6. Do I have to do what my teacher tells me to?


This is one of those questions I get a lot, but which I shouldn't get. Ask your teacher! Different folks have different takes on this. All I can tell you is what I would do. Your answer will vary, depending on your actual teacher.

When I used to take on a new student, I would ask her/him to do something. This had nothing to do with the Craft, but was something I thought would be good for the student. A sort of personal development kind of thing. Actual tasks assigned ranged from never wearing black, to bathing every day, to only criticizing one person per day. If the prospective student asked me why, I would tell them why this thing. But the real reason (which I would also tell them) to set a task at all was to see how serious they were about following this path.

See, this path requires many changes in your life. If you aren't willing to make any life changes then I feel it's a good idea to know that right away and not waste anyone's time.

They were always free to tell me no, and some did. But if one told me no, then I was no longer their teacher.

If they agreed, and wanted to remain my students, I would usually ask more questions than I gave answers. Willing to discuss anything, but not very willing to hand out pat answers. There are a couple of reasons for this.

The most important reason is that I firmly believe that I don't have anyone else's answers, and all of us have some parts of this puzzle. If I just give a student my answers, not only will that student never find their own, none of us may ever know the shape of their pieces of the puzzle.

The second reason is because I think that every instance of anything is a special case, and I wanted my students to learn to think things out for themselves. No teacher is there all the time, and you must eventually learn to come up with your own answers. I think it's best to start out that way, instead of having to change. Begin as you intend to go on.

I might also occasionally tell my students to do something they could not understand. I would usually try to explain several times, and if they still didn't "get it" I would just tell them to go ahead and do it, because I was their teacher, and that is the kind of relationship a teacher and student have. An example of this is a student who had a habit of picking flowers she found attractive, no matter where they were growing. She would take them out of a stranger's yard, a public park, anywhere! And she couldn't understand why I didn't want her to, no matter how often I explained that they didn't belong to her, and her behavior was illegal. From her point of view, it was just a flower. How could anyone object to that? Her family had always done this. So I simply told her to stop.

The reason that I did that was, once again, because of the teacher/student relationship.

When a teacher takes on a student, she becomes in part responsible for that student's behavior. Any karma incurred for the student's actions also reflects back on the teacher. So if you have a student who is doing harmful things, you, as teacher, know about it in a very real and personal kind of way. At that point, you have to tell your student to curtail that behavior, even if they refuse to understand why.

So, to answer the original question, I would expect my students to do what I asked them to do. Any time that they refused, or ignored me, they were free to stop being my students. The way I figure it, if they didn't trust me enough to follow my instruction, they weren't learning from me anyway; and there are plenty of people out there who can teach. They were always free to find someone else.

If your teacher is asking you to do something you find unethical, discuss it with her. If she insists, vote with your feet! But if you trust her, and what she is asking is merely difficult or uncomfortable, perhaps she is trying to "stretch" you, get you to leave your comfort zone and grow. Think about it, and discuss it with her. But always trust your own instincts, and remember to harm none.


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