Actually, there’s no connection I can think of between food poisoning and teacher training other than that I got an e-mail asking me about teacher training while I was suffering from food poisoning. This photo is from the last time I got food poisoning, back in the year of our Lord twenty-ought-five. Nobody took a photo of me this past weekend. But I looked even worse.
And I’m not even sure if it was food poisoning or a stomach flu. The symptoms are pretty much identical. All I know is that I woke up on Saturday feeling like someone had punched me repeatedly in the stomach. By evening the pain was even worse. I was sweating and feverish. At 2:30 in the morning I tossed some cookies. Sunday was better but only by comparison with how bad Saturday was. And today I’m feeling pretty much normal again. We often don’t really appreciate how good normal feels until we’ve been sick.
Anyhow, while I was sick I got an email from my friend Blake. A friend of his named Rachael has been helping us out in our efforts to set up Dogen Sangha Los Angeles as a non-profit religious corporation (or whatever it’s called) in the State of California. Our goal is to set up some kind of permanent space we can use for weekly or even daily public zazen, retreats, orgies, etc. OK. Maybe not so many orgies. This isn’t Boulder, after all. But you get the idea.
Blake wanted to know if we were planning to franchise the organization. I told him I didn’t intend to do that. Heck, we only get six people to show up in LA! And he asked if we were going to do teacher training.
The first question is, “What do you mean ‘we’, White Man?” It’s not like this is some huge group like San Francisco Zen Center. There’s really only me to train anyone. And I don’t really feel like I can train anyone to be a Zen teacher.
To me the word “teacher training” implies that there is a course of study. And that this course of study has a specific time limit. And that undertaking this course of study would more-or-less guarantee you that you’d come out of it as a teacher of Zen if you managed not to bungle it too badly. And that this course of study would be comprehensible, in that it would be orderly and possible for anyone who applied (within reason) to complete.
So to me, “teacher training” would imply something like (but not necessarily exactly like) a course that any competent adult coul undertake, that would last (let’s say) three years, and that would grant you some sort of credentials at the end. I just can’t see myself doing that. Of course one should never say “never” as the saying goes. But right now I don’t feel like it applies to what I do.
It’s tempting though. Because I would certainly stand to make a busload more money if I set up a teacher training course and then authorized those to whom I grant credentials to start their own Dogen Sanghas throughout the world. I’d stand to collect the teaching fees and I would set up a lot of ready-made places at which I could lecture and collect donations. It also sounds like a good way to “spread the dharma.” Because all of these teachers would be out there spreading the good word of Buddha just as I taught them.
Or would they? See. That’s where I start getting nervous. I’m not sure I want a whole load of people out in random locations waving around certificates signed by me telling people they’re training them in the Brad Warner Method of Zen (or whatever). It just sounds iffy.
Besides that, to me, Zen is about finding your own way, not about imitating my way. My way will not work for anyone else. The best I can do is be an example of someone who has found his own way and, in so doing, become an encouragement to others to try to do the same.
There are aspects of Zen that can be taught. You can teach people how to run a ceremony. You can teach people how to understand the sutras a little better by giving them the historical background and so forth. You can show people how to do zazen. There are a lot of things that can be conveyed in this way. But I’m not sure you can teach anyone how to be a Zen teacher. Or if you can, I wouldn’t know how to do it.
I did not go through teacher training myself. I stayed with a teacher for a long time and then one day he got the silly notion in his fool head that I ought to be a Zen teacher — that I was already a Zen teacher and had not yet assumed that responsibility. But Nishijima Roshi never taught me how to teach Zen, let alone taught me how to teach anyone else to teach Zen.
Teacher training, teacher training, teacher training…. I just keep turning the words over in my head and I can’t make much sense of them, at least as they might apply to me.
I dunno. Maybe I’ll figure it out one of these days.
You can donate to help Brad figure it out one of these days.