People are by nature cautious, so I’m often asked the best way to choose a teacher. It is a reasonable question, and the same question I once asked Maezumi Roshi. Now I see how comic that must have been: sitting face-to-face with a teacher, asking how to choose a teacher. He responded sincerely, and so I’ll do the same. He said, “Choosing the wrong teacher is worse than having no teacher at all.”
As long as we are in the realm of choosing – using our discriminating thinking to evaluate what we like and what we don’t, what we deem to be right or wrong, best or worst – we are not yet trusting our life or where it has led us. The teaching, after all, is to stop second-guessing the way things are. Your teacher is quite simply the one standing before you. That being said, I will offer other signposts, because where I was relieved by the sense that I had no choice, you may be confounded by the feeling that you have many.
Choose a teacher who practices what he or she preaches. Teachers can be charming, entertaining and provocative, but if you choose based on anything other than the vigor and authenticity of their practice, you will surely be misled.
Choose a teacher who has time for you and a practice center you can get to, or your spiritual life might be little more than intellectual tourism. You can find lots of information and opinions on the Internet but it will never take you anywhere new. As long as you view yourself as a dabbler, you are holding yourself back from the wholeness you seek.
The teacher you find reflects your own sincerity and aspiration, so you will always get the teacher you are looking for. There is no end to spiritual entrepreneurs eager to trade your dreams for schemes. Sadly, there seems no end to seekers who sell themselves – their capacity and commitment – so short.
Finally, you will have your own hunch about all these things, and it will be right. An ancient master said, “I do not say that there is no Zen, but that there is no Zen teacher.” You must trust yourself in all endeavors, and have the faith to put your feet in motion.