A discussion came up about a controversial teacher recently. I’ve written about teachers before. It’s worth making a few more comments on the subject.
One thing you may run into is the Indian habit of embellishment. Two teachers will talk very highly of each other, using words of praise you have to be a little careful about taking at face value. Just because famous teacher A calls teacher B an avatar does not make them Krishna. It’s not that they’re exaggerating so much as talking from a place of oneness – they see teacher B as one with the divine and all that means. In consciousness, they are that. But does that mean fully embodied? Not usually.
A few teachers will even make such statements about themselves. They may very well experience themselves as one with the divine. That’s a normal stage of development. But who does it serve to make statements to students like that? They just take it as fact and trumpet their teacher as an avatar, etc. Of course, it also depends on what you mean by the term “avatar” or whatever.
In the west, we expect people to speak factually. In India, there can be a tendency to speak intentionally. To speak to the goal. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi famously said it would be 5-8 years of meditating to reach Cosmic Consciousness. He had high expectations of his students (and the practice) and was surprised when those results didn’t show. He then introduced other things like the sidhis and Ayurveda to help it along. But he was also clearly speaking intentionally and often did.
This cultural disconnect has disappointed a lot of people in many teachings. Add in the high compliments of other teachers and our own excess expectations and you have an invitation for disillusionment. You may even feel lied to. Or that you personally failed. What you missed was the cultural disconnect, the difference between lofty goal and grounded practicality. Many of these same teachers will suggest you set your target high but work with what is here in front of you now.
But goals are not expectations. If we place our teachers too high, we make the goal too far away, even unattainable. The trick is to be careful of expectations. Every human is human. Almost everyone in a body, even the most enlightened teacher, is physical because of karmic momentum. Some karma comes with a blind spot and still ends up being lived out. Even the very awake cannot avoid this. They may not be as caught by it but it will still arise. And we’re all still learning.
Another issue is around physical touch. A skilled healer can work energetically. Touch is minimal or unnecessary outside of cultural norms.
All this does not mean we should reject teachers. We all have keener phases when we first discover a teaching we resonate with. That’s natural. But a mature approach takes the blessings and leaves what doesn’t serve. It looks to what arises through the teacher rather than the person itself.
Teachers offer many benefits. To offer techniques for direct experience. To point where attention should go. To help understand better. To offer resonant darshan, embodying what it is to be awake. And to perhaps offer healing.
Any well-known teacher will have some controversy around them. The disgruntled ex’s and the naysayers sometimes don’t want to let it go…
But I’ve also seen supposedly awake teachers crash and burn. One now claims he undid his own awakening in battle with the divine. And recently there has been a couple of reports of well-established, enlightened teachers getting off-track, caught by their own success. Seems they need a teacher again themselves.
But that does not mean teachers have nothing to teach us. We may find a teacher that gives us a single nugget. Or we may find a teacher that serves us for a long time. We may follow a teaching for life but vary which teacher that is expressed by.
The main thing is – follow your heart. Under your concepts and needs – how does it feel?
We cannot judge a teacher by their actions alone. Who knows about the karma involved or what the divine calls for? But what are the results? What are the consequences of their work? Are they surrounded by awake beings? Or servants? Do they create good results? Or nothing but controversy and broken lives? Of course, most fall somewhere in the middle.
I’ve seen some stories about ones faith being tested by the teacher, to test worthiness. But it’s not devotion to a person that you need. It’s devotion to what they represent, what comes through them. If they expect personal or unthinking devotion, then there are less healthy dynamics at play. It’s called co-dependency.
The key to understand here is that awakening happens by Self waking up to itself, through this focus of awareness, this apparent person. For that to happen, Self needs to be able see through the ego thought-form of a me.
And that needs a surrender. Not a doing but an undoing. The surrender needed is just for a very brief moment. That surrender means letting go of all our ideas about teacher and teaching, who I am, etc. So it’s not attachment to a teacher that does the job. – it’s direct experience. When we have experienced who we are deeply and clearly enough, then we become confident enough to let go. That’s the faith we need. Faith born of experience.
Our teachers darshan or words may point the way. But they are not themselves the way. Just the signposts to our own experience.
After awakening, the teacher can continue to point the way to help us stay on track. But the divine has the larger hand thereafter.
Don’t look for perfection. Just look for quality, for results, and for someone you resonate with in some way. Keep it practical and grounded.