On the Head Teacher Position
by Steve Hagen
(A synopsis of the talk given on June 15, 2014)
I want to thank Bev for the last two years that she steered Dharma Field. She did a fine job. As most of you know, she has stepped down from the head teacher position and I’m back in it. I’d like to say a little bit about that.
I have heard that some are wondering if I’m here just for the interim or part time. I want to assure you that I’m here completely and totally, and will give Dharma Field everything I’ve got. You have to understand, for me this isn’t a job. This is my life. I’ve given my whole adult life to this practice, to this way. I’ve taken vows, this is what I am, and wherever I’m needed, I will do what I can. I think there was some confusion when I stepped out of the head teacher position a couple of years ago—that I was “retired” and was going to stop teaching. That isn’t the case. I’ll remain a teacher until the day I die.
The term “head teacher,” however, doesn’t really convey what this position is, because in a sense it doesn’t have anything to do with teaching. The person who’s in this position should be one who’s received transmission and has some basic understanding of what our practice is in order to keep us from veering off into the weeds, but that is separate and apart from teaching. There could be many teachers here. The way Zen practice works is that students interact with teachers, not necessarily with someone who’s running a center. One of the teachers may also be running a center, but that’s not where you interact. The person who’s running the place just needs to understand the practice, that’s all. There isn’t really a term for this position, but I think we can refer to it as the head of Dharma Field.
I also want to touch on concerns that maybe the book I’m working on would take priority over Dharma Field. This isn’t the case. The book is a part of my teaching and I think that it’s important. I have gotten a lot of work done on it and I’m bringing it to conclusion. I’m not going to let that or anything else interfere with taking care of Dharma Field and doing what I can as best as I can to help you with your practice. This includes my writing as well as teaching, but also daily practice. I will always be here, as I have the last 17 years. That will not change.