There has been a bit of scuttlebutt about internet teachers/communities versus real life flesh and blood teachers/communities that I caught wind of recently.
This is why I intend to gather together the few experiences I
had abroad, and to record the secrets of an enlightened teacher, so that they
may be heard by any practitioner who desires to hear them.
Dogen's Bible and Enlightened Teachers
That, coupled with what ideas of mine of things like teachers and organizations that have been totally smashed, I would like to put forth that the argument either for and against is pretty lame.
First of I think this is a phenomenon that is primarily occurring in the western zen communities so that is where I'm coming from.
The first idea I'd like to smash is that there is a fundamental difference between the two.
Lets think about why we committed ourselves to this practice for a moment. It should not take very long. Most of us came to this practice because we know that something is not quite right and we want to get to the bottom of it. After a bit of practice most people (who are not mentally disabled, or acutely insane) figure out that it is themselves that is not right.
The more not right the person is or the more they are affected by this not rightness is frighteningly proportionate to how dedicated they are to the practice. So the most messed up people end up being zen teachers (or at least zen bloggers.) Just because they have become teachers doesn't mean that they have solved all of their problems either. From what I have seen Dharma transmission doesn't make someone a perfect human being. That goes for pretty much any of our zen sanghas weather online or physical here in the west. I'm sure there are exceptions, but the exceptions are pretty small and are likely not part of the echosphear. Anyone of these zen teachers who present themselves as being anything but a flawed human being is probably a U.S. Marine... unh no I mean a liar liar pants on fire. Yeah, they have likely been practicing for a while, they are likely well versed in dealing with their stuff (maybe) and most of them can actually be quite helpful in coming up with ways to help point you in the right direction for you deal with yours. You may even get really lucky and find a good friend that can point you to see things as they are instead of how you are.
In the interest of full disclosure, at the time of writing this, I have no pretty bolt of silk with a list of names on it to indicate I am a somebody in the zen community. After publishing this, I probably will never get one. Oh, I'd like one, but I think what I am doing right now is more important.
Ok, on to Dogen's bible, The Shobogenzo. While as my friend Ted pointed out it is only 95% complete, it is what Dogen left behind so that we could get the stuff from the guy who kicked off this whole tradition.
So, if you can get together with a group of folks, practice sitting-zen, and clarify the Shobogenzo for the benefit of all sentient beings (it's OK if your just doing it for yourself too, I think the sentient beings will benefit regardless), I think your going in the right direction. Along your way when the time is ripe, your probably going to run in to some guy or gal that might just help you out. They may not have anything to do with zen or be a kind of zen pariah, you may meet them in the flesh or out on the interwebs. But you are going to know when you meet your real teacher. I meet them everywhere.