I have contemplated this question often. What need in us surfaces, that seeks a teacher? What is it we wish to be taught? What is it we are lacking? Is it lack? Or wrong perception?
I myself am very cautious about teachers. Think about your parents. Perhaps they erred terribly. Perhaps they did their best. Whichever way were they faultless? Did they give you the security and love you needed? What does a spiritual teacher give us that parents don't? What job does the teacher serve?
If we look at this very simply I think it comes down to this. Where there is pain there arises the intelligent and inevitable questions: "Why?" - Why must we suffer? What is it that suffers? Is it the mind or the body? Are we the mind or the body?
If a baby finds a pair of scissors on the floor, chances are that it will play with them. Mom or Dad would hopefully come to the rescue or - even better - the scissors would never come within the child's reach. But if they did and the parent took them away - there is a very good chance that the baby would cry at the loss of their toy.
Life is like this. We cry over things that we become attached to - often things that cause us harm. And sadly we lack the awareness - all too often - to question what it is that causes our tears. If we could somehow look with the eyes of maturity, would there be such a need for tears or would right action be automatic?
There are profound lessons to learn in life. But it takes great discrimination to even come face to face with them - never mind master them. A teacher is needed when there is a cry for help. Most often that cry does not get answered - at least not fully.
Love is beyond what can be taught. Perhaps its example can inspire us to live differently - but it cannot be taught. So what purpose does a real teacher serve?
And by what standard are we to measure a real teacher? - when we ourselves are in the dark as to what enlightened action would be. These are mystical and yet imperative questions.
Imagine for a moment that you lost everything that you held to be valuable. Imagine you lost your daughter or your husband or your father or your house or your car or your job - all of a sudden - everything that was familiar and comforting in your life was gone. Naturally you would enter a period of grief and depression. There might be physical struggle as well as emotional struggle. In the end you would be left with yourself and the raw inevitability of your emotions.
You might find yourself resenting their passing - as if life was cruel and you were its victim. Or perhaps you were abused in some way as a child and you have come to consider yourself to be a victim of life. Or perhaps you take a vacation in a country in the third world and you get to see terrible poverty every which way you turn. And it makes you numb with horror and despair...because you wonder how desperate and ugly human existence can be.
There are so many causes of pain potential in life. Pain is unavoidable. But how do we heal and what is it that happens in healing? Clearly, whether the pain is physical or emotional or mental - the mind is that instrument which correlates our experiences. It is the mind which is in charge of how we interpret perception. Indeed the mind is what is in charge of perception. It is the organising factor behind perception.
How the mind thinks determines our state of mind. The content of the mind is what we draw from when we seek explanations and meaning for existence. But what if the meanings we give events and phenomena are invalid - what if they are plain wrong? How do we find out what is true - if there is such a thing as truth? Put another way - where does truth begin and illusions end.
Einstein pointed out that if you are young man - time is far likely to speed along when you are in the company of a beautiful young woman than it is in the company of a boring lecturer. Perception is relative to our point of view.
How can there be transformation of perspective? Somehow with the right attention we can graduate from silence to mumbling "ma" and then from that to a few words and so on until we have a full command of a language. Knowledge is a business of aquisition. Is spiritual understanding the same as academic understanding? Is it a process of acquisition? If so, what is acquired? Does a spiritual teacher give us something? Or do they seek to refine something that is already there?
Perhaps this piece will raise more questions than it yields answers. I read somewhere that human beings at the start of a learning curve or a creative project tend to overestimate their capabilities.
There is that famous story of Michelangelo. In Michelangelo's day if one wanted to be a craftsmen one would have to find a patron and teacher. The custom was that one made up some kind of portfolio and one took it to whichever artist or sculptor one wished to study under. Michelangelo turned up with nothing. No paintings. No sketches. Zilch.
Somewhat surprised the master artist asked him how he could demonstrate his talents without a portfolio. Michelangelo asked for a piece of paper. He took the paper and drew a perfect circle. Try and draw a perfect circle. You can't. He could.
Simplicity is the essence of genius. Somewhere inside you there is a frightened child. Somewhere inside of you there is a being who craves to love and be loved. That wpunded child within has built up barriers to protect itself from what it percieves to be a cruel world. And those barriers are anything but simple. They are based on a thousand ineffable conditions the riddle of which is perhaps our most treasured possession. No matter what you do or say to me - I have that inner child to take refuge in - to hate you in silence, to sulk away the injustices of existence in cherished privacy.
