears. And laughter


fills the early light. They were friends from the start. Well, were they friends from the start or not? You don't sound convinced. Probably you've met these ogres. Sometimes they're you and the voice that's telling you what to do and what not to do and what kind of person you are. And you try to defend yourself or prove yourself to this voice that talks to you, this ogre. And then sometimes, you know, it's parents and children. Especially recently, I've been meeting with, I've run into several people who are taking care of elderly parents, you know, in their late 80s or 90s. Not very easy. Very challenging. I


think as we get older, we get to be caricatures of ourselves. You know, and when you're younger, you can kind of keep more of your imperfections hidden. And you're less willing to show them. But as you get older, you have less energy to kind of keep it all under wraps. Until finally, you know, you're a bundle of your imperfections. I'm headed there. And then it's, you know, parents and their teenagers. You know, one teenager called me recently and said, my mom's disowned me. Fix her. Call her up. And then it's, you know, teachers and students who


don't always get along. And then, of course, there's our partners. You know, early on we thought they'd agreed not to touch or somehow cause to arise the ogre within us. But somehow that ogre within us appears in response to what we perceive to be the ogre in them, and we have it out. And of course, a lot of the time we don't realize we were friends from the start. And we had our separate ways. Feeling betrayed that actually we thought we had a good agreement here, that we weren't going to awaken the ogre in each other. Promise. You promised. So what are we going to do


with these ogres pushing on each side of the door? And what is that door anyway? That, you know, one ogre wants in and the other ogre doesn't want, you know, to anything admitted. So I also came across a quote by Albert Camus, the existentialist author. He said, we all have our places inside of exile. Our crimes, our ravages. It's not our job to unleash these on the world, but


to transform them in ourselves and others. So mostly, you know, people when they meditate find that they start meeting some ogres. It's hard to keep them out when you meditate. And it's not some, you know, work that we want to be doing exactly or that's kind of cheerful or happy, or necessarily we feel like we're accomplishing something as the ogres battle through the night, fighting on. But it is possible to transform them and to realize we were friends from the start. We were friends with ourself. We were friends with our pain and our difficulty. And we were friends with, you know, our enemy. And it seems like sometimes, you know, like our, you know,


our effort tends to be to reestablish the agreement that we made originally not to have these ogres appear. Not to have our crimes or our ravages or our exile surface. How do we keep it? Are we going to keep it beneath the surface in a safe place so to make sure we don't unleash it? How will we do that? So, you know, this seems to be, you know, there's not one, you know, simple answer. But I want to talk a little bit today about teachers and students. And to start with, I want to mention a story about Suzuki Roshi,


my first Zen teacher. You know, first official Zen teacher. Teachers are always showing up. And of course, it's not clear, you know, as you'll see, who is the teacher and who is the student. Who is studying with who here. But once during Seshin, and you know, Suzuki Roshi very rarely talked during meditation. But once in a while, he would talk during meditation. Sometimes during Seshin. This one particular Seshin, you know, our seven day, we just just finished a


Seshin a few days ago, a week ago. I missed it. But, you know, one starts out often Seshin with the idea, I will maintain a particular mind that I have in mind, you know, the good one to have against all comers. And I'm going to do it better this time than the other times. Eventually, one kind of tends to ease up a little bit on this idea of maintaining a particular state of mind against all comers. Hold the door fast. But somehow things show up and they eventually, you know, one day and two days and things will get to you. It's kind of why we do Seshins. Some of


us get better and better at not having things get to us and then you need some more, you need it to be harder for things to get to you, so that you can transform some of those crimes and ravages, rather than keeping them buried and having the possibility of unleashing them unexpectedly. So, you know, it gets harder as, you know, the days go by and then your legs hurt more or your back or and your thinking starts to bother you in various ways. Sometimes, you know, it's memories of things that happened when you were small. Sometimes it's thoughts about how you must not be, I must be the worst Zen student ever. Everybody else is sitting more stilly than I am and whatever, you know. Nobody suffers like I suffer. It becomes like a mantra. Some people don't believe in visualization,


but in the meantime they're visualizing nobody suffers like I suffer. Nobody. And they're repeating this. So, usually when people don't believe in visualization or mantra practice, they have their own visualization or mantra practice that they're very attached to. They don't want to do somebody else's. That's what they mean. So, you know, sometimes by about the fourth day you start to level out. Oftentimes people say, you know, the third afternoon is the most challenging and then the fourth day you kind of start to surface. And then it starts to feel sometimes by the fifth morning like you could coast from here. You've been through the worst and you've surfaced. So, the morning of the fifth day, Suzuki Roshi started talking in meditation. And he said, I remember this being at Page Street before we put in the wooden floor there in the


