Short writings on Teaching and Learning


The teacher is like a host in his own house. His guests are those who are trying to study the Way. These are people who have never been in a house before, and they only have vague ideas as to what a house may be like. It exists, nevertheless.

When the guests enter the house and see the place set aside for sitting in, they ask: "What is this?" They are told: "This is a place where we sit." So they sit down on chairs, only dimly conscious of the function of the chair.

The host entertains them, but they continue to ask questions, some irrelevant. Like a good host, he does not blame them for this. They want to know, for instance, where and when they are going to eat. They do not know that nobody is alone, and that at that very moment there are other people who are cooking the food, and that there is another room in which they will sit down and have a meal. Because they cannot see the meal or its preparation, they are confused, perhaps doubtful, sometimes ill at ease.

The good host, knowing the problems of the guests, has to put them at their ease, so that they will be able to enjoy the food when it comes. At the outset they are in no state to approach the food.

Some of the guests are quicker to understand and relate one thing about the house to another. These are the ones who can communicate to their slower friends. The host, meanwhile, gives each guest an answer in accordance with his capacity to perceive the unity and function of the house.

It is not enough for a house to exist - for it to be made ready to receive guests - for the host to be present. Someone must actively exercise the function of host, in order that the strangers who are the guests, and for whom the host has responsibility, may becomes accustomed to the house. At the beginning, many of them are not aware that they are guests, or rather exactly what guesthood means: what they can bring to it, what it can give them.

The experienced guest, who has learned about houses and hospitality, is at length at ease in his guesthood, and he is then in a position to understand more about houses and about many facets of living in them. While he is still trying to understand what a house is, or trying to remember rules of etiquette, his attention is too much taken up by these factors to be able to observe, say, the beauty, value or function of the furniture.


One day a man went to a Real Teacher and described how a certain false teacher was prescribing exercises for his followers.

"The man is obviously a fraud. He asks his disciples to "think of nothing". It is easy enough to say that, because it impresses some people. But it is impossible to think of nothing."

The master asked him: "Why have you come to see me?"

"To point out the absurdity of this man, and also to discuss mysticism."

"Not just to gain support for your decision that this man is an impostor?"

"No, I know that already."

"Not to show those of us who are sitting here that you know more than the ordinary, gullible man?"

"No. In fact, I want you to give me guidance."

"Very well. The best guidance I can give you is to advise you to - think of nothing."

This man immediately withdrew from the company, convinced that the master was a fraud.

But a stranger, who had missed the beginning of these events, and had entered the assembly at the exact moment when the sage was saying "The best guidance I can give you is to advise you to think of nothing", was profoundly impressed.

"To think of nothing: what a sublime conception!" he said to himself.

And he went away after that day's session, having heard nothing to contradict the idea of thinking of nothing.

The following day one of the students asked the master which of the men had been correct.

"Neither," he said. "They still have to learn that their greed is a veil, a barrier. Their answer is not in one word, one visit, one easy solution. Only by continuous contact with a teaching does the pupil absorb, little by little, that which gradually accumulates into an understanding of truth. Thus does the seeker become a finder."

"The Master Rumi said: "Two men come to you, one having dreamt of heaven, the other of hell. They ask which is reality. What is the answer?" The answer is to attend the discourses of a master until you are in harmony."

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