Becoming a Lay Teacher

The Lay Teacher Certification of The Zen Practice Foundation is an honor system program for obvious reasons. If a person Contacts Us and says that they perform the following practices every day, we cannot travel to their residence and observe them to see if they really do. The Fourth Precept is to speak the truth so of course we accept the word of each applicant.

The applicant for a Zen Practice Foundation Lay Teacher Certification must certify that he or she maintains the following practices on a daily basis and has made such practices second nature.

1. The three steps of Beginning Zen.

2. The fourth and fifth steps of Intermediate Zen.

3. Daily recitation of the Ten Cardinal Precepts coupled with an effort to follow them throughout the day.

4. Daily Buddha Name Recitation.

5. Daily recitation of the twelve Nidanas. This does not qualify as the “seeing the twelve Nidanas forward and backward” but it helps us lean toward such seeing.

6. Memorization of all the chants, coupled with daily chanting.

7. Daily prostrations.

8. Daily sutra study.

9.  Daily cultivation of wholesome states by recitation of the Four Brahma Viharas, the Six Paramitas, and the Seven Factors of Enlightenment coupled with an effort to practice them throughout the day.

10. Daily physical training and attending at least two sesshins per year.

And if we have a teacher-assigned koan or shikantaza practice, of course we maintain those practices as well.

If we practice the first three steps (Beginning Zen) and the fourth and fifth steps (the first two steps of Intermediate Zen), we can wait for a nimitta to appear and if a nimitta does appear, we practice the sixth and seventh steps (third and fourth steps of Intermediate Zen) and we can use the “super power” mindfulness so generated to contemplate the twelve nidanas forward and backward (Step eight, the first step of Advanced Zen) and to work on our koan if we have one (Step nine, the second step of Advanced Zen).

But of course we can’t require an applicant to experience the jhanas and the immaterial attainments every day so the list of daily practices does not include the sixth and seventh steps of Intermediate Zen nor does it include the eighth and ninth steps found in Advanced Zen. A practitioner at that level develops “super power” mindfulness, sees the twelve nidanas forwards and backwards, dissolves or penetrates koans, and receives dharma transmission from a sanctioned teacher.

None of the practices are quantified, i.e., we don’t say that a prostration practice must include 108 prostrations per day, we don’t say that a certain period of time should be set aside for sutra study, and so on. Only a retiree would have the time to practice all day. The rest of us can do as much as we can every day until we have made the lay teacher practices a part of our daily routine, and then we can apply for a teaching certificate.

We can serve as lay teachers without such a certificate but a framed Zen Practice Foundation Lay Teacher Certificate lets students have confidence that their teacher has met a set of rigorous requirements and is qualified to teach the ten programmed steps of the How To Practice Zen course.


How To Practice Zen