BECOMING A STUDENT
Zen lore is filled with accounts of sincere men and women traveling far and wide in search of the one teacher that will best assist them in their spiritual aspirations. Even a casual reader will soon note that there is something unique and profound about the student-teacher relationship in Zen practice. Today, one may not have the luxury of traveling hither and yon in search of a teacher; instead, one considers oneself fortunate enough to chance upon a teacher under whose guidance one senses one might fulfill one's sincere aspiration to awakening. While anyone who comes to the Center may freely avail themselves of everything the Center and its teacher have to offer in accordance with their interest and aspiration, for some, formally establishing that teacher-student relationship will emerge as a skillful way to make the best use of these resources.
Becoming a formal student marks a new phase in one's practice life. From the side of the student, it signals in concrete terms one's aspiration for awakening and the recognition that realization is come to more surely in an environment of open, selfless honesty with a trusted guide. From the side of the teacher, it implies an even deeper commitment to the student along with the student's express permission now to utilize whatever skillful means are fitting for the task at hand.
The move to become a formal student is initiated by the student. A teacher does not solicit students, nor should anyone ever feel pressured to become a student. When one is ready to take that step, one simply brings it up with the teacher, usually in the context of dokusan. Soon thereafter, the teacher will arrange a brief ceremony that marks the formal beginning of the student-teacher relationship.
The student-teacher relationship is spiritually intimate, as over time one comes to see with the same eye with which the teacher sees. The student-teacher relationship is never personally, sexually or otherwise intimate, and the Chicago Zen Center has developed a set of policies and has established an oversight structure to insure that the profoundly liberating space the student-teacher relationship opens up is cherished and protected as far as it can possibly be.