There is a difference between being a professional and being a master. As in teaching: one could be a very good teacher, very learned, much knowledge and understanding, but it does not say that he is a master in the field of his teaching.

You can see a very professional cook making a dish, but when a master chef is preparing it, it is something else. He is doing it in a kind of a breathtaking way.

In the kitchen, there are few cooks, but usually only one master, and it is the chef. He is above the level of professional skills. And the way a cook is addressing the chef is completely different from his address to the other cooks. Whatever the master (the chef) is saying, it is almost sacred. He is the most influential and charismatic figure in the kitchen. (No one calls him by his name), basically, they say one of two short sentences: either: “yes chef”, or “no chef”.

It is an honor and a privilege to meet a master, and it doesn’t matter what he masters in. A master is a master.

One could reach the master level in almost any field.

One example: we had a dog, and we invited various dog trainers, all of them knew their craft and were pretty professional. And one day a master entered the house, and then it was him in one camp, and the rest of the trainers in another. 

There is this T.V. series called: “the dog whisperer”, the master dog trainer was Cesar Millan, in every episode he is training another dog or dogs. He is invited to correct the behavior of dogs who are misbehaving.

And when he enters the house –it is amazing what is happening to the dog, or dogs – the dogs almost bow to him, his effect upon them is almost that of a wizard. His great influence upon them is much more than a bunch of tricks.  

Nowadays we have many Television reality programs, in which a few master chefs analyze the dishes, and decide if the competitor continues or is out of the program. What is fascinating is their analysis of the dish; they notice and pay attention to factors that are hidden and in the unknown as far as a professional cook can observe. They go into depths, combinations, and subtleties – that only they in their level – can see and take into account. Masters pay attention to elements and factors which no one else would take into account, and what they do notice is what gives the dish its real value and quality. All that the customers can say is that they like the dish or not, that’s all, but they are not aware of the level of wisdom that was invested in the dish.

One of the interesting differences between a cook and a master chef – is the amount of effort and sweat all the professionals put in preparing the food. Observing a real chef- one could see that he works almost with no effort, peacefully.

And what is also interesting, is that when a chef-master opens a restaurant – the rumor goes around quickly, and customers begin flocking in.

A recognized master is going around surrounded by great respect, when he is gone, people whisper behind his back: “you know, he is a master”. 

One does not arrive at the master level gradually, by advancing step by step (this is the professional way), it is always a kind of quantum jump, becoming a master happens upon you when you reach a certain level. Professional cooks could go on in their profession for years – and will never reach the master level. The master level is on top of the pyramid.

To be a master is not in being better, more learned, better qualified – it is another dimension.

When a master eats, he is not captivated by the food, he does not shove it into his mouth impulsively. His mouth doesn’t attack the food. He is in control, he is a master; he knows when to bring the food to his mouth, gently, with care and attention, when to bite, and how to chew the food.

And there is a master in a conversation: he can turn a regular conversation into a deep, far-reaching, and groundbreaking, fertile dialogue. Martin Buber calls it a dialogue of: “I and thou”. The attitude of two masters in a dialogue is breathtaking.

It is rare to watch and listen to two masters in human dialogue – if we are lucky enough to witness it – it is a rare and uplifting experience. 

To be a master is to master mainly the hidden aspects

And talking about human communication, there is one enormous area which although it could be seen by fleshy eyes, is hidden for most people in regular communication. And I am referring to body language.

People do not relate to it, they do relate to outstanding gestures; big movements, and strong facial expressions. Most of the rich, subtle, and varied body language signals – escape the attention of most people. 

A master in body language is aware of the smallest gestures and micro expressions, and he gives them the right interpretation. The body is communicating to him, the body speaks to him in a language which the master of body language – has full knowledge and understanding of.

There are people who are masters of physical areas such as gym trainers, or gymnasts, or dancers. They are visible fields, easy to spot and train. Whereas body language is out of the zone of our attention. A body language master is searching for what is not large and outstanding, he is looking at what is hidden from normal attention. His span of bodily attention does not leave anything unnoticed, and uninterrupted. While a body language expert, who is not a master – might remember some knowledge of body language, but he lacks the analytic ability of a body language master. For the B.L. master – the body is a map, while for the B.L. experts the body gives hints. 

The more you are able to deal and control the hidden aspects of a certain area – the greater is your mastership.

