Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Perfect Teacher

I posted the other day on my disappointment with having found out that Sogyal Rinpoche had been involved in some of the exploitive behavior that has gotten other gurus in trouble. His particular offense was many years ago, but it bothers me he was capable of acting that way.

The same day that I posted that entry, the Daily Om was on life as the perfect teacher. I didn't read it that day, but now it seems a little synchronous that it showed up on the same day that I found out about Rinpoche.
Your Perfect Teacher

Many of us long to find a spiritual teacher or guru. We may feel unsure of how to practice our spirituality without one, or we may long for someone who has attained a higher level of insight to lead the way for us. Some of us have been looking for years to no avail and feel frustrated and even lost. The good news is that the greatest teacher you could ever want is always with you-that is your life.

The people and situations we encounter every day have much to teach us when we are open to receiving their wisdom. Often we don't recognize our teachers because they may not look or act like our idea of a guru, yet they may embody great wisdom. In addition, some people teach us by showing us what we don't want to do. All the situations in our lives, from the insignificant to the major, conspire to teach us exactly what we need to be learning at any given time. Patience, compassion, perseverance, honesty, letting go-all these are covered in the classroom of the teacher that is your life.

We can help ourselves to remember this perfect teacher each day with a few simple words. Each morning we might find a moment to say, "I acknowledge and honor the teacher that is my life. May I be wise enough to recognize the teachers and lessons that I encounter today, and may I be open to receiving their wisdom." We might also take some time each day to consider what our lives are trying to teach us at this time. A difficult phase in your relationship with your child may be teaching you to let go. The homeless person you see every day may be showing you the boundaries of your compassion and generosity. A spate of lost items may be asking you to be more present to physical reality. Trust your intuition on the nature of the lesson at hand, work at your own pace, and ask as many questions as you want. Your life has all the answers.
There's nothing new about this idea or approach -- it's what Pema Chodron teaches in all of her books and lectures. It's also what Lama Surya Das tends to teach.

But for those of us who are disillusioned with the guru-student relationship, or never found it very desirable in the first place, seeing life as the teacher -- and paying respect to that each day, as we would a conventional guru -- can be a very useful way of practicing surrender.

If we pay attention, and if we are willing to surrender to what life brings us, we will get all the challenges we need for growth from our daily lives. And if we are Buddhist, we will get an enormous range of opportunities for mindfulness and for surrendering ego. We simply have to be willing to accept the challenges as they come and not resort to shadow defenses.

This is easier said than done, of course, or we all would be much more enlightened people. But we can choose each morning, as the material above suggests, to be open to life as our teacher and to accept the lessons that come our way.


Anonymous said...

I was playing around with the idea that there are two types of virtue (which I'm defining as the mix of ethics [actions] and morality [the internal condition]). On the one hand, there is the virtue which arises from life long practice, cultural conditioning, and rigorous isolation from temptations/impure influences: many of the eastern "gurus" have this sort of virtue. Then there is the virtue which arises from having followed all the roads of sins down to their sorry conclusion, having finally learned for oneself-- experientially--the rewards and worth of the virtuous life. (You can understand these virtues with or without the context of reincarnation).

From the outside, these two virtues can resemble each other, and the first sort, so formalized, ritualistic, and historic, may even impress us more, at first, in its outward expression. But the first is untested, ultimately, and as such is far more subject to failure when supportive conditions lapse. We may scoff at the second, because (s)he who has that sort of virtue may have a very besmirched history. But the second is by far the more durable of the two.

Kai in NYC

william harryman said...

Hey Kai,

I like the distinction you draw - it makes a lot of sense from a developmental point of view. I copied your comments over to the discussion on Sogyal Rinpoche that is happening at my Zaadz blog.