On Idealizing and Being Disappointed in a Teacher

(Genpo Roshi recorded during the “Masters & Mensches II” Retreat, August 4, 2020)

     Let me say something about what you brought up, about idealizing, because I do feel it is something we work through. We do do that, we project on our teachers a certain greatness and a certain way of being, and when they don’t live up to that of course we’re disappointed. Now how we take, or how we receive the disappointment is everything.

     That’s the key to the practice. Because we’re going to project greatness on our teachers. Why would we study with someone who we don’t feel is great? I’m not going to study with some loser, I’m going to study with someone I think is the greatest. We all pick what we feel is the best for us and the greatest kind of teacher.

     So we’re going to project that on the teacher. And we’re going to be disappointed. And we must be disappointed. Otherwise we live with our projections, and we can’t accept ourself for who we are.

     That’s my point. When we can be disappointed and see, oh my God, this teacher is a real person, with all kinds of human faults and human foibles, and this doesn’t seem very enlightened and that doesn’t seem very great — when we see that in ourself, that’s when we can accept ourself.

     Roshi always used to say ‘I could challenge any teacher, I could find fault with any teacher.’ And you can. That’s the easiest thing, to find fault. But when we can see those qualities that maybe are not what we would like, they’re this or that, they do this too much, not enough of that, that’s when we start to accept ourself for our own humanness, rather than having an ideal that we’re trying to find, or to be.

     I think you said that beautifully. You had this ideal which you were trying to live up to. And that’s the problem, because when we have an ideal we’re trying to live up to, we can never live up to it. We have to bring the ideal down, or out, drop it, and then be who we are, live up to who we are. And when we see those faults in the teacher and we’re disappointed, that’s when we can really do it. To me that is a huge thing.

1 thought on “On Idealizing and Being Disappointed in a Teacher”

  1. What amazing statements. In the film WORDS OF MY PERFECT TEACHER a student was asked “Do you think your teacher likes you?” Immeadiately the student’s face turned white as a ghost. You could tell he was working through his projections and his preferences. Thanks Roshi for this timely teaching for my practice.


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