The Benefits of having a Spiritual Teacher
Part 3 Series: Why do I need a spiritual teacher when the truth is in me
In many Eastern religions, the search for enlightenment is described as a path that takes hundreds of lifetimes, even for someone who has already embarked on the journey to awakening. In the Amartya tradition, we have a different perspective. Aaravindha Himadra, who represents this tradition in the West, shares that every sincere individual can wake up to their full mastery in one lifetime.
However, awakening requires the knowledge and potent techniques that allow us to penetrate and dissolve the illusions integrated into the mind to touch the truth in ourselves and bring it forward unencumbered in each moment.
But techniques and knowledge alone are not the only benefits of a good spiritual teacher.
A good spiritual teacher will not give you what you want, but what you need
An important aspect of the relationship between a true Master-Teacher and their student is not to give the devotee of the truth what he or she wants, but what he or she needs.
Because it’s not just about developing knowledge and getting more and more efficient techniques. It’s also about furthering the integrity of character and qualities of the heart to speed up development.
Spiritual development also means embodying divine-human virtues such as compassion, gratitude, non-harming behaviors, generosity, kindness, sincerity, receptivity, innocence, non-judgment, acceptance, truthfulness, and more.
Often, however, attachments or aversions we have developed to defend our identity hamper the expression of these natural virtues. But the identity we defend has nothing to do with our true self. It comprises of assumptions about ourselves that we have integrated from voices of parents, teachers, and other adults or peers in our childhood that have told us who and how we are.
We have integrated these beliefs as patterns, social conditioning, and traumas that are now coloring our authentic way of being. We could also call this identity a persona or “ego;” a mask of attachments and aversions superimposed on our natural expression. The paradox is that we have learned to defend this false expression. Whenever this persona is threatened, emotions such as anger, frustration, jealousy, envy, depression, or the like rise as warning signals.
How a spiritual teacher can guide us in dealing with the Ego, our false sense of Self
Nothing that is based on illusion can exist for a long time. It is subject to the forces of time that break it down. The truth, however, is eternal. Because of this, our ego is constantly threatened in everyday life, and our minds are busy acting out automatic avoidance and defense strategies to protect or patch together our threatened reality.
Without a good spiritual teacher who has the clarity to penetrate this mask and help us make new decisions about it, we would rarely leave the familiar waters. Even, if we have developed a persona that is made up of suffering, like the frog that stays in the pot of boiling water, we prefer to stay in the known limits of our identity until life destroys those limits, and forces us to cope with a new situation.
The spiritual path is, therefore, a release of old beliefs and ego structures, which can sometimes be painful. It is difficult to sacrifice an illusion for the truth when the ego is in resistance. But if you step back and make a distinction for the truth, you will always feel more freedom and expansion than before.
Facing the deep stuff
The further you have freed yourself from the old structures stored in the psyche’s unconscious, the more you will approach the deep wounds that you have kept hidden from yourself. We defend these wounds with internal guards who watch over their territory like hell hounds biting everything that comes near them; even the hand offering to help.
At that moment that you face your ego, you have to let it die so that your true self can rise from its ashes. You will face all your doubts. If you have a guide by your side who has gone through this process on their own before, you will know you have a friend on your side who will support you and nudge you in the right direction.
When we have learned the methods to find our bearing because we had a good teacher, we can soon move through most challenges ourselves and let go of old patterns of limitations and egoisms. But we still may get stuck with deep attachments and deflect, or go back into those old patterns. Having access to a real teacher can be the needed support that can help us realize the situation and break free.
Some things you can only experience with a true spiritual teacher and guide
I have witnessed many situations where Aaravindha has caught someone in the right moment or has even caused a situation that brought about a moment of healing instead of a fortification of old patterns. The ability to hold you in a compassionate space while not letting you get away with ego illusions is one of those moments where you can benefit from a good teacher. If that teacher can also see what you truly need for your development, the guidance can move much further.
Something I have observed for years in Aaravindha’s seminars is that somehow, be it through his presence, the group energy, the deep inner process or the combination of it, people often come to a point during the seminar of feeling the issue very intensely. With the personal guidance provided in the seminar they can ask a personal question about their issue and use this opportunity to find insight and healing.
If you do not have this teacher friend on your path to give you the knowledge, techniques, and sometimes personal guidance, you most likely cannot even overcome the simpler hurdles of your resistances and emotions. Most likely you would try to walk the path of least resistance. You will avoid triggers instead of acknowledging them and discriminating over them and make people wrong who threaten your ego-identity. And if that is not a hindrance, the programmed pragmatism we have adopted will probably kill every spark of faith and possibility if there is no one at your side to remind you of your true self.
Do I really need a spiritual teacher?
In the field of all possibility, it is also possible to find the way all by yourself, but you will be subject to chance or grace and will need many detours. In fact, leaving the path to its natural course, or if you do not have powerful techniques or knowledge in your tradition, it will require hundreds of lifetimes, because nature is sometimes nourishing and other times brutal.
You will find bits of knowledge here and there, but many pieces of the puzzle will be missing for you. It is like learning a craft. Of course, you can make your experiences and learn things yourself, but it is so much easier and faster if you can learn the best tested knowledge of someone who knows their craft well. After a short while you will start off from a much higher level than you would have been able to reach through trial and error in the same time.
Are you a spiritual consumer or a spiritual seeker?
Many seekers who have not yet found peace with their authority resistances and insist to do it all by themselves, circumvent having a teacher by flying from flower to flower drinking from many different spiritual sources. The issue with that, is that avoidance or desire patterns are the driving force. Your ego is still the authority that decides what suits your identity. True spiritual traditions do not lay the most sacred pearls out to the fickle visitor searching for instant gratification. They offer them based on commitment and development because only that ensures that the sacred will remain protected and pure. Therefore, the spiritual consumer will never move beyond the surface teaching, if there are deeper teachings available.
But, if you can see there are no deeper teachings available, if the teachings make little sense, or if there are no real techniques to move you forward, it is necessary to fly on and keep searching.
My own search for a teacher
On my search for knowledge and in seeking a teacher and guide, I explored various teachings. Before I met Aaravindha in 2006, I was on a wild search for spiritual knowledge. I was searching far and near, driven by an inner force looking for something. I was settling on many flowers only to find that the pool of nectar was shallow and had little nutrition and consistency. When I found Aaravindha, my personal search was instantly over. I knew this was what I had been looking for. I had found the one magical white lotus with roots reaching into the eternal waters. The longer I have been drinking from that source, the more I have realized how much deeper the pool of nectar still is. It is a rare blessing to find something like that. The key is to keep testing the flowers until you have found the one magical flower in the garden.
When you have the right knowledge and techniques in your hand, you can unfold your potential in one lifetime. You can make the choice to take the helping hand and walk with someone who knows the way. Why use your bare hands if you can use the best tools?
In choosing a good teacher, you are exercising your own power to make an intelligent choice.
In part 4 we speak about how you find a teacher; a true guru who can shorten your path.