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Teaching the Diamond Sutra

In one week I’m going to start teaching the Diamond Sutra. It’s a six week class that will occur Wednesdays nights at the Rime Center from 7:45pm until 9:00pm. It starts on April 13th. You should come if you can. (a link to register for this class is posted at the bottom)

I’m so nervous and excited.

It all started a few months ago. Lama Matt told me he wanted me to start teaching classes at the Rime Center. What a wonderful opportunity. But, of course I wondered if I could handle it. (being the center of attention is really not my thing). Of course I said yes but it was big surprise.

He gave me a title, “Gegan” which means teacher. And he told me that I could teach anything I wanted.

I told him I would like to teach the Diamond Sutra.

The Diamond Sutra is probably my favorite Buddhist text. But it’s also a really hard text to teach. It’s a heavy text with a lot of wisdom for us to explore. If I had spent time thinking about it, I might have chosen something a little easier for my first class. But, It will be fine, I think. It does mean something that it’s a text that I love.

I spent time looking at different translations and Lama Matt did too. We agreed that the Thich Nhat Hanh translation was probably the most accessible.

So, I went to work. I took notes on every chapter and got myself prepared.

In preparing to teach this sutra I’ve learned more about it than I ever knew. And I’ve learned about myself. Maybe the best teachers are always students too. I love this sutra now more than ever and I hope that my students gain something approaching the same appreciation that I have for it.

The Diamond Sutra has changed my life. It can change yours too.

The Buddha doesn’t transform us. He invites us to transform ourselves. This sutra doesn’t give us anything, it cuts things away. The diamond cuts through our delusion and leaves only what’s real. When we put down all that we’re carrying, we discover emptiness, our true nature.

The Diamond Sutra describes the very foundation of the awakened life.

http://www.rimecenter.org/?p=628

Posted in rime center

Leading Zen Practice: All Training Is On The Job

 

 

I’ve learned something important since I started leading the Zen group at the Rime Center.

I’ve been reading about Zen philosophy and history for a long time. Studying this subject dominates my free time. I don’t know why, but I am one to get really excited about reading a Zen text, even reading the same ones over and over.

And I spend a lot of time writing about Zen philosophy too.

What I’ve learned though, in leading a Zen group is this: you can learn a lot about the philosophy from reading books and discussing them. You can learn how to meditate that way too.

But there is more to Zen practice. It doesn’t begin and end with study, even really diligent study.

The truth is, as far as I know, you can’t really learn the rituals through reading.¬†Someone has to show you. You might not get the bows right, or the chanting.

For example: I know the correct way the attendant offers incense to the teacher at a Zen retreat. I know that only because I served in that role. Maezen showed it to me three times before I did it. “All training is on the job,” she said. There is a great benefit to both learning by watching and learning by doing. She didn’t give me some text to read to learn how to do the ritual correctly. She showed me.

I’m going to tell you what I did wrong.

Wooden clappers are used during kinhin, walking meditation. They are two small, simple pieces of wood. I knew we were supposed to use them and I didn’t have them on the first meeting of the Rime Center Zen Group. So, we had to do kinhin without them that first time. And it was weird. It did feel like something was missing.

You can buy these for $50 on the internet. I’m not spending $50 for two simple wooden blocks. I’m not asking the Rime Center to spend their money on that either.

I used two children’s wooden blocks instead. They don’t look fancy, but that’s okay. It’s the sound that matters. Spending $50 for wooden clappers reminds me of spending $500 on a fancy Buddhist robe…even though the Buddha himself probably wore rags. Many people in the Zen community are encouraged to do this and it makes me uncomfortable.

Anyway, these clappers are supposed to be used during kinhin, so I wanted to use them. It’s a ritual.

And I didn’t do it right.

The traditional practice is to clap them together at the beginning of kinhin, at the middle, and at the end.

I just clapped them together over and over the whole time. I didn’t remember what the correct practice was so I messed it up. I had a vague idea that I was doing something wrong with the practice, but I couldn’t quite remember what it was.

After the practice was over, one of my friends came up to me and reminded me. When she mentioned it, I remembered the correct practice immediately.

And I was full of embarrassment, of course.

But this is a community effort and at some level we are making it up as we go along.

Next time I’ll do better.

And I’ll remember that all training is on the job.

 

We meet at Monday nights at 7pm at the Rime Buddhist Center in the Crossroads District in Kansas City, Missouri.

Come train with us.

 

 

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A Chapter Ends

I am no longer going to run the Dharma School at the Rime Center.

I have enjoyed running the children’s program at the Rime Center very much. I have met wonderful Buddhist teachers of many traditions (Maezen was my favorite). My association with the Rime Center Dharma School has also helped me become friends with other Buddhist parents.

I’ve heard that if you want to learn something, try teaching it to someone else. That has been my experience. Teaching in Dharma School has forced me to learn a lot more about Buddhism than I might have otherwise. Planning lessons, reading stories, thinking of new and innovative ways to present teachings; I’ve had to do these things a great deal and it’s really given me a better grasp of Buddhist teachings than I had before I started.

For three years I’ve been teaching children how to meditate. People that ran this program before me didn’t put as much effort into the meditation part as I have. Children CAN sit still and meditate. And some of them actually want to.

I’ve also been teaching them values. The six perfections: generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom, have been my road-map for teaching.

The kids have helped me develop those values in myself too. (especially patience). And a seventh one: Adaptability. I have had to learn to be so adaptable in this position because many things don’t go as planned.

SO,

I’m writing this because I am leaving this position.

I have been doing it for three years, which means I’ve been doing it longer than anyone else has.

It’s not because I don’t enjoy it. It’s not because my time is precious and I don’t want to volunteer anymore.

It’s because it feels like the right time. It’s because I need to get out on a high note, before I get burned out and start to be bad at this. It’s because my daughter Nissa has told me she’s had as much Buddhist education as she needs. And it’s because I’ve found a replacement that I think will do a better job than I have. I think that’s the goal of any leader or manager. To find someone better to take their place.

Her name is Leslie and I wish her the best of luck.

This has been a big part of my life.

What comes next for me?

I’ll let you know.