Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wash your own dishes

To teach, do not be a teacher.

As Stephen Batchelor brings out in Verses from the Center, a walker appears only when a person starts to walk. Similarly, a teacher appears only when two people interact in a certain way.

A person may sit in a room and talk about the most profound understandings and insights but there is no teaching (let alone a teacher) if there is no one else present (or no one is listening).

There is no "teacher" as such, but when conditions are right, teaching (and learning) take place. The same, of course, is true for "student".

To see oneself as a teacher is to create an imbalance in the world.

One has only what one experiences. As time passes and one accumulates more and more experience, there is a greater and greater tendency to see the person in the student role only in terms of that experience. Assumptions and projections proliferate, and the results are both inevitable and predictable.

In each encounter, put aside everything you think you know. It won't go away: it will be there if and when you need it. But in forgetting about it, you create the conditions for seeing, to use Uchiyama's phrase, "the direction of the present" and what is to unfold in each moment.

When people thank and tell you how much you've helped them, what they say has nothing to do with you. This is just their way of expressing joy in their own experience. Remember this, too, when people complain or criticize.

Rest deeply in your own experience: you will know, through your body and feelings, whether you respond to the direction of the present, or fall into projection and reaction.

Do not accept special treatment. There is a slippery slope here, because, when teaching, you will sometimes need quiet and space and assistance in routine affairs. Regard these only as things needed for teaching, not as things that are due to you because of a position. In other words, always wash your own dishes.

Some say that it is important to let students treat their teacher as special, as an expression of their devotion and appreciation. Here, the slippery slope becomes a cliff, for in accepting such special treatment, you are confirming an identity in the eyes of such students, instead of pointing them to their own knowing.

Consider carefully the question "Why do I teach?" In the end, it must, in some way, be part of your path—that is, when you teach, you wake up in some way.