Daisan: One-to-one teaching

From Zen's earliest years, a one-to-one relationship with a teacher has always been seen as central to the Zen path. Such a teaching relationship is called daisan, or dokusan. It is one of the four principal components of Zen practice, which are:

  • zazen or sitting meditation
  • daisan
  • dharma study
  • work practice

Daisan is a private meeting with a teacher about one's practice and takes place during a sitting period. It is basic to personal development in Zen, for every person is different, and what may apply to one person in group teaching may not apply to another.

Daisan is for offering encouragement above all and is not, in any way, some kind of "test," as people sometimes mistakenly believe. This is how we see it at Still Mind. Our teachers know well the questions, difficulties and possible confusions that Zen practice can raise in practitioners, especially those new to Zen, and are there to offer support and encouragement. The daisan meeting is also for offering help with posture and checking up on details of practice, for sharing any insights a practitioner may have realized and, of course, for asking questions should there be any. Eventually it is also for challenge and for developing the insights available through koan work, though koan work is not necessarily suited to everyone. In addition to koan work, all our teachers offer guidance in following the breath - zazen -  which is where practice begins.

All newcomers to our zendo, including beginners, are encouraged to come to daisan in order to meet our teachers through their teaching capacities. Roshi Janet is not seeing new people at this time, but Sensei Gregory is available, as is Sensei Marisa Cespedes and Dharma holder Jean Gallagher. A Dharma holder is an apprentice teacher who is in the closing stages of becoming a Zen Sensei.

The meeting is short, so it is important to be focused on what you wish to talk about. Check with any of the regular members about the procedure for going to daisan.

We hope you take advantage of this unique teaching tool that Zen offers.