Dharma FAQ: Practice related

Please click on a question to read the corresponding answer.

Q1. If our teacher is not teaching well, then can we point out that he/she is not teaching well? In our culture if we point like this to our teacher it is not considered appropriate. Also, as I really respect the teacher for their kindness, what is the best thing to do in such a situation? Is it better to speak or keep quiet ? (click to expand)

A1. In cases where the teacher is not teaching well, whether to remain quiet or speak out — personally, I feel that initially it is helpful for one to observe well and see what are the areas where the teacher can improve: in his or her teaching skills and methodology. Sometimes, it could be that the teacher teaches without any lesson plans and preparation. Here it is important to inform the concerned officials about the problem.

At other times, while the teacher may be trying their best, still he or she may not be effective in teaching. In this case the students can give suggestions through proper channel as to what changes can be introduced in the teaching methodology of the teacher so that it can be made more effective. Worst is when the teacher does not really have adequate knowledge of the subject which he or she is to teach. Here, it is the responsibility of the higher authorities to select the qualified teachers.

Generally speaking, one needs to maintain great respect towards one’s teachers. But when something is going wrong, it is equally important to speak about it, but in a gentle and skilled way. Whereas in case of a spiritual teacher, an individual has the right to choose their spiritual teacher. No one can impose someone as one’s spiritual teacher. One can receive some teachings from a person. It does not mean that he or she is your spiritual teacher. That can be taken more as a college or University lecture. However, once one takes someone as their spiritual teacher, one should not cultivate any ill feeling towards the person.

Q2. What does it mean to be spiritual ? (click to expand)

A2. How to be spiritual is a very good and profound question. Engaging in practices to increase compassion unconditionally for others and increasing the awareness of inter-dependency of all phenomena, in a gradual but steady manner is the meaning of being spiritual. Knowing how harming others is harming the self is to be spiritual in real sense. For example, some countries, by bullying the weaker countries, dump their nuclear waste in the ocean near the weaker countries. But, with the passage of time, the fish affected in that ocean may move towards the ocean near the bigger nations, and also the migratory birds who may eat these affected fish from that ocean can migrate to the places in those bigger countries (dumping waste). Consequently, the people in the bigger countries are affected. Therefore, harming others harms oneself, directly or indirectly. This is the meaning of inter-dependency. Whoever knows this reality will refrain from dumping the nuclear waste in the oceans of other countries, thus showing consideration and love towards others. This is the meaning of spirituality where one becomes more and more compassionate in a skillful way through the insight into inter-dependency.

Q3. I have been struggling quite severely with my mind with regards to attachment and jealousy in relation to my partner. It’s awful and has caused my partner also a lot of stress. I have been trying really hard to be better, but sometimes I can become so overwhelmed, afraid and worried about people of other gender around my partner. I fail to trust my partner that he/she will do the right thing, and be faithful to me. Do you have any advice for this ? (click to expand)

A3. The problem that you mention is the one which has existed the longest in the history of humanity. So many wars were fought over this issue. The jealousy within the men due to the doubt over the loyalty of the woman they have relationship with and likewise, the jealousy and anger within the women over the man cheating her. This can simply consume all of one’s energy day and night, day and night, day and night till both become very old being awaited by the lord of death. This is our sad biography. This is where one finds the reason for remaining celibate. I don’t mean to say you should be celibate. I am just sharing with you how common this problem is not only in this world but all over in Samsara!!!!

I have the following practical suggestions in this regard:

1) Tell yourself as often “This is the problem, and in fact an inborn disease, which is most pervasive, corrosive, alive every moment, everywhere and which is primarily responsible for the divorce cases which are so common in the world.”

2) Think daily on the “Four Seals” of the Buddha’s Teachings: reflecting on the last line in particular is very powerful. These are:
(a) All composite things are impermanent;
(b) All contaminated things are of suffering nature;
(c) Everything is of the nature of emptiness and selflessness;
(d) Freedom from grasping is Peace.

Reflecting on the above points I think will help you.