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Master ?

edited December 2005 in Buddhism Today
I have difficulty with the concept of a 'Master' .

Not the Master whos in Dr. Who....Hes just the antithesis of the Dr. himself.

No my problem is with the concept/term/criterea of Master.

A very dear friend was at a religious festival in which his Master had come from India to England to hold a regular Satsang or meeting. He told me many hundreds of followers of his path were there and the atmosphere was fantastic. My great friend is part of the team who helps organize these things and had worked tirelessly to prepare for this occasion day and night as, as you can imagine, it was a logistical nightmare.

On a particularly peaceful day , the sun was shining and upon the beautifully mown grass (which my friend had mown by hand) a spontaneous game of football broke out. (its football , not soccer my American friends ) Perhaps as a result to ease the tension from the studious and philosophical debating ,perhaps just because someone had a football.

Many people were playing, (much more than the regulation eleven a side anyway !) and it was a fantastic spectacle to behold. My friend said his Master sat up from his meditation and took to the pitch to be a part of the experience too.

Herein lies my problem. My friends great teacher and Master was shit at football.

Not incredibly shit but just rather uncoordinated.

Now if he were fantastically bad at football, this in and of itself would be redeeming and perhaps attributable to his 'special' persona. He was however just 'alright'.

Regardless to say everyone had a great time and had brilliant stories to tell. My friend got to keep the football ( with which his Master had kicked ), which my friends son subsequently lost when he used it for a kick about with his friends...... but thats another story. Although I do like the ending for some reason.

The main thrust of this story ,if you have managed to stay alert and with me for this long is.... why am I so dissapointed with my best friends Master? why do I need a Master to be great at football ?

I take great refuge and solace in the realization that idols or heroes are imperfect. And yet I struggle to see this image of imperfection as a good thing.

How can you be a Master and yet not be a Master at everything ?

The western view of buddhists is perhaps shrouded in the myth of the athletic mystical Monks who can perform outstanding physical feats and can kick ass if they want to.

This is of course true !

These demi gods appeal on many levels- warrior poets etc etc.

So why do I need a teacher to be infalliable ? I know they cant be but this is at complete opposite to my concept of master. Is my concept of Master a western one ? herin lies my struggle.

How can I possibly have the fantastic opportunity to meet a master if I cant resolve this issue of what a master actually is ? I am missing out on so much with my prejudice.

so this leads me to my final point.

what position would Jesus play ? or would he remain on the subs bench if John the baptist was fit ? and would they play on the same team as sidd and Allah ?

Comments

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 2005
    Spike,

    :lol:

    Jason
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 2005
    Spike, all,

    An excellent post I must say! (Whether it was completely cheeky or not. ;) )

    The best [spiritual] teacher I have ever had was a cranky, opinionated monk who seemed to dislike the majority of the people who came to visit his monastery. For all of his 'faults' he was the most knowledgable 'Buddhist' I have ever personally met. None of his imperfections dissuaded me from gaining valuable insights into what the Buddha taught, as well as about myself. In fact, they tested me in a way to really see beyond them. What were the conditions that gave rise to these judgements anyway? Was it not only my perceptions which saw these 'faults'? What base did these perceptions have to arise? Who was "I" to judge what was 'right' or 'wrong'? I had to continually look at myself to find the answers to my questions.

    It really became funny to me how I could place judgements upon his conduct while my own conduct wasn't a tenth of what his was! He had lived in Thailand as an ordained monk, did charity work in a war-torn Cambodia for ten years, re-ordained and was asked to run a monastery in the U.S., spoke at least four languages that I knew of (English, Thai, Laos, and Cambodian), and knew Pali well enough to have the title of Maha if he had wanted it. Even if he never liked me personally, I still have great respect and admiration for him because I saw that his 'faults' were not 'his'. They were "mine".

    I often believe that the whole point of having a 'Master' is to eventual realize that there are no 'Masters'.

    :)

    Jason
  • edited November 2005
    Thank you for your reply. You raise some really interesting points. Your point of working with a Master to realize there are no masters is brilliant. Thank you , that resonates with me.

