For Our Mentors
The last few weeks have been a difficult time for our family. Last Sunday my Father-in-Law passed away after a few months of illness. Obviously there has been much sadness, but as always there is the accompanying joy and gratitude of having had the opportunity to know this wonderful man.
For me I have great memories of the times we spent together - the most memorable of all being the times that the two of us would stay up late after others had gone to bed, drinking excellent Scotch and generally setting the world to rights. The subjects would always be a combination of spirituality, religion and politics - often to a soundtrack of Jazz, C20th classical, electronic and generally weird music. I loved those times, and looking back on them now I realize how formative they were to me over the years as I developed my own ideas and viewpoints.
You can probably relate and bring to mind the people in your own life who have had similar effects on you. Not exactly teachers, but people who have been influential by who they are, what they said and how they caused you to question and think. We often use the word 'mentor' or 'influence' for these people. As we discussed last week, having gratitude for those who have had a positive influence on our life is an important part of our path. Without gratitude we play into the delusion of our separate self. With gratitude we realize the myriad events and influences that make up our present being.
When we practice Metta Bhavana - cultivation of lovingkindness and goodwill - we often use four specific people to practice with: Our self; A friend; A neutral person, and An enemy. In the older forms of the practice (which goes back to around the 5th Century c.e.) there is an extra person to include - the 'benefactor.' This is a person who has, one way or another, helped you on your path. For a monk it was explicitly the person who had provided financial support to allow them to practice. For us the benefactor can be thought of more broadly as our mentors - those who have supported us on our path. Again, this is more than just your teachers and can include all those who provided insight or support that contributed to your own evolution. It can be the person whose kind words kept you on the path. It could be the person who welcomed you to your Sangha. It can be the person whose dedication to practice was an inspiration. It can even include those secular authors who have made you think and question things that should be questioned (GNU Terry Pratchett).
So I would like to encourage you this week to think about your own mentors and benefactors, and express gratitude for them. If they are still with us maybe express that gratitude to them. If they are no longer with us then hold that joy and gratitude in your heart. That is what I will be doing this week.
I have linked below a fully guided Metta Bhavana meditation where we focus on generating metta for our Mentors. Feel free to use it if you wish in any way that helps.