I wrote the following post late last night and it wasn't really a "well thought out" statement at all. This morning, re-reading it, I've made a few minor word changes but it remains a reasonable expression of part of what I feel.
I should say at this point, that the opinion I hold here relates only to the tradition I personally have experience of. The other thing to keep in mind that this notion of "tradition" is not at all a static thing. A tradition is a living thing, it continues to evolve, and be enlivened by those who work from within it's influence. One of the points I try to make in the post that follows is the need to first absorb that influence and to understand the guiding spirit of the tradition, only then is it really possible to do your work and for it to be seen as adding to that continuum.
It might seem that this, rather strict, approach denies the student the opportunity to express their own creative urges and may even crush their emerging sense of originality. I think this is an illusion, if that urge is so easily snuffed out then I wonder how fiercely it burned in the first place. I believe the modern tendency to treat the student like some delicate and precious "new born" is far too self indulgent. It invariably results in work that is utterly self-referential and shallow. How could it possibly be any other way?
The masters of the past, who have been my inspiration and guide, didn't treat this work as fun, it wasn't a hobby. Of course, people today, particularly in the wealthier parts of the world, are able to dabble with whatever they like, and to their hearts content. And that is not a bad thing, nor would I deny them their fun. But let's not deceive ourselves, a 1000 years of tradition has a lot more value than merely being the source of some part-time amusement. That incredibly rich vein is available to anyone who is prepared to truly become part of it, and that takes a lifetimes commitment.