This kind of awareness of what the truth really is—who we are, what we need to teach, and who our students are—will help teachers to be better people. It does not necessarily rest on information that we have to impart. To help us become better and more compassionate human beings, we need to have a kind of moral code for being teachers. That is what will help us achieve and maintain an attitude of compassion.
Teachers are like members of any other trade or profession. They all need to have a code, a set of rules that they have to abide by. In the "good old days"—as people like to think of them—any profession or trade had a moral code—a code of chivalry, as it's called. "Chivalry"comes from the word "horse," and a chevalier, or someone who has chivalry, is a horseman, which implies a noble person, someone who is superior to others. Any profession had its code of chivalry, and those who would enter the profession—be they teachers, cobblers, or even street-sweepers—had to swear that they would abide by this code. The people who were members of that profession would form a guild—a society or union. The codes that applied to a certain guild were meant to make the members of that guild more noble people.
Another word for "nobleman" is "Aristocrat" comes from the Sanskrit word arya. So the noble path, for example, is called the Aryan path. The word arya also has to do with air; it is something that is light and buoyant.
Today, we live in the modern and postmodern world, and these old habits of chivalry and traditions and moral codes have become a little bit too rigid for us. They lost their true meaning. The air and the life of the aristocracy or nobility was somehow sucked out of them, so to speak. At this point in our age, these old methods— these old codes—seem to be shattered, and we see bits and pieces of them flying around—that's all that's left.
In many parts of the world, they have completely shattered, and all we have is dust. This phenomena, though, in itself is very old, and it is a continuous process, as Buddhists know. This has happened before. It is the Dharma-ending age. That is why, at present, we must adapt ourselves to the conditions of this day and age, and see what is relevant and important for the whole world right now.
We're sort of like archaeologists, who find a little piece of a column and are very proud of it, and so they hold onto it and put it in a museum. But they tend to forget that there is a bigger picture, that this particular little piece of a column was probably holding something very important—a temple that was much more important than this little piece. Or that the temple was the center of a big city, or that the big city was at the center of a big country, and so on. We may look at that little piece and think that it's very important, but it is just a silly little piece of decoration which has very little consequence for what we are trying to do.
Now I will illustrate this with a story that happened to me right now before I came to this lecture. This afternoon as I was thinking of what to say for this lecture, I wrote it on my little computer and thought, "Well, I'll just put it on a floppy disk and take it to the office and have it printed, so that I will have a cleaner example of what I'm going to say and I can give it to the translator. That is a simple enough thing to do."
I'm sure that just a couple of years ago even, not to mention a thousand years ago, a teacher who was going to lecture wouldn't have thought of all these things. These are extras that are just coming from every which way and floating in the air. Well, it just so happened that my floppy disk didn't match with the office computer, so my plan failed. "Never mind,"I thought, "I can go back and read my file on the screen of my own computer and then just copy it down on paper." And so I took the floppy back and put it in my computer, and the file came on the screen, but— it was in Greek! I could understand it, since I can read the Greek alphabet, but it was English words written in the Greek alphabet. Can you imagine the confusion we have to go through just to do a very simple talk? That's the world we live in.
A good teacher who is aware of the Dharma-ending Age and of all of these pieces floating all over has to find a way of adapting to the new age, so that he or she can impart to their students the bigger picture along with the specific knowledge of their subject.
But what is it exactly that the student gets from all of this? Here, in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we can call it morality. Not only here, but in this modern world people are trying to stress moral education and morality. And we have no problem defining morality—that is not the issue. Morality, as I have said, is a code that we have to follow. "Moral" comes from a Latin word that means something that is custom. So, a moral code is a code of good customs, of things that have been proven to be good and that people have agreed to follow—something that helps them stay on the Path. It is a code of honor. But we all know that there is something that goes beyond the moral code, and that is what I would like to talk about.
To be continued