I prefer to refer to myself as an instructor for several reasons that I feel I need to outline.
My own teacher, Geshe Khenrab Gajam gave me permission to teach in 1985 after studying with him and the Lamas that he invited to visit at the Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Montreal over the 10 years that I was there. At that time, he gave me his statue of Shakyamuni that he brought with him from India and a picture of Green Tara as well as a piece of cloth for my Mandala set and a case for my props.
He asked my wife and I to try to set up a centre in Ottawa. We invited visiting monks for sand mandalas and chanting and attempted to set up regular practices, but were unable to sustain any dharma group. My own level of confidence and my level of understanding the teachings were not enough to work with the group of people that we encountered.
Only in 2001, after being vice-president of the Ottawa Friends of Tibet for 5 years, did I begin to feel confident enough in speaking and sharing ideas. At that time, we were in Westport and I was asked to teach Calm-Awareness meditation. That I felt I could do. I called myself a Meditation Instructor as I was sharing my knowledge and experience in Meditation.
I resisted teaching Buddhism for 2 years after that, but my students were beginning to want more details in the psychology behind meditation which meant opening the door to the principles of the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths and so I began teaching Lam Rim or Stages of the Path to Buddhahood. Geshe-la used to teach Lam Rim and once finished the whole session would start again. I have followed his pattern.
I’m reluctant to call myself a teacher simply because, if I look at who I consider my own teachers, I don’t even come close to their caliber of understanding, accomplishment, experience, or purity. Geshe-la was very humble and pure. Lati Rinpoche was accomplished and full of ease. Zong Rinpoche was precise and clear. Most were very genuine and their attainment was evident. I was very lucky to have met many Tibetan Lamas who were well accomplished – they are my idea of a teacher.
I could never say that I have mastered anything. When I look at real spiritual masters and look at what they’ve practiced, I cannot compare. So I would always share with people what I know and then, if they’re looking for a spiritual master, I would refer them to those people that I feel are REAL masters, who seem to have a degree of mastery. Unfortunately, as yet, there are very few westerners who I would consider fit the bill – but there are those who are now in the process of becoming masters – so there’s hope…
I don’t think that I’ll be one in this lifetime, but in the meantime, I’m willing to share what I know and what I’ve learned from my own journey through the LAM RIM or stages of the Path – thanks to the examples and guidance of my own Teachers.
I hope that clears up any ideas about my motivations to Teach.
Yours in the Dharma