Huang Po addressed the community, “All of you drinkers of the dregs of wine, if you keep running around like this, where will you find today? Do you know there are no teachers of Chan in all of China?”
A monk then came forward and said, “Then what about those in places who guide followers and lead communities?”
I didn’t say they were not Chan, I said there are no teachers.”
~ The Blue Cliff Record, Case 11
A few days ago I was scrolling through a few older Zen videos on the internet and came across a Dutch-made documentary of a teacher I had once studied with some decades ago. I was in my teens, but under him began my koan study. He has been dead now for over 20 years, and though he probably barely knew my name, he had an out-sized impact on my practice and life. In the video, just listening to his idiosyncratic Japanese-English scraped away the crust of time from my soul. For me, back then, so young and open, he alone was the key master to the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo), to cite his inspiration, Eihei Dogen.
Over the years, this teacher has visited me in my dreams, at some pretty important times. When I myself was designated a teacher, I had a dream where I was sitting in a dark, early-morning meditation hall-full of monks, and he came in and sat next to me. One other time he came to me in that place between waking and sleeping, with a wry smile and lots of laughter.
I realize now, in watching the video, that some of that emotional reaction was based on false notions. No teacher holds the keys to the chest. I now know that a teacher can merely point to the storehouse of treasures, which opens of itself and all inside is free for the taking. Despite knowing that, I chose a few nights ago to dwell in a bit of delusion, a bit of appreciation. Maybe for a moment I was able to appreciate my life, as he often encouraged us to do.