For years, I have been a teacher. In every activity there is a peak experience that you can have, the best that you can be, the need for self-actualisation.
This is true irrespective of the morality of the activity. Everyone derives extreme satisfaction in doing something well, even if that doing well is forgery and fraud. We celebrate excellence culturally, even criminal excellence.
That’s the creative impulse, the becoming, the act of creating things that for a moment relaxes us to the extent that we can appreciate who we are, the thing that we call beauty.
(One of the things I realised on the way was that beauty was not an experience outside me. It didn’t arise in the object but the objects remind us of our true nature, and that realisation or rather the memory of it, is beauty. That’s why the same thing can be extremely ordinary and extra-ordinarily beautiful at different times.)
In the space-time fabric around me (in India) are strong thoughts about what a teacher is supposed to be. I understand that those were hyperboles of praise, the same as love notes between lovestruck dimwits! 🙂
As soon as your mind is able to absorb, you are flooded with metaphors like this one:
गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णु र्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः
गुरु साक्षात परब्रह्मा तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः
What that ancient Shloka roughly means is:
A teacher is the Creator, Surveyer & Destroyer of the universe.
A teacher is the supreme self (God) that you can see with your eyes. I bow to such a teacher.
There are more recent ones like this one from Kabir:
गुरू गोविन्द दोऊ खड़े, काके लागूं पांय।
बलिहारी गुरू अपने गोविन्द दियो बताय।।
Which is an old dialect of Hindi which means:
My teacher and God both are standing, whose feet should I touch?
I can sacrifice everything to my teacher, he told me about God.
There are exaltations after exaltations about the holiness and worship-worthiness of the teacher. There are stories after stories of the importance of complete, unquestioning devotion to the teacher, a complete unquestioning execution of whatever the teacher demands at whatever cost, seriously, at whatever cost.
Do you see the danger in that? Have we seen enough examples of that? (Hint: CULTS)
I teach WordPress Development. It has elements of Information Science, elements of Programming (especially abstractions, mental models & patterns) and elements of Creation. If we lived according to these rules (which in India we actually do), we would be exploited, taken for a ride and not learn anything. That’s why we have so many bad teachers and such a horrible education system.
As our stories say, there was a time when boys at a particular age were sent away to live with their teacher alongside the teachers household and provide the teacher all the labour and resources that he needed on a day to day basis. The students would go around the nearest settlement asking for alms and bring those back to the teacher. The teacher was even gifted cows and other resources so that the teacher never had to worry about his or his family’s or even his students’ daily sustenance.
A young student who entered the school would live there for years, learning practicing under strict discipline and absolute devotion. It is still celebrated as the Guru-Shishya tradition/parampara and as you may have realised, this is also the standard plot of many super-hit movies. (Mr. Miagi, anyone?)
This framework is open to abuse and exploitation. We have seen that again and again and again, throughout history.
As a teacher, my peak experience is the ability of my students to acquire the knowledge and skills that I have, with my guidance and help. My job is not to give them the knowledge, not to teach, but to facilitate their learning. I’m not the leader, I don’t stand at the top, in the front. I stand beside, pointing out useful things, adding some information, helping understand and appreciate what they see. I’m the tour-guide in the museum. Why would folks take the focus away from the museum to the guide?
Yes, it is good to feel gratitude towards the guide for helping you appreciate and learn but the museum is there inspite of and irrespective of the guide. If you take out the guide, the museum will probably get very confusing and you may not understand what you’re looking at. If you forget about the museum and start adoring the guide as the manifestation of the museum, you’re pretty much everyone.
And that is an interesting approach. When I teach WordPress, I don’t create or have any teachings of my own. I just have techniques, questions, advice and activities that can help my students see and understand what WordPress is like and what it does, how and why. My students are allowed to ask me questions and are in fact encouraged and even forced to do so.
I keep finding myself wrong or learning something new, things that I would probably not discover if I weren’t teaching. In a way, I’m not teaching at all. I’m their guide on a journey of learning, a tour of the skills and knowledge required to function as a WordPress developer who can make websites.
In this context and mental environment, I began watching Wild Wild Country. (Fun fact, the Osho Ashram is exactly 1km from my home.) At the end of watching this documentary, began another journey, internal and external, that helped me find my teachers.