Monday night I dropped into a Buddhist meditation class in Parramatta. It was being run out of the Parramatta Town Hall so I thought it was worthwhile checking out.

For readers who aren’t already aware of my story I practiced Zen meditation (amongst other things) for a number of years before I became a Christian and I have a lot of respect for the tradition even if I am on a different path now. So when I heard of this new class my curiousity was aroused.

Anyway from what I observed the teacher seemed to be operating out of the Tibetan tradition though she didn’t overtly refer to it and was dressed casual. The class incorporated some introductory level teaching on karma between basic meditation exercises. Nothing special if your already familiar with that. What struck me though was how much the teacher distanced herself from the students. The students were discouraged from asking any questions directly to the teacher till the last section of the class. And the main discussion was run by a senior student while the teacher meditated.

Having been an evangelical Christian for over a decade now I suppose Ive gotten so used to informal interaction with my leaders and mentors. I know there are Christian leaders out there that are more aloof but that’s not been part of my experience since embracing Jesus. There’s always been a mutual understanding that our union with God is grounded in the forgiveness of God and not any personal spiritual achievements on behalf of one of us. I know Buddhist teaching differs on this so maybe that explains some of the difference. But how much? What is just culture? Anyway it got me wondering what other Aussie Buddhists felt about this. How universal is this experience of aloof leadership? Do they see leadership becoming more informal as Buddhism becomes increasingly contextualised to Australian culture?

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