Good Teacher, Good Student
Venerable Thubten Chodron
Sravasti Abbey, Washington State, USA
23-25 May, 2009
Part 1: 23 May 2009
Audio [81 min] : Download mp3 file
In this first of 3 sessions, Venerable Chodron talks about why we need a spiritual mentor, and describes the qualities to look for. She also discusses how to check for those qualities and the different kinds and levels of teachers as well as when and how to seek out someone to guide us on our spiritual journey.
- How do you check qualities that you can’t see in a spiritual guide?
- When a highly realized Lama passes away, does the incarnation automatically become your teacher; should you want to become that person’s student?
- When you’ve formed a relationship with one teacher is it wise to also at some point go to their teachers and assume that their teachers will also be your teachers?
- Do you have to have somebody with the title “Lama” as one of your teachers?
- Should you just stay within one tradition or is it okay to have teachers from other traditions?
Part 2: 23 May 2009
Audio [68 min] : Download mp3 file
In this 2nd session, Venerable explains the qualities to look for in a Paramitayana teacher as well as the qualities of a Tantric teacher. She goes on to describe how we benefit from our a teachers, why they are a great field of merit for us and encourages us to reflect on their kindness and presents different ways of making offerings to our teachers whether or not we live close to the them or not. Venerable wraps up the session by describing the qualities of a good student and encourages us to try to develop those qualities because that will help the teachings to really and make a strong impact in our minds and in our lives.
- What happens if you took an initiation and you didn’t have a clue as to what was going on?
- Can you explain the hells?
- So what about when you really care about the Dharma and the Dharma being spread and practiced in a very pure way?
- For those of us who haven’t had Tantric vows initiations, are we supposed to be reading about the Tantric vows and practices?
- I have heard that when students don’t keep their commitments it actually hurts the Tantric master; is that true or just folklore?
- What is the idea of the root-guru in terms of Tantra?
- If you take an initiation from someone is that person your root guru for the rest of your life?
- Will you be talking about the qualities of the Root Guru?
- Does your root guru need to be somebody who is known to be a realized being?
- How do we make offerings to our teachers if we live far away from them?
- When we talk about the teacher being a field of merit, in what way do we accumulate merit in relationship to the teacher?
Part 3: 24 May 2009
Audio [81 min] : Download mp3 file
In session 3 of the “Good Teacher, Good Student” retreat, Venerable Chödrön continues with the qualities of a good disciple. Citing commentaries by among others Aryadeva and Je Rinpoche, she also shares stories of the great masters' perseverance and ensuing accomplishments. She goes over the necessity of having a spiritual teacher and the benefits and ways of serving the teacher.
Part 4: 24 May 2009
Audio [78 min] : Download mp3 file
In session 4 of "Good Teacher, Good Student," Venerable Tarpa reviews the preceding days' teachings given by Venerable Chodron and adds additional commentary from the Lam Rim Chenmo as well as commentaries by other great Buddhists masters. She discusses reasons that we need a teacher all the way through to enlightenment and speaks of the difficulties of trying to succeed on this path without a proper guide; how to make ourselves into good students; the necessity of a “vast motivation” if we're going to try to embody all the teachings to their fullest and reminds us of the 10 qualities to seek in a fully qualified spiritual teacher (as enumerated by Maitreya).
Venerable Tarpa urges us to really fix those 10 qualities in our minds and to work on cultivating our own motivations for practicing the Buddhadharma; to avoid the pitfalls of perceiving good qualities as faults and faults as good qualities in our teachers, and exhorts us to use these teachings from wherever we are in our practice right now. She encourages us to cultivate the skills to listen to teachings properly and to develop the confidence and the ability to rely on our teachers without hesitation and then begins explaining the manner in which we should rely on our teachers through thought.
Part 5: 25 May 2009
Audio [86 min] : Download mp3 file
In this final session of the" Good Teacher Good Student" retreat, Venerable Chonyi continues with the topic of the manner in which we should rely on our teachers through thought, action, and practice. She describes three kinds of faith and how to cultivate them; three ways our teachers are kind to us and the benefits of being close to them and that we are able to benefit many other beings by helping our teachers in their work. She relates different accounts of accomplished practitioners who gained many realizations through their efforts at serving their teachers well and explains that by serving and relying on our spiritual mentors we can purify much negative karma. In addition she conveys just how rare it is to find someone who really cares about us no matter how we treat them and addresses the issue of how to ask questions respectfully and at what point do we to seek out a teacher.
After going through some of the results of negative actions done towards our teachers, Venerable Chonyi ends the session by again stressing the benefits of properly relying on the teachers and the teachings and adds that through our thoughts, actions and service we will attain our spiritual goals and that we should practice what they teach to the best of our ability.