May 01

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What we Learn from our Teachers

From a talk I held at the Buddha Center in 2016
Today my talk is my real-life experience which I would like to share with you

The nice thing about having teachers is that we can pass on to others what we learned from them. An example of a superior, knowing Buddhist teacher came about when I studied at a Chan temple in 2000 – 2009. Dharma Drum Retreat Center This was not my home temple, but it was conducive for me to go there as they had consistent meditation on Thursday evenings. Chan and Korean Zen are very similar in their practice. Also, they hosted many retreats that I attended. I was allowed to live the life of a monastic for several days on different occasions. So, they warmly welcomed me. I had several teachers there but the one who most stays with me is Guo Jun Fashi who is now in Singapore.


He taught about the beginner mind often starting with this and going back to it again and again to remind us. (Suzuki also talked often about the beginner mind and wrote the book, Zen Mind, Beginner Mind which I highly recommend if you have not already read this)

Suzuki stated:
In order to receive the Buddha’s teachings, you must have an empty cup. (as you can well guess that is a metaphor for your mind). If you come to Buddhism with a full cup, there is not room for anything to be added – If you come with a full cup – you are full of ideas perhaps erroneous beliefs, etc. When you enter the practice of Zen, you must empty your cup– think of the joy of learning – it helps us to expand and grow develop.

In Chan and Zen we talk about beginners mind. If you have known me for a while and heard my talks– you will often hear me say go back to your beginners mind – empty that cup. Clean it make sure there are not cracks or holes in it. These are you misconceptions, your illusions. That clean, empty solid cup is your pure beginner mind.
My goal today is to pass on some of the things I learned from my teacher, Guo Jun Fashi.

I have this remarkable story to tell that I heard my teacher Guo Jun Fashi. He said that as a new Dharma teacher, he always found teachers, with whom he needed to continue his learning not suitable for his continued studies. He found them to be too old and at the end of their lives. He felt frustrated as he was not learning enough. He complained to one of his teachers and was presented this story which he passed on to us
He tells this story about a dharma teacher who had great understanding of the Diamond sutra. What is interesting is that in the diamond sutra The Buddha is generally thought to be trying to help Subhūti, an elder, unlearn his preconceived, limited notions of the nature of reality and enlightenment.
To continue with his original story, one day the teacher said to him – I will ask you a question that you must answer by not looking at all the sutras – you must come to your own realization. Use your own words.
Before you were born what was your original nature or original face? (Very famous koan)
The aspiring dharma teacher, Guo Jun, went to his room and all night read through the sutras but could not find the answer.
The next day he went to his teacher and said “I do not know the answer can you please tell me?” His teacher said
“Then it would be my answer, not yours”.

A beautiful story that teaches that we must all find our own answers and it can only arise from pure untainted intuition.

My teacher also talked of mindfulness. He said it has gone even beyond Buddhism – very popular word. But mindfulness is simply the practice being mindful, continually every minute of the day no matter what you are doing. not just when you meditate, but when you wake in the morning –brush your teeth – put your clothes on eat breakfast – all in mindfulness – that is true meditation – living and breathing it.

So I pass on to you the wonderful words given to me and hope you can then pass them on to someone who may need to hear them.


Guo Jun Fashi’s background
He speaks Mandarin, Korean, and English. He has traveled around many parts of the world to share his experience, including Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, United States, Luxembourg, Poland, Croatia, and Switzerland. He is a member of Australian Psychological Society. He is also a spiritual and guiding teacher of Chan Community Canada, and Dharmajala Indonesia. He was the abbot of Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York from 2005 to 2008. He was the abbot of Mahabodhi Temple in Singapore.
In February 2017, Guo Jun stepped down as abbot of the Mahabodhi Monastery and now the president of the monastery’s management committee. Venerable Jing Yao replaced him as the abbot, witnessed by senior monks from various countries
He has written several books and can be found in many YouTube teaching videos.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2018/05/01/what-we-learn-from-our-teachers/

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