Friday, July 1, 2011

So Many Teachers -- Who to Trust?

Sometimes I visit the pages of various Facebook friends, especially those that maintain a dialogue of a high nature, just to see what is going on out there.

First of all, the fact that we can, at any moment, tune into various real-time dialogues actually happening among people in various places of the world, is like science fiction to me.  Just a few years ago only a few visionaries knew that it was possible—science fiction never quite picked up on it before it actually happened.  It was a well-kept secret.  Today millions take it for granted. 

The possibilities for the future are endless.  We don’t have to be in the same physical space anymore to have a very deep and intimate communication, dialogue, or relationship.  Participation on Facebook is one of the best ways currently available to keep up with all that’s going on in the spiritual community.  It’s a way of keeping us aware of what is happening on the innermost levels.  It performs a function that the media cannot provide, for it is not controlled by the same forces that control the media. 

The views presented are not limited to one particular perspective, as you get to hear from people who come from all paths and traditions, at least if you have enough variety in your friends.  It is a fascinating amalgamation of spiritual energies coming through in the present moment.  Remember the present moment is the only reality.

The popularity of the Internet has led to a proliferation of spiritual teachers, each with his or her own little niche or specialty.  We can’t keep up with all of them; we can’t practice/follow/read/hear all of them.  How do we know what is best for us?   How to trust a teacher?  Which one to listen to?

So I visited the page of one friend, in my habit of arbitrarily picking out some friend’s page to check out what's happening, and there was a very interesting dialogue going on there.  It was a long discussion of various spiritual teachers available today, and the various perspectives posters had of them.  I was amused.  It was an updated version of a dialogue I’ve overheard in one form or another since the 60’s, only the names have been changed.  The primary teachers who were being visited and talked about in the 70’s are gone; today there are new teachers.  Where’d they come from?  Who to listen to?

Coincidentally (?) I next visited a Facebook group, ‘Satsang, and Spiritual Teachers,’ and at the top someone was sincerely asking who are considered to be the truest and best teachers available today.  It was interesting to go to two different and unrelated pages on Facebook, and basically the same topic was being discussed.  But this happens a lot.

Two ideas coming together often lead to an intuitive insight.  As I saw these two related threads one after the other, I had an intuition that on some level some degree of this is probably happening with a great many of us, perhaps even more predominantly than anyone suspects.  Who do we really trust, anyway? 

Facebook has made it possible for anyone to become a philosopher and to present himself as a teacher.    Just as I do, people voice their thoughts as though there is some profound truth to them.  And, of course, something can usually be learned from them, because if we’re truly open, we can learn from anything and anyone.  Still, since I’ve been active on Facebook I am amazed at how many self-proclaimed ‘teachers’ there are—those who have never been trained, prepared, and instructed by his or her own teacher to go and teach others the Truth of Being.

I was fortunate enough at the age of 15 to come in contact with a man who had spent 17 years in the lamaseries of Nepal and Tibet, and who wrote a correspondence course that transmitted a clarity of understanding and a palpable experience of the Truth of Being.  He had left his body the year before I discovered his course, so I never had actual physical contact with him, except through his wife.  He saved me from being attached to his physical form, for the whole training took place subtly.

His wife was 50 years younger than the teacher, and she continued to send out his lessons over the years, until she finally passed on several years ago herself, and I developed quite an interesting communication and relationship with her.  (The 50 is not a misprint.  He was in his 80’s and she in her 30’s when they married.)

Interestingly, I dreamed just a couple of nights ago of being with her, which probably brings all this up for me, and there was that same uplifting light-filled experience I’d always had in my dreams of the teacher himself—which were numerous and which happened on a regular basis for many years.  I can still vividly recall certain discussions we had in those dreams, mostly in the form of him answering my questions.  

I remember when he showed me with one glance how the entire cosmos was put together and how everything worked.  It was a totally amazing experience, as it was not something that took time, but was an instantaneous revelation.  I am reminded of when Krishna first revealed his true form to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

If I were to attempt to tell you who he was, or what tradition or lineage he actually represented, you would probably think I was about two french-fries short of a ‘happy meal.’  He wasn’t publically known.  He was careful not to be.  He didn’t have a mass of followers.  He emphasized often that the value lies in the teachings, never in the teacher.  Teachers will come and go; teachings of Truth always remain the same.

The well known and popular teachers that we all know about and discuss on the Internet might not approach the attainment or development of someone no one has ever heard of, except the small band who somehow come in contact with him or her and experience what comes through as a subtle transmission.

