Teachers and Students

Without a qualified spiritual teacher's help, we can develop neither great nor small insights. With their help, we can develop, then strengthen and enhance the three principal realizations of the path.

Qualities of Spiritual Teachers

Some qualities to look for in a qualified spiritual mentor include:

  • stable practice or realization of the three higher trainings (ethical conduct, meditative stabilization, wisdom)
  • disciplined in not only their physical and verbal actions, but also in their mental activity
  • vast and deep knowledge of the scriptures
  • joy and enthusiasm in teaching
  • ability to express the teachings clearly
  • loving concern and compassion for students
  • patience, steadfastness, lack of discouragement
  • subdued, calm, peaceful demeanor

Advantages of Relying on a Spiritual Teacher

Consider the advantages to relying on a qualified teacher. You will:

  • learn correct teachings and practice methods
  • gain realizations and approach enlightenment
  • avoid unfortunate rebirths
  • have spiritual teachers in your future lives

Consider the disadvantages of not properly relying on a teacher. Without a qualified teacher:

  • None of the above benefits will accrue.
  • You'll continue in cyclic existence, especially in unfortunate rebirths.
  • Even if you try to practice, your practice may not be successful.
  • Your good qualities may decline.

Our teachers are the spiritual conduits through which we receive the Buddhas' teachings.

  • When, as a result of their kindness, we begin to recognize for ourselves what is constructive and what is harmful and act accordingly, transformation takes place.
  • This is a sign that we have received their blessings and that they are taking effect.
  • In times of crisis, the teachings act as a support and a source of counsel and comfort.

Qualities of Spiritual Students

Promising students are open-minded and unprejudiced.

  • They are not attached to their own views or culture nor are they hostile to others' views.
  • They are able to differentiate between valuable instructions and those which only appear good.
  • They are enthusiastic and persevering.
  • They also need respect and faith.

The Relationship Between Teacher and Student

Having found a spiritual teacher, you must create the right kind of relationship by cultivating it in both thought and deed.

Relying on Your Teacher through Your Thoughts

  • When you see the good qualities of your teacher and of those in whom you take refuge, you feel appreciative and inspired.
    • This makes your mind clear and ready to develop good qualities.
    • This also helps you develop faith and confidence in your teacher.
    • If you perceive faults in your teacher, make sure they're not just projections of your own mind.
  • Develop gratitude and respect by thinking of your teacher's kindness.
    • The mentor teaches you just what the Buddha would teach you if he were here.
  • Three kinds of faith are essential in creating a good relationship with your spiritual teacher, as well as in developing all paths of insight and well-being:
    • the clear faith of appreciation
    • the faith of conviction
    • the faith of aspiration
  • There are nine attitudes to foster when mentally cultivating the relationship with a spiritual teacher:
    • obedience (do what your teacher asks of you)
    • never relinquish the loving bond you form with your teacher
    • carry all burdens without feeling discouraged
    • carry the burdens in terms of six attitudes:
      • mountain-like: remain firm and unswayed
      • slave-like: willingly carry out lowly tasks without feeling demeaned
      • sweeper-like: free from pride, take the lowest seat
      • vehicle-like: carry any responsibilities, no matter how heavy
      • dog-like: don't become downhearted, even if your teacher scolds you
      • ferry-like: never feel weary no matter how many times your teacher sends you back and forth on errands

Relying on Your Teacher through Your Actions

  • Make offerings to them.
  • Show respect and offer your service to help with their projects.
  • Practice the teachings as instructed.


  • Make a determination to check a person's qualities before taking that person as your teacher.
  • Determine to put effort into cultivating a relationship with your teacher that is imbued with faith, respect, and gratitude, so that you will progress easily and steadily on the path to enlightenment.

The Diagram

Spiritual Teachers and Students

Related Diagrams