It is said, the most important thing you can accomplish in life is to find a true teacher. Friends may come and go as do lovers, but the words of your teacher – if they are guiding you well – will resonate in your heart until your last breath.
Finding friends to enjoy life’s journey or
lovers who can travel with you into the intimate realms is one thing; finding a teacher is something entirely different, for a true teacher has only one thing in mind; your enlightenment.
In the Sweet Medicine tradition the name for a spiritual teacher is weihas. It means ‘one who has walked before.’ While we can all be teachers for others in our areas of excellence, our greatest teachers cause us to drop delusions we are not able to see. A great teacher is filled with powerful love, but is in not the kind of love that includes sex, nor is it like love between friends. It’s not like the love of a mother or father who is entwined with your survival. A great teacher may even desert you until you realize the depth of your attachments.
We tend to overlook or amplify flaws in our friends, and get tangled in the foibles of our lovers. Yet we usually try to make our teachers into pristine idols. We want them to be better than human. The trouble is, the gods we project onto our teachers are made in our own image, and our beliefs convince us he or she should eat like this, must never get angry, or ought to behave in certain ways. A great teacher will defy these notions.
The questions is, if you are inspired by a teacher and sense that he or she can show you a way to cultivate yourself, then do whatever you can to learn. Practice the things they show you. This is the meaning of sincerity, and it is the most important virtue a student can possess.
With friends and lovers, we seek things like company, intimacy, comfort and affection, but we must be very careful about what we seek in a teacher, because it’s different.
The Road to Finding a Teacher
In my experience, being near your teacher is like sitting next to a ticking clock. At any moment the alarm bell might go off. The second you stray, lose awareness, become greedy, self centered etc. it’s the teacher’s job to remind you to quit coasting. Kung Fu Panda may seem like a silly movie, but it’s true; you feel like a rolly-polly numbskull, and usually, you are. Those who think they are better than their teacher should find a new one.
If you hear a familiar voice in the middle of the night nudging you to reflect on what you are doing, it may be the sound of your teacher budding like a lotus opening inside you. While this sound may never satisfy you like the moans of a lover, if you can decipher it’s message, it will guide you in the right direction.