Honor Thy Teachers


In the July 2015 edition of National Geographic, Ela Bhatt, leader of a women’s cooperative in India, is quoted:

“I am not a Gandhi scholar, nor a devotee.  I am a Gandhi practitioner.”

Isn’t that refreshing to hear?

Not another “guru groupie” or faithful fanatic who elevates someone to “Great Soul.”  Some people simply hear the message, get the point, and get to work.

Rather than turn great teachers into icons, make them the “voices of God” or worship them, what do you suppose would happen if people simply practiced any wisdom they heard in those words?

Can you imagine?

As a teacher myself, I would feel much more honored by someone putting something good that I said or did into practice, than for great titles or great words.

Know any “practitioners”?

How do you honor them?


2 thoughts on “Honor Thy Teachers

  1. Makes one wonder: Why is it that people so often mistake “the person” for “the message”?

    I think, partly it’s our evolutionary heritage: We want faces, we want people. As humans we can relate better to humans as to abstract ideas; we seek great (=powerful) people and want them to be caretakers (of some kind) for us. We hope, in imitating their stance, we will achieve something similar or at least win their or others favor.

    And for the message, that’s rather a new feature: We love the words, we cherish the idea and we praise it so loudly, that hopefully someone else will act upon it, just not us, we’re so busy right now, retweeting the latest one from the Dalai Lama:

    > hear the message, get the point, and get to work.

    Yeah, that would have been a nice one! That would have made easily some 20.000 retweets…

    But instead of happily praising some words and iconify their author, you have to listen, understand, analyse, adapt and then act accordingly – an arduous way of putting a cherished idea into practise and possibly jeopardy! Many in the “first world” may fear (not without good reason), that there’s much to loose (time, effort, money, comfort, health, status and not least your convictions) and possibly nothing to gain but experience.

    It would be great, if more teachers would adopt your attitude and put their own and their learners practice first. It’ll be interesting to see, if the pope’s message about the climate change will lead to catholics actually doing something or if it is relayed to the politicians (assuming they have to act now, before 1.214 billion people start protesting) or goes unheard.

    In Germany we have a culture which very much favours the word and the thinking over the actual doing. I think, this is due to overvalueing scripture because of the early and momentous translation into german, due to the enlightenment (many call Germany still “the country of poets and philosophers”, many more feel that way) and due to our incredible neglect and thoughtlessness during the years of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich.

    Personally I’m practitioning Kōdō Sawaki now, a Zen-Buddhist Monk who himself was all about practise and “living no half-assed life” (actual quote). But I spend a good amount of my lifetime on the side of the talking, in public relations, marketing and politics – trying to affect people.

  2. Thank you very much for this thoughtful, reasonable response. I remember how kind, generous and intelligent my German hosts were when I travelled through many years ago. Like the U.S., a culture mixed with great good and impressive philosophy as well as periods of tremendous, tragic blindness to basic ethics! A mystery how that can happen so easily in a short time.

    Maybe it mostly occurs when we turn from the best teachers, forgetting the wisdom of their teaching. I think you are right in what you say about overvaluing words, “the Word” and ancient texts that have rarely been practiced, except to be anti-Reason and oppressive.

    A breath and bow of peace for your practice there in your beautiful land.

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