Monday, December 04, 2006

The Teacher or the Teaching?

The widespread phenomenon of the "abusive guru" has put paid the myth of the spiritual renunciate who, desiring only moksha (Liberation), would spend years or decades meditating alone in a cave in the Himalayas, attain enlightenment, and set up an ashram dedicated to given out pure teachings and aiding others in their own quest for realisation.

In the West today, the guru is an ambiguous, paradoxical figure who helps and inspires many and harms, exploits, and abuses many (while others go away neither helped nor harmed). They are a world away from the figure of the ideal sage such as Yajnavalkya, Gautama Buddha, Pythagoras, Lao-tze, Bodhidharma, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, or Sri Aurobindo.

Faced with the guru who acts egotistically, or selfishly takes advantage of their disciples for financial gain, or abuses their position of trust by selects teens or twenty-something devotees for sex, or cruelly plays with their devotees feelings using the excuse of "braking down the ego", yet at the same time says things that are inspiring, what are we to do?

The common approach in the West, among those who are not locked in a sado-masochistic co-dependency relationship with an abusive guru, or who - if anything even more appalling - rationalise and justify their guru's abusive and selfish behaviour and attack or denigrate the victims, is to take the teachings for what they are worth and reject the teacher.

My approach, ironically, is the exact inverse of this. It is not that one should adopt the teachings and reject the teacher. Rather one should adopt an authetic teacher (very rare and precious indeed!), and thus go beyond the mental limitations of the teachings.

On the basis of my own experience with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and more recently with Gangaji (by no means a sadguru but still with a lot of decent qualities) and Ramana Maharshi (the real deal), I have to say that what the teacher says (the teaching) is of less importance than the Light and Presence of the Teacher.

Yes, even the profound and magnificent philosophical synthesis of Sri Aurobindo's written work, which have for more than 25 years guided and continue to guide my intellectual understanding of the world and of the spiritual path. The Presence of the authentic Teacher (whether it be Sri Aurobindo himself or someone else), on the transcendent (nondual) level, is even more important than that.

This ultimately is what the Guru really represents, the role the authentic guru plays. The guru-disciple relationship is a form of bhakti yoga, in which the guru (as the enlightened or realised being) takes the form of the Supreme, and is seen as and believed to be the Divine (this is the whole idea of avatar, sadguru, etc), showers their grace, and in this way enables the disciple to attain that same state.

Would you worship a deity who acted as capriciously and selfishly as many so-called gurus?

So if the teacher is imperfect, if their realisation, however profound and sublime in all other respects, is polluted by their ego or desires, anything you get from would likewise be imperfect. This is the whole idea of the Intermediate Zone Guru.

To ignore the (abusive) guru but concentrate only on their teachings is to be stuck in the thoughtform of the exoteric reality, but substituting words (teachings) for reality (the Divine Presence). Worse, much much worse, you are using the words of an imperfect teacher, and thus attuning to their presence on the subtle realms. In this way one can be misled. So rather than chasing the real state of the Supreme, one becomes lost in the beguiling half-lights and hall of mirrors that is the Intermediate zone.

It only a true guru, a Sadguru, that is safe and reliable, and worthy of the guru-disciple relationship. And only an awakened Divine Center ("Psychic Being" in Aurobindonian terminology) can guide you safely and surely to such a teacher or teachers.

And while one may find out about an authentic guru through an imperfect teacher, the imperfect teacher can then be transcended, once one has a connection with an authentic teacher. In this way, one can attain to the sadguru's enlightenment and grace, and thus oneself work to and eventually (more quickly or more slowly, depending on one's sincerity and integrity of one's aspiration) attain that state, and realise within oneslef the same state of divinity as shines through and as the nondual Presence and Personality of the authentic guru.

2 Comments:

Blogger Tusar N Mohapatra said...

What is your take on Frithjof Schuon? Kheper doesn't say much.

6:54 AM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Hi Tusar

I never read much about him. He seems like a pretty decent guy; sincere about the spiritual path

What he says about the common esoteric truth or transcendent unity behind the external forms of different religions does in part agree with my experiences of the respective Light and Presence behind the external words and teachings of Sri Aurobondo and the Mother on the one hand, and behind the external words and teachings of Ramana Maharshi on the other. And there are others that i get a similar vibe from too, e.g. Meher Baba.

I'm not sure what Schuon's views are of this, but my own (no doubt imperfect) understanding is that transcendent divinity isn't a state of simplistic unity, and for this reason i don't agree with the concept of a "transcendent unity". It is rather that the Supreme is infinitely diverse with infinite facets. So for me it isn't a single logos which manifests in different religions or different tecahings, but rather an infinite number of possible logoi contained within and as aspects of the Supreme (this is similar to what Spinoza says too about God having infinite aspects). Each logos or revelation respresents a particular avatar, sadguru, enlightened teacher, emanation of the Supreme, aspects of the Infinite, etc etc.

To properly critique Frithjof Schuon I'd have to read his books, study his life and tecahings etc, to get an impression of where he is at.

6:43 PM  

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