Roles of a Teacher

Teacher by Valerie Everett
Teacher by Valerie Everett

By role of a teacher here, I mean the role they play in our spiritual journey rather than how they may position or present themselves as a teacher.

A true teaching emphasizes practical application and direct experience, with the understanding to support that. If it’s just philosophy, it may only make the mind stronger. Understanding should be to serve the path, not be the path. (Yes, Gyani‘s have an emphasis on understanding, but direct experience is still the core path. Otherwise, it’s just mind.)

For someone to have the role of a spiritual teacher for us, there is what I call resonance. Their flavour of being speaks to us and enhances our presence or silence. We get the intent of their teaching, although we also may react to them because of purification.

If we’re going to talks because our friends are but we don’t relate, you’re there for social reasons, not spiritual. If you’re cherry picking talks with famous teachers and not choosing a path to commit to, that’s just an amusement.

If there is resonance, then they can be one of two types of teachers for us.

The most common are what I’d call guides. They help with certain stages or learning. They tend to come into our life for a time and then we outgrow them or shift our needs.

For example, I valued Adyashanti for his approach to awakening. He has catalyzed many shifts, but that was not his role here. I don’t relate much to Zen or his techniques but have enjoyed some of his perspectives, especially his books The End of Your World and Falling Into Grace. I also found his Journey After Awakening DVD excellent (On the Self Realization to Unity process).

Similarly, I quite resonated with Gangaji and Neelam, but not with their approach.

The other, higher kind are teachers that get you on the right path or catalyze the awakening. These are true or sat gurus for us. They show up when the student is ready. Or we recognize teachers we’re already aware anew.

They offer an effective practice that takes you beyond yourself into source and the understanding to support the unfolding. They don’t make you dependent on them. Resonance or darshan is helpful for shifting, but you also need to culture the ground to sustain it.

With something like learning meditation, this teacher may be the person who taught you, or it may be their teacher, the source of the teaching, or current lineage holder.

For example, in my case Lorn Hoff catalyzed the first and third shifts. (This is not through personal actions but resonant presence or darshan.) Both of us have been students of the source of our practice, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi comes out of the Shankaracharya lineage*.

Anyone can be a true guru for one, a guide for another, and not resonate at all with someone else. We need a diversity to meet the needs of everyone.

However, not everyone who puts out a teacher sign can be a sat guru. Many teachers don’t have effective means for connecting to source. They may serve as a guide to get people pointed in the right direction. Or they may be a distraction, amusing the mind.

I’ve seen teachers find they’re not getting results because they don’t have the background needed. Being awake doesn’t make you a teacher. Many have no tradition behind them or even peer support. They start to experiment on their students, get impatient, or otherwise stray from what they naturally offer. Messes result.

And of course, we all remain human. People change. Karma or blind spots arise. Power dynamics or student expectations interfere.

It’s hard to step away from a teacher you’ve found some value with, especially if you are connected with the sangha (community). But sometimes a break is needed. If co-dependency has developed, that’s unhealthy. People can get cultish with almost anything. Or maybe we’re entering a new chapter and the old has to fall away first.

Don’t try to figure out what role a teacher has for us. This is often only apparent in retrospect. Part of the learning process is not knowing and having guides show up when we’re ready for our next lesson.

We can think we’re ready for more, but the spiritual process runs on a cosmic clock where everything is interconnected. Our next steps happen when everything aligns. Then the doors open and the next step is revealed.
Davidya

* Maharishi was not a Brahmin so did not become a Swami in the order. But he offered everything back to his teacher who was. Swami Brahmanada Saraswati was Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math in the north seat that Trotaka founded. This is a long tradition going back thousands of years.

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18 Comments

  1. Can one not simply rest in silence, read what life leads us towards, contemplate the pointing of what one has read against one’s own life experiences, look for common threads among a vast diversity of teachers, and trust that one meets teachers wearing the clothes of both the dysfunctional and the wise at different times that happen to be just what one needs at that time for yet another understanding in one’s journey. Sometimes the teaching is buried in events such as the current virus which seems to be full of teachings. Is there not a non-physical teacher within/without that knows exactly what challenges we need at every stage of development?

