Right: Bodhidharma the First Zen Patriarch in China
Find a Teacher
If you have a religious belief other than Buddhism, I do not encourage you to change. This is not the Buddhist way. Follow your path tirelessly. If you have no path, Zen worked out for me and others, but be careful choosing a temple or teacher. To paraphrase the Tibetan Lam Rim: "most people take more care buying a cow than choosing a teacher, but you are entrusting your precious mind to a teacher so check very, very carefully". Imagine you are buying a car that is worth all the property and cash you have. Seriously. Even in the Buddha's time hoaxers, cheats and grafters were plentiful.
To find a Zen teacher or temple, try looking at the notice boards in the nearest Chinese or Japanese community centre. Larger communities often have their own newspaper and yellow pages. The English Yellow pages are good too. You can try the net, but some of the best teachers won't be listed. This web page has some interesting links by region: http://www.buddhanet.net/worlddir.htm
If you find a good place, see what you can find out about them by typing their name on a Google search. Make sure you search newsgroups since it is more personal. Be on the look out for comments like, "once they had my contact details they kept calling me / visiting me to get me coming back". Zen does not do a hard sell.
A teacher and temple needs money. This is usually obtained by a donation box that you can discretely put your offering in. It is not a list of fees for service. If you do a course or go to a special teaching, fees are common, but these are low and to cover costs.
If you are promised long life, money and power run fast the other way.
For long life, see a doctor.
For money get professional financial advice.
For power, read up on politics and strategy.
Zen is about the meaning of life, destroying illusion and living in harmony with the people around you. That's all that will be on offer. Other benefits may accumulate, but these are effects of you practice, not the object of you practice.
If you find a good teacher, you are lucky and have generated a lot of good karma . Don't blow it. Buddhist monks are called "venerable" because they are venerable. The more you respect them ,the faster you will learn, because your respectful behaviour prepares you heart to learn. Arrogance never learned a thing. Teachers rarely tell you if you are being rude, so you'll need to be self-aware.
When the teaching improves your life, you'll want to give your teacher a gift, but this is actually a hassle for them. They are following a non-material path, so possessions are just distractions and responsibly. Instead, give to the temple. Books are a great gift because spreading the dharma plants karma seeds in your mind that will allow you to understand the dharma.
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