When Approaching a Spiritual Teacher

Can you say, “Open-minded skepticism?”

I always ask my students to deeply question their own motives when approaching a teacher. What are they really seeking? What are they really up to? What do they really want and hope for?

Many people see enlightenment as becoming some sort of special being with all sorts of powers and abilities…an enlightened ego. There is an agenda.  As W.C. Fields said, “You can’t cheat an honest man.” But many seekers are honest, just amazingly naive and so easily go off track if they are not absolutely clear about what they are up to. Ironically, it usually requires a good teacher to help them become clear about this, to discriminate between the desires of a spiritualized ego and that of the true spiritual process.

I ask people to check out a teacher using their 3rd Eye, Heart and Hara.  Some teachers may have in-depth intellectual understanding. Others may know know dynamic techniques and methods. And some may radiate spiritual power.  But if you are going to establish a serious relationship with a teacher, you’ll want all lights in the 3rd Eye, Heart and Hara to turn green  before proceeding further.

THIRD EYE – Does what they say resonate with truth? Is it in alignment with truth? How do you know? Open-minded skepticism, discernment and discriminating wisdom are recommended here. Question everything. Are they offering you a belief system, a spiritual pyramid scheme, or pointing to the truth of your being?

Discernment is highly recommended. Don’t be dazzled by brilliance or baffled by bullshit.

Abhinavagupta, a great non-dual Tantrik master said, “Discernment is the highest practice of yoga and the only one that directly leads to liberation.” 

HEART – Does the teaching come from a place of unconditional love and compassion? Does it recognize the unity of all life, including all who are not involved in the teaching? Is the teaching about students waking up to their true nature?….. Or  is it about how enlightened and cool the teacher is?  It is so important to be clear about this!  Where is the focus? If the teaching keeps coming back to the teacher and their enlightenment story, go far, far away! Watch out for affectations such as name changes, exotic clothing, and exotic claims. “I am an avatar of light! And you are so graced to be in my presence!”

It is wise to wonder why a person who claims to be free from all false identity would change their name to a more sellable and exotic one? What is their true underlying motivation in doing that? Could it be that they are branding their teaching for better sales? Just asking.

HARA – Always check out a teacher with your gut, because it’s in your gut that you’ll know they are nuts.  For me, no matter how charming, knowledgeable or charismatic a teacher is, no matter how many books or followers s/he may have, it has always been my gut that lets me know something is wrong. And every time it has always proven to be right. My hara’s deep grounded intuition knows what is really going on before my heart may feel it or my conscious awareness may sees it.

Does the teacher walk their talk?

A true teacher knows you already have what you are seeking. They will just keep pointing it out to you until you see it. They will not take themselves or their organization too seriously nor will their teaching be intense, intellectual and elaborate. And be aware! Most religions and spiritual teachings are pyramid schemes. You will always have another hoop to jump through, another level to attain, another initiation to take.

As ‘Sailor’ Bob Adamson says, “This is simplicity itself.” If this direct simplicity is not obvious in the teaching, you really want to question what the teacher is up to.

And what are you really up to? What is it that you really, really want? Do you know? And if not, why not?

So it all comes down to asking yourself what are you really seeking when approaching a teacher? And what is the teacher really up to in being a teacher?  What is the real agenda? And what is yours? Try being completely honest. The truth creates miracles!

Caveat emptor!