On Being a Disciple

It is not necessary to be a disciple in order to attend a sesshin with AMA Samy or one of his successors. Both disciples and non-disciples participate in sesshins with them. However, if you want to go deeper into zen, it is important to become a disciple. Becoming a disciple is a serious commitment, do not take it on lightly. And it is very important to choose the teacher with great care.

The master-disciple relationship is a journey, unique and particular with each disciple. It is essentially a relationship of faith and trust, wholehearted commitment and ‘following’. The faith is ultimately faith in one’s true self. Commitment and following are not so much to the particular human being as such but to the true self/ the dharma.

The master’s task is just to be present, to offer his/her own being. The master cannot force you to radical self-giving or self-transformation. The master just goes her/his way and expects the disciple to follow: to listen, to ask, to seek, to hear (in the sense of ob-audire, in Latin). Do not treat her/him as merely a friend, do not worship her/him as infallible. Understand and be on the Way with the master; see with the eyes of faith and love, seek and dialogue in the spirit of willingness. It is in a sense a practice of surrender to yourself in the in-between of master-disciple space, to let yourself be in all of your darkness and light, chaos and multiplicity, uncertainties and doubts, longing and striving, and to learn to abide where there is no-abiding. Such a relationship is one of faith and hope, courage and fidelity, compassion and understanding, not one of psychological counselling or an ordinary interpersonal relationship.

Further, the master is master only if s/he is willing to be open and to learn, and not be locked in an exclusive role of the master. In the master-disciple relationship, the disciple also helps the master to be on the Way. There is no master without a disciple—it is grace and gift for the master to have a disciple. The external master is there for the sake of your awakening to your True Self; when you awaken truly, the external master disappears as master; the disciple has to let go the master, the master has to let go the disciple: the Master is dead, long live Master!

The master is there as bridge for you - pass over!

On Becoming a Disciple

It is not necessary to be a disciple in order to attend a sesshin with AMA Samy or one of his successors. Both disciples and non-disciples participate in sesshins with them. How­ever, if you want to go deeper into zen, it is important to become a disciple. Becoming a disciple is a serious commitment, do not take it on lightly. And it is very important to choose the teacher with great care.

To become a disciple is to listen to the heart and to the call of the bodhicitta. Discipleship means "following": it involves learning to listen, learning to “put on” the heart-mind of the Teacher. The focus, however, is not the teacher as such but the Dharma, Dharma as realized with and through the Teacher. You come to the dharma through the teacher, in order to go be­yond the teacher and, embody the dharma in yourself, as your very self. It calls for self-renunciation and self-transformation for the sake of the world.

In 'following' the teacher, you also enter the sangha. Sangha is the community of the disciples with the master/teacher; it is the relationship of the master and the disciple(s) and the relationship among the disciples them­selves, in and for the dharma. The Three Treasures, buddha, dharma and sangha are bound together and interfused, one cannot be without the other. You are called to realize and embody the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Conversely, it is not so much you, but it is the bodhicitta realizing and actualizing itself in and through you.