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Buddhist Study

Mentor and Disciple Are Like a Needle and Thread

Weston, Florida. Photo by Marc Giannavola.

This guidance is from section 25.2 of “The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace” series, published in the October 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 63.

We need to be aware of the importance of the mentor-disciple relationship in terms of awakening to and carrying out our personal mission in life, as well as promoting the betterment and development of society.

For many today, the words mentor and disciple have a feudalistic, old-fashioned ring, but that is not how it should be.

In order to master anything, whether academic learning or sports, we need an instructor or a coach. Having a good instructor or coach speeds up our improvement and mastery. Trying to learn on our own, in contrast, often leads to much wasted effort or soon finding ourselves stuck, not knowing how to progress further. In the same way, to live our lives in the most meaningful and worthwhile fashion, we need a good instructor or coach—a mentor in life—who can teach us basic values and attitudes for life.

This relationship is not a hierarchical one of superior and inferior, nor a contractual one based on profit and payment. It is the most spontaneous and purest spiritual bond, built on a foundation of mutual trust, in which two individuals share a common purpose. It is only through this person-to-person bond that human potential is truly fostered and can develop to its fullest.

In that respect, encountering a good teacher, a great mentor, is the key to leading the best possible life. In addition, a lofty ideal can only be achieved when it is shared by a mentor and disciple, the disciple carrying on and realizing the vision articulated by the mentor.

The relationship between mentor and disciple is like that between a needle and thread. The mentor opens the way and reveals the principles, while the disciple, carrying on the mentor’s work, applies, develops and actualizes those principles. The disciple must also go on to surpass the mentor. The mentor, meanwhile, is ready to give everything, even their own life, for the sake of the disciple.

I have always pledged that it is my duty to spare no pains or efforts, to make every sacrifice, to open the way to a bright future for our young people and build the stage for their activities.

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: April 2019

Commentary on Volume 4