Richard Bach is a pilot, a lover of planes and flying as well as an author and a philosopher. In ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ he teaches us some of what he knows.
There is a great story about teachers that I learned in my Philosophy Class. It goes something like this, “Three sages were travelling together. They had been travelling for a very long time. In front of them one day appeared a wall, so high and so long that there seemed to be no way around it. They walked for days but found no gates or any sign of an entrance. One of the sages asked the locals about the wall. “It marks the end of our world”, the locals told them, “there is no way around it, through it or over it. Our legends say that there is a most beautiful country on the other side but it is forbidden to us”. The sages determined to cross the wall and see for themselves. They spent many years hard labour building a series of ladders and platforms. Finally, they were ready to reach the top. The last ladder was raised and the sages viewed the forbidden land. It was a most beautiful and bounteous garden. The sages laughed out loud in awe and happiness. Fixing ropes to the top of the wall, two of the sages immediately climbed down into the gardens and ran through the flowers and trees in pure delight. The third sage hesitated, looked back at the land they were leaving, looked again at the beauty in front, and slowly descended the ladders again. This sage passed the rest of his life telling people what lay beyond the wall, encouraging them to go there and explaining to them how to climb the series of ladders and platforms”.
Some people, you see, are destined to be teachers.
Jonathan, too, decided to go back, “And the more Jonathan practiced his kindness lessons, and the more he worked to know the nature of love, the more he wanted to go back to Earth. For in spite of his lonely past, Jonathan Seagull was born to be an instructor”
We are taught that the Buddha too, hesitated before committing himself to teaching others, “Now if I proclaim the doctrine, and other men are not able to understand my preaching, there would result but weariness and annoyance to me”. Initially, the Buddha determines not to teach, “When the Blessed One pondered over this matter, his mind became inclined to remain in quiet, and not to preach the doctrine”.
Tradition has it, however, that the Buddha was then visited by a King of the Gods who persuaded him otherwise, telling him “May the Blessed One preach the doctrine; there will be people who can understand it”. After being so exhorted three times, the Buddha became full of compassion and decided to teach, declaring, “Wide opened is the door of the Immortal to all who have ears to hear; let them send forth faith to meet it”.
If you are not an instructor, nor have any inclination to be one, practice being a learner!