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Zen Master Seung Sahn’s “Two Kinds of Students”

Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, “There are two kinds of Zen students: student who likes the teacher, and student who believes in the teacher. This first kind of student, even though they like the teacher very much, like always has dislike. Like/Dislike-mind. It is based on emotion. When the feeling is good, they like the teacher; when they get difficult teaching or strong speech, they don’t like the teacher. ‘That teacher is no good. Why say that to me?’ Then soon they go away! Ha ha ha!”

“But student who believes in their teacher means only believe in their true self; it’s like believe in mirror. ‘What this teacher reflecting back to me, I must learn something.’ I must practice and digesting that. It’s not based on good/bad feeling, like/dislike mind.”

Then a student said, “How is this different from guru-worship.?”

And he said, “Guru-mind is not so good. Only controls the student. In guru is absolute devotion, no matter what. Some disciples will drink their guru’s urine or do crazy things for guru, only to please guru, give away all their money or house or something only to make this guru happy. Inside, the disciple knows this is not correct, maybe their family also says, ‘Why give everything money to this guru? That is not correct action!’ But the student does it anyway, because guru is like God to them. That is not correct teacher-student relationship. It cannot help the student become truly independent.”

“‘Believing in teacher’ only means believing like mirror when something is reflected. In mirror, we believe that. We do not believe this whole mirror, everything about it, who made it, OK? Also, we know what it is showing in the mirror, it is only reflection, not complete truth. But this mirror-reflection it is pointing at truth, representing truth, and we see that, and we know that, even if we don’t like that. 

“Nowadays, student doesn’t like something in the mirror, then hit this mirror. ‘I don’t like that!’ Ha ha ha. Very interesting.”

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