I was reminded yesterday of the value of having a seasoned teacher, trained in a solid tradition.
And I was grateful to find some good counter-examples to interrupt any tendency of wanting to make it into a rule…! Byron Katie woke up, and is a brilliant teacher, without ever having had one of her own. And the same can be said of Douglas Harding.
But in general, it can be very helpful to work with a seasoned teacher within a respected tradition. It can be a great help in avoiding some of the typical pitfalls on the path, either at the awakening or the human side.
At the awakening side, it is easy to think that whatever awakening is here is somehow “final” or “complete”, while it isn’t. It seems to amazing, so clear, so profound, and we may not yet have had any glimpses of what is beyond, so we take it as done.
In terms of awakening to what we are, as long as there is any trace – however minute – of any sense of I and Other, inside and outside, center and periphery, subject and object, then we are not done. There is still further to go. Still filters to fall away.
If it seems in any way extraordinary, it is not done. If there is any sense of a doer, it is not done. Any sense of accomplishment. Any sense of it happening “to” someone.
If any of those are there, it is still far from a Ground awakening. A Ground awakening is just existence awakening to itself, already and always free from any of that.
At our human side, there is a lot of healing, maturing and development to be done, before and after an awakening to what we are. And this is exactly why many traditions, including Zen which I am most familiar with, wants the student to stay with the teacher, often for many years, following a clear awakening.
It takes time for this human self to reorganize within this new context, to mature into it, to live it more richly, fully, fluidly. To become a more full human being. To live from it as an ordinary human being.
If there is any trace of arrogance, of this human self being “special” in any way, it is still not quite there. There is still work to be done.
And if the human side is an any way dismissed, ignored or put down, there is still work to be done. There is still stuckness as what we are.
A part of me resists bringing in any examples of this, as it is not necessary and too easily goes into self-righteousness. Yet that is also a good reason to do it: When I bring in examples and talk about others, I always also talk about myself. They become a mirror for me, so an opportunity to find in myself what I see in them. And by writing this, I also invite others who are more familiar with these teachers to show me where I got it wrong, which I most certainly did in many ways.
So here we go…
Joel at CSS seems to be an example of someone stuck in the absolute. There is of course an acknowledgment of the human self, but very little to no active emphasis on allowing it to heal, mature, deepen, owned disowned parts, and so on. This is very different from many traditions, including Zen.
Saniel at Waking Down seems to be an example of someone who takes whatever awakening has happened as very special and unique, while it clearly is not. Also, at least what he talks about is a soul level awakening, not a nondual one, while he sometimes talks about it as if it was nondual. It may be a oneness type awakening, but that is far from nondual.
And a couple of counter examples:
Genpo Roshi seems stuck in arrogance, and clearly dislikes anyone questioning his decisions etc., in spite of being trained in a tradition for many years. I guess it never quite wore off. And he is a brilliant teacher nonetheless, one of the ones I respect and appreciate the most.
And then Byron Katie and Douglas Harding who both woke up on their own, and never really had a teacher, yet are brilliant teachers themselves.
By writing this, I also see a bias I have around these things: Teachers are supposed to be like Byron Katie, Douglas Harding and Adyashanti: sweet, fluid, clear, with no hangups obvious to me. And they are not supposed to have the one-sidedness of Joel, the arrogance of Genpo Roshi, or the approval-obsessiveness of Saniel.
Why is that? Is it true? Clearly not.
If I look a little closer, I see that these add flavor to their teachings, it invites their students to sort it out and go beyond it for themselves, and it also attracts different students.
Hangups in teachers have a great deal of value. And at the same time, I can choose those who have less of them.
And are they really hangups? That too is just my own interpretation, and there is probably a great deal more going on than what I am aware of.