Nearly five months ago, I became a Zen Master.
Or should I say a Zen “Master.” What, exactly, does that mean? Have I now “mastered” Zen? What does it mean to attain mastery over a body of knowledge? And can a philosophy as rich and varied as Zen be ever fully comprehend by a single human brain?
I don’t think so. Rather, I think of my new title more as a sign that I have received the respect of other teachers. My teacher, himself a Zen Master by decree of his teacher, felt that I was ready to accept additional responsibility in teaching the Dharma.
Because with this title comes certain ethical obligations. While there are no requirements per say, and no one supervising me any longer, there is an expectation that I will share what I have learned. I’m rather reclusive by nature, so this challenges me to step outside my comfort zone and put myself out into the world rather more than I might otherwise choose.
Here are some of the ways in which I’m going to do that. First, I’ll be starting a podcast, hopefully in February, to host a discussion with other women religious leaders. By sharing our stories of practice, challenge, and success, I hope to break the way for the generation of women coming up behind us. And men need to hear this, too, because like it or not, they’re going to need to make room for us. I hope we can all be wise and compassionate in the transition.
I’m also starting a local course to teach people how to teach meditation. I’m taking an inter-faith, at times secular, approach since Buddhism does not hold the monopoly on meditation. I’m doing this through my business, Open Door Yoga, and I am charging for it. Here’s why: first, I have expenses in the design, production, and teaching of the course. Second, people value what they pay for. (Trust me. When I offer a free event, no one shows up. The more I charge [within reason], the more people come.)
I plan to host half-day retreats about three times a year. We just had our first one for Bodhi Day, celebrating the Buddha’s Awakening, in early December.
I will continue to teach weekly in Claremont, CA and monthly in Riverside, CA, both for free. I will accept invitations to teach the Dharma whenever I am available, also for free. And I will continue to meet with students one-on-one, in person or via Zoom, when I am asked to do so.
So what is a Zen Master? Definitions.net says,
“Zen master is a somewhat vague English term that arose in the first half of the 20th century, sometimes used to refer to an individual who teaches Zen Buddhist meditation and practices, usually implying longtime study and subsequent authorization to teach and transmit the tradition themselves.”
Here’s my definition: an experienced Zen teacher who is of service to others. I hope to embody the highest and best in Buddhism and in myself. May all beings benefit.