Such beings avoid becoming ‘public’ at all costs, for they know that public knowledge of them would only bring trouble.  They deliberately remain secretive and known to only a few.  It is the way of the world to take down a saint, just to put him in his place, just to prove he wasn’t so great in the first place.  Once upon a time there were crucifixions; now there are internet sites that will give us all the dirt while happily continuing to look for more.

The more well-known and public a teacher becomes, the more scrutiny is placed on his (or her) personal life, and the more criticism he attracts to himself.  The more well known you become, the more vicious the criticisms and personal attacks become.  Internet sites spring up just to talk badly of you.

There are dark forces that come through the general public that act to bring such people down, leading to witch-hunts, crucifixions and such.  The general media has never been kind to spiritual teachers—preferring instead to write an expose regarding some ‘inside gossip’ they picked up on.  Seediness sells.  The Truth doesn’t appeal to the masses, and in fact they look unfavorably upon anyone who purports to teach the Truth. 

Do not assume a teacher can pass on something to you simply because he or she is popular or well-known, or have large followings and circus-like scenes wherever they go.  Following the spiritual scene since the early sixties, I can assure you that the great majority of such  teachers come and go.  Don’t get attached to bodies, forms, or personalities, for none of these are the source of your true inner connection to your own Being. 

The farthest we can go on the path, if indeed we ever really ‘go’ anyway, is to be fully established in our own inner Being.  There’s really nothing else to do—everything else happens naturally and on its own accord.  We think of it as our life.  In reality it is a performance.

Never listen to someone who tries to convince you of something or win you over, or who acts and speaks so that you will think well of him.  A true teacher is detached from the fruits of his work, and whether someone gains anything from him or not is according to their own karma.  He has no interest in how another sees him or whether he is liked or appreciated or approved of.  If others are attracted to him, it is because of what comes through him.  He does not take it personally.

As the Christ put it, It is not I that doeth the works, but the Father within, that same Father that is within you.

A true teacher can’t go around being your best buddy.  If she is true, she will never appease the ego, she will always keep the ego a little bit uncomfortable.  Otherwise she is not fully functioning as a teacher, she is only a friend.

Especially don’t pay attention to teachers who explain themselves regarding anything.  The Shakti (spiritual energy) doesn’t explain itself; to do so would be contrary to its nature.  It doesn’t need to cause you to think in any particular way.  How you think is up to you.  A true teacher will never present a dogmatic system of beliefs.  Rather, she will free you of the limiting beliefs that already hold you down.  Specifically, he or she will free you from the shackles of the mind and ego, and teach you to think for yourself.

The saint can’t help having a human, personal life as long as he or she is incarnated in a physical body.  She won’t have a halo, she won’t walk on water, she’ll only shatter your concepts about who you think you are.  She might lovingly and compassionately smash your ego into pieces.  In the end, she simply reveals the Truth of Being and leaves us established in our own Self, independent and free.

The primary thing regarding a spiritual teacher is your actual inner experience of contact with him or her.  Your own heartfelt experience, and nothing else, tells you whether there is something to be gained or not.  Your mind might think he or she is ‘off his rocker.’  It doesn’t matter; go by your feeling.

We recognize Truth from within.  If something lights up inside us and feels ‘it’s true!’ then we recognize the Truth when we hear it or read it.  If we don’t recognize the Truth of something within ourselves, then it is best to not readily accept it as true.

The greatest teachers come from the heart, not the head.  The teacher’s words might not make any sense, yet you experience a profound opening in your heart.  You experience something inside yourself—a light, an insight, an exaltation, some sense of new possibility, of pending new life.  Yet you might not even remember what they verbally communicated.  It is not something that happens physically or mentally.  It is a subtle communication, a subtle transmission. 

The words of some teachers might make perfect sense, yet there is no inner heart experience.  They have only words, ‘recycled wisdom’ of what they’ve read or heard and then put into their own words.  There is no transformation on the mental level alone.  Transformation does not come through mental activity.

The connection with a teacher is always a heart connection, and there is no denying it.  Falling in love makes no sense; it is not a rational happening.  Neither does being attracted to a particular teacher. 

A true teacher passes on spiritual energy that gives a palpable ‘boost’ to our sadhana and our state.  If there are only ideas and words to be learned, and especially if they are simply ‘beliefs,’ there is nothing of value to be gained.  Mental sadhana alone is not sadhana.  It is only mental activity. 

True sadhana is the opening of the heart to the experience of unconditional love, which leads to supreme bliss. 

