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Buddhadharma : Summer 2011
winter 2005| 84 |buddhadharma If we’re not careful, we can end up asking them to do the work. noRman fischeR: That does sometimes hap- pen without our consciously recognizing it. When we’ve given over our sense of responsibility for our practice, we get into real trouble. PonloP RinPoche: We are always taught thatwehavetorelyontheguruuptoa certain point, then we have to rely on our inner guru. That wisdom of being able to be your own guru comes from the bless- ings, the kindness of your own teacher. Therefore, you are never parted from your teacher. On the other hand, we must go through the pain of growing up, which is like leaving home. There is a sense of lone- liness, but it’s a valuable kind of loneliness, because we are growing up spiritually. The loneliness is quite a profound experience. So although you begin by depending on your teacher, because otherwise you would be lost, after a while, it seems you have to give up that dependence. PonloP RinPoche: That’s correct. You can- not have a babysitter for your entire life. [Laughter] noRman fischeR: When you’re in the stage of development where you’re more inde- pendent and you don’t see the teacher so much, it’s not as if you’re by yourself. You’re with the whole world. You’re with all your other relationships in the dharma and out of the dharma. What in the past you were looking to the teacher for, you’re now finding everywhere around you. It’s not as if you’re wandering around all by yourself. Your life is full of instructions. Everything and everybody has become the teacher, which is what the teacher truly was in the first place. Even though in the beginning you thought the teacher was somebody out- side of you who was going to give you something, a pusher and yet a buddha. noRman fischeR: Exactly. shaRon salzbeRg: Perhaps the movement is not from dependence to independence, but rather to interdependence. It’s the interdependence or interrelatedness that Rinpoche was talking about in the begin- ning, but now it is in a much fuller, more wholesome, and complete manifestation. PonloP RinPoche: I would agree. I would like to add that this relationship between student and teacher that we have been talking about does not come out of any particular culture. I believe it will develop as a Western type of relationship. It doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly the same relationship in every respect that it was taught and practiced in other cultures. I really hope and trust that in Western countries the teacher-student relationship will start to be understood as part of the culture. That is already beginning to hap- pen, and it will continue to develop, so that there will be many more profound relationships between students and teach- ers in the Western context. noRman fischeR: I feel the same way. The student-teacher relationship is something very valuable that Buddhism brings to our culture. If our culture ever had the idea or the practice of working with a spiritual teacher, we’ve largely lost it. Therefore, it’s an unfamiliar notion to people. We know we need to go to the doctor, and we know we need to have teachers in school, but we don’t know that in the deepest part of our lives, we require helpers and guides. Most people don’t know they are lacking that. They don’t know that there is a greater dimension to their experience that needs to be taken care of. As Rinpoche said, it’s something that is becoming better known, and as time goes on, it will become something that Western people recognize they need. As the number of qualified teachers and spiritual guides increases, ordinary people will begin to realize that we all need this in our lives. We need this kind of connection and guid- ance to make sense of our lives. shaRon salzbeRg: People need the sense that spiritual teachings can be actualized by an ordinary person, if they practice and work at it. If that kind of confidence becomes more widespread, people will seek the appropriate kind of teacher. And just as Rinpoche suggested, the teachers will be there in whatever form is appropri- ate to the West, and the relationship will work just the same as it always has. left-handed, that is the living, breathing quality of the book. Traditional accounts say Buddha delivered these teachings to his advanced students. Due, however, to their precious and confounding nature, the teachings (or maybe the books that came to contain them) were entrusted to nagas, guardian serpent dragons, who concealed them under the turgid waters of an Indian river. Different accounts suggest different rivers. Wherever they lay, around the second or third century, the scholarly Nagarjuna retrieved them. He focused on the key notion of sunyata, or “emptiness,” and with this keystone term destroyed all conceptual categories, leaving one wide- open space for the mind, freeing it from limits, restrictions, or delusions. There’s something else that goes on in the Eight Thousand Lines. The book constantly asks, What’s more valuable: to give away vast troves of wealth to gurus and buddhas, or to memorize, copy out, and recite to a friend a few lines of Perfect Wisdom? The answer is that the most profound gift you can make to another person is to offer a few lines from mem- ory. For myself – I guess poets hold edgy, irrational loyalties – this counsel set me on a lifelong discipline of memorizing pas- sages from both Buddhist texts and world poetry. To me, any poem or story worth passing along, and that frees the mind into compassion or humor, is indeed an embodiment of Perfect Wisdom. The Eight Thousand Lines revealed to me a living poetry closely connected to the speech magic of the past. It wept with you over the arrogance of politi- cians. It served as a guide to friendship and love, and confirmed generosity as the oldest and best spiritual practice. Gently it pointed toward the Diamond Sutra, and in the zendo, it (or she) provided the Heart Sutra. I can’t any longer think of these as separate books. I also can’t iso- late the mantras, songs, and poem frag- ments embedded in them from my sense of poetry. taraka timiram dipo mayavashyaya budbudam svapnam ca vidyudabhram ca evam drastavyam samskrtam Stars, a fault of vision, or a lamp; magic, a dewdrop or bubble; dreams; lightning in a cloud – so you should regard all composite things. ➤ Panel continued from page 55