    1. Hi George
      Yes, teachers come in many forms. I know people who have inner teachers, although you have to be careful there due to astral manipulation. A friend was taught meditation as a child in Europe by someone passing through. And someone who woke up listening to a teacher video – when he got up to turn it off.
      .
      Many things can be the trigger for the “last stress.” But most people need a catalyst. Few wake up solo.
      .
      This points back to the value of being taught in a lineage that gives you the support of the tradition, as I’ve described on posts like Transcending. Then you have that guidance, conscious of it or not.

  2. Most mystical traditions recommend finding a spiritual teacher. The acaryas of Buddhism, gurus of Hinduism, shaykhs of Sufism in Islam, zaddiks of the Kabbalah in Judaism, and the masters of Christian mysticism taught according to the levels of dedication, abilities and awareness of each person. Your own teacher should be chosen carefully; those best qualified seldom take all who seek them; beware of those who accept any who are willing to pay.

    1. Hi Ron
      Agreed. It is best practice to find a true guru or teacher. But we’re in an unusual time where the traditions have often become stuck in the past and modern teachers launch with no support structure and work independently.
      .
      There is also what one of my teachers called deserving power. We’re not going to find a good teacher if we’ve not prepared ourselves. Otherwise, it’s like applying for university when you’ve not passed grade 7 yet. It’s premature. There is no instant enlightenment.
      .
      I don’t tend to frame such as “mystical” as that implies there’s a mystery. In the experience here, nothing is other than ourselves and that is inherently knowable because we are it. It takes time, as above. But it can be known.
      .
      The teacher is here to point and catalyze. But we have to do the work. I agree on the paying. Also if there is co-dependcy or power issues in play, look elsewhere. It won’t serve you.

  3. George Robinson

    What I know is, from a small-self perspective — and that’s me 100% with never anything more — it can get to feeling pretty lonely sometimes. When key figures in my tradition (same as yours) left this life, I thought I’d die, but I didn’t. “Resonance” is also used a lot by Fred Davis. What helped was to read the words of Muktananda on MMY and TM; I wish someone would have explained that a long time ago. It’s still often lonely for me, but remembering Muktananda’s words helps, and recently becoming aware of you and Lorn has been a great boon…a mini-salvation, almost. Thanks, D…you can explain yourself however you want, but from my perspective you’re a life-saver.

    Here’s Muktananda on MMY and TM, though most here already know about this: https://magnuseduce.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/swami-muktananda-on-transcendental-meditation/

    1. Hi George
      It’s good to remember that the very awake don’t “die.” They drop the body having lived out its allotted karma. And actually, nobody really dies but it varies how conscious they can be through the process.
      .
      All the members of the holy tradition of masters continue to abide in consciousness.
      .
      The aloneness does come mainly from that inner sense of separation. But there is also the issue of the way the mind amplifies what it focuses on. “I lost Maharishi” becomes a reality. But really only in your mind.
      .
      Our body is in fact not a single entity. It is trillions of cells, organized in teams to create the effect of a “body.” That form is also occupied by an even larger number of other microbes and life forms, like the gut biome. Not to mention all the subtle beings who keep things running. The grass, plants, trees, all of it is alive and sensing and has subtle beings involved. The world is densely packed with life. We couldn’t be alone however hard we tried. Being alone is just perception and a story.
      .
      Better to look at the feeling behind “lonely.” What is the emotion that takes you there? What is unresolved, seeking to be experienced? This is the driver behind those stories.
      .
      There is no quick and easy answer (usually) but the adventure of following the trail can be very rewarding.
      .
      Yes, i remember later when Muktanada came to meet Maharishi. (saw the tape) Maharishi called him the ‘First Governor of the Age of Enlightenment’ – this shortly before he started naming Governors. Like with Tat Walle Baba, it was like they were trying to out-complement each other.
      https://davidya.ca/2008/09/30/tat-wale-baba-talk/
      .
      And yes, he is a world teacher, not focused on helping a few like many teachers but focused tireless on the whole. Even late in life he worked long hours around the clock. And yet life organized the optimum results for all of his students, even if we didn’t recognize it at the time.
      .
      (I can recall reading an account of someone who attended an early talk by him in Canada. He gave everyone in the audience personal advice on how to improve their lives. But no one took it so he didn’t try that again.)
      .
      Another important detail thats cultural. In the West we expect teachers to speak factually. Whereas in India, they would often speak intentionally, what they wished to see. People still sometimes complain about his “claims” that were actually intentions. They described what was coming, not what was here.
      .
      Shortly before his transition, he announced he was retiring as his work was done. During the year prior, hundreds of meditators woke up.
      (Thats what motivated Rick Archer to start BATGAP -many didn’t realize it was finally flowering.)
      .
      You’re welcome. When I first heard about Lorn waking people up, I was dubious. I’d heard such stories before. But i listened and woke up myself. And then friends did too. I was a nice surprise. 🙂
      .
      And yeah, it’s not me that has accomplished anything. But there is a duty to learn and share that. The more i get out of the way, the further it goes…