When a group of readers of an article I wrote for a magazine in the 70’s encouraged me to begin writing a course, I was led to call my teacher’s widow for a chat.  We had communicated for many years at this point, and she knew me well.  I asked her if I was actually ready to do this.

I can still hear her words, “Isn’t this what you’ve been prepared for all these years?  You know the principles as well as anyone.  Go forth and fulfill your destiny.  He will guide you from within every step of the way.”     

When I actually wrote the first lesson in the summer of 1975, I heard my teacher’s voice clearly in my head, (I have a copy of several of his radio talks from the 50’s, so I know his voice), and it has often been a simple matter of taking dictation.  We can understand that our course is the modern or contemporary expression of the ancient principles that were passed on from this teacher and his ancient lineage. 

As the vibrational energies of the earth become more intense, as the earth evolves, knowledge of the principles of Truth are needed more than ever.  Those who do not live by them will be lacking in endurance and tolerance.  Also, presentation of the principles has to be updated now and then or it starts to sound too old-fashioned, even though the teachings are eternally the same.

You might wonder, now what does all this have to do with the topic on spiritual teachers and who to trust?  Surely he could have been more specific than this.

To me, the answer is quite clear, although I just wrote it and haven’t yet read it.  It came through like a telegraph.  You might have to read it more than once.  I know I will.  You might have to read between the lines.  I know I will.  As with all my writing, it is a subtle communication.  It is not a communication from mind to mind in the usual sense.

Be most open to a teacher who is established in living in the Truth of the Present Moment.  Yet don’t expect the teacher to be ‘ideal’ in any preconceived way.  He, or she, might be or do everything you would never consciously want in a teacher.  Yet be sure that he is real, sincere, and true to himself and others; see that he is in no way pretentious or pretending to make a good impression, for these are definite flags.

I love this quote from my first teacher.  It expresses something so profound so clearly, yet it is so subtle I wonder how many will actually hear and understand exactly what is communicated.  Come back to it now and then, for, like the lessons of the course, it can be understood in a deeper way with each new reading.

He, or she, is great who feeds other minds.  He is great who inspires others to think for themselves.  He is great who tells you the things you already know, but which you did not know you knew until he told you.  He, or she, is great who disturbs you, irritates you, even affronts you, so that you are shaken out of your habitual ways - fairly pulled out of your mental ruts, lifted up above the commonplace.  He may be a teacher, or a speaker, or a writer, a clergyman, or a scientist; or he may be a close friend.  It makes no difference who or what he is, or may be, but it does make a great difference what he means, and can do, to you.

The writer, for instance is great whom you alternately hate and love- whom you cannot easily forget.  In his private, personal life he may be proud, arrogant, crude, coarse, irritable, even absurd, or even immoral... I grant all that . . . . and yet be great.  He is not great because of these reprehensible qualities, but in spite of them.  The apparent inconsistencies and inequalities of his nature may contribute in great measure to his power, just as the rocks, boulders, chasms, woods, mountains and valleys make up the grandeur and majesty of the Yosemite, or Yellowstone Park.

To fully take in this quote, you have to accept, or at least consider, your own inner greatness.  We are so shy about thinking of ourselves as great, thinking it to be arrogant and egotistical.  Oh she thinks she’s so great!  Yet it is not egotistical to think of ourselves as great; it is egotistical to think lowly of ourselves, to feel we are less than great, that we could never truly be great.  That is what ego does.  We often think of ego as patting ourselves on the back, but actually it’s more of reducing our own sense of worth, of seeing ourselves as far less than we truly are.  It is the nature of the ego to focus on faults.

A true teacher, even though our ego reacts from time to time, ultimately helps us to feel good about ourselves and to see ourselves in the highest way.  Someone who makes you feel even worse about yourself can never be considered a true teacher.

Ultimately no one can tell you who your teacher is.  At some point it becomes obvious.  And most of us have more than one teacher, perhaps during different periods of our life.

Recognizing a teacher is like falling in love.  So here’s a tip: fall in love with your Self and be your own Teacher.  This is my truest and most sincere advice.  Yet, actually doing this is often difficult to achieve on our own.  We all need just a bit of guidance from someone who’s been there and done that.

Ultimately, of course, we will live in love with our Self and be our own Teacher, for there could be no other conclusion.  It is simply a recognition of the way it always is.  The Truth always exists within and never without.  Look within and you will know the Truth without any doubt.  Look outside and you are lost, and doubt will haunt you at every turn.  Remember love.  Love is always the best bet in any case.

For information about the Course of Training written by D. R. Butler and available by email, write: