A long time ago, the seekers of India recognized that the month of July is the month that enhances reflection on the relationship between student and spiritual teacher. It is the time of the moon when the plentitude of life is demonstrated by Earth and celebrated by it inhabitants. It is a month to remember our mother as our first teacher, our father as our second teacher and the teachers who have supported your spiritual maturity.
You often come to me and ask:
- What is a spiritual teacher?
- How should I behave in front a spiritual teacher?
- What is that relationship really about?
In this culture, we have no model for how to follow this type of relationship. It is not possible to have a model because it is a fresh and spontaneous relationship. Each teacher and each student brings a unique alchemy, a unique way of interacting that is far beyond models or interpretations. The teacher, as a representative of the divine, and the student, as an aspirant looking to explore the facets of the Self, is in fact the only model that is relevant. This relationship brings you closer to who you are.
Let’s review certain steps that either you have lived already, or you are ready to embody more deeply.
Who aspires to discover the Self?
“The one that suffers incompleteness and looks inward aspires.”
Let’s start with some basic questions:
- What is a spiritual aspirant?
- Who is a spiritual student?
- What are the dynamics and the stages that a spiritual student passes through?
May the exploration of these questions expand your perspective of the teacher’s expectations of you, and your own position in front of the teachings. If you look from that perspective, you will have more clarity of your position, your learning, and of the expectations you have of yourself, where some expectations are realistic and some are not.
Seeking is a precious attitude. It is a rare disposition. It is an inner flame that all of creation worships. In humans, a seeker is an evolving self- consciousness. It is a realization of the need to go within, to act from within, and to embody the endless mysteries of the Self.
The seeker has many steps along the way of maturing their inner journey, and many get deluded with the colours of each of their steps.
The seeker not only has steps to follow, but qualities worth reviewing.
The pure seeker is one with an unshakeable thirst to dwell in a divine grace along with curiosity, a willingness to learn and the strength to sacrifice his/her own mental concepts. The physical body is healthy and maintained by a balanced lifestyle. This seeker also has an uncorrupted courage to challenge and break his/her own social and inner imprisonments and comforts.
This type of seeker is mature in not compromising his/her truth, and is established in devotion to self-commitment and self-enquiry. Mostly and more importantly, this seeker is able to see what is false, does not take it personally, and does not seek to modify his/her ways. This seeker has self-compassion, and applies the laws of forgiveness and uniqueness: “I am what I am”.
This type of seeker is rare and only comes into existence after many lives on the path of self-liberation. By consequence, this type of seeker makes social changes because they are able to stand firmly in their own capacities and responses.
The pure seeker sees the teacher as a point of reference, and as an inspiration and source of truth.
The wavering seeker is one that has an inner desire to improve his/her self, to know oneself, but is not able to proclaim 100% in his/her life, his/her inner revolution. This type of seeker is usually motivated by guilt and not feeling that what they are is enough. This type of seeker has a self -imposed agenda toward a code of perfection. They are able to take steps toward understanding inner laws, to study them, and to make personal changes instead of core changes. Personal changes refer to little adjustments that you can make to your personality and behaviours, while core changes request that you leave totally any identification.
The wavering seeker likes to shop around for teachings and teachers as a way to distract themselves from full self-commitment and responsibility.
The wavering seeker is, in a way, in a state of limbo; they know what needs to be done, but due to lack of self-trust, they remain conformed and comforted by what they have. The wavering seeker suffers a great deal from this conscious or unconscious duality that can only be eliminated with clear choices, commitment and courage.
The wavering seeker sees the teacher in a dual way: either the teacher is a threat to their established mental concepts or a source of inspiring knowledge. The relationship oscillates between inconsistency and depth.
The desperate seeker is motivated to go within by discomfort, by emotional pain, addictions, transitions or illness. This type of seeker touches the basics of inner dimensions. They are happy to get relief from their emotional or physical discomforts and are able to maintain a certain lifestyle that sustains self-awareness. They have the drive to learn, to make radical changes and to commit to teachings until their discomfort disappears or becomes easy. They get easily discouraged if they don’t experience immediate changes and they see the teacher as a saviour. The desperate seeker needs to have patience and long-term commitment to gain inner strength and a better understanding of their inner journey.
The sleeping seeker is not aware of their internal needs and responsibility. They live in the external world, maybe in happiness or discontent, but unaware of their inner needs.
All seekers experience the inevitable pull of the inner world. All of us, in whatever stage of our inner seeking, feel the magnetic pull of the life within. As a seeker, it is our duty to honor that pull and to satisfy it with the proper requirements.
At some point in their life, the seeker recognizes that the external pull needs the friendliness and complement of the inner self. The seeker comes to understand the dance of the inner and the outer, their laws, their requests, and their unity.
The seeker arrives to the fundamental question: What am I?
The seeker is unavoidable, alive in all of us, and seeks to be born.
Meeting the Teacher
“When the seeker is seeking to know the Self and the teacher is committed to representing the Self, a sacred relationship is established.”
When a seeker arrives to a teacher, a sacred journey begins, a journey that perhaps has been pre-arranged (all of your life experiences are pre-set by you) or is simply a continuation from other lifetimes.
You can also meet a teacher as part of your destiny: you felt the call and you followed the call. You recognize the teacher immediately and the relationship gets re-activated.
Life can create circumstances for you to meet your teacher. You can arrive out of necessity, either because you are in pain, you need to solve a certain crisis, or you need to see differently something that was causing or alleviating your pain.
The teacher also can become present in your life simply out of coincidence. Perhaps you saw someone who was following a certain path, a certain teacher for example, and you saw how beneficial it was for that person, and wished that pleasure belonged to you as well. So, out of curiosity or out of possibility, you arrive on the path of self-discovery.
