A beginner new to Buddhism usually wants to find a Dharma or Zen center close by. For some unclear reason they believe they will learn a lot about Buddhism if they go there when in fact they will learn almost nothing. They might as well quit after they learn the formal posture of zazen. They could easily do zazen in their apartment, read the Heart Sutra—and for added benefit, read Paul Reps’ book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones especially the 101 little Zen stories in the first part of the book. All in all, this is not much different than a Christian going to church on Sunday who might believe they will learn a great deal about Christianity. Unless they are a seminary student, it is highly probable that they won’t learn very much about Christianity.
Buddhist temples are not in the habit of teaching Buddhism as strange as this sounds. The beginner is treated more like a spectator whose main job is to support the temple with their donations. A typical American Zen temple might teach meditation, but this is under the category of rituals or observances. Sitting still for under and hour is not real meditation or dhyâna.
Beginners need to jettison any romantic ideas they might have about Buddhism, especially Zen. The odds are, the person who is regarded by them to be a Zen master knows much less than a university scholar of Zen Buddhism and spiritually, is certainly no Huang-po. They idea that anyone who wears Buddhist robes; who also claims he or she is transmitted from so-in-so which makes them a genuine master of Zen is deluded. A real master of Zen has seen the absolute or the same, pure Mind. A fraud is someone who claims to be a Zen master who doesn’t teach the essence of Mind which the Sixth Patriarch taught.
A smart beginner doesn’t waste their time with Buddhist teachers who never mention the Mind and its importance in the study of Buddhism. What is the payoff by attending a Dharma or Zen center that keeps everyone in the dark when it comes to Mind? We can't forget that koans are based on the realization of Mind—they are its fundamental demonstration; zazen means to see into one’s original nature which is pure Mind.
Trust me, I know what I am talking about. I wasted not a few years trusting in teachers who never mentioned pure Mind—who were clueless imbeciles. I was even kicked out of a Tibetan group for asking a Lama about Mind.