In the Avalokiteshvara chapter of the Shobogenzo, there is a famous exchange between Master Ungan and Master Dogo about how best to describe the bodhisattva of compassion.
When asked by Dogo, Ungan describes Avalokiteshvara in a particular way. Dogo then says “your words describe the situation nicely, but only about eighty or ninety percent”, and then gives his own description.
Dogo’s description seems better, but if we think that he’s described the situation perfectly, or at least better than Ungan, we’re missing the point.
There’s always something missing. And because of that, the Dharma will not perish.
It is not that there aren’t teachers and students, but we need to understand what a teacher is.
He’s not someone who shares his knowledge. That’s a scholar. Neither is he someone who shares his wisdom. That’s a guru. It’s not that there isn’t a difference between teacher and student, but only in function, not essence.
They are like 2 points, which delineate a whole person, a great person. This real person fully occupies the Buddhist space, moving forward and backward, according to circumstance. Sometimes he is the teacher and student. Sometimes the sangha. Sometimes the whole world.
The teacher is not a great person, but sometimes he is part of a great person. The responsibility of a teacher is to teach with great vigour for the rest of his life. Not from his own vigour, which is puny, nor from the vigour of his student, which is likewise puny, but from the vigour and expression of this great person, which is inexhaustible.