Hello everyone. It has been sometime since I've posted here--busy with work, conferences, and vacations (in Maui--aloha!) I've missed you all. While in Maui, I was reading Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa, which I highly recommend to you all, and in it he discusses the human tendency (both in Eastern and Western religions/spiritual sects) to get lost by attaching ourselves to a spiritual teacher. Instead of focusing on our inner self, we seek refuge in the teacher (as outside of us, which causes more separation) to heal our lives. I am reminded of the line in the Mary Oliver poem "The Journey" of voices shouting, "mend my life!"
But come on, let's be honest here--don't we all love a good teacher? I know, as a consummate teacher's pet, I love a great teacher and the creativity that blossoms with a student-teacher relationship that is based upon mutual respect and not idol worship.
So instead of continuing my own rambling thoughts on this, I thought I would turn to Chogyam Trungpa. Here are a few passages--what do you think?
"I am afraid the word 'guru' is overused in the West. It would be better to speak of one's 'spiritual friend,' because the teachings emphasize a mutual meeting of the minds. It is a matter of mutual communication, rather than a master-servant relationship between a highly evolved being and a miserable, confused one . . . Nor is it helpful to choose someone for your guru simply because he (she) is famous, someone who is renowned for having published stacks of books or converted thousands or millions of people. Instead, the guideline is whether or not you are able actually to communicate with the person, directly and thoroughly. How much self-deception are you involved in? If you really open yourself to your spiritual friend, then you are bound to work together . . . If you are going to make friends with a spiritual master, you must make friends simply, openly, so that the communication takes place between equals, rather than trying to win the master over to you. . . . We must approach spirituality with a hard kind of intelligence. If we go to hear a teacher speak, we should not allow ourselves to be carried away by his (her) reputation and charisma . . . Such intelligence has nothing to do with emotionalism or romanticizing the guru. It has nothing to do with gullibly accepting impressive credentials, nor is it a matter of joining a club that we might be enriched. It is not a matter of finding a wise guru from whom we can buy or steal wisdom. True initiation involves dealing honestly and straight forwardly with our spiritual friend and ourselves. . . ."
I wish I had time to type more from this book on the question of student/teacher and initiation (into a path). But what do you think of the above passage, my spiritual friends? Have you ever had a true "meeting of the minds"? (As an aside, I have to say that I love seeing the phrase "meeting of the minds," a phrase I see used repeatedly in the contract law that I practice, used with such a spiritual spin!) Have you ever been guilty of idolizing your teachers/gurus? I know I have. Isn't it interesting that the more we do that, the more we drive a wedge in between us and others (including the teacher) and the more we see that there is nothing special with the teacher, the more unified we become as "one"?
Namaste from the frozen tundra of the Midwest,
If there's nothing special about the teacher, or me, I think 'yes' we are commonplace. But I think we naturally seek to gain something and if something can be gained whether insight or experience then that is special to us and something we will seek and label 'special'. There's that special something that some people have.
hey bubbles! thanks for your thoughtful insights. yes, we are all special (yet not special--that is, separate from each other). i do love the idea of the "spiritual friend" relationship instead of teacher/student dichotomy, which seems destined for abuse of power. anyway, the student often becomes the teacher of the teacher, no?
I've also been self-studying Shantideva's The Way of the Bodhisattva, and the first chapter entitled "The Excellence of Bodhichitta" contemplates how each of us are bodhisattvas (most of us in training) and that we each are amazing because of the impulse of bodhichitta in us:
"But those who fill with bliss
All beings destitute of joy,
Who cut all pain and suffering away
From those weighed down with misery,
Who drive away the darkness of their ignorance--
What virtue could be matched with theirs?
What friend could be compared to them?
What merit is there similar to this?"
Sounds pretty lofty, no? But Shantideva says that once we have one thought of generosity to another or others--a sincere wish to end the suffering of others--in that moment we grasp bodhichitta and become an amazing bodhisattva in training:
"For when, with irreversible intent,
the mind embraces bodhichitta,
Willing to set free the endless multitudes of beings,
In that instant, from that moment on,
A great and unremitting stream,
A strength of wholesome merit,
Even during sleep and inattention,
Rises equal to the vastness of the sky."
You all are amazing bodhisattvas, which is nothing special (or separate) because that amazing light lives in each of you.
Namaste from the Midwest,
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