Confessions of a Fucked up Zen Teacher

I am a fucked up Zen teacher

I think it’s important that people know that Zen teachers can be fucked up, and that some are. This is because being enlightened doesn’t mean being perfect, and Zen training isn’t meant to make people perfect.

Anyone who tells us different is full of shit. Zen has a dark history of teachers abusing students and taking advantage of sanghas. Zen is full of teachers today who have major issues and egos and addictions. We just don’t get to hear about it much until after the fact. How about a little preventative honesty peoples?

Zen can help us gain awareness of some major issues and even help resolve them if we want to, but it cant make us do this, it’s not meant to and we can still become teachers even if we hold on to these issues.

When I first started meditating when I was 19 or 20 I couldn’t sit still and focus unless I smoked pot. I was also a functioning alcoholic, sex addict and drug abuser.

I loved hallucinogens and was consciously looking for some kind of spiritual bliss or awakening.

It was all fun and games until I got into cocaine, crystal and crack in my late 20’s. That’s when I became dysfunctional, anti-social and insane.

I might still be insane, but at least I know that just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t watching me.

I was a Zen priest when I was 30. I was exhausted and depressed and unmotivated until I discovered I could bypass all of those feelings with drugs and go straight to spiritual bliss without the hard work. I was instantly happy, productive, clear, energetic and smart. All the things I thought enlightenment was supposed to mean.

It took me 4 years of using crystal and crack on a daily basis before I got arrested in the hotel room I had ruined and barricaded. They took me to the psych ward for drug induced psychosis, where they kept me for a month. I learned what it’s like to be really crazy, which i’m grateful for, until I regained my sanity enough to be entrusted to live without locks on the outside of my door.

After getting sober I remembered I was a Zen priest and moved back near the temple I helped start. I lived in the nearest recovery home where I started working the 12 steps and going to AA meetings and walking to the zendo everyday.

After many months I moved back into the temple and slowly but surely regained my practice and spiritual stamina. I was doing great with work and practice until I realized something was still wrong with me. I was addicted to pornography. Sex and drugs always went together naturally, but without the drugs sex stood out as a problem of its own.

It took me several years to fully accept this and get help for it. It was the most difficult addiction to recover from. It runs deep into my biology and psychology and seems to come from the very roots of my being.

By this time I had been practicing intensively for 10 years and hoping to become a teacher at some point. But I had to take time off the schedule to do group therapy and attend enough sex addicts meetings to break the patterns I had. This set me back about a year in my ‘Zen trajectory’, but gave me much more in peace of mind and dignity.

By the time I was teacher in training I was fairly competent to lead groups, and classes without looking like a total asshole ogling every attractive person in my general space. I was just learning to hide it better. I lived like this even into my life as a full teacher.

At some point I sort of matured and realized the suffering I cause when I put my addictive and lustful energy out there, even if it’s just in my own mind. Thank god my energy has shifted somewhat and I feel I’m in integrity and happy about my energy most of the time.

So today I still have fucked up thoughts and impulses. I’m still me, somewhat irresponsible, kind of lazy and slightly egotistical. I look at pornography sometimes and have some twisted thoughts.

I am capable of hurting students, and being a selfish jerk and I can suffer with feelings of insecurity and being unworthy of something nice.

Pretty much the best thing I have going for myself is my ability to see how fucked up I am and ask for help with it when it’s appropriate. I wouldn’t say I’m honest, or authentic or enlightened. Bullshit, I call myself these things all the time. The point is I am who I am, I’ve come from where I’ve been, and I’m here trying to tell the truth about myself as a person who happens to be a Zen teacher.

If this blog helps anyone to burst a bubble of bullshit about how special, ethical or trustworthy a Zen teacher ‘must’ be then great. If it turns someone off to Zen because of the potential of fucked-up-edness, even better.

Zen training is not meant to turn assholes into saints, it’s meant to turn assholes and saints into awakened assholes and saints. To me this means being committed to making amends when I hurt others. Luckily for me I can accept myself as one who hurts and apologizes. If I practice enough I might stop being an asshole, but I will probably miss apologizing too much. This is as good as it gets sometimes.


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