    We all know Marx said ' religion is the opiate of the masses ' - i however tend to think opiates are the opiates of the masses.

    In fact television is the opiate of the masses but I digress...

    sometimes I am wrong....incredible to believe but its true.

    Many a time I am convinced I am right and wallow along on a path without even contemplating the decisions I make and then .... i suddenly realize I was not right in my views/actions etc at all. What happened ?

    Here in mighty England we stopped National service many years ago. There are many who would like to re-introduce it for the troublesome youth to perhaps give them some code to work to, in our society of ever unrestricted boundries hemmed in by a health and safety police and a nanny state.

    As a part of my role within the community, I work with young people ( humans) who have to adopt to the strict discipline and conditions of an organized sector of the government.

    They hate the rules and useless tasks at first - and rightly so. But when they have finished the course they have a sense of accomplishment and I personally can see a change for the better in their outlook and behaviour.

    this of course opens up a whole new sociological can of worms - are we just brainwashing these kids to subscribe to a level of behaviour the state finds acceptable ?

    My point is however...buddhism is so easy going, middle path blah blah, you can decide to do three thousand bows or not.

    but you are wrong.

    Do we need dogma and indoctrination for the good of society ? We dont always know best and perhaps , although we hate it at the time, do as we are told ?

    I think I am leaning toward the more formalised zen buddhism for its useless structure.....but what if I am wrong ?
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 2005
    Oh and to answer your question Spike:

    John the Baptist would, of course, be the quarterback. Jesus would be his runningback. The play they would most often use would be the handoff (not unlilke in the Gospels...). John hands the ball to Jesus (baptism), Jesus takes the ball and runs with it (teaching), leaving John to get tackled (or beheaded as the case may be). Jesus gets good blocking coverage from his Apostolic front line and scores (a crucifiction and resurrection) - Touch down (Christianity)!

    The Buddha would be the referee since he was free from any form of prejudice or ill-will (I mean who would be a fairer judge than an impartial, full-enlightened being?) Mohammed would be the second string QB to replace Jesus after he get injured in the second half (i.e. crucified). Mohammed then completely dominates the opposing team and converts half the stadium to Islam.

    :)

    Jason

    Disclaimer: Of course I have the greatest respect for all of the religious teachers mentioned, and I do not mean any disrespect by the above post. It is very tongue in cheek, and I apologize if anyone finds it offensive.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 2005
    Spike,

    Another excellent post, what has gotten into you today? ;)

    I do not think we 'need' it, but I myself actively sought it out. I felt that I needed a bit more guidance than what my desires were telling me. I desired many things, but those things brought me nothing but trouble (and a OUIL). I sought out structure and guidnace to help me get my life back on track, for the betterment of myself and the benefit of others. Right or wrong, I have found that such guidance has helped me in so many ways. I cannot help it if people fail to understand and criticize my choices, and I do not blame them in anyway if they do. They are not in my shoes so I do not expect them to see it the way I do.

    In my experience, I have found that if you have to 'pick' something then that something is not right for you. When you are naturally drawn to something, and see that something as being skillful even if you do not completely understand why, then you are on the right track for yourself. The light of wisdom I have seen in Theravada Buddhism may not be the same light you see, but I was instantly drawn towards it (not coerced or lead in any way). You may find Theravada (or any other belief/way of life), for example, cold, damp, and repugnant, but that is only because it has arisen so in your perception. I may find Zen (or any other belief/way of life), pointless, dry, and ritualistic, but that is only because it has arisen so in my perception (which is an impermanent process of mind).

    The reality is, it is just a tool - a means to a goal of peace, contentment, and happiness. One person may see Jesus as the way to their peace and happiness, while another may find science to be their refuge. Buddhism has been, for me, a way of seeing that refuge in myself. I do not need to rely on anybody, or anything else for my spiritual happiness. Everything I need is already right here. That is why understanding what the Buddha taught can be so difficult. It uses these 'structures' in a way to help open up our minds to something beyond them (something unconditioned), but people tend to only get caught up in the structures themselves. They never get beyond them.