Zendo. And there were those, you know, sort of black tiles with a little white stripy things in them. Anyway, Suzuki Roshi started talking and he said, you think that I'm the teacher and you're the student and that I have, you know, things to tell you that you need to learn and that you're interested in learning. This is the wrong idea. You think I know things that you don't know and that I'm going to share them with you and that's how you'll find out. This is a mistake. And he went on like this. You think I understand, you don't. You think I'm the teacher, you're the student. This is the wrong idea. You think you don't know, I know. This is a mistake.


And he said, sometimes, you know, teachers and students are studying together and sometimes the teacher bows to the student. Sometimes the student bows to the teacher. Sometimes the teacher is the student. Sometimes the student is the teacher. And he went on and then at some point, I'm telling you this kind of quietly, he started out kind of calmly, but it was still not that calm. It was pretty intense. Here's what you think, it's wrong. And then finally, after a few minutes of this, he jumped up and he had a little stick like this, a little longer maybe, about like this, but you know, straight, his little straight stick. And he went over to the first person sitting, you know, facing the wall and he said, who is the teacher? Bam! And then he hit the student and then


the next student, who is the teacher? A student. Bam! Who is the teacher? Bam! And then after about six or seven students that he was hitting, he ran out of breath and then just hit everybody else without the verbal accompaniment. Sort of clears the air. What were you thinking that somehow you don't know and I know? What were you thinking? How could you think that? Why would you think that? Why would you give up your capacity to find your way and think that I know what's best for you to do? Why would you give your life over to somebody else and forsake, you know, your own capacity to study and realize and investigate and deepen your experience? Why would you abandon


yourself thinking that somebody else knows better? There's something to be said for, you know, respecting someone, appreciating someone, but he could tell, you know, that we thought so highly of him that we would give up our own way, our own way-seeking mind, and wait for him to instruct and direct, teach, so that we could finally understand and things would, you know, be so much better then when we understood the way he did. You know, this was, again, you know, this is


very unusual that he did anything like this. In one of his lectures, he said, how a teacher points out a student's mistake is very important. First of all, he said, if the teacher sees that the student made a mistake, that's not a true teacher. It may be a mistake, but on the other hand, it's also an expression of the student's true nature. When a teacher realizes this, the teacher will be very respectful of the student's true nature and very careful about how he points


out a mistake. You know, we were friends from the start, and the more I meet people, lately somehow I've been, in various capacities, meeting with people who had very traumatic childhoods. And the simplest thing I can say about that is, you know, who we are, we come to honestly. If you have a difficulty, you know, or pain, or sorrow, or depression, or grief, or you know, in your life, things happened. You got it honestly, you came to it honestly. It's not something you're making up.


Our culture has very little capacity for acknowledging the genuine pain and grief in our lives. And there's very little support for doing that kind of work, whether it's, you know, meditation, or, you know, various forms of grief counseling, or therapy, or communication skills, or... But we come by things honestly. Things happened. And, you know, we're studying how we can be friends. Sometimes you could say also the teachers, the teacher and students, you know, look


like ogres. The parents and children seem like ogres. And we were friends. And how is it to, in some way, transform instead of unleash? And, you know, Zen is not very quick, but it's sometimes can be quite thorough. Over time, eventually, there's the realization, we were friends, from the start. You may sit with pain and difficulty for years. And your own voices, you know, talking


this way and that. And it's not clear, you know, who is the teacher and who is the student. It's not clear who needs to what. You need to stop being so depressed. You need to stop being so angry. Why don't you this, you should that? And we tell ourselves various things. And we tell our demons or ogres various things. And they tell us things. And we struggle back and forth. Instead of saying, you know, like we do in meditation, come here and sit. Sit with me. Sit


