A Perfect Teacher

A Perfect Teacher

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.

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  1. Share

    Wow, what a wonderful blog about teachers! Very balanced and thorough. I really love the point that a teacher may give us a single *gold nugget* or a lifetime of nuggets.

    I also love the point that we may not know the karma involved in a teacher’s actions, or what the Divine is calling for.

    Finally, the point about being practical and grounded is really good. Because really anyone or anything can teach us what we need to learn. But if in the process they are doing more harm than good, how much will we be able to learn anyway?!

  2. Thanks, Share. And yes, your final point is very good. I’ve seen people learn a great deal from problematic teachers. But I would not describe it as the easy way and there usually ends up being baggage to clear later. Even a rejection of the path.

    Last night after a satsang, I spoke with the teacher. His biggest concern was teachers who are incomplete, who are not yet well embodied. But to me, some of those teachers are good teachers though maybe don’t have the whole truth yet. A BA rather than a PhD. The good ones are still growing and recognize that, are a student themselves.

    The bigger issue to me is teachers who are not complete but who consider their understanding complete and discount or misinterpret whole sections of the process. That becomes more about being right than supporting students.

    Even worse is the teachers who create a lot of drama, disempower students, and self-glorify. They can certainly help you burn lots of karma the hard way, but…

  3. One of my teachers teacher became a traditional swami in the Shankara lineage. Later, Shankaracharya of the north. He left home at 9 and spent about 5 years seeking an appropriate teacher – this in a land of gurus.

    And your first teacher may not be your last.

  4. On the flip side, I’ve met people who are “cherry pickers”, ever browsing the latest teachers and books, but never committing to a path.

    Usually that means they’re bringing only the mind, seeking another good idea or concept, waiting to be convinced, but not engaging a practice or making real progress.

  5. Loralee

    Hi Davidya! How to know if a teacher is complete? I have heard something similar from a teacher recently about how other teachers out there are not fully embodied. This teacher said that although these highly regarded teachers may be very awake – in fact, deeply awake; the lack of embodiment prevents them from taking their students to full realization, which is very unsettling to me….(as some of the teachers he mentioned, I have a high regard for). I also notice that when I see a teacher criticising other teachers, I have a tendency to question them. I realize that on one hand it could be an act of service to us all, and then on the other hand (perhaps a very fine line) of self promotion. I deeply respect teacher Thomas Huebl in that instead of criticism, he suggests that it may be time for an organized way that teachers can come together to point out each others shadows. In fact, he speaks of even a need in putting together a certain standard for a spiritual teacher to teach. Much like what a MD (or even an elementary school teacher) is required of them in order to be considered proficient. So back to what a “complete” teacher can offer and how to know who that might be in the sea of choices these days. What comes to mind is “Daughter of Fire.” It appeared (in my perhaps limited perception anyway), that Irina Tweedie’s Guru was working with her on deeper and more subtle levels of consciousness to allow Self Realization to take place. I guess my point is… if this is the case, and that this is what a fully embodied teacher can do for a truly sincere student, then how to know that a teacher is such a teacher? I ask because ‘I’ could be dead tomorrow. I don’t feel like messing around. If I had my choice, I would absolutely be with a teacher that had the capacity to work such miracles. Thank you Davidya. I am always inspired by your clarity and practicality! (deep bow)

  6. Hi Loralee
    Well – a fully embodied teacher will have a very strong presence. Unmistakable. And they will be surrounded by many awake people because of the darshan effect. They radiate what it is to be awake and that can help trigger it in others.

    I’ve also found the better teachers are rooted in a tradition. There is depth to their understanding and it’s not based in one experience of it.

    There are also may people who became teachers simply because they woke up. There is a deep (erroneous) meme that the awake should teach plus a sense of wanting to share this revelation. But awakening does not a teacher make.

    Again – pay attention to the feel more than the mind. Every teacher may have something useful to offer but you do want to use discrimination. I have a high regard for Adyashanti, for example, but he doesn’t yet have the presence of someone fully embodied. But he is very real about the process and open about his experience.

    Yes, I suspect we’ll see a few things – some standards, a standardization of terminology, universalizing, and qualifications. But at this point not enough people are both well-embodied and skilled enough to do that. It will take someone very well respected all around. Or a group thereof. We’re still in the early days with the majority simply awake.

    It is also not just about the teacher being well-embodied but them being resonant to the student. The better teachers are not a mind speaking. They are Self speaking to your Self. Do they ask you to listen this way and do you hear? Lorne would be an example there. I mention him periodically. But does he speak to you personally?

    I don’t know Irina’s story.

    There is also the saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will come. That has been more true than I expected. We can certainly be impatient and anxious for progress. But thats partly because we’re trying to manage a process thats taking place without our seeing it clearly yet. In this day and age, we cannot not be making progress. There is a huge push underway. Thats partly why you feel the impatience.

    You may find it useful not to be framing it as a problem. How you expect it is how it tends to appear for you. But if you favour openness but with discrimination, you may be surprised what arises. 😉

    And thank you also. Glad you have enjoyed.

  7. I would further add that “complete” may be setting too high a goal. And what does that mean? Awake? Brahman? Fully Embodied? Who is ever done? Even to settle on “fully embodied” is a rather high goal. That’s quite advanced and as yet rare.

    That’s why I was using the term “well embodied”. I touch on this in the Refined Brahman article.

    Established in Brahman is an excellent platform but few teachers even recognize such exists. And not everyone uses the word “Brahman” the same way. A bit of a dogs breakfast yet, I’m afraid.

  8. Hi David
    I’ve recently come across the writings of Meher Baba. He had a deep view which helps outline the levels. My first major teacher Barry Long gave good distinctions between preachers, teachers and Masters. Meher Baba talks of God realised beings, perfect Masters, and Avatars. I think it’s quite common to feel one has arrived when one has had an initial awakening yet there are many “rooms in the house”.

    1. Hi Milo
      Yes, many rooms. The Kala scale suggests humans can only get about half way with avatars well above that.

      One also has to be careful of exalted titles. If one is in human form, there is normally still karma at play and growth. Calling someone a “perfect master” tends to create unreasonable expectations and make them unattainable.

      I think it’s safer to stick with “evolved human”. Seeing our teachers as humans who have made good progress keeps things a little more real.

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