The stable platform of Zen practice rests on four strong legs: zazen, work practice, study, and meeting with a teacher. Down through the centuries, meeting with a teacher has offered an opportunity to deepen practice, reflect on studies, and apply Zen practice to your everyday life. It is an essential part of the teachings as you develop an understanding of yourself. Master Dogen writes:
Visiting teachers to ask about the way is practicing Zen. This state of fine simplicity is transmitted from the ancients.
In the Zen tradition, dokusan (sometimes called sanzen) is a private, formal meeting between a student and an authorized teacher. At BZC, Sojun Roshi, Hozan Sensei, and dharma-transmitted teachers regularly offer dokusan, and authorized senior students—lay people and priests—offer “practice discussion,” which is similar in form and content to dokusan. Additionally, you may meet with teachers and seniors for an informal conversation over tea, or coffee, or sitting under a tree. But what happens at this meeting? Whether formal or informal, this intimate space belongs to the student. Student and teacher—face to face. Bring yourself completely into the interview room. Sit down, establish your breath and posture. When you are ready to speak, bow and begin. You may come with a particular question about practice, or with an inquiry that is not yet clear in your mind. Sometimes you may not know what to say. In that case, sit together and pay attention to what arises in body and mind. A Zen teacher writes:
The best way to go to sanzen is simply to look into your heart, to present your practice to the teacher and trust the process. How are you practicing? What is most alive for you? What do you notice? What are your obstacles, your insights? . . . Open up to new points of view.
BZC teachers welcome the opportunity to meet with you and potentially to build relationships that support students and the sangha as a whole. Feel free to talk with any of the senior students, with Sojun Roshi, or with me. Our schedules and contact information are available on the main bulletin board.
—Hozan Alan Senauke