Sudharma
My Teachers | My Gurus
There are currently about 7 billion people on the planet today. That, my friends, is a lot of people. Moreover, throughout the course of your life, you will only meet a handful of people compared to that number. However, I believe something about people, and specifically teachers. I believe that one teacher can make a difference and that teachers can change the world.
Doctors, veterinarians, lawyers, technicians and even bank accountants would be nonexistent. There would be no one to teach these people how to perform their career. Our world that we live in today would be very different if we didn’t have teachers. To our society, a teacher is the glue that holds everyone together. For example Kindergarten teachers are the ones who teach us the basic principles of life like how to say please and thank you and also that sharing is caring. Without them, there would be a lot of rude people out there.
I have two distinct teachers that have been in my life for quite some time now, that I believe can, and have been able to change the world, one student at a time. Venerable Sudharma was my first Dharma teacher and mentor. At the age of 14, she taught me so much about being a true Buddhist….flaws and quirks of my personality and all. To this day, I still remember how she taught me to study sutra, applying instances and the words of the Buddha to my actions and my life. She was the most dedicated teacher I had ever met. Ven. Sudharma made such a big impact on my life and helped me individually on so many levels…something she surely did not have to do. Through all my transgressions, blunders and unwise actions, she never once judged me. She would hold my hand and have me look at where I went astray, understand and learn. Ven. Sudharma was always there for me, giving me an endless fountain of wisdom while asking only for my success in return. She inspired me to think outside the box…..never letting the fact that I was a young American girl aspiring to be a Buddhist nun, against so many odds…stand in my way. She never once viewed it that way. And through all the ups, downs and Dharma lessons…she, being such a humble, intelligent, loving, devoted Buddhist nun and teacher, reminded me what it is to be a strong woman. Through her actions, she taught me what true compassion is. I miss her dearly each and every day….her passing 5 years ago left an indelible mark on my heart and I often feel as though I have failed her because of the attachment I still feel for her. After all, Buddhism teaches us about nonattachment. I remember how kind she was during one of our last sits together in London….her soft, delicate hand on mine and her wise eyes looked into mine, she said, “You will never lose me as long as your heart remains pure and your intentions true. I will be in everything around you and I will know! Buddhism teaches that there are two ways of losing someone….One is by natural process. That’s nature. As a Buddhist practitioner we accept that this is part of nature and there should not be much grieving. Then there is tragedy, loss suddenly beyond our control. Tragedy comes with a process, and we become accustomed to it…and we learn about life in ways never imagined.”
Acariya Samudra is my yoga teacher and my dear friend. I have often said to her that she is the sister I never had. The term Samudra in sanskrit means “ocean” or the “gathering of great waters”. The term is an important one in the Rigveda and was given to my Acariya by Ven. Sudharma. The term Samudra is not only a powerful and important term in Hinduism but also across the lineages of Buddhism. It’s inspires the strength, vastness and organic wisdom of the ocean while offering the comfort and healing of water. My Acariya is strong willed, intelligent, inspiring and beautiful, both inside and out. She has been by my side through every up and down since I’ve known her, and I by hers. During puja yesterday, I read a passage in the Vimuktisena sutra that noted Samudra as “uplifting from the ocean, the rain, and fraught with vaporous moisture pour the torrents down”…which can be simplified by saying that it’s a knowledge of the Highest Tide often associated with Great masters, Lamas and Elders. It’s an innate knowing. In Buddhism and Hinduism, Samudra is characterized as the Eldest of the waters, where “all the rivers converge into an ocean of vastness and wisdom”. I see my Acariya and I can understand why Ven. Sudharma bestowed this name upon her. I don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t found that relationship with my Acariya…a friendship, sisterhood and Teacher so many long for in life. It’s humbling. Certainly, this surly nun hasn’t done much to deserve such amazing dedication from someone so inspiring, and with so many daily secular demands…..but I believe that every girl needs a sister and someone to look up to. But more than that, I believe that girls can find that ideal in someone that isn’t blood related. Sometimes, that sister and teacher can be found in your best friend.
These days, I look at my role as a teacher more carefully because of these two great women in my life and I believe that, next to parenting, teaching is the most important job in the world….teaching in any sense….whether it be education, yoga, dharma. I’m reminded of the magnitude of every teacher’s responsibility to his or her students and, in turn, of my accountability to every teacher as a student. It’s a responsibility I am honored to have and don’t take lightly. My teachers have inspired me, and have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Once, in doubt of my own ability, I asked His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama what it means to be a teacher. He said to me, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires”. Ven. Sudharma and my Acariya Samudra are two of the great ones.