Buddhism: Finding A Teacher and Community
Updated: Mar 24, 2022
Am Koe Beighley Su
March 23, 2022
"Rely on the teachings to evaluate a teacher: Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
There is often a grave misunderstanding about the role of a teacher in the West. The following was taken from an article in "A View of Buddhism: A Spiritual Teacher:
"For one thing, we lost the ancient system of studying under one teacher for many years to learn a craft like carpentry or masonry, and we are not used to this system anymore. There is a lot of confusion about spiritual teachers; some people may believe that a teacher will take over the entire responsibility for a student's life, leaving the pupil more like an obedient, mindless puppy.
"It seems that most students actually want to remain little children and idolize the holy daddy and holy mommy." Scott Mandelker
No one can take over our own responsibility for the way we live our life. Even if we leave some decisions over to someone else, we are still responsible for our own actions-including shifting the decisions to someone else.
WE need to be realistic about spiritual teachers; if we want to learn something, a teacher is needed, or is at least very useful. How far would we have come with learning to read and write without a teacher?
"If you are only studying Dharma for the sake of study, sake of development of your understanding of Dharma, if you are studying Dharma intellectually, just intellectually on intellectual level, then I don't think you need a teacher-student relationship. And also, you can study with all kinds of teachers or professors. It's like going to university. You study with different teachers and professors and you go on and move on. But if you wish to commit yourself to the Path, then it is necessary, because one needs to know how to accomplish the realization, how to practice the Dharma."
Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
"A teacher is a person who can really show you the true nature of your mind and who knows the ...remedies for your psychological problems. Someone who does not know his/her own mind can never know others' minds and therefore cannot be a teacher."
Lama Thubten Yeshe"
When I was in my career as a psychotherapist, it was important that I always had my own therapist; someone to keep me honest, not let me get away with my nonsense, and to help me see my blind spots in counseling others. As a Buddhist Monk, it is the same. I have had several teachers, each with their own qualities and merits, and that is as important today as it was when I entered the Buddhist Path. It was also important that I studied in community with others pursuing the Path. I relied on the community for support, group wisdom, problem solving, and integration of the Dharma into everyday life.
I visited with my Teacher this week on a Zoom call. As I have learned to expect from any good Teacher, he didn't answer my questions...he simply asked me more questions, would give me direction, then tell me, "Go sit with this. Your answer is already inside of you. Sit with it and see." In the beginning, I found this process incredibly frustrating. "Why can't I just get an answer??" It is as Mandelker said earlier: I wanted my Teachers to by my "holy daddy and holy mommy." and just give me the answers. It took me a very long time to realize that any answers they gave me would be their answers for me, not the true answers from within myself.
He had listened to my Dharma talks and said, "There are times you are Am Koe, and teach Dharma from within your head...your intellect. Then there are times you are David Am Koe and teach the Dharma from your head-heart connection. That is when you are fully present and true to yourself, your community, and the Dharma. I want you to sit with this." And, as soon as he said it, I FELT the truth of his words in my head, heart, and being. THIS is the importance of a Teacher...to help me realize my own truth on the Path. And, I will be forever grateful for the manner in which he teaches and guides me along the Path.
A group of us are fully engaged in building a Buddhist Spiritual Community on the Lake Michigan Lakeshore shoreline. Our Board of Directors is in place, our website and Facebook page is active, and we have scheduled our first live event, a free book club. Check our events page for details. We hope to raise the funds and have a physical space for our Sangha (community) to meet on Sundays beginning in the late Summer, 2022. As the Monk and Abbot of the White Sands Zen Center, Inc., it will be my pleasure to offer Dharma Talks and myself as a Teacher to those who would like to proceed on the Buddhist Path or simply learn more about what that means. If you have questions or would like to begin the process before we have an established community, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616-843-7035 and leave a message.
Until then...be well, be safe, and be at peace with who you are in your heart-mind!!