    That is why the Noble Eightfold Path begins and ends with wisdom.

    :)

    Jason
  • buddhafootbuddhafoot Veteran
    edited November 2005
    Spike wrote:
    They hate the rules and useless tasks at first - and rightly so. But when they have finished the course they have a sense of accomplishment and I personally can see a change for the better in their outlook and behaviour.

    this of course opens up a whole new sociological can of worms - are we just brainwashing these kids to subscribe to a level of behaviour the state finds acceptable ?

    My point is however...buddhism is so easy going, middle path blah blah, you can decide to do three thousand bows or not.

    but you are wrong.

    Do we need dogma and indoctrination for the good of society ? We dont always know best and perhaps , although we hate it at the time, do as we are told ?

    I think I am leaning toward the more formalised zen buddhism for its useless structure.....but what if I am wrong ?

    There are some beliefs that within anything good, there is bad - and within anything bad, there is good.

    I don't know that I subscribe to this thinking in every situation, but what is brainwashing? We are brainwashed from the moment of birth. Our parents, grandparents, in-laws, school teachers, etc. all play a part in defining what is "right" and what is "wrong". And these are all someone else's concepts - but these are concepts that help us to deal with the current definition of civilization.

    As for Buddhism being easy going - you are wrong.

    Buddhism has many teachings available for anyone to take to heart. It just depends on how much "you" want to take them to heart.
    Some people have the same problem with people that are Christian. People that are Christian on Easter and Christmas - and other than that - you'd swear they were some sort of hedonist based upon what you "see" them do.

    And if you're thinking on pursuing something different because of it's useless structure, I can't see that you'd be giving it much of a chance. Like be going to a Christian church to hang out with those "crazy Christian losers".

    -bf
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited November 2005
    Spike wrote:
    are we just brainwashing these kids to subscribe to a level of behaviour the state finds acceptable ?
    My point is however...buddhism is so easy going, middle path blah blah, you can decide to do three thousand bows or not.
    but you are wrong.
    Do we need dogma and indoctrination for the good of society ? We dont always know best and perhaps , although we hate it at the time, do as we are told ?
    I think I am leaning toward the more formalised zen buddhism for its useless structure.....but what if I am wrong ?

    I think 'brainwashing' is too strong a term to use. I believe 'Social Conditioning' would be perhaps more suitable.
    To brainwash someone is to subject them to a prolonged process to transform their attitudes and beliefs totally. Brainwashing is an entirely one-way process. It leaves nothing to question, and is indoctrination.
    Social Conditioning permits those involved to perpetually and continually question that which is being implemented.
    Social Conditioning helps to reinforce the accepted patterns of behaviour which underpin the values of Society, with regard to Family, Property, Social Interaction and Ethical, Moral and Professional responsibilities. This type of education should do nothing to undermine or erase, replace and destroy a person's attitudes and beliefs. It should serve, where appropriate, to reinforce them; or otherwise illustrate to the person that they themselves are at liberty to make changes where they feel they are needed. It also means we have to provide them with role Models, to whom they can look up..... it works two ways.

    It is equally important that we openly demonstrate that we both value and respect their efforts in striving to adopt the guidelines set before them.
    having said this however, if a Teacher can never admit that they learn from their pupil, then to my mind, the education provided is faulty. And further confusion or resentment arises when impressionable minds are influenced by the contradictory behaviour of their Teachers and Mentors. The 'Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do' mentality of those who frankly should know better.

    Buddhism is far from easy-going, because a person's harshest critic is the person themselves. How often have I heard it said that God is all-forgiving if true repentance is manifest! But how often do we NOT forgive ourselves for thoughts, words and deeds we have engendered? Buddhism is a way of putting things into perspective, of evaluating and deciding on courses of action, the results of which are our responsibility.
    It all takes Effort, and measured striving..... hence the vital, all encompassing importance of the Eightfold Path. That which enables us to Walk the Talk. That which quite simly, is there as a constant guiding beacon to assist us in any situation, to do 'Right Everything'.....

