T is for Teacher

Some years ago I was told by a Quaker (at a Yearly Meeting special interest group with the New Foundation Fellowship) that it was not possible to be both a Quaker and a Buddhist because a Buddhist had to become the follower of a specific teacher.

I was unable to pursue the point at the time due to an important commitment to be elsewhere (microphone stewarding for the next YM session), but the comment has stayed with me.

At the time I already knew of people who were combining the two, Jim Pym being one of them, one who has published books on both traditions (which I have found very helpful). I have met others since.


My Buddhist journey so far has not required me to sign up with a specific teacher. In formally receiving the five mindfulness trainings I did so within a specific tradition, transmitted by a specific teacher. But Thich Nhat Hanh was very clear that dual membership was perfectly acceptable and even encouraged. We were undertaking to live according to the mindfulness trainings, to follow the tradition rather than the teacher, and not to give up a tradition to which we already belonged. He is very clear that Christianity is totally compatible with Buddhism. (See ‘Living Buddha, Living Christ’.)

I think what the Friend in the New Foundation Fellowship had in mind probably included ‘You must call no one on earth your father, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ.’ Matthew 23: -10 and George Fox’s claim ‘that Christ was come to teach people Himself, by His power and Spirit in their hearts, and to bring people off from all the world’s ways and teachers, to His own free teaching, …’ Journal of George Fox

Woodbrooke bench

In my own experience some spiritual lessons I have learned by inward listening, by taking heed of the promptings of love and truth in my heart, or have come to know by sitting quietly and attentively. Other lessons have been mediated through people, people who may be recognised by others as teachers, but equally people who are not recognised, who would make no claim to be teachers, and who may be unaware that they are serving in that role.


Who have your teachers, on your journey, been?

More specific answers from me in my next post …

1 thought on “T is for Teacher

  1. One of my first Quaker teachers was Edward H (Ted) Milligan. When I went to work at Friends House Library while Ted was Librarian I was not a Quaker and knew very little about Friends. He (and others there) taught me about Quaker history and Quaker structure. I was encouraged to attend the short weekly meetings for worship held for staff and when Yearly Meeting came round I went and sat in the ‘Library quadrant’ with Ted beside me to comment on and explain proceedings. I particularly valued the way in which Ted would talk about particular Friends as if they were just about to walk in the room, even when they had left the world centuries before. I also learned from his careful speech, pausing to find exactly the right word and never worrying about silences. Over the years I have valued Ted’s friendship and still do. When I put together by book of writings by 18th century Quaker women, Strength in Weakness, I dedicated it to him using the words of one of them, Priscilla Hannah Gurney, ‘parental Friend’.

Leave a Reply to Gil Skidmore Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.