When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. — Anonymous
Several years ago, I attended a Chinese-speaking temple for several months with our dear neighbor Melissa. The abbess and congregants went out of their way to ensure that I always knew what was going on by providing a translator for me, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. But despite their best efforts, the language and cultural differences were insurmountable barriers. I realized that if I were going to really learn Buddhism, I would have to find an English-speaking temple to call home.
I “temple hopped” for a while before settling on the New York Insight Meditation Center (NYIMC) “…an urban center for the practice of mindful awareness, called Insight or Vipassana meditation.” I immediately felt comfortable in the lovely, open space with exposed brick and a simple altar graced with a live, flowering orchid and statues of the Buddha and his mother Maya. The Center describes itself as being:
A casual, non-ceremonious spiritual center. We do not observe any specific rituals.
Our lay teachers do not wear robes or have honorific titles (although we sometimes host monastic teachers who do).
This was the polar opposite of the Chinese temple that I had been attending, where even the congregants wore robes. I attended classes, “sits” and day-long retreats and soon became a member.
My favorite classes were taught by Bart van Melik, a gentle, soft-spoken young man who made the Buddha’s teachings — dhamma (Pali) or dharma (Sanskrit) — come to life by presenting real-life examples. He also had the seemingly effortless ability to unite groups of strangers. At the end of every multi-week course, Bart’s students expressed sadness — not only because the course itself was over, but because our group was going to be disbanded.
I quickly came to think of Bart as “my” teacher.
Imagine my delight when I saw Bart’s face smiling at me this morning from a newsletter that I receive from Tricycle magazine! I quickly clicked the link and started my day by watching his thought-provoking, 17-minute dhamma talk on family and the Four Noble Truths. I am excited to share it — and “my” fabulous teacher — with you, dear readers. Please watch and let me know what you think.