The teaching within Hotsu-Bodaishin rests on the need for a teacher to present the right dharma, so we don’t drift away. We’re easily seduced by the demons of self-centeredness that are, after all, hired by us to do the very seductive job of sitting slightly off our shoulder, saying, “This is difficult. Let me just sit this sesshin for myself, so I can gain some realization.” The teacher of true dharma comes and says, “Stop. In the process, don’t lose track of the things that Dogen points to. Don’t negate cause and effect. Don’t negate karma. Don’t negate salvation, the possibility of complete, supreme enlightenment. Don’t negate the Three Treasures, the full range of practices in the process of attaining enlightenment. And don’t negate any and all dharmas.”

It’s worth questioning what it is precisely that teachers do. There are the usual Zen responses, such as, they’re the thief, or they’re the mirror. But what is really going on within the teacher-student relationship? What is it that Daido Roshi gives me? What does he offer that’s at the center of our relationship? I find that Daidoshi makes me extend myself in my fullest capacity to give. Do I need him in my zazen? No. Do I need him when I close myself off from people, when I limit myself in my capacity to extend my heart? Most definitely, yes. There are plenty of demons whispering in my ear, “Just take care of yourself, your own practice and realization. Just sit a little bit more deeply.” How am I most indebted to him? He allows, encourages, sometimes demands that I enable myself as a human being to give of myself, and to continue to discover what that capacity is. He asks me to extend myself beyond what I consider tolerable. He encourages me to keep asking, how can I give? How can I serve? How can I dissolve utterly into this activity of practice? It requires me to bring the other right to where I am living my life, and to understand both the spirit of dana and to expand my capacity and skillfulness in giving.

 

Photo by Sara Haussleiter

 

What is the appropriate expression of giving from person to person, moment to moment, day to day? What do we need to do in giving? Simultaneous giving is the recognition of how much I am receiving. How infinitely inexhaustible is that nourishment—the infinite bounty of this life, the generosity of any and every situation, of this rain, of these mountains, of this river, of each person I encounter. The whole universe is coming to me in every one of those moments. I so easily forget this, just how rich, how infinitely generous each situation is, how each of us is giving completely at this very moment. And every single time I encounter my teacher, we meet. He demands of me, he allows me, at any particular moment, with every response or gesture, to move towards something new, something more. I could take issue with how different that is from my life prior to coming to the Monastery. The fact is, however, that life wasn’t really that different, except for one small detail—this process, as it is, is sufficient in and of itself. There is nothing else needed. If I can truly perfect the virtue of giving for the sake of giving, everything will be okay.