On The Supreme Teacher

I am currently on a meditation retreat that began on December 17, 2021. For this reason, I won’t be posting again until late December. With palms pressed, Andrew

1. Anyone who is fully awakened I call a master. A subset of masters will, in this post, be referred to as masterly teachers.

2. Anyone who is fully wise I call a sage. A sage, incidentally, is not a philosopher since a philosopher is still on the way to full wisdom whereas a sage has fully embodied that wisdom.

3. Anyone who is fully loving I call a saint. A saint’s heart is so completely overflowing with love that her actions are nothing but expressions of this all-embracing love. In this sense, all beings are, as St. Francis clearly revealed, her brothers and sisters.

4. Now, a very small subset of masterly teachers shall be termed supreme teachers. What makes these teachers supreme?

5. Supreme teachers have not only fully, completely, or greatly awakened and not only do they teach other beings; they are also wise and loving. Hence, a supreme teacher is a master who is also a sage and a saint.

6. In my readings to date, I’ve encountered only two supreme teachers. (Of course, there are likely more.) One is Zen master Bankei, the other Sri Ramana Maharshi. What made both of them supreme was the fact that they piercingly saw ‘just where the student was at’ and pointed this out to him or her–ergo, incisive wisdom. And they also exhibited the depth of love (or compassion) in their mode of life. A usurer might be met with incisive wisdom while a long-grieving widow may be held in the soft eyes of the heart with all-embracing love.

7. On my interpretation, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and Huang Po are close to Crazy Wisdom teachers in that they are so incisively wise that they can “blast all your concepts” (Nisargadatta) or cut your preconceptions down to the bone. Yet I don’t see them as being all-embracingly loving. As great deconstructionists, they have their place, and doubtless we do not look to them, nor need we, for sweetness and gentleness.

8. And my sense is that Amma, the “hugging mother,” is rightly described as “a hugging saint.” She is ‘off the charts’ when it comes to all-embracing love. Yet I do not know whether she is penetratingly clear and articulate in what above I’ve been regarding as incisive wisdom.

9. Am I saying that there’s something lacking in Nisargatta, Huang Po, or Amma? Not at all! I’m simply suggesting that it’s likely quite rare to find a supreme teacher like Ramana or Bankei, someone capable of nimbly and integrally combining the highest, most natural expressions of virtue and in this shining forth in the radiant simplicity of the One Reality.

‘To Seek Is To Suffer’

A wonderful excerpt from Bodhidharma, “Outline of Practice,” in The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma (trans. Red Pine), pp. 5-6:

Third, seeking nothing [Bodhidharma’s interpretation of the Third Noble Truth, or the cessation of all suffering–AT]. People of this world are deluded. They’re always longing for something–always, in a word, seeking. But the wise wake up. They choose reason over custom. They fix their minds on the sublime and let their bodies change with the seasons. All phenomena are empty. They contain nothing worth desiring. Calamity forever alternates with Prosperity. To dwell in the three realms is to dwell in a burning house. To have a body is to suffer. Does anyone with a body know peace? Those who understand this detach themselves from all that exists and stop imagining or seeking anything. The sutras say, “To seek is to suffer. To seek nothing is bliss.” When you seek nothing, you’re on the Path [or Tao–AT].

Key Lessons From Huang Po’s Transmission Of Mind

With the incisiveness of the kind of supreme Chan master that he was, Huang Po (?-850 AD) taught thus:

1. There is only the One Mind.

The One Mind, as itself, is not some thing. Hence, its profound existence cannot be realized except by relinquishing any attempt to objectify or reify it (see 2 below).

Furthermore, there is no single phenomenon apart from the One Mind, and every single phenomenon is nothing but an expression of the One Mind.

2. Huang Po urges us to stop—-

Stop hanging onto concepts like relics of the Buddha, like the ‘true Dharma.’ The Buddha is no image, the ‘true Dharma’ nothing but This!

Stop insisting on the use of discriminating thought. There are, in the One Mind, no such thing as Buddhas and non-Buddhas. Therefore, no such distinctions, in the indivisible One Mind, can be drawn.

And we must stop seeking. For all seeking is born of a presumption of lack, all lack gives rise to desire, and all desire allows seeking to lift off. How can we seek what is always already underfoot? As Rupert Spira has urged: “Go ahead and, right now, try to take one step toward or away from your Self.” How, indeed, is it possible to seek what we already are and could not ever be other than?

3. To stop all this is the essence of Chan.

To stop is to return to the source, and that source is the One Mind.