      1. Jim

        Yes, the Masters of the Holy Tradition are available to us always. it is a resonance thing though, as I never got much of an attraction to Maharishi though I love Him dearly. His boss though was another story. I focused on Him so much that we formed quite a close relationship, active currently.
        *
        Just find the one that you love the most and pour your prayers and attention on them. They can do things for us that no one else can. PS on the whole awakening to Self thing, I did that by exhausting my mind by doing TM. One day it all let loose. The practical benefits are my sole focus. Jai Guru Dev

      2. G

        Hi David,

        Thank you for this post and also the comments. When you say,
        .
        “He gave everyone in the audience personal advice on how to improve their lives. But no one took it so he didn’t try that again.”
        .
        Do you know what type of advice he was giving? Was it quite drastic? It seems strange that not a single person took the advice.
        .
        Thank you 🙂

        1. Hi George
          This was a story i read in a book many years ago by one of the participants. As I recall, he gave various advice, whatever was seen to be needed.
          .
          But these were not regular students but a general audience. How would you respond to a stranger telling you to change your life? 🙂
          .
          I’ve seen some similar examples among students though. And of course, all sorts of lifestyle things widely adopted that he didn’t teach or that he gave to one person.

    1. Hi Daniel
      He seems pleasant enough but comes from a different tradition. I’ve enjoyed a few of his videos and was happy to see he was respectful of Maharishi when he held satsang in his old ashram.
      .
      The awake still have unfolding karma. But i couldn’t tell you what his role is in all this. Discrimination is always required of students lest they get drawn into it. And teachers all too often get isolated from peers and lose perspective.
      .
      Tat Walle Baba (see comment above) was a very enlightened sage. He was shot by a jealous teacher. But this was his karma and he was expecting it. For Mooji is this just karma or does he have a current hand it it? Hard to know.
      .
      Many spiritual organizations are more karma machines than effective orgs. Draw from what you find valuable but stay out of the dramas.

      1. Pete

        Hi David, When you say Karma machines, do you mean that they are an effective place for Karmas to play out and be resolved, or that they are maintaining old Karmas and allowing them to recycle around and around again?

        In order for a new world to emerge, don’t we have to be willing to relate on the level of human drama to some extent in order to resolve Karma and create new systems of relating and community?

        1. Hi Pete
          I’m not sure I’d say effective but spiritual practice often brings unresolved material to the surface. Intensify that in a spiritual setting and you find a lot of people working their stuff out through the org.
          .
          Some practices and groups are better than others at helping process our baggage. So in some cases, it would be purifying. In others, not so much. Just a lot of co-dependency and acting out. I feel sorry for the typical spiritual teacher.
          .
          In order to integrate and embody enlightenment it has to be lived in the world, in the play. But you can be in the play without being in the drama. The more people living that, the more the new world will emerge.
          .
          And yes, sometimes we have to interact with people in drama. But we don’t have to step into it or take it on. Just watch it going on and going by.
          .
          Awhile back I took a workshop where they demonstrated that if someone approaches you in anger and you defend, the anger is amplified. However, if you are energetically transparent (neutral) their anger will just flow through and dissipate.
          .
          The reason I talk about energy healing is so we can resolve our drama without acting it out. Of course, the more those around us are still i it, the more we have to engage some of that.
          .
          And yes, as people become more conscious, they’ll handle themselves better and create less drama and new karma. They’ll be able to work off their baggage through service and routine life. True communities will emerge. In fact, communities of the very awake will be like lighthouses – just being together in their routine lives and amplifying presence.
          .
          A fav quote:
          “Go together, speak together, know your minds to be functioning together from a common source…United be your purpose, harmonious be your feelings, collected be your mind, in the same way as all the various aspects of the universe exist together in wholeness.” Rig Veda 10.191.2-4

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