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Spiritual Teachers


Someone writes a book on the spiritual life. It becomes a bestseller, elevating them to talk-show circuit status. The promotional hype is now in full swing, and you go for it. You attend the seminars, pay good money for the workshops, and buy all the video teachings and audio courses. You place a bumper sticker on your car announcing your newfound affiliation. Because you have a vested interest in getting your money's worth, you imagine that you are benefiting from your new guru. You are further influenced by the members of the organization, who actively encourage you to continue interacting with the group.


But the only true signs of spiritual unfoldment are the diminishment of the ego, the liberation from deep-seated personality traits, and the quelling of random thoughts and reactive emotions. To allow yourself to be manipulated by the forces of conformity by feeling that you belong to a group is worlds apart from actually realizing God. You've helped to make someone rich, but have you enriched your own spiritual plot of soil?


“Many will say to me, ‘Lord, did we not do many mighty works in your name?’

Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I have never known you.

Keep away from me, you workers of iniquity!’”






The following guidelines will help to weed out a good percentage of bogus teachers:

Equally important, a legitimate spiritual teacher will never infantilize their disciples or tell them what to think. On the contrary, they will empower their disciples to think for themselves, to act independently, and to make their own decisions in life. Remember, God is found within us, never outside of ourselves. A true spiritual teacher will find joy in helping others find God within themselves, never in establishing a slavish relationship of dependency with their charges.


Lao Tzu

Recall the words of Lao Tzu: "He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know." Many bogus teachers are self-christened, and they often make unsubstantiated claims about themselves. Don't believe their hyperbole. Rather than embodying enlightenment, they are victims of bloated egos. They rely on your naiveté and gullibility to grant them credibility. Without your patronage they will go out of business. Don't fall prey to such individuals.


If the above principles are followed, the spiritual seeker will find that a certain number of those who are touted as spiritual teachers are sheer frauds. These individuals, often egomaniacal autocrats, tend to corrupt religion for their own greedy ends. Jesus counseled, “Beware of false teachers, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15). The very existence of these false teachers mocks the many legitimate and dedicated spiritual teachers who sincerely and joyfully follow their calling. It would be in your best interest to avoid any spiritual teacher who violates the guidelines listed above.


More on Teachers


The benefits of sticking with established mystical traditions sometimes outweigh those of following unconventional spiritual movements and self-styled teachers. As a generalization, you will find the greatest charlatans among the self-appointed charismatic guru types. Sure, episodes of deplorable corruption often erupt among the established religions, which rightfully must be addressed and corrected. But many such religions have centuries of mystical tradition to fall back on, and it's that wellspring of mysticism into which a person taps. This is this core element of religion that far outlives the bad apples of this or that decade. Whereas the flash-in-the-pan guru types interchangeably come and go, often duping countless individuals with skillful marketing techniques that are entirely self-serving.


What constitutes a genuine spiritual teacher? One who is charismatic? One who excels in delivering dynamic, mesmerizing lectures? One who draws the greatest crowds or builds the largest organization? One who receives the most media coverage? One who sells the most books? None of the above. The best spiritual teacher may be entirely unknown. That person may anonymously teach by example alone. He or she may be reclusive and shun the masses. The criterion of gauging success by how well a so-called teacher stacks up on the popularity scale is a function of commercialism, which demands that products be sold to the greatest numbers of people. But in the world of pure spiritual values, the numbers game holds no meaning whatsoever.


Jesus Christ

A true spiritual teacher will never be self-appointed. Their legitimacy should be confirmed by other legitimate teachers within their tradition. They should have respect for, and not denounce other legitimate religious traditions. They should not espouse inflexible, dogmatic tenets. He or she should shy away from making claims about themselves. (Okay, you may cite Jesus...there are exceptions.) An advanced teacher will have no ego. They will be content everywhere. Such teachers are seemingly invisible and forever ungraspable.


The single-most important function of a spiritual teacher is to plant a seed, to ignite a spark of spirituality within their disciples. If they originate from a bona-fide tradition, they act as conduits for the blessings of that tradition. When interacting with their charges, a certain mood overtakes them, which the Hindus call guru bhava - the mood of the teacher. Any so-called spiritual teacher who is not overtaken by this mood, which descends upon them from God, lacks the authenticity to impart true spirituality. They may give electrifying lectures, they may sell scores of books, they may claim thousands of followers. But none of these secular accomplishments qualifies them to infuse the vibrant, living truth of spirituality to others. Of many hundreds of spiritual teachers, this function may be activated in only a handful.


How do you know if a spiritual teacher has access to this sublime mood? In their presence, and especially when receiving their blessings, you will feel unshakable contentment and freedom from all worries and earthly concerns. When this occurs, you will have been put in touch with your soul. You will have been transported to a timeless realm of unending, ever-new wonder. The teacher's spiritual mood will have transferred unto you by osmosis, and you will have been given a glimpse of your own true egoless spiritual nature, which is unalloyed peace and indescribable joy.


However, you do not categorically need a teacher to achieve this state. Why? Because this state always exists within you. The outer teacher merely facilitates this inner awakening. If you have incentive and ardent desire for spiritual realization, you already possess the key components that will fuel your entire spiritual journey. Your motivation and the degree of your faith will solely determine your rate of progress, aided by what mystics refer to as the grace of God, which is an intangible, mysterious factor. God will reveal Himself/Herself to the aspirant who is satisfied with nothing except God.


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Last Update: March 23, 2017