Talk:Zen proverb

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"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."
- q:Zen_proverbs

Discussion[edit]

When the student is ready the teacher will appear[edit]

What is it's original meaning?[edit]

In my opinion, this quote may come from a Chinese book, named <The Confucian Analects>, which was written more than two thousand years ago and is regarded as the Chinese Holy Bible . 子曰:“三人行,必有我师焉;择其善者而从之,其不善者而改之。” If you have read that in the great book, you should remember what "三人行,必有我师焉" means. If translated directly to English, it states that "If Three (三) people (人) were walking(行)there, one of them should(必) be (有) qualified to be my(我) teacher(师), at least." The purpose of this is to persuade us to self-reflect through others' advantages (noble characters) and disadvantages (poor characters). In other words, no matter what a man is, we can always learn something from him, if we can think critically. You may find out that this quote is not a Zen proverb at all, but instead belongs to Confucianism.

What does it mean?[edit]

I'd like to start discussion on this quote here and feed possible themes/meanings/summaries to the resource page. So what does it mean? What does it imply? Here are (some of) my thoughts..

  • First of all, zen koans are designed to not make any rational sense, and were used to 'blow the minds' of trainee monks in order to trigger their enlightenment. Is this statement really a koan (in the same vein of "what is the sound of one hand clapping?")? Does it not make any rational sense?
    • I think it does. I means that when you are ready to learn, then you will learn. The concept of "teacher" is simply a metaphor. It does not need to be a person to be a teacher - life is a teacher, nature is a teacher. Luck is a teacher (good or bad). Regardless of how you look at it, each of us is exposed to an environment that allows us to reflect and adapt if required.--96.244.247.130 02:52, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
  • I think it actually does make a lot of sense :-) and it seems to resonate with Wikiversity's potential (if not its current reality). If someone is ready to learn, and that readiness is apparent, it should be possible for a someone to be able to guide that person through a learning path - or indeed to join them in that learning path, negotiating it together.That is true when you discover the meaning of leaning you want to more of it. Suddenly you realise your ignorance and the desire to learn
  • In a sense, this latter example is more appropriate for Wikiversity, in that it does not need to be a "teacher" that helps someone to learn. Even in the widest sense of the word - treating someone who helps someone else as a teacher - the quote doesn't necessarily capture the diversity of ways in which someone can learn, or be aided in their learning.
  • However, I think there's a much more profound meaning in this quote - that the desire to learn begets experiences which further that learning. I don't know how this quote reads in its original language (Japanese?), and I wonder about the nuances of its meaning. But even treating the word "teacher" as a strict entity, there is a lot of flexibility in how we could visualise this learning scenario. Anyone - from a 'bum' on the street, to a university lecturer - can trigger that learning experience, that moment of 'ahhhh..' (whether expressed silently, or out loud). In fact, this latter is almost a cliche in many films and books (even though I can't think of an example right now). However, I wonder if the cliche captures the full meaning of the koan - if indeed it is a koan.

Any thoughts? Cormaggio talk 10:00, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

I would think it refers to the fact that the potential of learning something is ever-present and when someone is ready to learn, they will be able to find that potential. 76.226.209.143 23:49, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

Ok, I'm pretty sure this quote deals with sex. --78.99.188.64 13:14, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

Sure. It deals with learning.
The context is misleading. This is not a "koan." It's a "Zen proverb." Cormaggio, you were correct in your suspicion. Koans are, indeed, paradoxes, when seen from a limited mind. I had a brief conversation with the Abbot of Nanzenji on this, when I was in my early twenties, and he was visiting the University of California at Santa Barbara and I happened to be there. Koans were designed to test mental state, as part of ensuring the dharma transmission. The present WP article is actually quite good, I was pleasantly surprised.
The proverb here is a general statement about reality and approach to understanding. --Abd 17:48, 19 February 2011 (UTC)


I heard a Dharma talk by a Tibetan teacher, and he said "You don't need to go looking for the teacher, as soon as you're ready the teacher will look for you", and I think I remember reading this somewhere else also. Dharma Masters are said to possess clairvoyance and this is one explanation for this statement. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 94.197.75.185 (talkcontribs) 03:40, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

Clairvoyance aside it could also mean the teacher is the student. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Christofeh (talkcontribs) 06:00, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

It means: "Do not make questions, do not search for answers, do not look for problems, do not search for teachers. Do now, what lies in front of you. When this is mostly completed the next question, problem, and teacher will appear in front of you (since the last one is not there anymore). Your next appearing question, problem, and teacher is the one you where looking for -- you did not search for it -- it came to you". In other words, "deconstruct first, construct next.", Jorge Simão. Jan, 2010.

Jorge Simão seems to have showed the best answer to this riddle. It is indeed more simple than it seems, you could rewrite it as: only those open to be taught by anyone, anything, and any situation can indeed learn what is truth...And this is indeed an example of Reconstrutivist theory. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 193.1.104.2 (talkcontribs) 12:18, 9 April 2011 (UTC)

TRUTHACHE (talk) 10:44, 14 July 2012 (UTC)Truthache=== It seems to me that it actually means what it says, but is referring specifically to 'spiritual' things. When a very young child is learning to walk, it holds up its hand for support from its parents, then slowly becomes independent of it and one day it becomes a parent itself.

When you start of on a spiritual path its the same, you need a guide (teacher) and you will meet one apparently by pure chance (as if that exists). When you have grown sufficiently then you may need a different one. During this time you may become a guide for others, being both guided and guider. Ultimately your guide will be the Source of All things. Then you are no longer guided, you get orders and often have to find out for yourself the best way of carrying them out and so you then become self taught.

it means simply one thing: we should first have initiative; a moral obligation to one self to make ourselves better, then everything else to supplement us in our learning will appear