Multiple Teachers - Can one work with multiple teachers or is this cheating?
Q: I enjoyed reading your article, “Only Love Can Transform Us” about the heart-to-heart connection between student and teacher. For me, this transmission happened with a Zen teacher about two years ago. It happened at a point when I was very desperate and still full of inner contraction and psychological/physiological trauma. For some time, this recognition on a mind level overshadowed the work that was needed on the body level. Due to this, I consciously and unconsciously created still a lot of separation. Though I feel deep devotion and love towards this teacher, there is a lot of attraction for other teachers also. I attribute this to the partial, incomplete embodiment of the recognition.
At the moment, I am also working with a teacher from the Siddha Yoga tradition and it feels his Tantric approach provides the missing link to finally unify. Recently, I also feel extremely pulled towards your Teaching, as I recognize great depth and width of mastery. I can’t help but feel a subtle sense of cheating on my spiritual fathers. I seem to be deeply in love with many different colors of truth. Can you address the topic of intimately working with multiple teachers at one time? Do you feel this heart-to-heart connection can be held in more than one teacher-student relationship or can this get in the way at some point? With deep love and appreciation for your work.
Interesting one, in line with the sharing’s we’ve been up to on our main Facebook page in the last couple of weeks, in relation to this, certainly. So, can one work with multiple teachers — or is this cheating? Teaching or cheating?
It’s a tricky one. Why do I say it’s a tricky one? Because, yes, there is this understanding that for the one who is open to receive, everything becomes that learning experience. For the one who is open to learn, there will be teachers aplenty. There will be an opportunity to learn at every step, and certainly with many, many people and beings around. And this perspective is also taken to its grotesque understanding. It’s just enough to look at what people share on social media and how it is often spoken of.
First of all, what I would suggest to you is to rule out, or at least to single out a very important possibility here, and that is — whereas attraction towards different teachers comes from a place of your purported fascination with different strands of knowledge, as you put it, “many different colors of truth” — or, as a subtle and very clever way with which you create the possibility to avoid doing the real work with any given teacher. This is — if only that, I would respond to your question that that in itself would suffice — to look into the possibility. Any one of us, whenever we are giving ourselves this license, that why should I, in our day and age, when there is so much available in every field — why should I just go and be in the regimen of what perhaps was the case with someone who lived fifty, let alone a hundred years ago? That’s no longer the case. Before, yes, I had to do that trip to China, to India, to Peru, whatever, to find that teacher and that, in itself, required a certain effort — physical, psychological, emotional. Finding that teacher would then mean, “Okay, well I’ve gone through all that ordeal. I’m not just going to pop to the next one. At least let me see what I can get from here.”
Today you can go through three different teachers in just one week; literally, it’s possible. If you are blessed to be in a geographical location like California, the Bay Area, it’s like literally a hangout, like the place where you go and watch celebrities — in California you have nondual masters and spiritual teachers, they’re just on every corner. And it’s not me who said that. I’ve heard that Sally Kempton said that in one of her interviews, and Sally has been around much longer than myself, and she lives there. I don’t. I only visit California.
So, you need to sincerely look into this, to open up and see whether this fascination with different teachers could be also a possibility for subtly resisting that which would eventually require you to work with one teacher on that heart-to-heart level. With that said, that’s not the only thing that I’d like to bring up here. There is something about every real adept, about every real made or born spiritual teacher — something parental. Whether we like it or not, “parental” here is from the universal perspective, but, nevertheless, that aspect of being a parent is applicable. You see, a teacher can have multiple students, but spiritual children can only have one mama and one papa. They may have many ones who look after them, but only one real mama and one real papa. Only one who happened to be the originator, and only one who happened to be that life-giving moment. And there is something to that. There is something to that, that in the dynamics of that work, at some point we meet in a spiritual adept, in a spiritual guide, that ultimate parental figure where, by virtue of that work, that aspect of surrendering and recognizing and consciously giving up our autonomy — that highly cherished autonomy — where the true spiritual breakthroughs are possible, or become a possibility.
Yes, of course, today we live in a time when some spiritual teachers debase that fact — some spiritual teachers, very successful ones, and really admired for that reason, and I’m not going to begin to mention names here, but there are spiritual teachers today who essentially say that this is an outlived paradigm, or, even worse, that this is a misunderstanding of the role of the true spiritual teacher. The spiritual teacher has nothing to do with working on any energetic level. Their job is to guide you and guide you directly and nothing else.
Whereas, there are other perspectives, that in order to truly receive, in order to truly create the possibility for some lasting transformation in our psyche, something else needs to happen. And that something else is easier when you give yourself to a specific teacher, even if for a period of time. Not that you cannot enjoy an output of other teachers, or even physical presence of other guides, but that inner connection is unchallenged and simply known for what it is. You can go and see another teacher, you can enter a dialog — and certainly learn a thing or two or multiplied by twenty-two — but that connection with that one teacher, at given moment in time, is what truly creates a possibility for transformative work to take place. Otherwise, we will always avoid that and we’ll always skirt around. We’ll skim the surface and then you have these CV’s of so-and-so, they are now speaking on public platforms; they are in conferences, that so-and-so has been with many spiritual teachers, with many luminaries. Why would a quantity of being with many teachers suddenly becomes an asset?
I would like to actually meet someone who has been with an obscure teacher for a long enough time to truly, truly have some transformative work, rather than someone who has celebrity figures almost as achievements behind their belt, because all these celebrity figures are household names. Sorry. I don’t use that language, but this is an ego trip and nothing else. Really, It’s the biggest ego trip, and that’s what our spiritual communities are filled with today, when it comes to that teacher-student relationship.
You used the word “intimate,” the topic of intimately working — how can one work with someone intimately? How can there be any intimacy? I’m not talking about polygamy versus monogamy, but how can there be a true intimacy with someone, if one is thinking of someone else at that time? Or how can one be truly intimate with someone if that intimacy is constantly, constantly challenged by always wanting to go elsewhere? These are the questions that you ought to ask yourself. I am only reflecting here what I feel, in a given moment in time.
Your other question, “Do I feel that this heart-to-heart connection can be held in more than one teacher-student relationship?” Paradoxically, with all I just said, yes! It can be! But if it’s not given at some point — if we do not give ourselves fully to one teacher at one time, then we become spiritual prostitutes. We become a slut! We sleep here; we sleep there. True intimacy requires total participation of our being. Prostitution doesn’t. Please don’t get me wrong! I’m not comparing you or anyone who may identify with these questions, but it is that attitude in life that we often have, that attitude that really, really cheapens this whole thing. But it is possible. There’s nothing wrong with having two, three, maybe four, five outstanding teachers who contributed to our breakthroughs. But whether it is possible at the same time, I doubt it, because these five teachers — or two or three — will be great excuses to maneuver between.
What will happen is that number two teacher tells you, “Stay put.” But you don’t want to stay put. And the number three teacher happens to say, “Don’t stay put.” “Oh, I am going to apply the number three teacher because it feels in alignment with my self-righteousness here” — and that’s what we want to crush. Every spiritual adept wants to crush something before it can be remade into something else. “Crushing” here is spoken with utmost humility and compassion. It’s not destroying — it’s making, but before making something, if something is badly made, it needs to be reassembled. But none of us wants to be reassembled! We want to remain intact! We want to have our cake and eat it too! None of us wants to be reassembled… that’s the point.
So, please consider this. Consider this carefully, so that the dilemma between teaching and cheating is resolved.
~ Igor Kufayev, Online Darshan transcribed Q&A, Mallorca, July 22, 2017