here in my heart. You must be in terrible pain. You know, that you behave like this. I wish I knew what to do to help you with that pain. And all I know how to do is to sit with it, to hold it. I don't know how to, you know, fix it. And there's no way, you know, to change it. There's finally being willing to sit and let the pain, the ogres, into your heart. And not be undone by it all. And not to lash out or unleash. And we have our own pain, other people's pain, and we sit with it. And


we breathe with it. And you can breathe it, you know, into your heart finally. It's like the early night. Breathing it into your heart. If you think of yourself always as the student looking for, you know, the teaching, when will you ever be the teacher? When will you ever, you know, acknowledge or meet the teacher in you? A


good teacher or a good parent will help you meet the teacher in you, the parent in you, the one who can see, who knows, who can decide, the one who's mature and grown up, which each of us also is. Or, you know, you could say, you know, each of us, you know, of course, you know, our true nature is that way. Loosely speaking. But our true nature is also the one who doesn't know what he or she is doing and loses it. Our true nature takes various forms and shapes. But as much as


anything, you know, it's the task of a teacher or the task of a teacher to introduce you, to help you meet the teacher in you. You know, sometimes, you know, I've read about therapists who work with people who have been, had very difficult and painful childhoods and, you know, maybe practicing, you know, self mutilation. And one therapist in this story, you know, she said that she, she wanted to be sure to be there for this person. She thought that she could be there for her patient, her client, in ways that nobody ever had before. So she let the patient call her at home. She let the patient call her on weekends. She would talk to the patient anytime of the day or night so she could be there


for her patient. And after two or three years, you know, the patient, at some point, you know, had been making some progress. And at some point, the patient lost it and had some serious kind of episode of self mutilation and didn't want to work with the therapist anymore. And at some point, the therapist said to her patient, was anything, was there anything that I did that was a help to you? And her patient said, you were always so perfect. And so there for me. I couldn't imagine ever being like that. That one day when you got impatient with me, it was such a relief. Sometimes as you


know, teachers or parents, you know, we try so hard to be perfect and impeccable. And it actually sets, you know, too high a standard for our children or our students. There's no way they're going to be able to do that. And they have no example of how it's okay to be impatient, or less than impeccable. And how that might be okay. And how you, you know, might be able to work with that in your life. And how maybe sometimes the students could tell the teacher, you know, is there anything I can do? You seem really upset. So it's very challenging, who's teaching who, and what the lesson is. Is it important to be, you know, less impeccable, less perfect? An example of what it is to be, you know,


so called human is important to grow up to show less of your, you know, to be less demonstrative, less expressive of your feelings or emotions. So we're studying this with one another. It's not clear what the lesson is. I've had, you know, difficulty for years. In cooking classes, for many years, I did cooking classes, and it was like easy. It was so much fun. And people who came to the classes had a good time, except for my assistants. I saved my impatience for the assistants. People in the class, okay, I can tolerate your behaviors. But somehow I could tell stories, and we did stuff together, and we had a good time. And then suddenly, and then at some point, it got really hard. And it seemed like people just wanted


to talk with their friends and drink wine, and when are we going to eat, and they didn't seem to be interested in having a cooking class. And I thought, I was there to do a cooking class, and I should tell them things, and that they should listen. So how do I get them to behave like that? You know, you need to be quiet and listen to me. Take an interest in this stuff. You know, put that, I did one class, you know, where the people not only started drinking wine at the beginning of the class, but they lose interest. The more people drink, the less they're interested in the cooking class, you know. But then about, you know, two-thirds of the way through the class, most of the class disappeared, and I didn't know where they went. And unbeknownst to me, and I only found this out months later, you know, they were out on the porch all smoking dope. And then they came back in and wanted to know what there was to eat. And they weren't particularly interested in working at how to make that happen. So this, over the years, anyway, got challenging.


