Our teachers share

We asked our teachers five questions about them and their lives. Here is what they responded:

Stephen BatchelorStephen Batchelor

1) If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self / what do you wish you’d known at the beginning when you started out on this path?

To always follow your nose, never to compromise your gut-feeling intuitions of what makes sense.

2) What brings you joy? What makes you unhappy? 

Creative work (writing, art, teaching) brings me the most joy in my life. Being prevented from engaging in such work, either by my own self-doubt or the pressures of society and circumstance, makes me unhappy.

3) If you weren’t teaching what career would you have liked to have? 

An artist.

4) What one phrase or teaching do you come back to the most / have you found most useful? (Buddhist or not)

“Why is there anything at all rather than nothing?” (I treat this phrase of Leibniz and Heidegger as the original Zen Koan)

5) Whats the most unusual place you’ve meditated or taught?

I once led a retreat at a functioning 17th century Carmelite monastery on a mountaintop in Mexico where we ate fried cactus grown in the monks’ garden.

 

Yuka Nakamura

1) If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self / what do you wish you’d known at the beginning when you started out on this path?

Progress happens neither through striving blindly or by simply following external rules of conduct, nor by adopting the one ‘true framework’ or tradition, but from the ability to truly connect to the innermost longing for freedom and happiness and to let it guide and inspire the whole practice. The more you can relax your mind and body, the more you learn to be in touch with this longing, to listen to it, and to trust its movement towards that which is wholesome and free.

2) What brings you joy? What makes you unhappy?

Joy arises when the mind is aware of wholesome qualities such as Metta, generosity, widsom… etc., when there is a sense of connection, of freedom, of beauty – both within myself and in the world around me. Joy arises when I reflect on the possibility of the mind to overcome all destructive habit patterns, to understand the nature of all experience and to be free.
Unhappiness arises when the mind is constricted, under the spell of unwholesome qualities.

3) If you weren’t teaching what career would you have liked to have?

Counsellor, psychotherapist

4) What one phrase or teaching do you come back to the most / have you found most useful? (Buddhist or not)

May I live and practice in such a way that it brings the greatest benefit to all beings.

5) Whats the most unusual place you’ve meditated or taught?

A Japanese Zen nunnery in Nagoya

 

Bernat Font

1) What brings you joy? What makes you unhappy?

The greatest source of suffering for me are thought patterns based on fear. Tranquillity, human connection and music are things that bring me joy.

2) If you weren’t teaching, what career would you have liked to have?

I already had another career: I was a jazz pianist. But besides dharma teaching, I want to maintain some connection to academia, so that I keep learning from ancient texts and lived traditions, and I’ll probably engage in some Pali translation work.

3) What one phrase or teaching do you come back to the most / have you found most useful? (Buddhist or not)

Hard to pick, but this is a stock passage that appears again and again in the early texts in different contexts: “When the mind is joyful, the body calms down. When the body is calm, one feels comfort. And when one is comfortable, the mind becomes collected.”

4) What’s the most unusual place you’ve meditated or taught?

I can’t think of any interesting answer!

5) Is there a retreat, course or class in your life that is really memorable for you?

I will never forget my first retreats with those who’ve influenced me the most: the Batchelors, and Sayadaw U Tejaniya.

 

Christina FeldmanChristina Feldman

1) What brings you joy? What makes you unhappy?

Personal learning and seeing people flourish in the practice

2) If you weren’t teaching, what career would you have liked to have?

Carpenter

3) What one phrase or teaching do you come back to the most / have you found most useful? (Buddhist or not)

“In the midst of”

 

Martine BatchelorMartine Batchelor

1) If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self / what do you wish you’d known at the beginning when you started out on this path?

Nothing to say about that one.  I am happy with what I did.  I would say: good choice.

2) What brings you joy? What makes you unhappy? 

To appreciate things brings me a quiet joy.  Stress and fatigue lower my limits and I can become irritated for brief periods and be less patient.

3) If you weren’t teaching what career would you have liked to have? 

This is the best thing I could ever have done.  In my youth I thought of becoming a journalist.

4) What one phrase or teaching do you come back to the most / have you found most useful? (Buddhist or not)

“The busier you are the slower you should go.” by a Korean elder nun, a great practitioner.

5) Whats the most unusual place you’ve meditated or taught?

A sort of rundown boy scout house in Germany with stacks of beer in the entrance.

 

Jake DartingtonJake Dartington

1) What brings you joy? What makes you unhappy?

I love it when I can spend longer periods of practising at home. It feels helpful for me to see myself as a yogi first and a teacher second. Staying in touch with the joy of practice is the foundation for everything else I do. ‘Ordinary’ moments,  like having a leisurely coffee or watching TV with my wife Jasmin, can also often be unexpectedly joyful.

I love being in situations where people listen deeply to each other’s perspective so can feel unhappy when that’s not happening. Some political disputes seen to be fueled by a lack of interest in what others think or feel.

2) If you weren’t teaching what career would you have liked to have?

I have a longstanding interest in radio and the media in general so I think that would be something I’d do. In my twenties I presented a Soul music show on a London Radio station and still enjoy listening to this music. More recently I studied broadcast journalism and have spoken about meditation on the radio and TV. I like the challenge of doing this. There’s a particular skill in saying something in 90 seconds that’s different to the luxury of giving a long Dharma talk

3) What one phrase or teaching do you come back to the most / have you found most useful? (Buddhist or not)

One  favourite phrase is ‘hatred never ceases through hatred but through love alone does hatred cease’. This is a helpful teaching for how to relate to our own thoughts and feelings. It’s also a wonderful guide in how to relate to others. More recently the phrase ‘may my heart be full of peace’ has also become a mantra for me. It’s inspired by one of Joseph Goldstein’s books.

 

Christoph Köck

1) What brings you joy? What makes you unhappy?

Learning something. Misunderstandings.

2) If you weren’t teaching what career would you have liked to have?

Guitarist

3) What one phrase or teaching do you come back to the most / have you found most useful? (Buddhist or not)

Let me feel it

4) Whats the most unusual place you’ve meditated or taught?

A few weeks mostly inside a dark cave in southern Thailand

 

Jaya RudgardJaya Rudgard

1) If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self / what do you wish you’d known at the beginning when you started out on this path?

a)That there is no thing to attain or get right: the path is made by walking it, and walking it should be enjoyed. b) It’s really true as the Buddha said that friendship is the whole of the spiritual life. The friendships you make on this journey are your most precious resource.

2) What brings you joy? 

Spending time being active in wild places, with a few good friends. What makes you unhappy? Seeing the harm that human beings do to this beautiful planet, to ourselves, to one another and our fellow creatures out of ignorance.

3) If you weren’t teaching what career would you have liked to have?

If I hadn’t become a nun and continued as a lawyer I would like to have used those skills to protect the natural world. In my fantasy world, I would have been a ballerina.

4) What one phrase or teaching do you come back to the most / have you found most useful? (Buddhist or not)

My current favourite phrase  is “The universal Dharma door is already open” (spoken in Thich Nhat Hanh’s voice). This Mahayana saying echoes the Pali quote which my first teacher Ajahn Sumedho always uses at the start of his talks ” The doors to the deathless are open… let those who can hear bring forth their faith’. I love the reminder that the Dharma is continually present and inviting us here and now into freedom. And while “faith” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea or word of choice, it’s the quality that expresses what I most deeply feel.

5) Whats the most unusual place you’ve meditated or taught?

A mud hut in Lesotho and the House of Commons.