Lecturer: Master Cheng-Yan Subject: T Reflecting on the Mission of a Teacher (教育的使命) Date: Feb. 19, 2009
The Buddha teaches us that the essence of the Buddha, the mind, and living beings are one and the same. Every one of us has the same pure nature as the Buddha’s. Our pure nature, with its wisdom, is like a mirror. As long as we wipe clean the mirror, it’ll be able to reflect everything clearly, be it the land, the mountains, or the vast seas. From a clean mirror, we’re able to see everything very clearly. This is the same for our wisdom. As long as people’s minds can be purified, they’ll be able to understand the principle behind everything in this universe. When they can understand the principle, they’ll be able to return to their original, pure, true nature which is wisdom. With wisdom, they’ll be able to tell what’s the right thing to do and what’s not. Why do people do things that are wrong? It is because the mirror of their mind is tainted, so the images reflected in the mirror become blurry. As a result, they cannot see things clearly and therefore commit wrongdoings.
As we often say, spiritual cultivation is about rediscovering our wisdom that is as pure as that of the Buddha’s. By “rediscovering”, I mean that wisdom something that is innate in us except that we become deluded and have lost touch with it. Just like those who have gone astray, how do we make them return to the right path again? As long as we give them guidance, they’ll be able to come back to the correct path.
A teacher’s responsibility is to give guidance. There are many children who are lost and ignorant about life, so it is our duty as teachers to guide them to see and understand things clearly and lead them with patience and care, towards the right path in life. That is why I often tell teachers that there are no children that cannot be taught, only teachers who don’t know the right way to teach. How we guide children to find their way back onto the right track all depends on the teachers.
It is just like the Buddha coming to this world to guide living beings onto the correct path. That’s why he is also known as the teacher of the Three Realms. Of these the Desire Realm is the easiest to get lost and deluded in. Most mundane beings are in the Desire Realm and most of them are blinded by their desires, which is like dust impairing their vision. Because of this, they lose sight of life’s direction. However, since the sutras say that we are born with the pure Buddha-nature, why do children still become deluded and ignorant? That is because going from life and life in the cycle of reincarnation, people have accumulated many bad tendencies and these unwholesome tendencies have been stored in their consciousness. That is why we are born ignorant and deluded. Now that you have the karmic affinity to be your students’ teacher. We don’t know how many lifetimes, they have been through the cycle of rebirth, and how long they’ve carried these bad tendencies.
All in all, cultivation is ultimately about correcting our bd habitual tendencies. To learn, we will need to be very mindful in our learning and in our studies. Good books can guide us to nurture good temperament and good habitual tendencies and guide us towards the right path. If you study things that you ought not to study, it could guide you onto the incorrect path. So, we must choose good books to study and good teacher to teach. So, I hope that all you teachers can bear a sense of mission towards your work. Serving as a teacher is something very scared, so you must teach just to make a living, but make teaching your purpose. Only then will you be respected as a teacher. Being respected is a good feeling.
I often tell doctors that a doctor’s mission is to save lives. Being a doctor is not about earning money. It’s about saving people’s lives. That’s their mission. It’s the same for teachers too. We choose to be teachers not because of its job security but out of a sense of mission. We choose to be teachers because we want to educate students. This is to have a sense of mission.
For me, I chose to renounce they lay life. Renouncing the lay life is to not get entangled in worldly things. So why do get myself so involved in worldly matters? Even I find it unbelievable at times. But, it’s like the Buddha’s situation. He had already attained Nirvana, the ultimate state of peace and tranquility. Why did he come back into this world that is full of turmoil and delusion? It’s because of his sense of mission. For the sake of suffering beings in this world, the Buddha keeps coming back to this world to save them. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva does the same too. So do all other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Likewise, teachers also have aspirations and that’s why you chose to be a teacher. Because it is your aspiration, you will treat your job as your mission and will be willing to be a teacher. This aspiration and willingness to be a teacher is what gives you a sense or mission. You and I are very blessed to have been born into such an era of prosperity. However, will such favorable conditions last? It’s hard to say as the Buddha said that this world would undergo formation, continuation, decay, and annihilation, we enjoy the greatest material comforts also makes the beginning of our degeneration. We truly must be aware of all this. It’s just like now the sun reaches. Its highest point at midday at which time it begins to go down.
All in all, living in such an era, you truly must dedicate yourselves all the more to the mission of education by not only teaching children life’s principles and correct behaviors, but also guiding parents to love and care for their children in the right way so that they won’t spoil their children, but can help them change their bad habits and further guide them to develop good ones. By doing so, there will be more good people in the world, and everyone can work hand in hand to turn this world into a pure land. This is what we should work towards now. You must make good use of the resources you have and cherish this opportunity that you have. In fact, every students is a living sutra that you can learn from. Please be more mindful in guiding your students and in learning from these children and their families since they are like living sutras. You can all learn from each other. May every one of you guide your students with the heart of a teacher, a Bodhisattva and a parent. May every one of you lead and guide your students by way of example.