When we view doctors in hospitals, there are department managers (executive doctors), there are specific experts in certain fields, but almost in every hospital, there are few doctors that everyone knows about, including outside of the hospital. And to be operated or treated by them – is viewed as a great honor and luck. These doctors learned the same material as other doctors, they had the same advanced expertise, but those few doctors are masters. And everyone is acknowledging this fact. If we ask the staff in the hospital – what makes them so special, I wonder if anyone can put his finger on what makes them a master in their medical field.

Being a master means that you are a polished diamond, you have reached the top in your field.

Now to the example of teaching: a teacher is dealing in the narrow area of what is already known, while a master relates mainly to what is hidden (but has a great effect).

There could arise an issue: a teacher is not a teacher without pupils, but a master is a master even if no one knows about him or his mastership.

If a master is not communicating his mastership, it is a great loss for everyone else, but he remains a master, (even without communicating it).

It is easy for spiritual seekers to confuse a charismatic spiritual teacher with a spiritual master. While the teacher demonstrates his great knowledge – most masters are quite humble, content. They don’t feel the need to expose what they know.

And there are people (mainly spiritual teachers) who pretend to be spiritual masters, those who pretend to be spiritual masters are mainly seeking power, control, and obedience from their followers.

Another example of becoming a master is in long distance running, a marathon. What happens is that you run and run and it is very hard and a painful effort, but if you go on, and keep on running, something miraculous I happens: you break a second wind; a Second wind is a phenomenon in distance running, such as marathons or road running, whereby a running athlete who is out of breath and too tired to continue, suddenly (when he breaks a second wind) finds the strength to press on a top performance with less exertion. And then, and only then he becomes a marathon master, and from the point of him becoming the master of the marathon – the rest of the running track is now like flying for him. (Some influence is working through him now).

A master is standing in the gap between the known and the unknown, being an ambassador from the unknown into the known.

There is one point about being a master in a certain area, and this is the price for being a master; if you are a master in a particular field, it must come on account and the expense of being good or successful and proficient in some other fields…

There is a Taoist story from the book: Raise High the Roof Beam, by J. D. Salinger, and in it, there is the best portrayal of a true master.

So, the story about Kao, presents him as a true master of horses.

The Man Who Understood in Horses

  • “Duke Mu of Chin said to Po Lo: “You are now advanced in years. Is there any member of your family whom I could employ to look for horses in your stead?” Po Lo replied: “A good horse can be picked out by its general build and appearance. But the superlative horse — one that raises no dust and leaves no tracks — is something evanescent and fleeting, elusive as thin air. The talents of my sons lie on a lower plane altogether; they can tell a good horse when they see one, but they cannot tell a superlative horse. I have a friend, however, one Chiu-fang Kao, a hawker of fuel and vegetables, who in things appertaining to horses is nowise my inferior. Pray see him.” Duke Mu did so, and subsequently dispatched him on the quest for a steed. Three months later, he returned with the news that he had found one. “It is now in Shach’iu” he added. “What kind of a horse is it?” asked the Duke. “Oh, it is a dun-colored mare,” was the reply. However, someone being sent to fetch it, the animal turned out to be a coal-black stallion! Much displeased, the Duke sent for Po Lo. “That friend of yours,” he said, “whom I commissioned to look for a horse, has made a fine mess of it. Why, he cannot even distinguish a beast’s color or sex! What on earth can he know about horses?” Po Lo heaved a sigh of satisfaction. “Has he really got as far as that?” he cried. “Ah, then he is worth ten thousand of me put together. There is no comparison between us. What Kao keeps in view is the spiritual mechanism. In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external. He sees what he wants to see, and not what he does not want to see. He looks at the things he ought to look at, and neglects those that need not be looked at. So clever a judge of horses is Kao, that he has it in him to judge something better than horses.” When the horse arrived, it turned out indeed to be a superlative animal”.

But, the greatest challenge, is to be a master of oneself.

This is the most challenging and confusing area in which to be a master. And this is the highest level of mastership; mastering oneself.

One example of being a master of oneself – is how he is managing his wild emotions – the master will not only not let go wild in him, he will not allow himself to take things personally. He will give them a controlled freedom, that will prevent them from taking over.

So, the highest and the most difficult and confusing mastership – is being a master of oneself.

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