“When the student is ready the master will appear” is a buddhist proverb, the deeper meaning of which evaded me for many years.
From the simple view of taking on knowledge, I skimmed its surface meaning, understanding that when I was ready and able to take on some learning, then the method or opportunity would present itself.
This implied a convenience of opportunity or coincidence; expanding this further out into life, I embraced its truth as, all will be provided when we need it. This is not a bad approach to life, allowing us to consider that we are not the centre of everything, but to have faith and not worry about things outside of our control. Focus on what we can change, notably our own behaviour and attitude to life.
As I contemplated this expression more, over time I came to realise that the meaning went deeper than that. The earlier view is relatively passive, yet, to be a student implies an active approach, a willingness to learn and be taught.
To develop ourselves we must be receptive and willing to humble ourselves, to drop our ego, and take on the mantle of the eternal student, accepting how little we know and understand. This is the process of getting ready. It requires effort and takes time.
Once we have readied ourselves in this way, we are able to become aware of our teachers or masters. By being open we can welcome the lessons we need to learn, wherever they may come from, in whatever guise. It is our responsibility to see our teachers. This may be in a comment someone makes, or in our intuition; a child may say something or something may happen in our lives.
The last act is to accept our lesson and learn from it. This can be hardest part of all, particularly if it shakes our world view or tells us something about ourselves we do not want to accept. This also gives another meaning to the phrase “when the student is ready the master will appear”; even if the lesson is hard, as a resilient human being, you can accept that you are ready to take it and learn what you need, making yourself stronger and wiser for the future.