Nobody in this world can live without accepting others' teachings because we need instructions from teachers and seniors to fully understand the laws of things and to do things correctly. For example, when we first entered school, it was the teacher who taught us from Pinyin, the first numbers, the first physics formular, to things like holding a pen, pronunciation, speaking out a word, or knowledges about what a train is and what a plane is, etc. To learn such simple things we need knowledgeable people to instruct us, let alone superior things like academic study, scientific research and the practicing of Buddhism. Han Yu, the famous Tang Dynasty writer, said: “Ancient scholars most certainly had teachers. A teacher is one who passes on the truth, imparts knowledge and solves puzzles.”
As we can be confused at new things, we need teachers with good knowledge. Sometimes we may think that we can explore things by ourselves via prior knowledge. But if we rely solely on ourselves, it will require a great deal of hard work and effort to make it. Actually, the afore-mentioned prior knowledge equates with the experiences left with us by our predecessors or teachers. It is not possible for one to make a modern aircraft if one is dropped onto an uninhabited island with nothing, no tools or books.
Therefore, teachers play a very important role in our work, study, practicing and enlightenment. And we should cherish and treasure our teachers who are full of wisdom and compassion, and we should never leave or fail them during our life. Only by respecting our teachers and revering their teaching, can we understand and appreciate teachers’ thoughts, and therefore obtain the real inheritance of dharma. This reminds me of the story about Master Huitong of Hangzhou Zhaoxian Temple during the Tang Dynasty. Master Huitong abandoned his post as a government official and became a monk and studied under Chan Master Daolin in Niaoke. After 16 years of following and serving the teacher diligently, never relaxed or lazy, he arrived in enlightenment under the guidance of Master Daolin, and understood the purport of Buddhist theories. He eventually become a great Chan Master of his time.
The ancients did so well in showing respect and commitment to their teachers that they were able to achieve greatly themselves. Thus we must follow in the ancients’ steps – respecting the teachers and revering their teachings if we want to achieve our aims.
As disciples of the Buddha, we vow to become buddhas as well to benefit ourselves and others, and to obtain complete wisdom and compassion as the Buddha did. Our true teacher is Shakyamuni Buddha. Though the Buddha reached nirvana fortunately, the Buddha’s teachings, with full compassion and inherited by the great masters through generations, has been kept up to date. As the saying goes, “When you drink the water, think of those who dug the well”. Let’s try to understand the well digger’s willingness to benefit others when we taste the sweet spring water; let’s also try to leave our successors the same mellow flavor when we comprehend the refreshment of the dharma.