    Zen Buddhism is extraordinatily complex and blindingly simple at one and the same time. Complex because our cluttered minds simply cannot grasp how simple the core message actually is. Simple because "all we need to do is to let go".....

    Nothing is ever useless at the time in which it is being used.
  • edited December 2005
    Spike wrote:
    Thank you for your reply. You raise some really interesting points. Your point of working with a Master to realize there are no masters is brilliant. Thank you , that resonates with me.

    We all know Marx said ' religion is the opiate of the masses ' - i however tend to think opiates are the opiates of the masses.

    In fact television is the opiate of the masses but I digress...

    sometimes I am wrong....incredible to believe but its true.

    Many a time I am convinced I am right and wallow along on a path without even contemplating the decisions I make and then .... i suddenly realize I was not right in my views/actions etc at all. What happened ?

    Here in mighty England we stopped National service many years ago. There are many who would like to re-introduce it for the troublesome youth to perhaps give them some code to work to, in our society of ever unrestricted boundries hemmed in by a health and safety police and a nanny state.

    As a part of my role within the community, I work with young people ( humans) who have to adopt to the strict discipline and conditions of an organized sector of the government.

    They hate the rules and useless tasks at first - and rightly so. But when they have finished the course they have a sense of accomplishment and I personally can see a change for the better in their outlook and behaviour.

    this of course opens up a whole new sociological can of worms - are we just brainwashing these kids to subscribe to a level of behaviour the state finds acceptable ?

    My point is however...buddhism is so easy going, middle path blah blah, you can decide to do three thousand bows or not.

    but you are wrong.

    Do we need dogma and indoctrination for the good of society ? We dont always know best and perhaps , although we hate it at the time, do as we are told ?

    I think I am leaning toward the more formalised zen buddhism for its useless structure.....but what if I am wrong ?
    I like greenbean casserole. I like it the way my mom makes it, with cream of mushroom, not so much like some people do, with cream of chicken. I'll eat it either way though.
  • edited December 2005
    Spike wrote:
    The western view of buddhists is perhaps shrouded in the myth of the athletic mystical Monks who can perform outstanding physical feats and can kick ass if they want to.

    Who says it's a myth? :mullet:

    As to your other point, I'd generally avoid those who go in for 'Satsangs' and personal adoration. You won't find much of that in Buddhism thankfully. This might be of interest though:

    The Essential Role of the Guru in
    Spiritual Life
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 2005
    Oh, ZenMonk, you are so wise...!
    We're not worthy! We're not worthy!! WE'RE NOT WORTHY!!! :bowdown: :lol:
  • edited December 2005
    There seems to be a misapprehension of the Buddhist "Teacher" concept confused with the Hindu "Master" concept.

    Historically, Zen has spoken in terms of individuality realized with the asisstance of respected guides. Generally, what the "Masters" have "mastered" is their own concept of "self".

    gassho
    -fd-
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 2005
    So you mean you could never have a Buddhist Master or a Hindu Teacher....?

    Oh, stop now.... sorry TexZen, Just rattling your cage, take no notice.....:tongue2: ;) :thumbsup:
  • edited December 2005
    ... of course the individuality is realized within the context of the Universal Mind, thereby making it an individuated universality -- perhaps a universal individuality ...
  • PalzangPalzang Veteran
    edited December 2005
    In the Vajrayana tradition, on the other hand, the teacher is considered to BE the path. Realizing who the teacher actually is is the same as enlightenment. It's a hard one for Westerners, who are rock solid individualists, to swallow, but it's the only way Vajrayana works. And I'm not talking personalities or egos here.

    Palzang
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited December 2005
    TexZen wrote:
    ... of course the individuality is realized within the context of the Universal Mind, thereby making it an individuated universality -- perhaps a universal individuality ...

    Universal Mind? I have still, after more than 60 years of travel and searching, to find any such.
  • edited December 2005
    Quit looking.

    Universal Mind is a zen descriptive pointing to hat which Thich Nhat Hanh refers to as "interbeing" -- the inclusive / unifying aspect of BuddhaNature.

    gassho
    -fd-
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