November 1, 2014

Zen's Spiritual Guide

What does it mean to be a spiritual guide? A Zen Roshi or Sifu? It means we strive to balance heart and mind;to live our Spirit. It means we have lived and learned and are still living and learning.That we are one in an ancient succession of teachers, offering to help others discover themselves.

May I be a protector for those who are without protectors, a guide for travelers -- a boat, a bridge, and a raft for those who wish to cross over!
May I be a lamp for those who seek light, a bed for those who seek rest -- a servant for all beings who need service.
 
To all sentient beings may I be a wish-fulfilling gem, a vase of good fortune, an efficacious mantra, a great medication, a wish-fulfilling tree, and a grantor of wishes.
-- Shantideva - Bodhicaryavatara sutra


What does it mean to be a spiritual guide? A Zen Roshi or Sifu? It means we strive to balance heart and mind;to live our Spirit. It means we have lived and learned and are still living and learning.That we are one in an ancient succession of teachers, offering to help others discover themselves.

It means we are in the same boat as everyone else, yet obliged to share what we've learned - as servants to those who would listen.

It means that we have overcome challenges and hardships, and that we challenge others to overcome theirs,knowing that hardship itself, is our guide.

It means that we have created a map of the diverse terrain of our spiritual quest. When we encounter a cloud, we know if it will bear rain or is merely passing over.

It means we realize the Four Noble Truths in heart, mind and spirit. That we realize the truth of the Noble Eightfold Path and choose to obligate ourselves to the Precepts as the foundation upon which we base our actions.

It means we have internalized lessons from the ancient teachings and have successfully applied these lessons to our own circumstances. We offer insight, as we are able, to others who seek help in understanding those ancient teachings.

It means we know how to sit down and how to be silent and still. We know how to sort the diamonds from the dung in our minds. Yet we know that the diamonds and the dung are the same thing - they both point to our True Nature.

It means we strive to practice what we preach and preach what we practice. We recognize words without actions are empty, like an evening breeze or a summer thunder storm. It means that we are leaders who know that one leads by living and by doing.But also that we are followers of those who have gone before us.

It means that we are not to be exalted. That to live up to our title we must live as men of no title.

It means we will walk at the front through darkness,carrying the lamp;shining the light on the path for others.

It means we don't have all the answers, but that we know a lot of the questions. We may have found one answer to a given puzzle but recognize that the same puzzle may be different every time it arises.

It means we are not apart from samsara, but that we have learned how to lift ourselves out of it. That we are as familiar with the swamp as how to escape from it.

It means we are not perfect, but have borne and discarded our burdens and are eager to help others learn to abandon theirs.

It means that our travails are no greater or lesser than another's. That when we can acknowledge our successes and failures in life selflessly,we transcend suffering.

It means our heart can break, our flesh can be weak -- Yet we can transcend such human frailties by embracing their very nature.

It means we understand pain as pain and joy as joy -- that both are fleeting and both bear lessons to be learned.

What does it mean to be a spiritual guide? It means we understand that there is nothing to teach, but everything to learn.

It means we thrive by sharing our minds and hearts; That we belong to others as to ourselves. That the ultimate joy is sharing this wonderful experience of life.

It means pride in our humility is pride, not humility -- that "we" are "they" and that lifting one entails lifting the "other."

It means much and it means little -- that we offer what we have to those who would benefit from the sharing. Upon giving, we go in peace without expecting benefit in return.