How the student-teacher relationship is balanced

What does balance mean in the context of the student-teacher relationship?

Balance (from GDP03 00:15:45.06 - 00:21:18.08)

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Student: I've heard it said by other Tibetan teachers that situations in life can be like a guru in the sense where you have a relationship with something that's got personal [unclear]. You project feeling on that situation...

Ken: Mmm-hmm. What's the question?

Student: So the question is, is that the case that situations can be gurus or am I being too literal? [Unclear]

Ken: In those situations they're really speaking metaphorically. For instance, Serlingpa, at the end of Great Path of Awakening, Kongtrul quotes a number of verses. [He] says, adverse conditions are spiritual friends. And he explains this by saying that they do the same things as a spiritual friend does. You know, challenge you to be patient, bring out your compassion, put you in touch with your internal material, etc., etc., etc. So one can use, and it's very good to use the situations in life to learn from. But that isn't the same thing as having a relationship with a person who is a teacher. Okay?

Now relationship depends on balance. That is, one is putting into the relationship commensurate to what one is receiving from the relationship. And if that isn't happening, then the relationship inevitably moves out of balance, and a relationship cannot survive moving into a permanent state of imbalance. It always leads to problems and eventually dissolution of the relationship.

How is the guru-student relationship balanced? Well, I think it's instructive to look at the parent-child relationship. One of the imbalancing processes which is very prevalent in our culture is that a large number of parents expect their children to return what the parents are putting into the relationship. In other words, they create a demand for attention from the child. This totally screws the child up every time. Right? We're all the walking wounded here. [Laughter]
The way that relationship is balanced is that the child, when he or she has children, provides the same kind of attention that they received from their parents. So balancing a relationship doesn't necessarily mean a direct balancing.

So, as with the parent-child relationship there's a kind of generational understanding in the student-teacher relationship. Attention flows from the teacher to the student. The teacher does not place an emotional demand, a demand for emotional attention on the student. That's not the demand that the teacher places on the student. The teacher places all sorts of other demands--but not that one. And a student receives instruction, guidance, presence--all this kind of stuff--and passes that on. That's how the relationship is balanced.