Tuesday, December 7, 2010

another confused entry

Reading a continuing discussion of inka -- defined by Wikipedia as literally meaning "the legitimate seal of clearly furnished proof." -- I wonder again about teachers near and far. Inka is a Buddhist approval from teacher to student. I have no doubt that there are infinite and mysterious meanings that can be heaped on inka, but I am too old and tired to care much. When I look around, and, I imagine, when anyone else looks around, well ... what is the scenery really like?

My own teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, had no Dharma offspring, no students on whom he bestowed official approval. I don't actually know enough to know whether this was a good thing or not, but to tell the truth, I imagine he was right on target and I am strangely delighted. Kyudo once said to me, "Except for me, everything is the teacher." I am afraid that he was telling the truth -- the kind of truth most would prefer not to hear, let alone act on.

Of course there are thousands who can take up Kyudo's words and make glowing Dharma talks based on those words. But where the rubber hits the road ... where the rubber hits the road, such talks stray from the point, stray from the truth, stray from anything that might feel like or actualize peace.

Tentatively, there is a need for inka. There is a need for validation. There is a need for teachers and schools and rituals and texts and formidable leadership. No shit -- there really is a need. So it isn't really enough to hear words like, "except for me everything is the teacher;" it's not enough to bloviate, as with this blog entry; it's not enough to know ... it is only enough to embrace the need and see it through to its conclusion.

I am grateful that my teacher had no Dharma heirs ... more grateful than I can say. But just because he had none doesn't mean there's something wrong with Dharma heirs. They may be pretty good teachers in a world where teachers lend a hand. Pretty good teachers and pretty good teachers in the sense that they are full of shit.

Suffering and uncertainty are not some philosophical Tinker Toy. People are often wracked and wrung out by their difficulties and delights. If inka is what it takes to point out a more sane and peaceful direction, well, bring on the inka, bring on the texts, bring on the temples, bring on the mysteries, bring on the 'deeeeep meanings.' Gautama once held out a clenched fist to a weeping child. He pretended there was gold within his fist and the child was so taken with the gold that s/he stopped weeping. After s/he stopped weeping, Gautama opened his fist and revealed ... nothing ... a nothing that was clearly not exactly nothing.

I chose and choose my teachers much as you choose and chose yours. Of course there was a period of wild applause, of adamant adherence, of solemnity in search of seriousness. I look back with some gratitude that I did not do more harm than I did and with some regret that I did as much harm as I did.

The best I can figure it is this: Pick the teachers you need. Do your best not to imagine anyone else needs your teachers. Work hard. Do not try to escape from anything. And then, with time and hard work, sleep well and wake up in the morning rested.

As Suzuki Roshi once put it, "It is enough to be alive."

PS. Since, by some reckonings, tomorrow marks the day on which Gautama actualized his enlightenment, here is a not-bad description of his adventures.


  1. I like how you once said that, although Kyudo's papers were all in order, you wouldn't have cared if he swung from trees and ate bananas. I now understand that a good teacher doesn't worry about that stuff at all - he talks about real life, not bullshit credentials.

  2. Thanks for the link to a very good site!