On Choosing a Teacher
~ Important! Listen up!~

Acknowledgement: This page is taken whole from Chinmayo's site, specifically Choosing. [NB Site now down]. He has written the introduction and then has borrowed in turn from Stanley Sobottka.

If any path is true it must have the seeds of its own destruction immediately available to its participants.
That is, the only true path would be one that would immediately show its followers why and how it is NOT true, since Truth--as such, or God as such--could not be conveyed by the limitations of its revelations.
Or, if we may invoke a Buddhistic Koan to get our point across. If you see a "True" Path
Don't Walk on it.
Why?
Because to the degree a path is "true" is directly proportional to the ways and means that it illustrates why and how it is false.


The main course is from Stanley Sobottka, at A Course in Consciousness.

At this point, I will list some observations I have made about teachers and practices. However, be warned that this is not science, and others may disagree, so you should make your own observations and draw your own conclusions.

1. Teachers teach what worked for them. It may not work for you.

2. It is unlikely that a teacher who never engaged in spiritual practice will be able to suggest a spiritual practice to help you to end your suffering, no matter how genuine his enlightenment. (An exemplary exception to this was Ramana Maharshi.) The same thing is probably true of a teacher who has never suffered to any significant degree.

3. Some intentional spiritual practices can and do relieve suffering, even though they may not lead to enlightenment. An analogy is that aspirin may relieve a headache even though it may not remove the cause. (Of course, we must remain aware that it is not the practice that relieves suffering. If suffering is supposed to stop, it will stop, though practice may or may not precede it.)

4. At some point, disidentification requires going inward far enough to be able to see every object of awareness. It then becomes clear that I am not an object of awareness, but pure Awareness itself, as discussed in section 2 above. This may have to be repeated many times.

5. The teachings of teachers who have responsibility for managing and maintaining ashrams or spiritual centers are likely to appeal to a larger audience than those who do not, because supporting an ashram requires large amounts of volunteer effort and substantial financial commitments from the disciples. Consequently, such teachings will generally be designed for maximum acceptability. On the other hand, the purest teachings usually come from teachers who are not surrounded and supported by an organization. A good example of such a teaching is Wei Wu Wei’s books which focus on one point and one point only--the absence of the individual I. As a teacher, he led an obscure life, and his books have never had a wide audience. Compare this to Sai Baba who has many tens of thousands of disciples and several ashrams, and who utilizes materializations to attract attention. His teaching emphasizes discipline and selfless service (karma yoga). This is more acceptable and understandable to large numbers of people than is the teaching that there is no individual.

6. In the course of investigating various spiritual teachings, the seeker will find that a teaching and teacher must be acceptable if they are to be helpful. The natural inclinations of each personality will self-select between the enormous variety of teachings and teachers. A person who is naturally service oriented will probably be moved to do karma yoga in an ashram or spiritual center. A person who is devotional by nature will probably find a teacher who can symbolize God for him or her. The intellectual will probably be drawn to a jnani whose intellect matches his or her own. Of course, personalities come in all forms and mixtures, so who will be attracted to what or whom is an individual matter. Furthermore, a particular teaching and teacher need not be a lifetime choice for a person. As Ramesh says, it is perfectly all right to shop around and to go "guru hopping."

7. Very few teachers give their teaching a metaphysical basis. Of the ones that I know, only Ramesh and Wei Wu Wei consistently do. For those who appreciate metaphysics, its logical and intellectual structure makes the teaching more understandable and therefore more acceptable. For that reason, a teaching with a metaphysical basis is generally more suitable for an academic course than one without it. However, this in no way implies that a metaphysically based teaching is best for everybody or even for most.

8. The occurrence of awakening in a given body-mind organism leaves the conditioning of the organism essentially the same. In other words, the basic personality is unchanged by awakening. Hence, if the organism was "not nice" before awakening, it also will probably not be nice after awakening. If it was not a good teacher before, it likely will not be a good teacher after. This makes finding an acceptable teacher all the more difficult. However, all genuinely enlightened beings have compassion for all of their fellow beings because they see no separation between them.

9. Some teachers, particularly a bhakta like Gangaji, emphasize the value or even necessity of spending time (sometimes called darshan) in the presence of the guru in order for "transmission" to occur. Other teachers, particularly a jnani like Russell Smith or Nome, say this is not necessary because transmission can add nothing to our already complete true nature. My own intuition is that, if the necessity of being with a guru seems like a "should" to you and feels like an obligation, it will not help you and will only increase your suffering, but if it feels like an opportunity to stop stagnating and to experience love and joy, it will help you towards liberation. If it is a mixture, just remember there is no "you" that ever decides anything.

10. Some spiritual organizations require secrecy pledges and/or teach proprietary systems of thought and practice. While proprietary techniques may yield some benefit, one suspects that exclusionary policies are designed more for the power and privilege of the teacher than for the enlightenment of the student. Such strictures seem contrary to our intrinsic freedom, and there are plenty of legitimate teachers who do not impose them. Your true nature cannot be a secret, and Self realization cannot be bought or sold.

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