A college student was speaking with her science professor and she asked a candid question.
“You’ve been working a long time,” she said, “so I can’t understand why you still drive around in this beat up Jeep.”
The teacher laughed and replied. “Well, what do you think it means?”
“Well,” answered the student. “Your clothes aren’t fancy. Your car is old. You’re like a hobo.”
The professor and I are still laughing about that comment. In truth, the professor lives a simple life, but she has a 7-figure net worth and no longer needs to teach, yet chooses to.
Knowing the professor and her depth of insight about science and life in general, it makes me wonder if we — as students of Tao — will really know when our master appears. That’s how the saying goes. “When the student is ready, the master appears.” But will we be able to recognize them?
I’ve never been a fan of “cult of personality” masters; those people who, through the use of media, create an idealized and heroic persona. This marketing method is meant to entice others into believing gurus have all the answers and lead a perfect existence of power, money and interpersonal relationships. And they can teach their methods to you for $19.95!
Self-help gurus and supposed masters (like Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey) are usually quite sparkly, not “hobo” or humble at all. There are also quite a few who are too young and inexperienced to be offering advice. But when we are so desperate to fix a supposed personal flaw or eager to learn better how to follow the Tao, we will cling to anyone who promises us that opportunity.
So how will we recognize the master when she or he appears? How do we avoid throwing away money and wasting time on those who in no way embody the Tao, but rather exploit others’ fears for profit?
Keep your eyes focused downward. Your master is not up on a stage bathed in light, but more likely to be driving by in a tattered Jeep. Look around. She may be standing right in front of you.