On Students & Teachers In ‘The Kominsky Method’

In the last episode of season 2 of ‘The Kominsky Method’, ‘A Thetan Arrives’… (N)orman says, ‘I believe the next step for me is the journey inwards… the spiritual path… There’s an old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher arrives.’ (S)andy replies, ‘And you think you’re ready?’ N: I do. S: And the teacher is… N: I’ll know when him or her when I meet them… S: I’ve often thought that this world is just a dream that God is having… N: You’re not the teacher. S: Or you’re not ready.

Though old and just about to finally retire, it was better late than never for Norman to seek spirituality. It is common that older folks are the ones who focus more on issues of life, death and the afterlife. But why should anyone wait? After all, with the unpredictability of life, not all get to retire or even grow old. There should thus ideally be factoring in of a spiritual path in the midst of worldly life as soon as possible, despite age or work, so as to advance on it, and to reach the destination before time runs out.

The idea that the teacher arrives only when the student is ready might seem to make some sense, but the truth is much more subtle than that. Due to one’s presently ripening negative karma, wrong motivation and poor attitude, even an eager wannabe student might not find a good teacher. However, in this world and age, even if a teacher is eventually encountered when karma, motivation and attitude better, that teacher found is seldom perfect — because the student’s karma is still far from perfect.

In this way, both student and teacher are often not an ideal match, with both somewhat not qualified to be a perfect student and teacher. Even if there is a strong sense of connection, it might be from past lives’ negative karmic affinity, that led to the wrong teacher, who perpetuates wrong concepts. This is exemplified by Norman’s ‘interest’ in his grandson’s ideas upon reunion with him, who had just ‘denounced’ a clearly controversial organisation, while still clinging to its warped teachings that manipulate with mind games.

The other way round, beyond who ‘clicks’ with one, another not regarded as one’s teacher might already be teaching truths or half-truths. For example, on Sandy’s idea, the Buddhist take is that this world is not a dream, but dreamlike with its transient phenomena of events and experiences, and the ‘dreamers’ are us, not anyone else. While there is always something to learn from everyone, even if just learning to be open-minded and patient, the best students seek the best (i.e. enlightened) teachers in Pure Land!

To summarise, in this unenlightened world, most students and teachers are not perfectly ready for one another, without the ideal learning and teaching relationship. The solution is that students improve themselves, karmically (i.e. ethically), with purer motivation and better attitude, by being open-minded, yet with intelligent active enquiry, which the Buddha urged. Meeting ‘halfway’, teachers should correspond by being better students who keep learning, to be more capable in teaching and resolving of doubts. May all be better students to learn well from better teachers, while teachers better themselves to better students too.

Related Article:
‘The Kominsky Method’ Of Being Here

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