There is a common idea that awakened people automatically become teachers. But teaching is a skill, one that allows us to speak to the student at their level. Many don’t have this skill. They speak from their understanding and others hear from theirs. Mixed results ensue.
A traditional spiritual teacher also adopts their dedicated students, guiding their way home. This is a large, long-term responsibility not to be taken lightly.
Often what triggers the start of teaching is an inner call to share the revelations of a major experience or stage change. It feels so profound and important we want to share! This is why you see many people teaching about awakening but nothing more. They’ve jumped in after the first shift – or even the first opening. Many fade out after awhile.
Usually, there is a lot of unpacking after a major shift. Do we want to be acting out our stuff with students? Teaching can bring out issues in the teacher that create co-dependency and difficult karmas for everyone. Some groups even descend into cults.
Another common issue is the “no person here” approach of some teachers and traditions. This is a renunciate emphasis that has minor advantages in disentangling. But it can also lead to a blind spot if there is no acknowledgment of what remains. And that’s simply because if you have a human body, there’s a person here still functioning in the field of karma. Those dynamics may be much reduced but let’s not confuse that with zero.
Certainly, there can be the experience of no self. The asmita or possessive, reactive self falls away as well as the attachment to ahamkara, the I self. The farther along you get, the less of a presence this has on the experience. When you’re infinite, how important is a point? But as long as we’re in a body, there has to be a default reference point or we’d lose it. Thus, the mix of laws of nature here continue to influence our expression. In many ways, the very awake become even more distinct personalities, liberated from old constraints.
To take a Brahman perspective, nothing has ever been created, and yet here it is. There has to be a willingness to embrace paradox. Denying your role in interactions can lead to delusions of perfection or non-involvement.
The key here is differentiating experience from framing. How we think about or frame things filters how we relate to our experience. If we don’t recognize the philosophy we’re using, it can become a shadow. Our understanding is very important but it can also be a trap. These issues are amplified by someone in a teaching role as they’re passing on their approach through word, deed, and energetic embodiment.
Even more difficult, they can become embedded in their philosophy from teaching it and will naturally defend it if others point out an issue. Perhaps it becomes clear why it’s valuable for a teacher to have peers and not be an island unto themselves – something we discussed on the Sophia panel.
Traditionally, someone didn’t begin to teach until instructed by their teacher. Texts mention 12 years of post-awakening maturation first. Very few meet such a standard and a set number of years is arbitrary. Some mature into it more quickly than others but we shouldn’t over-estimate progress. It’s advisable for a mature, stable embodiment to be present to teach and that the teaching be as high and inclusive as possible.
This does illustrate why it is very important to bring discrimination to the table. We want a teacher who can help us get home, not just share some nice ideas or experiences or their drama. Even with an excellent teacher, we don’t want to be idealizing them, however grateful we are for their support. We all remain human. No matter how evolved, they’re still a “work in progress” as Rick Archer likes to say. Still working out the last sprouted seeds of karma they came in with. Still have momentum from prior to awakening. Still have laws of nature which are mixed.
Yet if they are going to take on the role of “Spiritual Teacher,” we should expect integrity and responsibility.
You also want to know the difference between charisma and presence. Charisma can be very enticing but is all about the personality rather than the peace.
But its not all on the teacher. We have to recognize what we bring to the table. Being around the awake, especially around someone in a teaching role, can really bring our baggage to the surface. Presence can kick up our mud or reactivity. The teacher may swat our egoic tendencies or precious beliefs too. But this shouldn’t go beyond tough love. We don’t want to get caught in acting out their unresolved junk.
In a spiritual setting, the karma at play isn’t just yours or the teachers but the groups and the wholes. It’s all called to the table for the progress of the whole.
In that sense, karma isn’t personal. There can certainly be old resistances we’ve carried forward through lifetimes that bring us similar experiences. But it’s that resistance that calls events to us to make it more conscious so we can resolve it and bring balance to ourselves and to the whole. We’re in this together.
If we’re taking things personally, there is then that tendency to blame others. Spiritual teachers often get blamed by their students for rough experiences. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi joked about students hating his teacher and himself. Our resistance can be embedded in our sense of self and thus quite defended and offended by anything that gives it a prod. The Internet is full of gripes about peoples former teachers – sometimes justified and sometimes just unresolved junk that says more about them than the teacher.
In other words, teachers get dumped on a lot in helping others.
It’s a curious thing. Spiritual teachers can be the most beneficial and yet difficult relationships. This is especially so when we get very involved with them. The relationship becomes a vehicle for growth but also purification and karma. Most people can only take so much of this and need a break.
Such is the nature of love. Those we love the most are often those that bring us the most pain and difficulty. Life…