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By Daniel Scharpenburg

I was talking to a friend the other day and I told him that I wasn’t a teacher.

He wondered what I was talking about. He said, “You teach classes at the Rime Center. You lead meditations too. Aren’t you a teacher?”

I think there’s an important point to make here. I think there’s a difference between a teacher and a Teacher in the Buddhist tradition. I’m a teacher in the sense that I teach classes and lead meditations and volunteer in a number of other ways. But being a Teacher is another story.

A Teacher is a leader and a role model. And I’m wondering, given scandals and other weird things that occur, if maybe Teachers are a thing we can do away with.

I am not a role model. I am often not setting the best example. I spend a lot of my free time studying the dharma and hanging out at my local Buddhist temple (if they’d let me live there, I would). I spend a lot of time playing with my kids (I’m a single dad). I also work out, there’s a gym in my office and I like to run. I think maintaining some level of health is important.

But the other thing I spend a lot of time doing is drinking Colt 45 and watching Netflix.

Ordained Zen Priests are Teachers. I am not ordained. I’m a layperson, just like you. I’ve taken Bodhisattva Vows, but that’s not the same as ordination. The truth is I’ve always wanted to be a Zen Priest (I don’t know why) but there’s no real path to ordination for me that I can see, and that’s okay.

I’ve only received transmission in the Empty Cloud Lineage—an unrecognized lineage that no one has even heard of. The teacher that gave me those teachings has disappeared on me (like an empty cloud, ha).

Maybe lineage doesn’t matter anyway. The term Zen Priest is just a label like everything else and lineage is too, really. The point is that I’m committed to my practice. I go to my temple three times a week. I meditate daily and I spend an overwhelming amount of time studying the dharma.

And I’ve spent a lot of time studying with different teachers. The truth is that all of the things a Zen Priest does that I want to do, I’m doing already.

So what else is there? Maybe there’s nothing else.


Photo: Lorianne DiSabato/Flickr

Editor: Dana Gornall