Who is your Master?
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on October 27th, 2010

While giving a talk in Singapore last Saturday, I was asked a question that had never been posed to me and which briefly stumped me. In the West, the questions tend to be in the vein of “How do I swim faster.” Here, I had to ask, tongue-in-cheek, “Doesn’t anyone want to know how to swim faster?” But I was asked “Who is your Master?”

I was speechless at first, then ventured several tentative responses (Eugen Herrigel, author of “Zen in the Art of Archery;” George Leonard, an aikido Master who wrote the book on Mastery — “Mastery, the Key to Long Term Success and Fulfillment;” Bruce Lee because of the wisdom I gained from his book “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do”). Finally I hit upon the answer: HHDL — His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Thinking more on it since then I asked myself how could I truly say I’m in pursuit of Mastery, without choosing a Master. I also confirmed that I can unequivocally say I would like to be able to follow the Dalai Lama as my Master. Here’s why:

  • He started life – or was chosen at age 5 – as the reincarnate lama of a quasi-religious sect in a tiny isolated country.  He has lived most of his life as a monk and never visited the West until he was past age 40. And yet:
  • He has become perhaps the most universally inspiring figure on the planet.
  • He has written or contributed to over a hundred books on topics ranging from religion and ethics to science and business, including a keen and informed interest in neuroscience — and most importantly on happiness as the purpose of life.
  • Despite living in exile in Dharamsala India, he has remained a unifying figure, political and cultural leader, for his embattled and besieged Tibetan countrymen.  Columbia professor and former monk, Robert Thurman, quoted in The New Yorker, called Tibetans “the baby seals of the human-rights movement.”
  • And he continues to daily “chop wood, carry water” as they say, inhabiting his essential calling as a monk.

Who is your Master?

12 Responses to “Who is your Master?”

  1. Moira says:

    Peg and I took the kids to see HHDL a few months ago in Indy. It was hard to hear him because he spoke so softly, and it was better when his face was on the jumbotron, because we could sort of read his lips. Anyway, I almost burst out laughing at one point because even though some people in the audience were asking very detailed questions, his answers were incredibly simple, and the person who sprang immediately to mind was Chauncey Gardiner in “Being There” (one of my favorite movies). Not what I expected for some reason, but satisfying all the same. And he had a great sense of humor.

  2. So, Moi, who is your Master?

  3. Moira says:

    I’m still thinking about that – your post kinda cued me in. I would say I have different Masters for different aspects of my life. One I can name right now would be Kim – I love to cook, and although I’m a rank amateur, she always treats my efforts with respect and kindness. She’s such an amazing chef, and is so modest about it. Everything she does in the kitchen seems so natural, so easy, such a part of her. And she’s eager to share her knowledge, but without any showing off, any expectation of thanks, just a great joy in what she does. I’ve learned a lot from her, and when I cook, I think about the way she does it – with love and gentleness and fun – and try to emulate that.

  4. Toni says:

    Interesting question, as everyone serves someone, or something. I choose Jesus Christ as my master. Why? 1st he lived to reconcile man to God. 2nd he chose to obey God’s will to make himself a sacrifice for my (yours and everyone’s sins) and was marred, crucified and put in a grave for 3 days. 4th he didn’t stick around in the grave but rose from the dead. 5th he is God, creator of heaven and earth, and everything was made by him and for him. He is the only true master and his blood is the only washing or covering for sin. He proved his love and still does. Not to mention walking on water which is the ultimate in easy freestyle. So when it comes to “total immersion” i’ll immerse myself in his mercy and love. I know my master and he knows me. 🙂

  5. Carl House says:

    I heard HHDL yesterday in Miami. He would occasionally state a sentence in English with perfect accent and phrasing and be perfectly understandable. But mostly he mumbled and was not understandable. I guess that since age 5 he has been God and nobody would assume to tell God that he should speak up. My conclusion is that I have not yet met my perfect Master; perhaps my Master is whoever I’m learning from and I earnestly pray for discernment to choose well what I learn from whom. Clearly HHDL embodies love, compassion and forgiveness as our core truths, but even these core truths require discernment. HHDL has wonderful humor, the photo you chose is perfect for him. He can be my master for humor as well as my master for for love, compassion and forgiveness.

  6. Carl
    I agree one could – perhaps should — have multiple Masters for different endeavors. My sister Moira made a similar point and I agree. HHDL could well be a Master, or model, for love, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness.
    Does your url signify Be Loved Community or Beloved Community?

  7. David says:

    You have to become your own master. You won’t understand the sensation of good until you feel it. You won’t understand the sensation of better unless you are searching for it. There is no sensation of best. Some of those seeking mastery are better at describing the steps along the path. Thank you Terry for all of your guidance.

  8. Grant says:

    Who is my master? Some say a good question is more important than the answer. I learn from many masters and can not honestly say that I rank one higher than any of the others.
    The analogy that points to this method the best is that I choose the pearls from all sources and work to use them to enhance my being. Perhaps the most dangerous trap on this path is the hazard of going down a dead end. But then they also provide lessons.
    Good question Terry and again thank you for your pearls.

  9. Mike says:

    Terry: who is YOUR swim coach?

    I was reading recently about how for a few days Touretski trained Popov at the Olympic Training Center in CO just before the Olympics. Touretski spent session time correcting Popov’s stroke and the other swimmers he coached. How is that possible? Popov maybe the greatest swimmer or all time–having his stroke corrected.

    Touretski’s name comes up in the strangest places–in a book on golf about Ben Hogan’s slow motion practice, “Slow Practice will get you there Faster…..” by Ernest Dras. It sounds like the title of a book you might write about swimming. The author also cites “Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner and Touretski’s Swimming Methods.

  10. Mike
    You’ve got it right. Touretski – through the example of how he coached Popov from the late 80s onward – WAS my coach on how to rethink swimming during the launch phase of TI. And his answer upon being asked why Popov occasionally swam 4 to 5 hrs a day in training for a race that lasted 48 seconds — “More opportunities to practice correct movement.” — also landed in TI Philosophy.

    Who is my swim coach. Title and topic for another blog. Thanks.

  11. Shane Eversfield says:

    My Master is Gravity. She has been with me, informing me, orienting me, since my conception. She is the physical mainfestation of love.

  12. […] a recent blog, Terry Laughlin asked, “Who is your Master?”  With great certainty, I responded, […]

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