The Seeker's Part in All This

by Matthew Files

There are surely problematic teachers, some are intentionally misleading others, and some are well-intentioned but very naive, perhaps mistaking a bit of clarity for full-blown awakening. There is a full spectrum of problems that arise when one engages a teacher/guru. 

See also below a traditional notion of four types of seekers, from a translation by Alain Danielou, submitted by Anna

I lean towards the position though that the "problem" is not the teacher, but the seeker. Yes, even in a situation where the teachers behavior is clearly lacking in integrity. What this means is that most seekers need to simply grow up in a very basic human way. 

In many spiritual circles there tends to be a shunning of anything the deals in therapy. And it seems pretty clear to me that this is exactly what is needed so the seeker can work through their psychological crap that always gets projected on the teacher. I am not letting teachers off the hook as there are very few that I have a decent word for, none of which are the advaita teachers. 

Obviously there is no cut and dried answer, but it seems to me that it is up to the seeker to be educated about what the student/teacher, guru/devotee relationship really involves, and to also do some serious psychological work to work out major kinks (and we all got 'em) in the psyche that actually interfere with that relationship. I really don't think that most teachers are intentionally misleading people, most i think are just deluded, naive about what has happened to them. They don't intentionally misrepresent themselves as they fully believe in their espoused attainment (or non-attainment if they are non-dualists). While on the topic i want to put in a plug for a book written by a close friend of mine, Mariana Caplan, called "Halfway up the Mountain: the Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment." It is the kind of educational material that i feel is invaluable to seekers. O.K. enough ear bending for now.

Related to this is the question of being true to oneself "vs" being true to the guru, which Matthew addresses in answering the following questions:

Q: What does it mean to be "true" to one's guru?

Very good question. One that anyone with a guru should ask themself and the answer to it would hopefully change over time.

Q: Could it really involve not being true to yourself?

I don't think so. But I think I should qualify that. If one is true to oneself then one is true to the guru. And one comes to the guru to know that self. And a big part of that process is to see everything that the self is not. Not a pretty sight in most cases. Usually when someone talks about being true to oneself all they are talking about is doing whatever they feel like doing, (which is what they are always doing anyway lol) with no enquiry (or superficial enquiry)into the nature of what is moving them at any given time, which is not being true to oneself, but being a slave to mechanicality, to ego, to personality, to conditioning to machinelife. So until one knows who the self is to be true to, there is a level of being true to the guru that is basically about following instructions. "Do as I say, not as I do".

Q: I'm just wondering hypothetically, once you've made the commitment to a guru, should you follow them whether you feel you're being true to yourself or not?

And my answer here, based on my answer above, (that is, usually the one that we are being true to, is just conditioning) is yes.  An assumption, a leap of faith, an act of trust that comes in the relationship is that the guru knows you better or can see you more clearly than you do. And that is why you have come to him in the first place. For help. Now, there is a big problem with what I have said here because there are a lot of bogus gurus out there who should not be trusted with the level of vulnerability I am talking about. So, as for commitment, in most cases I think it should take some time, some education, some hanging out, to check out the guru before one commits to the gurus way. Discernment is needed, and to have discernment one has to have some education about the guru-devotee relationship, one needs to have some clarity about their own psychology and to dabble a bit in the gurus way to get a taste.

Adapted from letters in the Guru Ratings Forum.


The Different Types of Seekers (Sadhakas) (A Traditional View)

"There are four kinds of seekers, the feeble, the average, the superior, and even the supreme one. This last, the highest, is alone able to cross beyond the ocean (of the manifest world)."

The Feeble Seeker (Mridu Sadhaka)

"The feeble seekers are those who lack in enthusiasm, are stupid, criticize their teacher, are rapacious, inclined to bad actions, eat much, are in the power of women, unstable, cowardly, ill, dependent, harsh in words, of weak character, or lack in virility."
"The guru should know that they are qualified for Mantra yoga only, and that, with much effort, they can reach attainment in twelve years."

The Average Seeker (Madhyama Sadhaka)

"Of even mind capable of bearing hardship, wishing to perfect his work, speaking gently, moderate in all circumstances, such is the average seeker. Having recognized him, the guru should teach him Laya yoga which gives Liberation.

The Superior Seeker (Adhimatra Sadhaka)

"Of stable mind, capable of Laya yoga, independent, virile, noble, merciful, forgiving, truthful, brave, young, respectful, worshipper of the feet of his teacher, intent on the practice of yoga, such a one should be known to be a 'superior seeker.' He will reach attainment after six years of practice. The guru should teach this forceful man Hatha yoga with all its limbs.

The Supreme Seeker (Adhimatratama Sadhaka)

"Of great virility and enthusiasm, good looking, courageous, learned in the scriptures, studious, sane of mind, not melancholy, keeping young, regular in food, having his senses under control, free from fear, clean, skilful, generous, helpful to all, qualified, firm, intelligent, independent, forgiveful, of good conduct and character, keeping his good deeds secret, of gentle speech, believer in the scriptures, worshipper of gods and his guru. Having no desire for other people's company, free from serious disease, such a one should be the supreme seeker qualified for all the forms of yoga. He will reach attainment within three years, without a doubt."

290-294 Shiva Samhita
Text from Alain Danielou, taken from "Yoga -- Mastering The Secrets Of Matter And The Universe," the 1991 version of 1949 title, "Yoga:  The Method of Re-integration," typed and forwarded by Anna, who says:


"Choose your poison, Drink It Well. 

For to do so, is of no consequence."

From the Guru Ratings Forum 

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