The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Sunday, April 27, 2008

In Gratitude to My Teachers

       Around this time every year, I find myself thinking of the final days of another school year.  In one way or another, I've been a student and/or instructor for 49 years....that's beginning as a formal student with Kindergarten, where I once informed my teacher I was cleverer than she was.  She, being cleverer than me, replied, "If you want to ride our pony again you won't say things like that."
       Lesson learned.
       I don't recall much more about Kindergarten.
       My mother was my first teacher.  I still remember standing at the stove and hearing her say, "Don't touch!  It's hot!"   
If you're a student at the School of Hard Knocks like I was, there's only one way to know that the stove is hot.
Most of my mother's early lessons were delivered at high decibels and with fever pitch--3 kids under the ages of 4 will do that to a Mom.
       "Don't touch those mushrooms, they might be poisonous!"
"If you bite your brother once more I'm going to bite you back!"
"Your Great-Aunt does not look like a halloween mask!"
        Some of my teachers were genius (thank you Mrs. Hall), others were not so much genius, as just stumbling along and taking us with them.  And a few were simply in the wrong business.  Still, all of them offered me lessons, all of them set me on a path of learning, all of them reside in me. 
        And the beauty of that fact, from a Buddhist point of view, is that even the sticky places offer the opportunity to practice.  Especially the sticky places!  We can change our past.  It's a revolutionary idea about time and space.  Rather than perceiving time as linear, we can consider time as circular--a feeling of being humiliated circles back to us --perhaps we've been belittled at the blackboard once again for not knowing how to solve a math problem.  If, as 6 year olds, we are sensitive and tender, (we are!), it's possible to create a life long aversion to math.  Our conditioning convinces us that we'll never do math well because we're as stupid as a goat!  Remember, Miss Black, our first grade teacher said so!
        But as Buddhists, we don't need to reside in that conditioned, hurt child space.  We can choose to find compassion around that "fact", and then find the wisdom to change it.  We can choose to allow Bodhichitta to enter into the equation,  to allow for space as we step away from ego involvement and realize that the True Self is boundless.  The True Self can even learn math...or not!  
       When we practice Bodhichitta, we practice for ourselves and for all Sentient Beings.  That's just how it works.  We may not even be conscious of the assistance we offer others, but it is surely present when we are present to our own compassion and wisdom.
        So in that sense, we are all students and teachers.  And understanding that gives us a place from which to practice the Noble 8 Fold Path, to practice the Four Abidings, to practice Compassionate Action, the path of the Bodhisattva.
Namu Amida Butsu!

In deepest gratitude to Sensei, and my Dharma Brothers & Sisters at Blue Mountain Lotus Society

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