The Use and Abuse of Teachers
By Shawn Nevins
Let us say you find a living spiritual teacher. Someone you feel is authentic. Now what do you do? Do you sit at their feet and try to absorb some etheric "presence" you hope is emanating from them? Do you ask every question that pops in your head? Do you wait for them to give you a blessing or hand you the sacred robe and bowl? Do you sit at their feet and take copious notes, listening attentively, hoping they will speak the secret formula to end all suffering? The best teachers will point you in a direction and show you how to walk. Your job is to listen and to learn by doing.
You can accumulate knowledge from a teacher. Not knowledge about your true being, but knowledge as to how to discover your true being. Those who believe they discovered knowledge about their being from the words of a teacher are merely memorizing information. You know nothing until you experience. Some teachers provide methods to help you find your own answers. This is knowledge given to you to use. Use it. Try it. Don't just theorize about it. Use their methods, but adapt them to your personality.
When the opportunity arises to ask questions, ask them. Don't be shy. Your shyness is fear. Be willing to ask what haunts you. Ask questions about your self and not the nature of the Absolute, God, and Heaven. The nature of such is best explained in silence. Ask about methods you have tried. Tell your successes and failures. Be willing to expose your ignorance. Secrets bind you to the mind. Open your mouth wide and let the teacher swallow your ignorance. From your ignorance will arise courage.
Don't be lazy. Read what the teacher writes. This saves time wasted in asking what is already answered. Come prepared and take notes. Come wanting answers. Your half-heartedness is a delusion. In your heart is determination.
Don't waste your time learning the details of your teacher's life. No need to write a biography. It is good to know that, like you, he was a person with weaknesses. That is reason enough for hope.
Some teachers use silence in their teaching. In that case, don't spend all your time asking questions. Be quiet in their presence and pay attention to their being. In silence, truth is unveiled. Don't project. The profundity, the depths, the great unknown you feel is in you. You and the teacher are one, but this must be felt and not intellectualized.
At times, you will grow angry and critical of your teacher. Study this. Your negativity is a projection of your frustration at your inability to act with 100% commitment. Your anger is your frustration with your limited life, your lack of progress, and your lack of earnestness. Your criticism is your habitual way of life attempting to preserve itself your ego fearing change.
Always default to your gut feeling, your highest light, and your purest intuition. Don't let the teacher's advice overrule what you feel in your heart. You may discover you were wrong, but that is the only way you will develop the ability to find your path. That you must do, for the teacher cannot lead you all the way. The journey's end is within you.
Reprinted from The TAT Forum (March, 2002)