This article came across my email recently and I think it deserves a deeper dive. Although in our tradition we don’t have student-teacher relationships like what you might see in other traditions. Nonetheless, we definitely do mentoring and a dharma teacher is always involved for new aspirants. Even as we progress on the path, we may have a spiritual friend that we turn toward for guidance and support.
I have been under a guidance of a Zen teacher for over 10 years. However, when I began to experience challenges in the process of meditation, I was misguided or misunderstood. In the end I felt more confused and discouraged. Please respond to this letter if you can, because your advice could help to shed a light on some aspects I cannot see.
The question is posed by a student to Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel who has studied and practiced the Buddhadharma for 35 years under the guidance of her teacher and husband Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.
Dharma Teacher Lyn Fine poses a few follow up questions to consider. What resonates with your experience and thinking? What’s missing that you might want to add? What’s relevant/less relevant to the Plum Village form of practice?
Feel free to respond below in the comments or respond to the OI email list (where this is also posted). And perhaps this could lead to a webinar or a sharing group on these topics.
In an effort to mitigate the suffering of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar into nearby Bangladesh, we are writing to enlist your help in our capacity as the Care-Taking Council of the Dharma Teachers ordained by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh residing in North America.
Since 2012, Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh and our Council has been writing to lay and monastic leaders of Myanmar, asking them to look deeply in order to see and understand the basic humanity and rights of the Rohingya ethnic minority living in western Myanmar, who practice a form of Islam.
We and other Buddhist leaders wrote to the government of Myanmar in February of this year as well to ask that its military cease military operations against Rohingya refugees causing them to flee Myanmar into impoverished Bangladesh.
As you have probably learned from newspaper sources, notwithstanding its receipt of many such letters appealing for peace, Myanmar military operations increased sharply this summer, causing an estimated 500,000 Rohingya refugees to flee into one of the most remote and poverty-stricken areas in Bangladesh within a period of approximately 30 days, sometimes at the rate of 20,000 people each day, only to hide in forested hillsides.
Mentor qualification in our sangha has a long history of experimentation and evolution. We have arrived at a point where we can now bring all this experimentation and evolution together into a coherent and comprehensive system.
Our basic goal in mentoring has always been to to support each other in deepening our practice and strengthening our Sanghas. A mentor’s practice needs to be fresh and alive to mentor an aspirant effectively. To support both mentors and aspirants, the North American Dharma Teacher Care Taking Council has integrated our order’s past extensive experience into the following qualification statement for mentors. The underlying requirement for mentoring is that a Dharma Teacher must be involved as part of mentoring, as set forth in the aspirant application.
There are three situations which qualify one to mentor.
During the past two years, the Dharma Teachers Sangha of North America has been working diligently to produce a more formal application process for Order of Interbeing aspirants. The work is completed (approved 11/07/2012) and the information will be distributed to dharma teachers in the coming month. In managing this web site, a very common question that I receive pertains to readiness for formal aspiration. Here is a pre-aspiration checklist that is outlined in application to become an aspirant.
I practice regularly with my local sangha.
I formally received The Five Mindfulness Trainings one or more years ago from Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh or a Tiep Hien Dharma Teacher.
I am aware that by aspiring I am committing to practice 60 days of mindfulness each year; to study, practice, and observe the 14 Mindfulness Trainings; to regularly recite the trainings, and to actively participate in and support my Sangha.
I recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings at least monthly.
I study, practice, and observe all five mindfulness trainings.
I have a daily practice that includes meditation.
I am alcohol- and recreational chemical-free and will remain so.
I have the support of my partner for becoming an Aspirant.
I am familiar with the Order and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and the Charter of the Order as reflected in the book Interbeing and use and study the book.
I have begun to observe regular Days of Mindfulness.
I am working with the reflection questions that are to be written as part of this application. [see the Dharma Teacher for application]
I have identified a Dharma Teacher or a qualified Order Member(s) who is/are willing to serve as mentor(s).
A Tiep Hien Dharma Teacher has agreed to support my Aspirancy and work with my mentor(s). [This is necessary when the mentor is not a Dharma Teacher]
In a future post, I will share the recommended mentoring qualifications document. If you have any questions or comments about the pre-aspirant checklist, please comment below.