The followings are excerpts.
Just before his stroke, Thay, while he was already in hospital in Bordeaux, explained that in Vietnamese, there is a special term to describe the relationship between master and student: tinh thay tro (teacher-student love), and it is very similar to the word for tinh huynh de (essential parent). He explained that it was a pity that there is no word in English or French to refer to the connection between master and disciple. There should be a word for that. This connection is very important.
This is really the most important thing Thay relays to us: love between the Sangha members, between the master and the disciple, between brothers and sisters, between friends.
We can always cultivate the connection between ourselves and our teacher. It’s about finding our inner teacher — we find Thay, and the Dharma in ourselves, because when we have this awareness of the real presence of our Teacher, and of the Buddha in ourselves, we cannot continue to behave in the same way – we cannot continue to consume in the same way, to hate, to judge, or to criticise others as before. You can’t do that when you are really aware of Thay in you, because you know that it hurts him.
Thay proposed a new word in English: ‘Teacher-Studenthood.’ But he said he wasn’t really satisfied with it! In French, we are also waiting for a word. It’s up to us to find the word. We don’t have a word, but the connection, the relationship between the master and the disciple, is something real.
I heard the similar story from Thay Phap Kham, Dharma Teacher and Director of Asian Institute of Applied Buddhism. He said, "There is a difference between master/disciple and teacher/student relationship. From the dictionary "a master is a person whose teachings others accept or follow, for example a Zen master; and a disciple a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower". The teacher/student relationship is much more like a knowledge exchange. The student may not adhere to what the teacher teaches." So, I understand that the relationship between the master and the disciple is much stronger than the relationship between the teacher and the student. That relationship is not only a knowledge transmission but also a lineage transmission within the same spiritual family.
I have also heard that the Buddha said, "You are your own master. And you are your own enemy as well." I understand that "You are your own master" means that awareness (non-separate self) is your (separate self's) master. And I understand that "You are your own enemy" means that ego (separate self) is your (non-separate self's) enemy. So, I understand that "our inner teacher" means awareness, non-separate self, true self, the whole cosmos, cosmic body, Dharma body, or the Buddha.
Thay Phap Linh (Right)
Thay Phap Linh (Center)