Yeshe wrote:Would that be the equivalent of 'Sensei' in Japan ?
'Sensei' was translated to me as 'one who has gone before' and is then in a position to help us.
That is a rather literal translation of 先生 (Chinese: xiansheng; Japanese: sensei) which is made up of 先 - first, former, previous and 生 - life, birth. One who is born before me is older, therefore more experienced, more knowledgeable, and of course an elder is to be respected. 法師 (Chinese: fashi; Japanese: houshi) is 法 - law (i.e. Dharma) and 師 - teacher. The difference is that in Chinese fashi is used for monks only while in Japanese sensei is used for any kind of teacher. I think the Chinese equivalent of sensei is shifu (師傅/師父) as a general form of addressing a master (of something) while in Japanese it is oshou(-sama) (和尚; Chinese: heshang) that is a respectful form of calling a monk. However, my knowledge is limited and uncertain, others may point out some errors here.
My point is that it is a limited view to think that a Buddhist teacher is an enlightened master to whom one is loyal until liberation. I'd rather say it is not much different from a school teacher, or a teacher of some sort of art. One may study the Lankavatara Sutra from one teacher and then do meditation with another. It is like a university where students learn different things from a group of teachers and then specialise in a single subject under one professor. However, it is not compulsory to specialise in one thing. A solid understanding of the basics should be perfectly enough to serve as the foundation of one's training. When reading some history of Buddhism we learn about extraordinary people who for some reason remained important for the later generations. But those are only a couple of people. And there were tens and hundreds of thousands who didn't make it to the collections of outstanding masters, which doesn't mean they were lazy good-for-nothing men (and women - who are hardly ever mentioned anyway). And besides all those monastic people there were many times more lay people, just like us on this forum, who are again non-existent in Buddhist histories except a few kings and such.
Finding a teacher, leaving a teacher, really, that sounds to me like a secondary or tertiary issue. There is this myth that teachers are magical beings bestowing blessings that make everyone enlightened, like Jesus healing the crippled. But Jesus is not coming. On the other hand, there are so many teachers doing their best to make the Dharma available to everyone who wants to learn. Teachings are given in communities, video records of the teachings are obtainable for those who couldn't be there or just want to listen to it again, there are also so many books that it's impossible to read them all. It's like in a restaurant, one only has to choose from the menu and eat. How pointless it is to complain that the chef doesn't come to your table and spoon feed you? And then this idea of finding and leaving a teacher, well, doesn't make sense to me.