"Zen Master Dogen wrote in his Instructions on Learning the Way (Gakudo Tojin-shu): 'A disciple can be compared to a good piece of wood, and a master to a carpenter. Even good wood will not show its fine grain unless worked on by a good carpenter. Even a warped piece of wood, in the hands of a good carpenter, shows the results of good craftsmanship.'
"Dogen showed the importance of finding a good or a true teacher by comparing the master-disciple relationship to a carpenter and his wood. He even went so far as to say that if we could not find a good teacher, it would be better not to study at all. This is severe, but true.
"Liking or disliking a subject in school often depends on the teacher. I am struck by the importance of a good teacher and the difficulty of finding one, whether it is a teacher of the tea ceremony or flower arrangement, one who teaches on the job, or a teacher of life itself.
"Good teachers know deep in their hearts the boundlessness of the Way. They also know their own pettiness and lack of compassion as compared to the height and breadth of the Way. Accordingly, good teachers do not put on airs. True teachers cannot be recognized by appearance. Only true teachers tell us things we do not like to hear. Without assuming any authority, they dress plainly and live in a simple dwelling, making the Way their teacher, the Dharma their teacher. Single-mindedly, they continue to seek and practice the Way.
"The last words of such a great teacher as Shakyamuni Buddha were: 'I am not your teacher. Your teacher is the Dharma, the true teachings.'
"We are supported in our search by the warm words of Zen Master Dogen: 'Regardless of how difficult or painful the training may be, students [of Zen who are weak-willed in seeking the Way] should seek good practitioners' guidance.' Encouraged by another of his sayings, 'What we earnestly wish can be accomplished,' we have to rub the sleep from our eyes and go on looking for the good teacher, the right teacher."