Zen Wisdom 140

There are people with a variety of psychological problems that cannot be helped by Ch'an. However, when they undergo therapy, they may come away from each session with a feeling of ease or consolation. The problems may not be solved, but there is temporary relief. This is not to say that therapy is ultimately useless in resolving problems, but for many patients therapy can become a crutch to get through the day or week. Real progress is never made.

Everybody should be able to practice Ch'an. But there are those who are not interested, do not have the confidence, or are not willing to make the effort. Until these people change, they simply cannot and will not be able to resolve their problems through Ch'an.

I guide students in their practice. I really don't have to put on the hat of a therapist, but there are people who have been on several retreats and have been unable to solve certain persistent problems. Therefore, during retreat interviews, I may ask questions and play the role of therapist even though I have no formal training. I base my teaching and guidance on my own understanding of the human mind and Buddhadharma. For this reason some retreatants may feel that they have gotten benefits similar to those obtainable from therapy. What I do is not typically Ch'an, however. The typical role of the Ch'an master is to throw the problem back at the practitioner, with the advice to just continue with practice.