Role of a Buddhist teacher

Lama Ole gives blessing with a gau – a box of relics given to him by the 16th Karmapa
Our Buddhist teacher is at the same time our example, our best friend, and the fearless mirror to our development.

He or she shows us our Buddha nature, guides us through the upcoming games of ego, and encourages us to explore the vast potential every one of us possesses. In life, we learn things like playing the piano or driving a car through the example and guidance of a teacher. Recognizing the nature of mind is much more difficult than learning about ordinary things, so a Buddhist teacher is even more important.

“When you have learned everything from your lama, your mind and his mind are one.”
— Kalu Rinpoche

Especially on the Diamond Way, the connection to a realized teacher enables experiences and insights to be transmitted holistically. We can see examples of this in the lives of the masters of the Kagyu lineage. From Naropa to Gampopa and the seventeen Karmapas, they all gratefully claim to have reached the goal through the blessing of their lamas. In this way, the most important and direct teachings of the Buddha have survived to the present day through holders of experience of flesh and blood.

How to find a Buddhist teacher

The path to enlightenment is vast and many-sided, so we should try to find a teacher who knows the Buddhist teachings and has himself already accomplished insights into the nature of mind. It’s worth investing some time and thought into checking the teacher.

It’s good to remember that until we’re liberated, we don’t really see the world, but rather the content of our own mind. And as the Tibetans say, it’s difficult to see the peak of a higher mountain from a lower one. So how can we, as students, check the knowledge and realization of a teacher?

Firstly, he should stand in an authentic lineage, and be authorized to teach by his own teacher. And if as well as knowledge, he shows compassion by always working for others, putting his students’ needs above his own, this is a good basis. It’s also very useful to get to know the other students. We should check whether the feeling is good and whether we can accept them on a human level.

Ordinary teachers, such as our friends in the center, and the lay Diamond Way Teachers who explain Buddhism, can give us information without making an especially close connection. But choosing a lama, a liberated teacher, means letting him into your mind on the most important level of the view. On the Diamond Way, we see the teacher not as a person but as a mirror to our own potential. So once we have chosen a good teacher, it pays to see him on the highest level that his power can sustain. This confirms our own existing inner richness.

“The position of a Buddhist teacher is not complicated at all. He simply has to say and do the same. The decision to choose a teacher, with all his qualities, or not, is then the student’s to make.”
— Lama Ole Nydahl, The Way Things Are