When I was in my 200 hour teacher training, I was told a Buddhist story about the Bengali teaboy. A Buddhist lama was traveling to teach in Tibet and he brought a Bengali teaboy with him. The teaboy was hopeless, totally unreliable and clumsy and probably even lying and stealing from the lama. The disciples kept asking: “Rinpoche, why do you have such a scoundrel of a teaboy? Let us find you a better one!” The Lama said, “No, by all means, he needs to stay with me. If I'm only surrounded by people who are wonderful, devout and easy to love, how will I have to opportunity to practice compassion?”
In New York they say, that in every teacher training, in every group that comes together, in every family setting, there will be a Bengali teaboy. Someone that just pushes your buttons, a black sheep, or someone who is very honest with you, who gives you feedback you maybe did not want to hear. In New York they call this person “The One”.
Manas delivers what you see and hear from this person. The ego checks in with Chitta, takes a quick look at old Samskaras in the storehouse, and decides that, no, this is for sure a dislike. We don't like to have our buttons pushed or to hear feedback that is not flattering. We don't like people to behave in a way that is inconvenient for us. It is easy then to decide to avoid that person, to not place your mat next to them and not sit with them at meals. I believe however, that if we try to act from our higher intelligence, from the Buddhi, we will recognize, that the people who may sometimes rub us the wrong way, are often our biggest teachers and our biggest opportunities.
The other day, I was talking to someone here who shared a beautiful thought with me: There is 39 (including me, 40) of us and there is only one teacher, only one Stephen. So it is hard to get direct feedback or a good talk with your teacher during teacher training. It also not necessarily a teacher's job to tell you exactly what you could work on. Sometimes you are expected to figure it out yourself from hints that are dropped.
However, Stephen has naturally left an imprint on all of us. And he is awakening qualities in all of us. So we each begin to carry on something of that vein of teaching. So, when we are confronted with a situation that the ego dislikes, it imight just be a teaching delivered to us via another person. This brings my thoughts back to the idea of interconnectedness. All our personas and destinies are obviously interwoven, otherwise we wouldn't be here together for four intense weeks. Our coming here was probably written in the stars long ago.
And just like in Indra's net, at every intersections, there is a multi-faceted jewel. Whenever we make contact, there is something precious – if only we can open our eyes to see it.
Every encounter we have, pleasant or unpleasant, is probably not a coincidence. Often we don't like to see it that way and the ego feels bruised when someone gives us un-called for feedback. The default reaction is then: “Who are you tell me? You are in no way ahead of me!” Still, I believe that whatever emotional reaction we have to another person's input or mere presence, it is always a message if we are willing to see it that way. Whatever someone's motivation may be for the comment or behavior you didn't like, maybe we can just trust that it is exactly what we needed to hear or see. We can trust that teachings come, all the time and not only from those people who we have elected to be our teachers, to play that part in our life.
I believe that honoring the teachings life brings is also a way to honor your specific chosen teacher. It means they have affected you because you are ready to make sense of the hints that are given to you. You have recognized the underlying thread of the net in which we are all interwoven. You have grown to trust life.