Perhaps you have become a so called expert: a psychologist or a politician or a priest. You have studied the great minds of the age and you regurgitate what they say. Authenticity would demand us to question that child. It would demand us to look again. It would question very carefully whether the theories of mind concur with our experience of actuality.
It takes some courage to face up to that inner child. It takes some pretty defiant questioning in the face of loss and pain to confront ourselves. We are a set of conditions....a dictionary of conclusions; a manual of prejudices. How do we face them? And how does the Real teacher face us and themselves in the mirror of experiences. Are there any hard and fast rules? Probably not.
I think faith in a sense is needed. Faith in what is. I mean, if one is sensitive, one can sense that there is an ordering principle at large in life. Some greater intelligence that seems to be behind affairs. Can we listen to that?
What if nothing you see means anything? At least, what if nothing you see means anything in the context of your value system? What if your value system - the thing which informs your thinking process - is a rotten and destructive thing? How would one come to see that? Perhaps the analogy of the child and the scissors is helpful. Perhaps there is not a single answer - no testimony - no dividing line. Perhaps there are hints along the way we must take into account...
I remember I met a man with fire in his eyes. He was giving a lecture on the theme of determination. He asked "What is determination?" He asked that question with such passion, with such vigor....I was virtually knocked out of my seat with the force of his words. He talked at a normal volume but there was a vast force behind his question. There was an awareness there that seemed to have destroyed all conclusions that that question might bring forth - an awareness that had transcended thought.
Something touches you. Something hits you. It is not intellectual. It is very mysterious. But if you have the ears to hear you are brought to crisis. Every thing in this world has a quality about it. The quality that crisis leads us to is stillness that comes when we are no longer formulating answers to the unknown. In that stillness learning takes place. That stillness has always been and always will be the only hope for mankind. It is the extinguisher of all side issues and the prelude to everything worthwhile.
I think we all have a hungering for it - somewhere deep down. I think that is why we are here; to discover it. But I think - because of our colossal ignorance - it is the last thing we are interested in. How ironic this is, because it is usually the thing we most need to discover.
Perhaps a real teacher has some insight into this dilemma because he has grappled with it within himself and gone beyond the monotonous dullness of theoretical answers. Perhaps he smiles a little more often. Perhaps he has some relationship with joy. Yes, joy is the only sure sign. Pure, unadulterated joy in the face of all woeful conclusions; joy in the face of all tired, lamentable reflections. Joy that comes with the realization of something other....something within that surfaces when we are at one with that remarkable stillness - some kind of realization which says "ah how mistaken I have been all along!" How tremendously humble we must be - to really know what a smile is!
True happiness, ultimately, is inevitable to only one class of people: the deeply dissatisfied. For it is only they that can tear down the walls of their illusions that keep them boxed in and afriad. When you lose that which is precious - when you lose all meaning and hope in your life - however that happens - whether it be the loss of a loved one or the gaining of something which you have longed for for a long, long time - which in the end leaves you with nothing but regret - then, it just might be that you are being presented with the opportunity to find out what is keeping you bound to the lies about yourself which you have so completely and tragically come to believe. Then the child that is crying for help within might finally have something to meaningful within its reach to heal its desperate heart.
The wise are never desperate - not because they have mastered apathy - but rather because they have treasured their dissatisfaction above everything else. In truth only they have the right to ask what determination is - because only in the hands of such individuals does that question have real value. I pray you discover determination one day. I know very little - but one thing I do know for sure - that which discovers determination is not what you think yourself to be.
- ► 2008 (31)
- ► 2006 (147)
- The Indian Blockbuster of the Summer:
- The World of Tomorrow - Lessons From the Life of a...
- A love not of this world
- Ah beautiful!
- The heart is a lonely hunter
- To what degree can another human being affect us
- Condoleeza Rice and the future of the World
- Illogical India
- A plumber in India
- The Indian trains website
- Gandhi the Mahatma
- Don't waste anything.
- Death comes quickly
- Dreams and Good luck a la Beethoven
- Can you place a value on the best of yourself?
- On Nikos Kazantzakis
- Keep the bowl empty of the yesterday.
- What is comedy?
- Beyond Separation
- A few worthy aphorisms
- Seeing differently
- Love will find you
- Guidance in meditation
- I would do anything for love
- The Poet in us
- Can wrong perception bring happniness?
- Tribute to Nick Drake - Air Heavy with a Memory
- ▼ July (33)