The Role of the Teacher
The teacher in western culture stands for someone who imparts and “teaches” something. Of course, spiritual teaching is not very much different; there are certain skills which we acquire, which allow us to get in touch with the very core of our own being. However, the role of the teacher per se — a teacher of mathematics, a teacher of arts, a teacher of any other discipline — ends as soon as the disciple or student walks out of the classroom. That is not so with the spiritual teacher; the connection that is being made, is beyond this physical, mental or emotional realm; and it creates a possibility for what is known in various traditions as the transmission of Grace. Through the direct transmission of that divine energy the teacher initiates the journey of awakening.
What are the Prerequisites for being a Spiritual Teacher?
It is very important to distinguish that spiritual awakening, profound experiences, mystical experiences, even one could say Self-realization itself — is not necessarily a visa to teach or a legitimate entrance into the domain of teaching; something else has to happen. The requirement to teach is a certain inner calling, that can only happen in the post-awakening phase.
However, the main prerequisite for being a spiritual teacher is being fully and permanently awakened to the glory of the Self; one has to be utterly rooted in that. This is the main prerequisite. The spiritual teacher is the one who is that flow of Consciousness, who is that flow of wakefulness, who is that uninterrupted flow of Spirit — it is only from here that the teacher can allow the teaching to carry him or her into the work that needs to be done.
Another important prerequisite is actually inseparable from the first one: that supreme sense of detachment; the teacher has no face, the teacher has no name. As Sufi Master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee has said, “The teacher is that being who is hollowed to any personal attributes, where the teaching can actually have the space to unfold.” It is precisely because of that that the one who has been put in a position of the outer guide becomes the mirror where we can recognize with greater clarity our own process, our limitations and advancement.
The real purpose of the work is to see one for who one is — not with blind eyes of conformity. It is a different way of seeing: seeing its potentiality beyond appearance and form. That seeing turns everything within, because it is nothing than our own seeing — the subtlest alchemy of all. Self-recognition comes very naturally through this act of alignment.
No true teacher ever requires annihilation of individuality from another being. What is required is uninterrupted, continuous, uncompromising recognition of one's own divinity. In other words, the role of the true spiritual teacher, is simply to point again and again towards the student’s own supreme state, as the Self — what I call "taking a stand as Consciousness." Within that, tremendous realignment of internal forces, of creative impulses takes place.
However, trust — unconditional trust — is what invites the Grace; that trust, that welcoming, that openness — that is what invites Grace in the first place. And so you need to make sure that the teacher is up to your level of understanding, up to your level of feeling, up to your level of comprehension; and you have to build that trust. Those are the prerequisites of the "right" teacher.
Requirements of the Student
The most important prerequisite for experienced seekers and newcomers alike who wish to embark on the journey with a teacher, is sincerity of intent. Everything else is acquisitional; everything else is secondary.
That intent manifests and expresses itself as tejas — that light, that flame which literally burns with eagerness for the realization of one’s essential nature. Self-realization is the noblest purpose of this life, full stop. You may try to dismiss it, but after ten years, twenty years, next life, twenty lives… Consciousness will come to a point when it will realize all this is déjà-vu — I want to get out of here, I want to know who I am.
And at this point the student must decide to truly commit to this work. Working sincerely with a teacher is not so much about the teacher per se, but about one’s desire and willingness to learn. The teacher will show the student things they would rather avoid. But the “path of avoidance” has to be completely replaced for the “path of commitment.” Avoidance is essentially a skillful strategy to keep looking away from what is staring us in the face. But someone who walks the path of commitment realizes here and now, “I am going to make that departure. I am going to make that breakthrough, right here, right now. And I will end the path of avoidance where I will face everything in the light of my own awareness, as my own awareness.”
“...That can only happen when there is essentially the impetus, that incentive that you put forth as an uncompromising intent, to give yourself to this work wholeheartedly. To give your self to your Self — to no one else. You're not giving yourself to anyone. You're not giving yourself to the teacher, to the teaching, or the community, even if it feels like that at some point. The only thing you're giving yourself into is into your own Self…”
This commitment has to be made consciously. And it immediately creates a powerful realignment; it mobilizes us because we no longer are being entertained by ideas that we can just glide on the surface of life and somehow find enjoyment in that. It’s not going to happen because that’s not where the light really is. It is only through that repeated turning within that realization of our own divine essence is reached.
This is the process of awakening. This is the process of reaching toward the sun of your own luminosity – the inner sun, in this case. And that sun shines bright, right at the epicenter of your own heart: the sun of your awareness.
The Spiritual Teacher as Conduit for Spiritual Energy
The process of activating, awakening and releasing of Kundalini Shakti from its dormancy requires supervision of an adept; the teacher is necessary to safeguard this unfolding. Many people have had their Kundalini activated or awakened for many years, yet due to not having proper guidance, their awakenings are often accompanied by physical, mental or emotional complications. The teacher ensures that this process is steadfast without unnecessary pitfalls and all that accompanies that journey. That’s why we can find so many reverent lines in so many cultures on the role of the guide. Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī expressed these insights beautifully in this verse: without a guide it takes 200 years to make a 2-day journey.
“... We dive into the ocean of nonduality and measure its depth as we are submerged into those waters from which we have never been dried, forever been soaked in... and yet there is this propensity, this tendency, this desire — a sheer desire and willingness simply to dive into that which is the depth of our own Self…”
An adept is not someone who understood something, got something, had a breakthrough in understanding — became versed in some topic, and is ready to share that. This is a very important distinction; it is not something that you can learn in university and then go and teach. This is perhaps the most important distinction between being a spiritual teacher, and being a teacher in any other domain.
The spiritual teacher is not someone who teaches us skills; it’s very good to be equipped with skills, and a spiritual teacher is required to have a mastery of these skills before he or she can embark upon that job. However, when we speak of a spiritual teacher, we mean above all else the ability to give someone a direct experience of one’s essence — which can only happen through the transmission of Grace. The teacher acts as a conduit of Grace, which allows spontaneous realignment within someone who assumes the role of a student.
“... you are thrown into the midst of the Mystery of that interaction where Spirit stands bare, and it demands a tremendous commitment, where integrity is the only place of resting where it can actually unfold and create a certain space — a certain space where that trusting can take place…”
Mutual resonance creates release of energy, the possibility for transmission of force. Without this resonance, one way or the other, the transmission of spiritual force would not be complete. True spiritual teaching and that transmission — that surrender, that plugging in, that connection, that very deep connection — is something which is utterly beyond what could be applied on our part consciously.
Thus, the teacher-student relationship — is the act of transmission. It does not matter which modality the teacher chooses to deliver his or her work. It doesn’t matter which tradition the teacher belongs to. It doesn’t matter whether this happens through knowledge based upon some kind of techniques, or a process of inquiry, or whether it belongs to a more artful path where various means are involved — or no means are involved. It is an inseparable part of that process in as much as we speak about that Heart-to-Heart connection.
The true beauty of that relationship only opens when our heart is cultured enough. And that is why in certain cultures, in certain traditions, so much importance is given to this. Because that relationship is what truly completes even the most advanced process, even the most advanced stage and phase. More than anything, it is that which cultures the heart.