And I didn't know what to do. And then, I used to try to say to people, you know, so this is a perfect example, you know. And there's different responses from people. You know, many years ago, I have a dear friend now. I mean, I have a woman who's been my friend now for 10 or 12 years, maybe more. But she came to a cooking class at Tassajara, and the first day of the class, I said, you know, I'm kind of anxious about this class. You know, I've had to move in my cabin, and I was going to move yesterday, but they postponed it to last night. And then they said I could move this morning, and then I said I should move this afternoon. And then they came and told me, we need your cabin now. And they put everything in my room into some carts out in the middle of the road at Tassajara. And I'm like, where's my notes for my class? And I was kind of in this, you know, kind of disoriented sort of space for the class,


and I told this to the group. And this one woman, my friend Sharon, she said, oh, are you anxious? I'm anxious too. And then she grabbed my hand and pulled it right up to her chest, right between her breasts. And I'm like, whoa. And what's she doing? And then sure enough, her heart was just going thump, [...] thump. And I said, you are anxious, aren't you? So we're still friends, you know. She was, for many years, a nurse for the homeless in Boston, an amazing person. You know, her clients had to refuse to come into shelter and have a life-threatening disease. And then she had 135 patients a week that she visited where they lived, in the overpasses. She knew where people hung out. She'd go out and see them every week. On the other hand, you know, I was in, so that's kind of like, who's the teacher, who's the student, you know?


You get to meet. And then I was at another cooking class one time, and I said, I'm kind of anxious. And that was for different reasons, you know. I just got here. I don't know this kitchen. I don't know the food that you've got. Somebody else has done the shopping. I have no idea whether we have all the ingredients that, you know, I have the menu for. So I'm feeling kind of uneasy about how this is going to work today. And then there was the woman who said, But Ed, you've been practicing Zen for over 30 years now. What do you have to be anxious about? All right, why don't you run the class? And maybe you'll find out. Oh, boy. But anyway, so I've been trying to figure out for years. And then there was one year at Tassajara where,


you know, I would tell people, like, I would really like you to listen to what I have to say. And, you know, it's very tempting to talk. And I've got this little bell here that, you know, mindfulness bell, right? I'm going to, you know, and if it gets too loud and everybody's talking, I'm going to hit the bell. And maybe you'll be willing to close your mouth at that time and breathe through your nose and let me talk next. And then I said to my assistant, here's the bell, and probably within about two minutes of when we start, they're all going to be talking. Okay? Past experience is no indication of future performance, but nonetheless. So sure enough, I start talking, and we're talking about how to use a knife, and then people start to cut. And then within two minutes, they're all jabbering.


And one person asked me a question, and even though everybody's talking, I start to answer her question. And then a second person, without realizing that the first person has asked a question, and I'm busy answering that, asked me a second question. And then I'm like, oh, what do I do now? And then a third person asked me a question, not realizing that two people have already asked her a question. And I'm trying to answer the first person's questions and tell the second person that I'm talking to the first person, and that you weren't listening, and that you didn't realize that. And then I look over, and my assistant has abandoned the bell and gone over to talk to somebody. So I can't signal to her, like, hit the bell! So, you know, I just lost it. I became an ogre. New incarnation, you know. Well, it's not unusual for chefs to be ogres. And I said, you know, I asked you to be quiet, and you know, you're all talking,


and then three people have asked me questions, and I can't do this anymore, and I left. And then I took my thermos with me and my cup and just went outside to have a cup of tea. After a few minutes, my assistant came out. I'm sorry. I apologize. And then eventually I went back in, and of course, the problem with leaving like that is then you have to spend all this time processing what happened, which is maybe good and maybe not. So then the group was still sitting there, sort of sheepishly, sheepishly, you know. And I'm kind of like, hi, I'm back. I guess I'm going to try this again. And right away, a woman raised her hand, and she said, Ed, you know, I had a very abusive childhood, and I don't know if you're going to behave like this. I don't know that I can be here. So then we spent about an hour and a half talking about our traumatic childhoods.


And then it was time for the class to end, and I said, well, do you want to have a cooking class? Do you want to have a cooking class? We could stay overtime, or should we just call that the class for today? They decided to stay, and we had a cooking class, and you know, life went on. But it's kind of embarrassing, you know, being a Zen teacher and behaving like this. It's just an act. It's only when I have my robes on. So recently, you know, I found there is an alternative to this, and I want to share this with you. I'm sorry if I'm going on too long, but I'll finish up with this little story and maybe a short poem. But I learned this new technique, skill, and I've been practicing this. And it's actually rather nice, and it's actually like invites others to be the teacher, rather than, you know, I had been trying to be the teacher and telling the students how to behave.


