What the Buddha said:
“The mentor can be identified by four things: by restraining you from wrongdoing, guiding you towards good actions, telling you what you ought to know, and showing you the path to heaven [lasting happiness].”
A mentor is a special type of good friend, one who gives you good counsel. A mentor will be interested in talking with you about things that matter, will listen attentively and give you advice that is sound and appropriate. You will recognize the advice of this good friend by its result. When you follow the advice, does it result in the happiness and welfare of yourself and others? Or does it result in unhappiness and grief for yourself and others?
I have been blessed with several important mentors in my life so far. There are a few meditation teachers who not only encourage me to do what’s best, but by their own actions and words, show me what that might look like.
For a short time, years ago, I thought I might want to be a Unitarian Universalist minister. I spoke with three or four ministers whom I respected, and saw that it wasn’t for me. One minister said, “Our denomination has more ministers than churches. What we need is strong lay leadership.” That was an important conversation, and I followed his advice. Later, it allowed me to see that becoming a Buddhist nun, while a virtuous path, was not my path. Instead, I committed to my own meditation practice and became an enthusiastic supporter of Theravadan monks and nuns, which has worked out well for me and (I have confidence) quite a few other people.
A good mentor will ask you questions that lead in a wholesome direction. She will penetrate the superficial and get you thinking about what’s really important. It usually feels very good to be around a mentor.
Who have acted as mentors in your life? Who do you look to for guidance? Do others see you as a mentor?