Becoming A Teacher
by Vajratara - 11th December 2012
Not long before he passed away my Guru bowed to a group of his disciples and apologized for what he felt were things he could have done better. I was not present on this day but was told about it by our Pandit. My respect for my Guru deepened on hearing this. Not alone did this show his level of awareness and self knowledge it also showed a depth of humility, honesty and inner strength. How many of us if we become aware of a deficiency in our behaviour or character, have the courage to face it ourselves never mind to another.
In a world where so much emphasis is placed on the strength of our public persona and our ego, my Guru's apology was a great teaching. How can we keep growing if we are afraid to look inside and see where we have messed up or need to change? If we think that admitting even just to ourselves, that we are not perfect is a sign of weakness rather than a sign that we are getting a tiny glimpse of reality and an opportunity for growth we are limiting ourselves and our chances of reaching enlightenment. After all how can we see the truth of existence when we can't even face the truth about ourselves?
All that said I am not saying it is easy! But if we are going to try to lead others as teachers on the path to enlightenment surely we need to be setting an example and leading from the front? To walk this walk we need to strive to always be aware of our own conduct.
I remember years ago my first Chi Kung teacher gave me an old poem that included a line that went something like "He who knows not, but does not know that he knows not, is a fool, avoid him."
I have always tried to bear this thought in mind. Until we have reached such a point that our wisdom stands on its own two feet and can prove itself against any amount of rigorous testing we may just be deluded fools. Let us beware ourselves.
Another teacher who taught his class more than the curriculum if they had the sense to listen to him gave the following lessons; to come to class without having done your homework is lazy, foolish and the height of disrespect to everyone else in the class. Any teacher worthy of the title will discipline you for this kind of behaviour. They would be negligent not to. But we must remember this guidance applies to the teacher too! If we are to be true as teachers we must be prepared i.e. we need to understand the lessons we are trying to teach. If we don't we are letting our students down and should be in line for a telling off from our own teachers!
The same teacher taught me that when you know that you have studied as much as you can but you still do not understand, you are a fool if you do not ask your teacher for help. He challenged us to be better than him at his subject and made it clear that this was not an easy task. Many mistook his candour for arrogance, his discipline for malevolence, they were foolish. I am glad I met this teacher when I was nineteen it has helped me to recognize a good teacher when I have the privilege of meeting one.
My Shamanic lineage taught me to not put any teacher on a pedestal (including myself!). As a student putting your teacher on a pedestal can lead to blind faith, this is not learning through direct experience. You cannot borrow wisdom. Be responsible for your own journey. As our Pandit has taught me, even the best teacher can only show you the way; they can't do the work for you. You have to walk the walk yourself. Putting a teacher on a pedestal is also asking for your perception of them to be shattered when they behave in a way that falls outside the box you put them in. This can be a very valuable lesson in the falseness of perceptions but not everyone can see that it was actually their perception that was faulty. Even the best teacher is human and may make mistakes.
As regards putting oneself on a pedestal, be mindful it will hurt when you fall off! There is always more to learn.
Living Buddha Dechan Jueren told our Pandit that another disciple one day asked him "Why is our Pandit the Pandit?"
The Living Buddha asked the disciple "How many mantras do you know?"
The disciple answered "About two hundred."
The Living Buddha then asked the disciple "How many mantras do you think the Pandit knows?"
The disciple answered "I don't know."
To quote our Pandit - don't look to follow an idol instead strive to be the ideal.