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Why the RIGHT Teacher is Necessary

And the perils of the self-taught

"The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see." – Alexandra K. Trenfor

Why have little to no idea how trapped we are in our conceptual models of reality.

We are convinced that what I think about any give experience is the reality of that experience. In fact, that act of conceptualizing what is happening happens so fast that we are no even aware that it is happening. By conceptualizing I mean describing, comparing, remembering, identifying, associating, all the things our minds do when ever we experience anything.

What this means is, when any new bit of information is received it is immediately interpreted according to what ever our current view of this is. The moment a new bit of information is received, your mind immediately begins to compare it to what it already knows. If it finds a perfect match then it replaces the actual information with the interpretation of that information. if it doesn't find a perfect match it gets as close as it can and then replaces the bit with its derived interpretation. And, if it is has no context whatsoever, it just makes something up.

When I use the word mind, that too is a concept. What it refers to is this process of describing, comparing, contrasting, remembering and eventually identifying. Mind is not a thing, it is the function that we call thinking and, that process of thinking, being driven by the same primitive drives as all the rest of the body, isn't particularly care if the identification is accurate. It just doesn't want to hav an unknown hanging around.

"Close enough" is the mantra of the mind.

We are all stuck in this habitual pattern. It is the heritage of every human being. And it is not benign. How many times in your life have you started down some road, convinced you know what you are doing, only to be taken completely by surprised by the experience that it was nothing like what you thought it was? Sometime the effect of this mistake is minor and we can laugh it off. Other times it is tragic and sometimes it is something that simply cannot be undone and we have to live with it.

The possibility of getting out of that loop, of intervening before the act of conceptualizing takes over and thus having the opportunity to see things as they are, and so avoid the possible suffering, is so remote as to be regarded as impossible. Something, or someone, has to break that chain of mental causation and show us how to keep it from forming again.

This is the role of the spiritual teacher.

No, it does not have to be an old Indian man!

The term in Sanskrit for this kind of teacher is the word we have all heard, guru. Interestingly the word literally means, one who dispels darkness. When you read in scriptures of spiritual books about the darkness or the unconscious, this habit of conceptualizing is what it is talking about. It is not the absence of physical light, it is the absence of true knowledge.

It is the absence of the capacity to see things as they are and thus avoid the suffering that almost inevitably ensues.

I know of no master, throughout all history, who did not have a teacher themselves. Yes, there are examples like Ramana Marhashi, who had a total awakening, apparently spontaneously without any teacher or teaching.

Buddha, who for the most part, awake without a teacher, although he visited many on his quest, made the comment that he had spent 500 lifetimes as a Bodhisattva serving a Buddha before the lifetime in which he himself achieved Buddhahood.

We really can't tell what kind of teaching or preparation someone has had that leads to an awakening. But even if such a thing were possible, why invest yourself in the possibility that is the most remote and maybe even not be possible at all? Why not take the tired and true path that has proven itself countless times over the millennia.

Find yourself a teacher.

But, one might ask, and rightly so, how can I possibly pick a teacher when I already know that I am misinterpreting everything? How do I trust that decision?

OK, I have good news for you.

The very fact that you recognize that you need a teacher, is already guiding you. The teacher is not the grace of the truth you are seeking. The teacher is the result of the truth that is already moving you. The recognition of the need brings eventually, its fulfillment.

This does not mean that it will be necessarily easy but the grace that inspired you to look will guide you to the right one. And no one can tell you who that is. None the less I will give you some guidelines.

The true teacher will never:

  • Diminish you

  • Control you

  • Seek anything rom you

  • Belittle you

  • Instill self-doubt in you

  • take advantage of you

  • Shame you

  • Insist you he/she is the only teacher

  • Criticize you for looking elsewhere

  • Inhibit any kind of inquiry or exploration

All the true teacher will do is encourage you and point you in the direction that you alone must go. As the old Zen sayiing goes, look beyond the finger pointing at the moon (the guru) to the moon itself (your true being.) That direction to which he/she is pointing is always inward. And, of course, only you can go within. in the quiet confines of your own being, you alone are there and it is there that you meet the real you.

So, if you are feeling the impulse to find a teacher, don't be in a hurry. Listen to them, feel their energy, sense their love and their own freedom. You do not have to accept someone because of their reputation or the enthusiasm of their current followers. If you are patient and sincere, the right one will come.

Also bear in mind that the first one might not be the ultimate one. Teachers too can be for a time and then are replaced by the next. Don't be in a hurry to jump teacher to teacher, but when the time comes, don't be afraid to move on.

Remember the ultimate teacher is the Truth of your own bing. That is the sadguru, the ultimate guru, the guru that is within, the guru that is you.


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