If you want to have a deep teacher-student relationship, says Jakusho Kwong, it’s not enough to know your teacher’s heart and mind. You need to know your own as well.
Just before a teacher gives a dharma talk, the community of practitioners chants, “the dharma, incomparably profound and infinitely subtle, is rarely met, even in a hundred, thousand, million kalpas.” A kalpa is an immeasurable period of time, sometimes compared to an aeon.
When we say these words, we are really evoking the almost unimaginable boundlessness of the dharma, and yet such boundlessness means nothing other than yourself. One of your teacher’s most important jobs, if not the most important one, is to point you in the direction of yourself so you can see for yourself. in order for this to be possible, a special kind of intimate bond must be established between you as a student and the teacher. Your teacher must truly know your heart and mind. And, likewise, you should know the teacher’s heart and mind; that means, of course, that you know your own heart and mind as well, which is the same heart and mind of all things.
To help us better understand the student-teacher relationship, suzuki roshi used to tell us one of his favorite stories about isan Zenji, who comes from the lineage of hui Neng, the sixth Ancestor. isan was resting one hot summer afternoon, just kind of dozing in his room, when his disciple kyozan walked by and peeked inside.
Excerpted from the Spring 2014 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, available on newsstands and by subscription.
From No Beginning, No End by Jakusho kwong, 2003. Reprinted in 2010 by Shambhala Publications by arrangement with Harmony Books, a division of Penguin Random House.