Idolizing our teachersPosted: April 30, 2009 | Author: Doug | Filed under: Buddhism, Jodo Shu, Theravada | 1 Comment »
Recently I was enjoying a really great post by “Dhammabum” on chanting in Theravada countries, and the different styles and variations. One chant was by a famous Burmese monk named Mingun Sayadaw who managed to memorize the entire Pali Tripitika, which is an immense task. I enjoyed his chanting and admire his amazing devotion, but I noticed a brief comment about his lifetime smoking habit and felt a little dismayed.
Why would I feel dismayed though? It seems kind of stupid to focus on this one thing, at the expense of his other great accomplishments, but then I remember something someone told me a while back: when we put all our ideals on our teachers, we get disappointed.
Honen, the founder of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, in his catechism was asked a related question:
Q(142): Is there merit in giving alms to a priest who has violated the precepts or to an ignorant priest?
A: In this period of the decline of the dharma, respect for priests who have violated the precepts or who are ignorant, is expected…
I thought about this statement a lot, and I think Honen is trying to get across two things:
- If we start withholding respect to our teachers based on our own standards, it’s kind of selfish and arrogant. In a way, we believe we’re superior to them.
- It puts a lot of focus on other people’s faults, and not enough on our own.
I’m reminded of a nice Bible quote, one of the few I can still remember after all these years:
Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
Namu Amida Butsu
As our own minds become more pure, don’t we see people us – teachers included – as more pure?