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.