Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Host and Guest

"The head monks of two parts of the meditation hall caught sight of each other and simultaneously gave a shout.

A monk asked the Master, 'In this case, was there any guest and any host, or wasn't there?'

The Master said, 'Guest and host are perfectly obvious!' Then the Master said, 'All of you -- if you want to understand what I have just said about guest and host, go ask the two head monks of the meditation hall.' "

This passage comes from The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi, translated by Burton Watson.

John Tarrant Roshi gave us a koan, the continuation of Lin-chi's voice:

"Wherever you are, just take the role of host, and that place will be a true place."

So began my sitting with this koan for a while, and it returned to my consciousness from time to time. What does it mean to be a good host? What do I get out of this experience? What does it mean to be a good guest? What do I get out of this experience?

"...and to practice these principles in all our affairs." Some say the principle of Step 12 is charity and love -- isn't this a pretty good example of being a good host? Whatever (or whoever) comes into our life, "Welcome, come on in ... how may I serve you?"

It wouldn't surprise me to one day experience this koan working in all the Steps. Each Step offers a principle: Step 1 Acceptance, Step 2 Faith, Step 3 Surrender and Trust ... Step 11 Patience.

Could this be the Steps taking on the role of host? And I am the guest?


Host and guest, Steps and Koans, welcome.

Bill K.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Teaching What?

  • I received a very sincere email the other day where the sender referred to my teaching.
  • A different emailer had "When the student is ready..." as the Subject Line.
  • In a casual conversation, a discussion about the upcoming October discussion group, I was asked if it was a classroom setting where one needed prior knowledge.
All of this has me thinking about the word "teaching" and where it fits into the scheme of things here. At PZi we have "official" teachers. John Tarrant Roshi is the main teacher. He has acknowledged others as dharma teachers or in training to become one. We also have senior leaders who give talks on Monday evenings, some who very well one day become a dharma teacher. I suppose I'm referred to as a senior student, and am given a few opportunities to lead discussions and facilitate groups, which entails a little small "t" teaching. You might consider me like the grad student teaching a lab class. We're in the 12 Step/Koan laboratory!

Even though I don't consider myself a big "T" teacher, I do know, from my experiences that what I'm presenting to you is unique to the Zen setting and thoroughly worthwhile.

Who Might Be My Audience?

  • Zen practitioners in 12 Step recovery seeking different ways of experiencing the Steps
  • 12 Step practitioners seeking out Zen as a possible path
  • Zen practitioners looking outside the 12 Step group meeting arena
  • Zen practitioners unsure if the 12 Steps are for them
  • Can you add something new here?
What I've found in our group is an opening up, a more spacious (and safe) container for discussion without the usual constraints at a 12 Step meeting. Yet, as lively and intimate the discussion, it's afterwards where realization (ah-ha moments) most often appear.

It's when the koan appears from nowhere, revealing an aspect of one's life or with a Step that's never been experienced before. Call it going deeper, expanding horizons, or awakening, it's not something anyone has taught you. It's you being aware of that moment without the usual story-line in your head -- you and the universal truth -- which, after all, includes all things.

Bill K.