In every situation and no matter how relaxed I am in the presence of my teachers (some of them I know for many years), I always show my respect to them in accordance with the traditional etiquette. This is why I never call them just on their names, but always address them with “Sensei”. I do this no matter we are in a temple or outside the temple, but even when we meet in the men’s room:). I always let them walk in front of me when passing through a door, make gassho and raihai (short bow) when meeting with them, and I never stay higher than them or sitting down when they stand, etc.
In Buddhism, teachers are spiritual parents and even more important than physical parents, thus we should treat them with great respect. While physical parents give us birth in this human form but are not capable to free us from death, our teachers guide us to the path of true freedom which is beyond birth and death and all forms of suffering.
Thus, let us show more reverence to them as we become more and more familiar with them.Namo Amida Butsu
ps: I'll write about the role of the teacher in Jodo Shinshu in one of my next posts.