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The Teacher Finds You
Glynn: Hi, James, thank you again for your website and books. My wife and I are very much looking forward to spending some time with you in Portland this summer.
I’d like to ask you a few questions about teachers because I wonder if I am fooling myself about my motivations for seeing you.
Like many people who appear in your published satsangs, I have had 30+ years of searching for a teaching and teacher that would deliver the goods. My most recent 20 years were with a group that was loosely based on the teachings and methods of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. The leader of the group was (is) very charismatic and not a true teacher, as finally became clear to me. One of the hallmarks of the group and the members was a very strong devotion to him, and I ended up subsuming my considerable doubts because they seemed to go against the current. Essentially, I was not true to myself, and that was one of the strongest lessons I learned there. Part of that lesson was that it is easy to be deluded and to delude oneself, so ironically, while I learned to trust myself, I also learned how hard that can be. I mention this because it is background for what comes next.
About five years ago I came across the teachings of Vedanta in the form of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj’s book I Am That. Of course you know much better than I do how electric he was. Anyway, it set me free from the earlier group on what I was certain was the final quest for a teacher. After a few false starts, I was able to meet a teacher in Europe who was a student of Maharaj. I tried to be very honest with myself when evaluating him, his presentation of the teaching, etc. and I can say I would have been completely happy finding a way to make it work on all counts had he and the people around him passed with flying colors. Making it work would have included learning a new language to facilitate communication, regular trips to Europe for retreats, etc. While at one of his retreats we learned of another teacher nearer to home from a different tradition, and after some thought decided to meet him and test the waters there. The main reason for this was because I understand the critical need for oral transmission and instruction. As it turns out, the teacher in Europe was diagnosed with a difficult to treat cancer shortly after we met him, and it is likely that he will not live very much longer, so the choice was really not a choice.
I’m sorry for the longish email, and I am getting now to my question. I do not feel the same affinity, trust, meshing of gears, I really don’t know how to say it, with the person nearby (as I did with the one in Europe) nor do I feel his general approach is structured enough (again, it is hard to come up with words for all this because it is mostly a “feeling”). I am open to the possibility that this difference is at least partly explained by the first-love phenomenon, where you have always a special place in your heart for the first person you fell in love with. I find it very hard to know when I am being completely honest about this and when I am just thinking too much. On the other hand, as soon as I came across your website, I had an instant “click” and have been by turns ravenously devouring and very patiently savoring and re-savoring books and chapters and whatever ever since.
How can I tell if I am just fooling myself? Is not a fully-realized teacher the “same” as any other? Obviously not, because, as you say, Maharaj took one look at you and sent you up to another. I am really tired of looking and I “think” I found what I need when I got to your website, but much of my life has been a self-deluded mess. Also, it looks like it will be a long haul, and assuming I have a normal lifespan I won’t share the “end” with you. What happens under those circumstances? Vedanta must have dealt with that many times over the millennia; do you pass on your students to a recommended successor?
~ Many thanks, Glynn
James: Hi, Glynn. Yes, you probably think too much, but I can understand your problem. The teacher should be ethically and morally pure, obviously. They should have a systematic and proven methodology and you should be attracted to them personally. But there is another issue in this teaching business: the teacher should really find you, which will happen if you are ready. The self will fix it up. It sounds to me like you are a householder and have quite a bit of worldly karma. Is that true? If it is, it is best to clear most of it up with the karma yoga attitude, and then the right teacher will appear.
Actually, Maharaj was not a very good teacher, even though he was a realized soul. His guru was a good teacher. Maharaj had only one teaching really and it was for sanyassis, not householders.
~ Love, James