Aware of the difference
between being firm and angry,
one can be firm when necessary,
but never ever angry.
A Dharma class participant sent me the following question… ‘A “teacher” I know regularly raises his voice to many of his students while they are doing volunteer work at their centre, and sometimes via other modes of communication. Some think he is training their patience. However, the volunteers keep changing. Could he really be testing our patience?‘ Tricky indeed… How do you know if you have encountered a good yet much misunderstood teacher, or that it is really time to move on to a better teacher?
Here is my answer… ‘It is hard to tell exactly what is going on as we cannot read his mind to know his actual intentions and attitude. However, from what mentioned, he seems more likely to simply be someone impatient – more so than someone who patiently tests others’ patience on purpose. Even if he was trying to test the volunteers’ patience, he was clearly not skilful enough, since most discouraged ones do not return. This can jeopardise their spiritual lives, which is the last thing a skilful teacher would want to do.
Sometimes, an impatient person is just that then; not being a skilful “teacher” at all, but a flawed student of the Dharma like you and me. Poor students might keep rationalising “teachers'” displays of anger to be skilful means, but we should all be mindful not to blindly rationalise others’ actual character flaws to be means to train us. Doing so can feed the ego of unskilful “teachers”, who imagine they are great “teachers”. As teachers or students, worse than rationalisation of others’ faults would be to excuse our own.
Both teachers and students alike, most of us are still far from perfect due to inadequate Dharma practice. We need to be more diligent in guarding against anger, as it is the most destructive defilement – be it from the side of the “teacher” or the students who feel unfairly treated. Finally, to know if he was really testing everyone’s patience, perhaps you can politely ask him your question in person, to see if he readily responds with patience or otherwise? No matter how he responds, you can share this article with him too.’
While it is wise to the abused
to see inevitable abuse as tests,
it is not kind to the abusers
to see hateful abusers as ‘testers’.