It has been a while since I have been in search of a teacher that I feel I would become a great student from. I have visited your website and I am very interested in learning from you. I am so determined that I am willing to travel to Malaysia. Basically I need a fresh start in life and I have come to the revelation that this in the only way I am to find the path of greatness that I have been longing for.
Editorial Note: The student also mentioned in later questions (nor reproduced here) that he had no money and he was seeking for enlightenment.
Many people have written to me with requests similar to yours. Basically they have the following points in common.
They are sincere in their requests.
They want to be enlightened.
They want to save the world, or at least teach others what they set out to learn.
They think they are the kind of students masters should accept, if not it would be to the masters' great loss.
They want to be taught according to the ways they like.
The above is the perspective of many young people in the West aspiring to be masters one day. They would benefit much from knowing the typical perspective of Eastern masters whom they wish to learn from. The masters' perspective is as follows.
Sincerity is a pre-requisite, but there are other required qualities like determination, perseverance, diligence and ready to make sacrifice. Most students say they have these qualities, and honestly think they have, but actually they don't. Masters have many ways to test them.
Kungfu and chi kung masters do not claim to teach enlightenment. They will ask you to seek enlightenment somewhere else. Almost all these students have no idea of what enlightenment is. Thinking that they can be enlightened in a few months, or even in a few years, is one clear indication of their ignorance.
Telling a master that you want to teach others before you even have learnt what you intend to teach, is a clear indication that you are so ignorance about the art and its tradition, as well as so ignorant about the long and difficult task ahead just to become a good student. You also suggest that you are arrogant, for which the masters know you will not make a good student.
But it is different if you mention that you know the way is long and difficult, but you are willing to work hard, and you hope that one day you may prove to be worthy of your master's teaching, and with his blessings you may teach others.
It often amazes me why so many people, especially in the West, seem to think that just because they want to learn, a master must teach them. Most masters are not interested to teach. Some of them may not want others to know they are masters.
To many genuine masters, becoming a master is a by-product! They have trained hard for many years, not because they aimed to become a master and then teach the world, but because they wanted to be healthy, full of vitality, live long lives, mentally fresh, and have spiritual joy. They are acknowledged as masters not because they teach others, but because they have mastered the methods leading to these benefits.
A master has spent many, many years mastering his art. He knows better than you what, how and when to teach. Therefore, you learn according to his terms, not according to yours.
I have mentioned a few times that those who wish to learn Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan from me, the best course of action is, after being familiar with basic Shaolin or Taijiquan forms, to attend my intensive courses.
But some people told me, albeit politely, No, the best for me is to study with you for a few years, during which time you provide me with food and lodging, and in return I work for you.
In essence they were suggesting I was not sincere in my statement about the intensive courses, and that they know better than me how to teach them. They should therefore seek another master. Such students also imply, unreasonably and selfishly, that masters have nothing better to do, but to make them masters.
— Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
The question and answer are reproduced from Question 9 of the May 2001 Part 1 issue of the Question-Answer Series.