illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
It is said that a good test for teachers is to see their reactions when put under pressure, from adverse circumstances. Do they keep their calm and composure, do they stay patient and perseverant, compassionate and loving, mindful of circumstances (that arise and fade) hence ready to produce the effort at a key favourable moment to put things back on a constructive causal flow? Can they find the best outcome given the conditions at hand?
When the car breaks down, under the rain, without mobile phone coverage and the next stop is a few miles away, how do they behave? When they have some engagement to attend to, but road conditions make it increasingly unlikely to arrive on time, and they'll have to meet unpleasant consequences, how do they behave? Do they start yelling at others, blaming people, or do they steady their mind in order to engage adequately whenever an appropriate opportunity opens up, in order to perform at one's best (without cognitive biases or unhelpful emotions) not in some 'ideal' situation but in the midst of saṃsāra?
Teachers are human and might have bad days. But observing your teacher's reactions under stressful circumstances is an opportunity to learn what to do (be it what the teacher did, or not!) and an opportunity to assess the teacher.
If you're to trust someone's guidance, sometimes it's good to see how far it can go before they crack ;-) Sometimes you don't even see them crack! If they show abilities beyond the average ordinary mind, trust (based on experience, not blind faith!) might be developed. When you trust a teacher, selfless listening is easier and cultivation is easier. If you practice guruyana, surrendering is easier too.
Interestingly, teachers are often judged when circumstances are easy. A voice is raised, a response is sharper than usual, and the teacher is immediately criticised and judged; there's nothing to overwhelm the teacher at that point, but the assumption is made that "(s)he lost it" (rather than the assumption of the teacher doing whatever it takes to shift a student's mindset)!
Students cling to the comfort zone and to what's 'predictable' in a teacher. Projections of happy smiling laughing buddhas are at play. Students cling to the status quo and to what was inferred from previous responses, thus are unhappy when the teacher unsettles the expectations. If keeping one's certainties requires to assume the teacher is misguided, rather than enquiring into one's own perceptions and anticipations, so be it ;-) gplus.wallez.name/K6NZcWtzScK
When the situation is not in the comfort zone, teachers are often forgiven though. Oh, they're human, it's normal they fail, you cannot expect them to be perfect, etc… But in fact, this is precisely when you can assess a teacher.
When the situation is the status quo, you're lost in your head about how things "should" be. What's to enquire is your assumptions. But when you don't know what to do or what's going on, when things fall apart, then a teacher should appear as a refuge, someone who can inspire you, someone you admire for manifested qualities you don't have and want to learn (from calm abiding to ability to constructively respond and to navigate uncertainties, from compassion and forgiveness to strength and causal efficacy to achieve whatever was required).
Today I faced such a test. Maybe I passed, maybe not ;-) Maybe one of my students has now more confidence and trust in whatever I might suggest, maybe the opposite ;-) Time will tell.
Photo: "Buddha In The Rain" © Robert Boisvert (bobby-greenwood.deviantart.com)