When we are living in confusion, in suffering, in the ego, it seems natural to deify or look up to those who appear to have all the answers, who appear to be very spiritual - the gurus and teachers of this world. Of course, they are a real and valuable asset to society and the evolution of mankind, but we put them on a pedestal at our peril.
It may be true that someone who is widely regarded as being an ‘enlightened master’ has great clarity about life and, in many respects, may appear to be light years ahead of everyone else, but in essence his true nature and our true nature are no different. The person may be different, the energy may be different - but essentially what he is we are also, except that he is conscious of it and we are not. His body will die and his mind will go, just as will happen with our body and mind. He, as an individual, can no more escape death than we can - except that we would like to and he is not bothered.
A truly ‘enlightened’ master will never tell you that he is great or that he is enlightened. He will never tell you that he alone can realize the ultimate, that he is a perfect master or avatar, whilst you are an ordinary human being. There are people who will tell you these things, who will make enlightenment out to be something exclusive. There are people who will put themselves on a pedestal and encourage you to bow down before them, to serve them, to idolize them. The world is not short of a good supply of such ‘teachers’. But do these ‘teachers’ encourage you to awaken inwardly to the point where you don’t need them anymore?
When one goes with such a teacher, one instantly gives away one’s power, one’s autonomy, and one becomes dependent on their grace, on their goodwill, on their method of teaching. Of course, such teachers do offer a refuge, a support and advice for those who, for whatever reason, do not wish, or are not able, to take decisions or responsibilities for themselves in this life. But if one is seeking ‘enlightenment’, it is better to go to a teacher who does not have pretensions about his or her status in life. It is better to go to someone who offers you a pure and unconditional mirror in which to see into your true nature, rather than one which is clouded with ego and the spirit of control and manipulation.
We all have the potential to be awake, to be conscious, in the silent emptiness of our true nature. However, there are thousands of us who have studied spiritual writings and scriptures for decades and still are unable to break through the enclosure of the mind, to taste the nectar of realization directly. Thought cannot take us there. No prescribed practices will jolt us into this realization. No book will lead us there. The fact is that there is nowhere to go, nothing to realize and no one to realize it. We have created this myth about enlightenment and the enlightened seer, out of our own frustration and confusion. We have set them apart from ourselves, as something to achieve, something to reach out for, and in doing so have made them unattainable.
Enlightenment is something we have put on a pedestal, knowing that it is beyond our grasp. Even though the enlightened seer may tell us that all we need to do is to rid ourselves of the notion that we are not enlightened, still we are unable to put this notion, this concept aside. So where do we go from here? Clearly, any move we make in any direction is a mistake. So, we stay where we are, fully experiencing our unclarity, our confusion, our frustration. But, instead of indulging in emotional reaction and negative moods, we simply stay where we are. We live our life, aware of our thoughts, our feelings, our moods and emotions. We do our work, raise our family, whilst all the time watching what arises in consciousness. We see the play of the world, of life, and we stand back from any emotional involvement in it.
There are wars here and injustices there. We may work for peace in the world or try to put right injustices that are taking place, but we continue to stand back from emotional involvement. In doing so, compassion may arise in the heart. When we get involved emotionally, there is a personal reaction. This personal reaction neither solves the problem nor allows us to move on. When compassion arises, it comes with an all-seeing awareness of the suffering of all humanity. It takes us away from personal reaction into effective action. This compassion spirits us closer to realization. It takes us out of the ego, out of the personal, into the universal. We are then no longer concerned about personal realization. The realization comes as a natural side effect of the blossoming of compassion in our heart and mind.
It is natural to have respect for those who have greater knowledge, understanding and wisdom than ourselves. But it is also a mistake to get pulled in by appearances. Be careful of the one who stands before you offering sugar and spice. What’s in his other hand? Why is he so keen to get your attention? There are many characters in life who have learned how to act in order to get what they want. If someone keeps telling you he is a good man, does it not arouse your suspicion? If someone goes around under the banner of ‘enlightened master’, do you not have a few questions to ask? Of course, the teacher doesn’t always go around claiming that he’s an enlightened master (though some are not ashamed to do this), but he often doesn’t try to prevent his followers from doing so.
In my own experience, every teacher I ever met who really impressed me deeply, made no such claims. The moment that someone does make such claims, it gives away the fact that they are living in duality, in separation, in the ego. The bigger the guru, the more likely it is that they have fallen into this trap. We take their advice at our peril. Listening to the voice of our own true nature is what we really need to trust in. Then we need no outward teacher. The outward teacher then becomes, maybe, a source of inspiration and a motivating force rather than someone on whom we become dependent.
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