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Lions Roar : November 2017
The Point of Practice The first point I’d like to make is probably an obvious one. Our practice should bring out the best in us as human beings. It should call forth our inner wisdom, our basic sanity, and the moral com- pass that we all have (whether we pay attention to it or not). The most basic way to measure our practice, therefore, is the degree to which we are moving closer to the simple ideals of kindness, humility, honesty, and wisdom. If—as individuals or as communities—we find ourselves moving in the other direction, something is off track. None of us will act perfectly in every situation, but over time there should be a clear movement toward these basic and universal human values. This is especially true of spiritual teachers. Buddhist teach- ers are role models and guides for the communities they lead, and they represent the Buddhist tradition to the non-Buddhist world. If, as students of the Buddha’s teachings, we strive to be kind, humble, and devoted to practice, then it only makes sense that our guides should embody these qualities. They should inspire us with their kindness and devotion. They should instill trust by the care and concern they show for others. Of course, we should not expect perfection, but it should go without say- ing that people who are guiding others should practice what they preach. Finding a Genuine Teacher When it comes to finding a genuine teacher, there are four things that are especially important. The first is that the teacher should be part of an authentic lineage. Genuine teachers do not promote themselves; they promote their lineage. If a teacher brags about their qualities and realization and makes a show of their practice, that is prob- ably an indication that something is not quite right. But if a teacher has studied and practiced under the guidance of other respected teachers, and honors their lineage by upholding its values and traditions, that is a good sign. Lineage alone does not make a teacher genuine, but it is important. The second quality to look for is commitment to study and practice. This one is pretty obvious. You would not take piano les- sons from someone who’s not a good player themselves, would you? Of course not. The same is true here. If you are trusting some- one with your spiritual well-being, you should be sure that this person knows the path first-hand. In order to do this, they should have a clear commitment to their own practice and training. The third essential quality is compassion. As students, we need to feel confident that our teacher is on our side—that they have our best interests at heart and deeply care about us and our progress on the path. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2017 38