With respect to all,
We have a sort of fascination with Masters, those of us walking along a “spiritual path.” I’ve noticed of late there are at least two categories of Masters. Those who master a Way and go more deeply within that Way and those who master and move on. It seems we seek Masters, become Masters, and start all over again… or we settle into our faith tradition, embracing it as fully as possible. I, for one, feel when one achieves a level we might call Master, the Master ought go deeper while others, move on. Those who move on might move to a different teacher, a different lineage, or even a different faith tradition altogether. In both cases the Master is still seeking, never satisfied.
So, we read in Teacher bios, ”Master So and So was transmitted by Master X, then began study with Master Y, achieving the rank of Master, he then went on…” and so on and so forth. Such Masters are, in my opinion, searching without receiving. I can, for example, master a liturgy, ceremony, and all the little dots and dashes of a faith tradition, but am I a “Master”? Master means something far deeper and reveals itself in life’s little details.
Does one ever truly become a Master? I doubt it. And if one is so deeply dedicated to a practice, it would seem to me one would have developed a faith in that practice and would've moved ever more deeply along the way of that practice. In such a way true mastery occurs. But it is the sort of mastery that arises without degree nor recognition because it is an internal transformation.
I’ve heard the mythic story that the origin of the Martial Arts “Black Belt” was that students wore a belt and trained in it so long that the white belt became black. Today these are bought and awarded after years of training. Yet, it seems to me they are decidedly not the same thing. Today, if we want to see a true Master we might search elsewhere. Perhaps seek out a violin maker, for example, who creates violins with his/her own hands slowly and with the greatest of care and love. We might seek out a poet who truly struggles over words and images, crafting a poem that speaks volumes in few words. We might seek out an artist whose work is the artist inside and out. And in every case there will be humility. It will not be the Master who wishes to be appreciated, but the Master will wish the work itself to be appreciated. He or she might care less about the accolades and hoopla around being awarded something for his or her work. A true Master, then, it seems to me, has transcended himself. There would be no desire to be a Master as that desire dropped away in the long transformative process becoming selfless.
Is our world, our heart, and our practice one? Do we touch our coffee cup in the same way we might touch God? Master the everyday and true mastery will manifest itself on its own.