The relationship between the teacher and the seeker is unique. It is sacred. It is spontaneous. It is compassionate. It is not always easy but it brings rewards: personal rewards, professional rewards, and of course, spiritual rewards.
These rewards are not understood immediately by the mind of the seeker because they function on another plane, and apparently, with different and contradictory laws.
For example, there is the law of no time, where multiple dimensions are alive in the same time and space. Sometimes, I find myself speaking to a part of the student that is in another dimension and needs a strong commanding voice to become present or to stop a certain attitude. The student cannot grasp at first that vision and how the teacher has addressed it.
The relationship of the seeker and the teacher is also under the law of change. This law flavours the relationship with constant change and challenges. It responds to where you are and what you need for your own personal advancement. It does not respond to comfort or satisfaction.
The seeker has, in the eye of the teacher, certain steps to follow or rather, steps of self-perception. Patience, consistency and time are the first requirements of the journey, and it needs to be seen as a friendly encounter that gives best rewards as a long term contract. It is a non-personal relationship; however, the quality of intimacy and sense of belonging will allow the seeker to relax and to open up.
The seeker needs to be reminded that the relationship needs time, patience, and needs to be consistent.
The first time you meet the teacher, hope arises: either to alleviate a thirst, an inner discomfort or fulfill a destiny. On the other hand, the ego of the aspirant may not recognize the arrival of the teacher; if they follow the ego tendencies of false independence and perfectionism, the chance of the aspirant is lost.
The First Stage: The Honeymoon
“Show me how”
As a teacher, I embrace you at first with basic knowledge of yourself and a daily practice. The knowledge and the practices are designed with a full scope to disengage you from your mind, body and emotional self-identifications. The seeker is first exposed without any points of reference to a particular method, to a particular philosophy or to a particular point of view: the basics.
The knowledge and the practices require a certain code of conduct. The teacher demonstrates to you how to do your daily practice and how to apply certain principles according to your capacities. The teacher is there to make sure that you do them correctly, and to prevent you from bringing any damage to you or your system.
The practice has simple rules, and the seeker at this stage is just testing them at home and observing the impacts in their life.
You need supervision at this stage and you need self-motivation to maintain your curiosity. You need discipline to test if this works for you or not. You also need a certain faith and you need to follow the rules.
Do that for a while and, depending on your attitude, you may succeed in this first stage of your learning. The other possibility is that you may achieve a certain self-satisfaction or emotional stability, and decide not to continue studying.
The practice is given to the seeker primarily to stabilize the Earth bodies (physical, etheric, emotional and mental). Without stability in the elements (5 elements), which govern matter, the seeker has little chance of evolving.
The first stage is not only an introduction to the laws of Earth, but also supplies tools that will nourish the seeker and the seeking. In this first stage, the teacher touches in a general way, the self-impediments, the false concepts, and the self-imposed limitations.
At this stage, your teacher is serving you as an instructor more than as a teacher; she/he just instructs you with the rules and takes care of you very closely so that you don’t make any mistakes, and that you understand the basics. All spiritual teachers somehow give the aspirant the basics of a fundamental language of communication and stabilization.
The basics are to open up a time frame for you to dedicate certain concentrations and a certain amount of time to go inward in order to contact yourself. The methods vary, depending on the teacher, the time, the student and the capacity of the student.
It is important to feel content with simple, clear instructions and to feel satisfied with not knowing the whole ocean in order to navigate. You are just putting your first feet in the boat and testing what the boat is made of: how it functions, how it goes forward, and how it goes backward. Simple, clear instructions provide basic tools for you to feel, and be safe, in the boat.
If your mind tries to grasp more knowledge than you are able to decode at this stage, it doesn’t matter how enthusiastic you are, you will get confused. It is better to just incorporate simple instructions for a period of time and make them solid and rewarding, rather than to try to know more than you can assimilate. This would only confuse and discourage you.
Some people want to stay in the stage of novice for a long period of time, dealing with the idea that “Oh, I am not good enough to learn more or to assimilate more, I am just happy with what I have”.
In this moment, you are having some kind of love affair with the teacher in that you appreciate and feel gratitude for the switch that usually happens very quickly in your life when you have followed their instructions. Neither the teacher nor the student should be diluted by these emotions.
The teacher should not feel “I have done this”, or, “It is because of me that this person has changed.” Otherwise, just being an instructor can fortify the ego of a teacher and give a sense of self-satisfaction. At the same time, the student should not put the teacher on a pedestal and see them as a source of rescue or safety from their own emotional pitfalls.
It comes down to the facts: there is an instructor and there is a novice. The novice needs clear and simple instructions and the structure needs to contain knowledge and to be supplied with simple basic tools, no more, no less. The teacher needs to supervise that this is done correctly.
The student and the teacher should be honest and recognize when this period is over, and move the student and the teachings to another stage. This may not be easy for either part. It is a request to grow. It is a request to change the relationship. It is a request to expand. It is a request to incorporate other dimensions, and a request to go deeper.
The teacher needs to slowly provide teachings according to what the student has given to him/her. If the student has been dedicated to the practice and to the basic instructions, it is a guarantee that their mind and life will start to go within. That is a sign for the teacher that the seeker has commitment and that proper application of the teachings has made this phase of learning a solid step for new learning.
In whatever stage you are in, in the process of self-cultivation or in relating to a guide, you are requested to put your self-value first and to be willing to follow something that you most probably don’t understand completely. This is an ongoing test. The surrender, the consistency and the patience are the jewels of any relationship that authentically looks to be used as a platform of inner peace and freedom.