Take What’s Good

When dealing with the humanness and the complexity of teachers, it is helpful to keep a few other principles in mind. One is called take what’s good.

After studying with my first teacher, Achaan Chah, who was impeccable in conduct, in many ways a model guru, gracious, insightful, and loving, I went to study with a famous old Burmese master for a year-long retreat. He was a grouchy old slob who threw rocks at the dogs, smoked Burmese cigars, and spent the morning reading the paper and talking with the loveliest of the young nuns.

In private interviews he was a very fine teacher. After training thousands of students, he truly was a skillful guide to inner meditation. But when I saw him in other situations, I became filled with doubts, thinking, “He couldn’t be enlightened.” It took weeks of inner struggle before it dawned on me that he was a great meditation teacher but otherwise a poor role model. I realized that I could take what was beneficial and not buy the whole package. I didn’t have to imitate this man. Then I became rather fond of him. I think of him now with affection and gratitude. I wouldn’t want to be like him, but I’m grateful for the many wonderful things he taught me.


This excerpt is taken from the book, “A Path with Heart

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