The other day a prof asked a student if she thought a celebrated and famous teacher whom she had taken a seminar with had seemed to live what he teaches, did he seem authentic. Wow, to pass judgement on so little information. There was comparison to other celebrity spiritual teachers, and it really gave me pause. Why are we so quick to close a book these days? There are media approval ratings - 1 to 5 stars, there are comparison shopping sites, there are consumer rating sites like Angie's List, take a peek and make a decision. That seemed to be what happened in the classroom. The less discussed implications around that were the challenges that celebrity status brings, the limits that lack of real practice brings and the speed at which life passes us by.
For me this was a reminder that Practice is a forever deal. It has to be consistent and persistent. And it reminded me of Ajahn Brahm's two bricks in the wall. It is always those two imperfect bricks that will stand out. It is a call for Generosity, to let go of criticism and fear, to release judgement, to move on and be kind.
Humility is the key to mental emotional and spiritual health whether one is in the public eye or not and humility is manifested by the ability to laugh at ones self. Humor is crucial to living lightly on this earth. No one knows us like we know ourselves and no one can love us like we need to love ourselves. Once this is accomplished we can love others as we love ourselves and then we do so without judging, in fairness with kindness and gentle amusement.
Thing is, when asked to evaluate someone else's performance or to comment on an issue or even to answer a question, we have the choice to submit to pressure to respond off the cuff or to take the time to reflect. Reflection should always be on the Buddha's guidance for skillful speech with the knowledge that the ripple effect is always at work. This means that not only is what you might reply based on your own experience, that you own your own opinions and advertise them as such and subject to change, but also that the questioner is open to listening and might benefit from what you say, is it the right time to speak about this? Would others benefit from what you say, will no one will be harmed by what is said, is it the right time to say what ever might be said. Will what you say encourage, enlighten and inspire?
That means it could take a while to respond, but that then your words would be worth the wait.
Regular reflection on the Dhamma of right speech, with practice especially in self talk, can prepare us to respond more quickly and reliably. All the factors of the Eightfold Path work together to create an integrity of being. We work as diligently as we can while maintaining the middle way, a multifactorial approach to training. What are we training for? Opportunity arises unexpectedly and we do not have the capacity to know what it represents, but we can trust our kamma to unfold as it should.