I'd like to say something about how I understand my role as a Buddhist teacher.
When we think of a teacher, perhaps the image that comes to mind is somebody standing in front of a class giving a lecture, giving a lesson, handing down knowledge, information, wisdom and so on. Well, it's true that sometimes I give a Dharma talk; sometimes I'm invited: “Will you address this audience and say something about a particular topic?” So, that's part of it, but it's a long way from being the most important part.
A teacher in that sense does a job in a classroom in a school. At the end of the day they go home and they do something else. A Buddhist teacher can't do that. A Buddhist teacher is, in a sense, on duty all the time. It never stops. And some teachers never give lectures.
There is a story about a person who goes to the monastery and becomes a monk and he wants to study there and he wants to learn Buddhism; and after some time - he has been there maybe a year or two years or whatever - he says to his teacher: “Why do you never teach me? I came here to learn and you never teach me anything.” And the teacher says: “When was I not teaching you?”
I always find that little example really useful. There wasn't any time when the teacher was not teaching. Why is that? Because the main features of being a Buddhist teacher are not really in giving lectures. There are two aspects: One aspect is to live the practice yourself, live the Dharma yourself; and the other aspect is the relationship that you have heart to heart with each disciple, with each seeker.
On the one hand, living it yourself – well, how? As a practitioner I'm constantly learning. I'm all the time finding out. So, living the practice in some ways is a search on my own part; I'm always discovering something new, I read a text, I'm reading it for the umpteenth time and there is something new in it, there is something I hadn't realized. “Oh, my goodness, yes, that means such and such!” and that will affect my life in some new way.
How do I relate to the world around me? Constantly updating! - and the relationship with the person who comes to me for Dharma, for refuge – each one is unique, they're each different. My sense of that relationship, my sense of my duty is: how do I help each person to flourish in their particular way? Because their way is not the same as everybody else.
On the one hand, I can help to create structures, groups, roles, organizations, and that's useful up to a point. But then the crucial thing is: where is the spirit in that? The formal structure could just be a dead thing. What matters is: is there a living Dharma within it?
So, these two aspects – doing the practice myself, which can be an example for others, but they're not me and I'm not them, they're not trying to be me, I'm not trying to be Buddha. I'm trying to be whatever it is I'm supposed to be, and I'm helping them to be whatever it is that they're supposed to be; and in each case, it's unique.
And that's how I see it. I try to help each person to flourish in their own way.
Thank you very much
Namo Amida Bu