I'm the teacher. I get to tell you how to behave, and then you should behave like that. That's what we do with our kids and with our elderly parents, whoever it is, you know. Shouldn't they do what we tell them? Don't they love us enough to do that? If they really love this, of course, or respect at least. Anyway, so I was at a cooking class in Ojai back in April, and there was more than 30 people there. There was, you know, I think around 35 people, and I spent about 10 minutes telling them they needed to be quiet and listen. And I told them various things, and I was kind of ranting, I'm afraid. I could see some people kind of like backing up. And if they felt a little freer or less, you know, they might have looked around for where the door


is, and if they could just back out the door and slip away, like, who is this madman we thought we'd do a cooking class with? So then we started the class, and sure enough, within five minutes, the whole room is like talking. And this is not just like 10 people or 8 people or 15 people. This is like 35 people are talking. There's no way I'm going to be able to say anything. Even if I hit a bell, you know, they probably wouldn't hear it. So I actually employed two strategies. The first is, one, I, you know, I do try to receive teaching sometimes, you know. I got this from a kindergarten teacher, but I also got it from, you know, this great little book I like by a woman named Becky Bailey, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. It's how to raise your kids. So like, if you're having trouble with your little, with your three or four-year-old,


they're not getting dressed in the morning, instead of yelling at them across the room, you need to get dressed now, get your clothes on, or, you know, this kind of thing. She advises, you go over and sit down next to them and you wait for your three or four-year-old to give you their attention. You don't just demand their attention, you wait for them to give you their attention. So I adopted this from my cooking class and I went down and sat in the corner of the kitchen on a stool, everybody's talking, and I waited for them to give me their attention. And somebody came over to me and said, do you want them to come over here? I said, this is going to take care of itself, okay, you'll see. And son of a gun, you know, eventually, everybody was looking at me. This is so interesting, you know, the difference between demanding attention and letting people give you their attention. So I waited for everybody to give me their attention.


And then I said, it was very similar to what I'd said to the other group, but in this case, I wasn't angry with them, I just said, you know, I asked you to be quiet, you've all started talking, I'm not going to be able to do the class, this isn't going to work for me. And then I said, so I'm wondering if any of you have any suggestions about what to do to make this work for all of us? Could you not just be the students? Could you also be the teacher? Could you not just be participants? Could you also lead this thing? And by golly, there's this fellow, it turned out he did management coaching or something. And he raised his hand and I said, yes, and he said, well, you know, in my work, when we want silence and we want to be able to say something, a group is talking, we raise our hand. And then if you see somebody's hand up, you raise your hand,


and when you raise your hand, you close your mouth. We call it the lip lever. And you'll see after a while, the room will be silent. I said, that's a terrific idea. Any other ideas? I thought that was going to be enough right there, but I didn't want to, you know, eliminate the possibility for other people to take up this role of, you know, how to manage something, how to make it work for everybody. So there was three other suggestions. One was, why don't you move where you're teaching from that side of the room over to that side of the room? And I said, that's a great idea. You know, I thought that that would be a better place for me to stand too, but I wasn't, I didn't know how I was going to get from one place to the other with all of you talking. And then there were two suggestions about how we could be more quiet. Fat chance. Okay. Or we could talk quietly. So I said, all the suggestions are great,


let's go ahead. And then when I wanted silence, I'd raise my hand, and after a while somebody would also raise their hand, and then pretty soon there was this general shhh going on, and then pretty soon I could talk. And it was like, it worked like a charm. You know, inviting somebody else to be the teacher and not thinking like, I'm the only teacher here. I'm the one who needs to be in charge. I'm the one who needs to tell people what to do. Why aren't they doing what I want? And I asked, you know, how are we going to make this work for us? In the meantime, you know, devastation over the years before I learned about this. Ah, well. Thinking that I ought to know what to do. The guest is inside you and inside me. The sprout lies hidden within the seed.


None of us has gotten very far. Set aside your arrogance then and take a look around inside. The blue sky extends further and further. The damage I've done to myself fades away. The daily sense of failure comes to an end. A million suns come forward with light when I sit firmly in that place. Thank you, blessings.