Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Teacher, Sometimes Appearing in the Form of a Person

There are those rare occasions in our lives when we are simply overwhelmed by something—an inspiring personality, a captivating phrase, song or speech, an insight that catapults us into another level of understanding—and we are lifted out of the merely familiar into an unanticipated realm of great joy, passion and vision.

This summer, in a retreat in which I was a participant, I was transported beyond my usual way of understanding things by a short quotation in a text that went something like this: “The teacher, sometimes appearing in the form of a person, is pure beneficial energy bestowing empowerment. There is a great treasury of inexhaustible benefit brought to life in the visible form of a teacher. The teacher is completely devoted to the student; the teacher is the ultimate friend, a guide to a realm of treasure which is available to all beings.”

There are many, many things to be said about this short quote, but I want to focus my attention on this one phrase: “the teacher, sometimes appearing as a person.” There are multitudes of teachings in those seven words. The first thing I can see is that EVERYTHING is a teacher. Every thought, emotion, sensation, experience, every sound, image, touch, taste, sense, every pleasure and every pain is a teacher.

I just have to repeat this, not just for those of you who are reading this but for me who is writing this: EVERYTHING is a teacher. That one recognition completely and totally changes our relationship to our experience. All of existence is summoning us in each moment. We are entirely flooded with the whole of universal experience in each here-and-now. So, what need is there to “be in the moment” or “be mindful” or “come back to our true self”?

“The teacher, sometimes appearing as a person” also points us to our own power. We do not need to give up the autonomy of our own experience to some authority figure; there is no powerful person who is going to make things all right for us; there is no guru sitting there who holds the knowledge and power we will never possess. Being as we are an integral part of this “everything,” we are ourselves the teacher sometimes appearing as a person.

Yet, at the same time, I do not want to forget the great gift of a visible teacher who appears, one who is the ultimate guide and friend, a person whose sole interest is our greatest benefit. The devotion that comes from such a relationship is unimaginably beautiful. There is only the purest of motivation for both teacher and student, and from that purity the greatest benevolence flows. How glorious it is to contemplate the possibility of “a treasury of inexhaustible benefit brought to life.” Wow, count me in! A friendship filled with devotion and care and service to all—where do I sign up!

And finally, what a joy to consider the boon that is this moment, right now. All the instruction that is needed is being provided, right now. This one recognition is life-transforming. The universal intelligence that fills every bit of space is ever available and accessible. We just open our eyes.

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