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Buddhadharma : Summer 2011
buddhadharma| 55 |winter 2005 projection. Beyond that there is a kind of magic that is greater than what we’re bringing into the situation. There are many layers in any single encounter with the teacher. You all seem to be suggesting that working with a teacher brings out the full range of our human- ness, which also includes becoming very confused, perhaps to the point of abandoning the effort and leaving the teacher. Are there any guidelines about the proper state of mind for working with a teacher that can help us not to get stuck? PonloP RinPoche: In Tibetan Buddhism, a student is one who engages in mind training. So what is most important, in my understanding, is to be always checking our motivation. Why are we doing a certain practice, or why are we trying to connect with the teacher? If we keep in touch with our motivation, we will always be on the right track. A problem can occur if we start out with proper motivation but let it fade away at some point, to the point where we stop asking questions – not only asking questions to teachers but also asking questions to ourselves. Continually questioning our intention becomes the primary way of con- necting with a teacher properly, connecting with the dharma properly, and practicing the dharma on the path fruitfully. noRman fischeR: We’re practicing because we appre- ciate suffering and in order to overcome suffering. When we see that everything we’re doing is toward that end, we’re on the right track. Sometimes that may involve leaving a teacher because of self-cen- teredness and attachment. That may be part of our path. We may have to do that to learn how to overcome our obstacles. It’s all part of the path. shaRon salzbeRg: It is important not to become complacent and take people and situations for granted. We can be so comfortable in our rela- tionship with teachers and fellow students that we forget the basic truth of impermanence and how precious the conditions may be that allow us to have a relationship with a teacher. We need to take it very seriously. noRman fischeR: Although our teachers may feel loving toward us and responsible for us, we’re responsible for our own practice. When sticky and nasty things happen between ourselves and the teacher, it’s because we expect the teacher to take care of our enlightenment, our practice. We’ve given up our own responsibility, and when that happens, on some deep unconscious level, we are harboring unrealistic expectations, which may cause us to be quite resentful. Our path is always our responsibility, up to and including doing some- thing we don’t like in order to follow the teacher’s instructions. It’s our responsibility to make that decision to comply; it is not the teacher making us do something. We can never lose sight of our own responsibility. In the profound moments you spend with your teacher, you learn more about the dharma of everyday life than you can learn in formal teaching. You see how a great master manifests dharma in simple situations, like eating or speaking to their friends or working with their emotions. — Ponlop Rinpoche Bhikshu and Bhikshuni, Emanating Avalokiteshvara, Entering the City, 1998 Oil on canvas michaelnewhall ➤ continued page 84