Northern Neighbor Neglect
Your 25th anniversary issue (Fall 2016) was very interesting. Thank you for your long-standing commitment to dharma work! I do have one critique: your aap covering the spread of dharma centers across North America completely ignored Canada, with whom you share so much. As the publisher of Canada’s online directory of Canadian Buddhist organizations, I was saddened by that. There are close to 600 dharma centers in Canada— which is astounding, given our country’s population and the less than 15 dharma centers that existed when I started practice in 1969. Perhaps for a future issue you might consider an article about dharma north of the 49th parallel. There are many here capable of writing it!jo
–John Negru (Karma Yönten Gyatso)
Publisher, The Sumeru Press
Thank you for calling this to our attention! We’re looking forward to seeing what coverage we can give our northern neighbors in the future. We do list Canadian dharma centers every issue in our Dharma Directory (p. 114).
I really enjoyed “Treading the Path with Care,” by Winton Higgins (Winter 2016). He expressed some great insights into the need to place care for others at the forefront of practice rather than treating the whole thing as a metaphysical game.
The Teacher Racket Ruckus
Daniel Clarkson Fisher’s article “The Teacher Racket” (Winter 2016) was apt and timely. It has long struck me as odd how some practitioners have turned the dharma into careers. These “teachers” almost always highlight how long they have been meditating and the teachers they have trained under somewhere in Asia, as if they were preparing a CV. Further, usually and not surprisingly, they tell us we can’t progress or understand our meditation and mindfulness experiences without a teacher.
Summerland, British Columbia
Do authentic dharma teachers normally start business in the way Mr. Fisher described it in his article? The teachers I have known personally engaged differently, responding to an increasing number of potential students who are drawn to them and the Buddhist teachings. This, by the way, is the model the Buddha set. The idea of setting up a teacher business seems odd to me. I am not faulting Mr. Fisher here; I acknowledge his position—being a career teacher on the one hand and wanting to create a community approach on the other—and so sense how this was a learning process.
I deeply appreciate Fisher’s point in this article. At the same time, I have a few observations: True awakening requires us to be challenged. Emptiness and suchness are not obvious, and realizing them requires that we reevaluate what we think the world is. They cannot be arrived at by majority vote. In a community-led approach, how do you help people avoid the idea that they already understand, and that the dharma is no more than people getting together, trying to be good, and being mindful in their daily lives? I myself am trying to teach from a middle territory between the banking model, in which knowledge is passed from the top down by an “all-knowing” teacher, and the democratic model, and thus wrestle with these questions.
Daniel Clarkson Fisher responds:
I share the belief that “true awakening requires us to be challenged” but disagree that banking models of education fulfill this requirement. On the contrary, Freire points out that within these models students tend to “accept the passive role imposed on them” and then “adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.” Challenging students this ain’t. But critical pedagogy doesn’t require a community-led approach, or a “majority vote” situation, either; rather, it means providing students with self-actualizing alternatives and teachers with challenges of their own. Dialogical models, for example, both empower students and transform the teacher from a didact into “one who is herself taught” as she teaches. This may all sound too progressive, or topsy-turvy. Yet it should also sound familiar: as Shunryu Suzuki reminds us, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; but in the expert’s there are few.”
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