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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
54 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2014 A FEW YEARS AGO, I attended a talk by a well-known Western Buddhist teacher. As always, her talk was wonderful, full of insight and wisdom and delivered with humor, kindness, and a breadth of knowledge. It’s no wonder she’s so famous. Later that weekend, I was standing nearby as she spoke with two senior students. In the course of the conversation, she expressed worries about an upcoming event, revealing notable self-consciousness and perhaps even an insecure side. The difference between the person I saw giving a public talk—articulate, confident, and reassuring—and this anxious person was striking. I can think of dozens of other times when I’ve seen how a Buddhist teacher onstage, delivering a talk or guiding meditation, was not the same as the human being behind the curtains. Both West- ern and Asian teachers have moments of irrita- bility, frustration, anger, insensitivity, occasional egotism, attachment, greed, and so on—just like the rest of us. Though most of the teachers I’ve known are, from what I can see, above average in their ability to respond to life’s ups and downs with wisdom and compassion, it always surprised me to see moments in which they did not live up to the high standards they implicitly set in their teaching. For many years, I concluded that some Buddhist teachers were at least a little bit hypo- critical, teaching one thing but doing another. In my early twenties, I found this disparity As Human As You Are We want our teachers to practice what they preach, but when we look closely, they can seem just as flawed as the rest of us. Sumi Loundon Kim discovers for herself what’s so special—and so ordinary—about being the teacher. KIMWINTONKOUNFRANZ/SETHLEVINSON