How should a teacher behave?…

Well…. perfectly! Surely that is obvious.

But what do you mean by ‘perfectly’?

Well… perfectly…  according to the  rulebook in my head.

But if the teacher  shares your  rulebook you might not learn very much from them. As my teacher’s teacher told him —  ‘the buddha is not a “nice man”.’

Awakening to the unborn natural state or ‘buddha nature’ results in a change of operating system…no longer standing apart and judging with a dualistic perspective but responding to dynamic situations with freshness and attunement.

A good teacher acts to wake us up to our attachment to the illusory nature of the fixed patterns we use to create  the duality of samsaric existence. Some will even be kind enough to continue to point out that our shoes are far too tight until we wake up and feel the pain of our blisters, callouses and corms. At the same time they remind us that our feet are naturally beautiful and, with the right kind of dharma massage, these corms and blisters will become wings. Then we will work at freeing ourselves from these shoes and discover the pleasure of walking barefoot and moving through space in different ways!

Depending on your condition these may be the kindest teachers of all, but sometimes they may seem unpleasant. We want them to appreciate our lovely shiny shoes and sympathise with our limp however whilst they see our view  they do not share it —  they see beyond our felt limitations.

On the other hand a teacher may  be just being rather unpleasant; karmic winds can shift a teachers behaviours, so this is something to look at —  can we learn something by engaging with this person as they are and as we feel uncomfortable?

The ego will not readily choose to engage in a struggle where it feels its existence to be threatened but in dharma practice we are engaged in a process of softening and becoming undefended, allowing the ego to be what it is, just an aspect of our awareness,  relaxing to the point  where this awareness is revealed to us.

There is  more on this theme, and  about the relationship between teachers and students  in chapter 15 – The Transmission of the Dharma —   in the book Simply Being by James Low. It is important to try to have a sense of this relationship so please let me know if you have any questions.

I’d also be delighted to hear from you when you have read the preceding chapter, on refuge and bodhicitta…we can formalise taking the taking of refuge and bodhicitta vows  if you would like…and discuss any questions which arise.