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qualities of teachers
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5/11/11 12:30 PM
the teachers i've liked are the ones i could talk to, openly, unguardedly, like i'd talk to a friend whose opinion i respected and whose reproach i listened to with care. the ones who cared enough to talk to me.

what things do you like about teachers?

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
5/11/11 1:51 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
I've really liked teachers who notice qualities I have (that I might not have noticed myself) and are able to help me cultivate them. Teachers who pay attention to progress over time to keep teaching where to go from there. It's also nice to have a teacher who enjoys what they are doing and seems like they are learning from the teaching experience too.

Steph

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
5/12/11 10:38 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
Qualities of teachers I like:
  • being really knowledgeable. know the subject matter inside and out, such that if i make some weird connection and ask them about it they'll know what i'm talking about and be able to guide me.
  • encouraging me to figure things out. like giving just the right amount of pointer to get me started, then letting me figure it out some more... if someone is stuck it's sometimes helpful to point them the right way, but if you do it too much then the student never learns how to figure things out on his own. knowing where that line is can be tough.
  • not really having that teacher-student relationship. like i suppose my 'dharma teachers' have been everyone on these forums who've answered my questions and the people who wrote the stuff i read, but i didn't feel like they were 'teaching' me, in a formal sense, per se.
  • being able to ask them anything and getting a useful answer. useful might mean explaining it outright, or offering pointers on how to figure it out on my own, or picking up on the reason behind the question and getting at that directly, or showing how the answer isn't useful for the way i worded the question, etc. also them not getting annoyed at too many questions
  • being interesting and humorous! humor really keeps one's attention.. this is the biggest flaw of most computer science teachers i've had - they know their stuff really well but just so monotonous...

Also, out of curiosity, why do you ask?

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
5/11/11 5:24 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
I really like when a teacher or mentor is open to what I'm describing, rather than filtering it through his/her preferred descriptive system. I like when I am listened to carefully, phenomenologically, when there is effort to understand each other beyond the differences in vocabulary.

In the presence of such mentorship I find it easier to relax my defensiveness and listen in turn to challenging questions or pointers, since these seem to connect more to my actual experience, rather than having my terminology or demeanor challenged, which seems generally to have more to do with being inducted into a certain group than with actually helping me learn something about life and how to live it :-)

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
5/12/11 10:29 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
ability to listen, unjudgemental,
- knowing how things work is important though - I have talked to more than few teachers who never give you any idea how the mind works, just tell you to some vague thing and leave you struggling to swim. I understand this is required to some degree anyway but the brain is *not* outside the laws of cause and effect - i.e. If X happens then Y happens (or might happen).

- Also having a knowledge of what works for where *I* am on the path, not for where they are. It is my belief that everything we do changes our brain structure in some way. Having beginners do shikan taza when they cannot follow more than three breaths would be an example of this.

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
5/12/11 11:01 PM as a reply to bill of the wandering mind.
This thread reminded me of an amusing section of Armando Torres' book, Encounters with the Nagual.

"Once, I met a Californian guru who considered himself the real McCoy. He accepted me as his pupil, and gave me the task of begging for charitable alms in a public square. Thinking that this was a new experience for me, and probably would teach me an important lesson, I mustered my courage and did what he requested. When I returned to him, I said: 'Now you do it!'. He became angry with me and expelled me from the class.
"On another trip, I went to see a well-known Hindu teacher. I went to his house early in the morning, and stood in line with others. However, this gentleman kept us waiting for hours. When he appeared at the top of a stairway, he had a condescending air, as if granting us a great favor by admitting us. He began to descend the steps in a very dignified manner, but his feet got entangled in his ample tunic, and he fell to the floor and cracked his head. He died there, right in front of us."
On another occasion, Carlos told us that the demon of self- importance does not only affect those who believe themselves to be masters. It is a general problem. One of the strongest ramparts of self-importance is the concern with one's personal appearance.
"That was always a sore spot for me. Don Juan used to stoke the fire of my resentment by making fun of my stature. He used to tell me: 'the shorter you are, the more egomaniac! You are small, and ugly as a bedbug; your only option is to be famous, because otherwise you don't exist!' He claimed that the mere sight of me made him want to vomit - for which he was infinitely grateful to me".

Ahhh, love it! emoticon

Otherwise, I just have one serious point. If you want someone who listens and is non-judgmental, that's the definition of a therapist. Someone who will tell you "you're ok, I accept you". That's not a teachers task, IMO.

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
5/13/11 4:10 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
my post refers to non-formal teachers, people who've shaped you without interfering in what you wanna do.

i've only had 1 person who i would consider to be along the line of a teacher, more like a mate that i got along well with even with vastly different backgrounds and rarely talked about this type of stuff. the type of person you click well with for no reason in particular and without effort.

his qualities on the teaching side were:

i) ability to discern 'where someone is at' through observation, questioning, intuition. ie. i was not aware of where i was at, nor was i interested in finding out 'where i was at' in terms of a conceptual map...which leads me to ii)
ii) ability to discern most appropriate way to enlightenment given i)
iii) friendly, 'selfless' demeanour: a living example of the path without the stereotypes ie. not a recluse, not a monk, well adjusted in the 'real' world

extremely thankful for having had someone in my life such as he

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
5/15/11 8:46 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
C C C:


Otherwise, I just have one serious point. If you want someone who listens and is non-judgmental, that's the definition of a therapist. Someone who will tell you "you're ok, I accept you". That's not a teachers task, IMO.


