I have heard it said that Shunryu Suzuki, author of "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" and an expositor of Zen Buddhism in America, once complained to his friend, Trungpa Rinpoche, an expositor of Tibetan Buddhism in America and author of a number of first-class books, about the loneliness he felt in his role as a 'teacher.'
I can't claim to know what Suzuki was speaking about specifically, but that doesn't stop my imaginative juices from bubbling and boiling.
Everyone is stuck with whatever farm they are living on, but the idea of donning the mantle of spiritual advisor, and, by superficial implication, being on call 24/7 to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear seems a particularly hard lot.
Goody-two-shoes spiritual adherents will suggest perhaps that Zen practice has no heft or weight or that the successful student is content wherever he finds himself. The arena of no-abiding-self is its own reward. Well, pedal that bullshit elsewhere! "Forget the self" and the best you can expect is self. Such an unimaginative vision leaves out the honest reality of being discontent in one situation or another, although those with do-good agendas may have delicate explanations of how and why that is NOT so. As I say, it's a narrow and bright-light version of spiritual life ... everything hunky-dory all the time and the teacher expected to stand tall with confounding paradoxes or hugs and kisses. L-o-n-e-l-y in a poor cause.
Imagine it ... on call 24/7 ... encouraging, supporting, correcting, and even, perhaps, 'helping.' Making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. What...a...fucking...hell...hole!
Or so my imaginative sympathies say.
Well everyone is stuck with the farm, but I for one am grateful not to have aligned myself with a spiritual profession, not become some 24/7 teacher. True, I stepped into my own version of enriching shit, but that particular version feels like fingernails on a blackboard to me.
Zen practice was good to me -- good coming and good leaving, but I am so grateful not to have believed my own monk-leaning public relations. Zen practice ... use it and then go about your business. Aside from anything else, there won't be so much loneliness and the living room won't be littered with pig ears. Trying to be good doesn't leave a lot of room for being good.
I am grateful to the monks who keep up the good work.
And I will do what I can to lighten their load ... notably by not wishing to become or becoming one of their number.