Gateway to Dharma
Which are the Qualities Essential to a Student undertaking Dharma practice?
The ideal candidates for the undertaking of the Classical Buddhadharma Study are students who are sincere in both their aspiration in the attainment of harmonious existence for all beings and their determination to apply themselves consistently to the actualisation of their goal. But in order to realise one's potential as an authentic student, one must first know how to recognise an authentic teacher. While different teachers instruct differently, in accordance with their abilities, all authentic teachers are recognisable by certain characteristics which rise above the rest: not only do they possess a wealth of knowledge far exceeding that of the student, authentic teachers are always the living embodiment of the efficacy of what they teach, which manifests effortlessly throughout their every expression of thought, speech and action.
Whenever we have the good fortune of coming across an authentic teacher, we should regard that teacher as a role model of the absolute and conduct ourselves accordingly in a reverent, humble manner, for the type of attitude we generate dictates the type of dividend we will come to receive. If we approach the absolute in a casual manner, we will not benefit from what the absolute has to offer. One who does not know how to approach an authentic teacher in a manner appropriate to that of an authentic student cannot count upon the prospect of ever retaining any knowledge of value even when staying by the side of the same teacher for a hundred years. However, those sincere ones who approach the absolute for instruction in a reverent and humble manner, are likened to genuine pursuers of the truth who empty the content of their cups before approaching a tea master with the request of sampling the tea master's special brew, and thus are more likely to succeed in generating for themselves the opportunity to gain the full experience of what they are seeking.
Wholesome attitude aside, other essential student qualities include: clear cognition of the Four Noble Truths which govern the arising and falling of worldly conditions; clear cognition of the Karmic Law of Cause and Effect which gives rise to the surging of correct motivation; attentiveness of a complete hearer in listening, and studying; ability to retain whatever one has received; repeated contemplation on what one has learned from the process of analytical reasoning; single-pointed meditation on the significance of one's conceptual findings; regarding the teaching as a mirror of truth upon which one's hidden flaws and unconscious failings will inevitably be reflected; determination to expose and neutralise any unwholesome manifestation as they arise; remaining vigilant in maintaining correct motivation in our mind at all times.
In addition, all authentic students should approach the teaching of the absolute with four essential intentions: to regard ourselves as being seriously ill, arising from negative mental states; to seek a skilful doctor who can cure us of our affliction; to uphold the teachings in high esteem as the remedy we need to effectuate a cure; to regard ourselves as chronic patients who must continue the treatment as prescribed with consistency and sincerity in our daily practice until such time we gain total freedom from the illness. When the truly humble ones approach the absolute, they always approach in a reverent manner without any notion of assuming they know, thus always receive the full benefit of what they wish to learn. Only those who are steeped in self-aggrandisement and blinded by pursuit of status will find it difficult to learn from the absolute. As Jesus said: "God does not listen to the proud but he is ready to help those who are humble."