I don't know man-- I suppose it depends, as always, on what one means by the words. I would consider the ability to listen and to be non-judgmental to be capacities of a mature adult, and would hope that a teacher-- or a therapist-- would have these capacities. A teacher who doesn't listen and is judgmental is kind of an absurdity, don't you think? Who will they teach-- and how? lol :-)

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
5/16/11 8:15 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
that's a really good question and unfortunately the answer for me is that, aside from this forum, i do not, and never have had a relationship with a true spiritual teacher.

i've read a LOT, i've been to retreats with video teachers and surrogates who would not divulge anything helpful. i've tried to interest myself in jet-set tibetan tantra but found it difficult to ground the teachings in reality. the hush hush cultural mumbo-jumbo mixed with the cult-status teachers was way too far removed from my daily sits and offered no feedback loop.

despite my desire for a really good flesh and blood dharma friend here in germany, the qualities i find most important i have found here, on the aypsite.org (not dharma per se) and on a couple of other websites.

i have also found that the buddhas' suggestions as to how to choose a teacher have been very sound.

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
1/3/12 7:51 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
tarin greco:
the teachers i've liked are the ones i could talk to, openly, unguardedly, like i'd talk to a friend whose opinion i respected and whose reproach i listened to with care. the ones who cared enough to talk to me.

what things do you like about teachers?


I like this question.

As I consider a response, I guess first off I will say that I've benefited from not just one but multiple teachers.

At times, I've gravitated toward certain teachers because something about their particular presentation of the dharma resonated with where I was at that time.

I've been amazed by how some teachers have been really inspiring to me from a relative distance, but in person we had a weak connection, even cold. Other teachers who I found highly irritating for their books or talks, in person are lovely people. Some are inspiring from any distance, and those have been my most valuable teachers.

I think what makes a good teacher is a mixture of personality and attainment. Without the attainment, they can be really nice, learned, and many other wonderful qualities, but they will lack the deep intuition and understanding of the path, and so are really going to be limited, I believe, in their ability to give authentic transmission.

I think there's also a set of skills (what I above called "personality") that's also helpful. Availability, experience, learning, calm, and care for me, are all qualities that I think help to make someone with something to teach an effective teacher. Ultimately, however, I feel this isn't very important. If the student is highly motivated, they're going to listen really carefully to what even the most un-teacherly teacher has to teach, because in terms of the dharma, anyone with attainment, even if they might seem brisk, weird, or confusing, has actually a lot of wise intuition, focus, and goodwill operating. I've had teachers that I thought were pretty useless at the time but it turned out the things they said were very timely and helpful, and that this was directly due to the fact of the depth of their practice. This issue is of personal interest to me, because I would eventually love to teach the dharma in a formal capacity, but I've got a lot of room for improvement regarding acting in a way that is, for lack of a better word, attractive enough for people to pay attention and absorb the teaching. Also, I think certain personalities, in certain situations, just click, so it's good to have the variety.

My closest teacher relationship has only deepened as the years have gone by. First I was drawn to this person because they seemed very respectable by society's standards. At the time, this was a requisite for my involvement with them, immersed as I was in the world and trying to make a place in it.
Then, what they spoke was measured and helpful. In person, I felt a deep sense of love such that I had only ever felt with my pet dog.
This person made an apparently strong effort, despite many other duties, to learn about me. It seemed there was mutual appreciation, despite rare interactions, of the depth of connection.
Because of this person's depth of practice, every time I met with them, in any setting (daily life or long retreat) they were able to respond freshly, with wisdom and compassion, and so help me to progress.
This person also expressed support for me in doing very unconventional things, like living alone on an island instead of going to school.
At times, they were surprisingly gentle. I could say "my practice fell apart," and that would be OK.
At other times, they made enormously challenging requests, and endured my complaints, offering some encouragement and a modicum of guidance, but unafraid to be firm that this was their current teaching so long as they are my teacher.
They rejoiced in my happiness, and let the role be flexible.

Most of all, throughout it all, I think it was a sense that they were seeing me for who I really am, whether seeing that and helping give expression to it through learning to practice, or in the capacity of seeing that and practicing together. This relationship is my reference point for good spiritual friendship.

I suspect I was a gift to them in turn because I showed up as a sincere student, and somehow saw what they had to offer- continue to.

This particular teacher likes to say that it's the student that makes the teacher.

I would appreciate hearing from others of you what you think makes a good dharma teacher, a good teacher in other fields, and what's the overlap.

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
1/8/12 3:09 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
I like teachers who just happen to be friends who know and will share good stuff much more than Teachers.

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
1/8/12 3:32 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
I like teachers who just happen to be friends who know and will share good stuff much more than Teachers.


I agree with Daniel. Best type of teachers.

RE: qualities of teachers
Answer
1/8/12 5:00 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
If I think about qualities of teachers. The good one for me is someone who helps me..He does not have to meditate or he could be a mass murder.. Something as if I need to learn to swim I have to go somebody who knows how to teach the swimming;