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Nine things that will lead any student to failure

Be always mindful and aware of the task at hand.
Be always mindful and aware of the task at hand.
Photo by Andrew Wong/Getty Images

In a prior article we listed 9 faults or traits masters and teachers of any subject or system must avoid in order to be successful and to help ensure the success of their students. This article is going to shift the focus onto the students and the top 10 faults that leads to their demise or failure. This list is applicable regardless of the quality of the teacher, and of course becomes even more important as the quality of the teacher/teaching increases.

It would be a good practice to review this list throughout ones training and endeavors and use the list as a daily “check yourself” check list. If you encounter trouble or begin to struggle and you notice that you are exhibiting one of these faults, then the conscientious student would be wise to immediately stop, reflect and let go of the fault.

  1. Many traditions talk of the necessity for faith and the trouble that arises from faithlessness. This is indeed very important, and a word of caution as well, do not act on blind faith. True faith comes from acting on ones accumulated knowledge and wisdom as well as the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of those who have come before, those that helped lay the path or Way per say. Blind faith is actually a form of ignorance and usually leads one to oppression and tyranny. So have true faith and avoid blind faith either from your own ego or the teachers.

  2. Avoid being immature with yourself and others. Traditionally a master or teacher would take on a role similar to a parent, and sometimes depending on the situation people would be even closer to their teacher than their own parents. You must avoid, however, placing your progress and growth at the feet of the teacher and expect them to do the work for you. In any endeavor your success or failure is ultimately yours and yours alone; others naturally assist but ultimately your life is up to you to live!

  3. Water is the most powerful and purifying element on the planet, this is true only because water moves so slowly, it is not ambitious but also not lazy. When water meets a solid object in its path it will either go around the obstacle or gently and repeatedly come in contact with the object until it wears it down and wears it away. Notice the Grand Canyon, the water and ice were far more powerful than all the earth in its path. What is most feared in a hurricane is not the wind or rain, rather the storm surge, think tidal waves etc... Laziness should have no place in the body, mind or spirit of any true student.

  4. As someone develops themselves they will naturally and spontaneously begin to experience different levels of awareness, consciousness, intelligence, wisdom and enhanced physical capabilities as well. It is important to practice humility and and being humble as to avoid inflating the ego and make the mistake of developing the traits of a bully. Many people learn a new skill, technique, system etc... and their first thought is to go- speak, show, tell, demonstrate etc... If you begin to develop a skill, keep it to yourself and continue to cultivate it. Let things develop slowly and naturally and avoid feeling that you are somehow better than other people. There is an old saying in martial arts: “the most dangerous martial artist is a white belt or beginner, because they learn a few skills but lack the wisdom to know not to use it.” How many doctors fail as students because they only recommend a healing method they are trained in; surgeons recommending surgery etc... and telling their patients this is the only way, is this not a form of bullying.

  5. One must keep their mind and energy focused on the true goals of cultivation which is benefiting the body-mind-spirit. One of the greatest obstacles on any path is the allure of materialism. Now, let us clarify one thing, in order to live we all need some things, whether it be food, or clothing, shelter etc... Materialism comes into play when the items become the object and purpose of a goal rather than a natural consequence or benefit. What could you possibly achieve in life if your energy, time, health, money etc... is being used in the pursuit of materialistic items? We have all heard the quote regarding “a fool and his money being soon parted.” The great sage and Emperor Huang Di (Yello Emperor) stated in his Medical Classic that when a person becomes sick or diseased it will cost him two things: time and money. If one is not willing to sacrifice both how could he possibly expect to heal? The flip side of the coin or sword is that the pursuit of time and money and the resulting stress of those pursuits is often the root cause of many of our modern illnesses and diseases.

  6. It is not uncommon for people to become overzealous and even obsessive when they devote time and energy to pursuing a goal. As much as possible, however, this must be avoided. Being obsessive is a form of blind faith as it does not allow the proper time for discernment and reflection. It can also trap a person and lock them into a compartmentalized version of their training, a self imposed prison - if you will. For example, if a student begins to develop a particular skill or ability and begins to fixate on that ability as the object of their training then all other possibilities will be neglected or removed.

  7. Hollywood, television, fiction and science fiction novels have influenced and tainted the views of many people. More often than not, a persons outlook or viewpoint is not original but a manufactured response to a particular form of advertising or other suggestive process. A student must be very careful they do not carry these forms of fantasy into their practice or endeavor. As much as possible remain as close to the blank slate or the forest in its natural state principles.

  8. Failure to practice and failure to properly learn and memorize are all rooted in the same problem. A student must take the time to sincerely and consistently practice, of course this becomes all the more difficult if the above faults are allowed to occur. Also, do not use the excuse of having a poor memory, as sincerity and consistency will make any memory more powerful.

  9. Being immoral has ruined more people and stopped more goals than perhaps all of the other faults combined. Morals does not begin when one makes it, we do not become good people at the top, or when the goal is reached, we must be good people at the beginning, throughout the process and even after completion. Ones moral compass should always point true. Everything in this Universe has set principles, set laws, one could say set morals, humans are no different. Imagine the chaos, if one of the planets disobeyed the laws of the Universe and decided to change their orbit, what if the moon decided it no longer wanted to reflect the Suns light, or if the north pole suddenly decided it would rather be south. Let your morals be as concrete and solid as the Universal Laws around us.

Note: this is a modified version of a list from the book Scholar Warrior by Deng Ming-Dao.

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