Tantric Spiritual Teachers and Human Imperfection

                Each Spiritual teacher, has been molded by an unfolding life experience and their unique walk on the spiritual path.  Each Teacher has had the experiences needed to be a better teacher, or at least to be the right teacher for the students he or she will have.  It is the struggles of the teacher that have been experienced and overcome that provides the wisdom to assist others through similar challenges. It is practices, techniques and experiences in the personal spiritual practice or sadhana which gives the teacher the ability to choose the right tools for the students and understand the results that will be achieved and help the students to get the maximum benefit from the practices. It is the direct experience of the deeper Spiritual Nature that grants the teacher the ability to direct your awareness towards the same with your own Self.

                And within all of that practice, experience and wisdom, there walks the outer presentation of a human being.  And with humanness there exists apparent imperfections.  Even within a Self-Realized Guru, the outer personality and human form is often quite unassuming.  The behavior can seem simple or even a bit surprising.  Their human expression can seem just as imperfect as any other person you may encounter.  They may follow what appears to be a rather unhealthy diet, even being quite overweight.  They may do or say things which seem a little harsh or stubborn or inconsiderate.  They may at  times appear to be angry or appear to share human struggles of financial concerns and medical problems.  In short, they appear to be completely human.

                I know when I began a spiritual journey, and sought to learn from various teachers, I held many of them as being near perfect.  I expected that because I was being taught about Spirituality and Wholeness on a healing journey, that those leading me would be perfect and their behavior would 100% embody and reflect what they were teaching.  With that expectation, all of them eventually failed the test and  left me in a position of disappointment, shock or sometimes even betrayal.

                In the moment, I could not see the simple truth that I had just expected too much from them.  Instead, I became angry, hurt, or felt abandoned.  I could not understand how a teacher who had supported my growth for so long could suddenly become an opponent to all the things she had encouraged me to do.  I felt baffled and confused when I began to see hypocrisy or would complete a set of teachings and realize it did not take me to the spiritual place I had expected it to.

                But years later, I can see it was simply their humanness combined with my expectations that set me up to be disappointed and hurt.  They were each offering me the best of what they knew with varying degrees of sincerity, and behaving in the best way they knew how, even if it appeared as misguided, selfish or greedy to me.  In short, they were each limited by their own humanness.  And, what they had to offer me was also limited, and thus it was also appropriate for me to move on when I had gotten what I needed from my work with them.

                When I finally met my Guru, he was nothing like I would have imagined an advanced Yogi to be.  He is a simple man, appearing very human.  At the time I met him he was a smoker.  He eats meat, has many medical problems including severe chronic pain, is a good bit overweight, and walks with a cane.  I must admit that I tested and kept watching for signs that he had something to offer me.  As I opened to practice and explore what he was teaching me, my life began to change.  This became the proof and allowed me to dissolve my doubts and expectations.

                I finally came to understand that my idea of the “perfect” teacher had been based around idealized notions from scriptures which I had mistakenly projected onto the human form and personality.  I expected a Spiritual teacher to be “god-like”, but from a limited understanding. After all, the yoga and Tantric scriptures often proclaim the “Perfection” of the Guru.

                 I finally have come to understand that a Realized teacher’s perfection comes from his Knowledge of the True Self, which is Perfect and Unconditionally Loving.  It is not the outer human form which is perfect from an idealized perspective (never getting angry and always kind, never smoking or drinking, and always eating a vegetarian diet), but instead it is his INNER knowledge and Being which is Perfect, radiant and unconditionally loving.  This will often be expressed outside at various times, but there are always moments of “humanness” as well.

                It is the INNER consciousness of the Teacher which is the True and Perfect Teacher, not the human form.  A Spiritual teacher cannot be judged by his or her outer appearance or behavior.  The true measure of a Spiritual teacher is his or her ability to help you transform your life, and most importantly, help you discover and awaken to your own True Self.   Should the Teacher be kind and supportive?  In almost all cases, yes they will be, but not always in the way you expect.  What you think you need is not always what is best for you. The way you expect the Teacher to help you, is often not the way the most transformational teachings will occur.

                The more clearly I am able to experience and grasp the “imperfection” of the human teacher for my Self in relationship to my Guru, the more I also see how I have projected those same expectations onto my own human expression.  I have expected “perfection” from my body, mind and speech, and been harsh with myself when I fail to achieve it.  But this human expression will never be “perfect”.  It is my awakening Consciousness along with Knowledge gained from my experiences which carries the real value of anything I can teach, not the shape or state of my body or the ebbs and flows of my emotions and mind.  It is my experiences of transformation on the spiritual path that allow me to assist others in travelling across the same terrain. The imperfect humanness simply comes with the package, and I am learning to accept and embrace it in whatever state of imperfection it appears, knowing that from a deeper perspective of Truth, it truly is perfect exactly the way it is, even in its apparent imperfect state. 

                For you, the Spiritual Seeker, this also means you can set aside any judgments you have as to your own “shortcomings”.  The moments of anger, frustration and sadness, while they may change over time on the path, are part of your humanness.  You do not need to “perfect” all the yoga postures to achieve a high level of spirituality.  You do not need to appear or behave “perfect” by some idealized standard of the yogic way of living and being. These practices will benefit you in specific ways if you feel drawn to do them, but you should be gentle with yourself if you are working with them.

                No matter what practices you follow, it is the determination to know the Truth of your own Self, beyond the imperfect human condition that will elevate you into the experience of Spiritual Knowledge.  It is allowing the Teacher to guide you to uncover your True Self, and your own determination to awaken to that Knowledge that are the most important aspects of your practice.  And the movements of your human imperfections are to be embraced with self-acceptance.  It is not the human form which is transformed into a “Divine Being”, but rather it is the Divine Being as Consciousness which awakens to experience through the imperfect human condition.

                When dealing with your own Self, and when dealing with a Teacher, remember where the Perfected Truth lies.  Not in human form, but in the Spiritual Consciousness which permeates all things.  If you are working with a truly Advanced Spiritual Teacher, then focus your practices on discovering that you are the same, identical Consciousness as your Teacher.  When that truth begins to awaken within you, you will also see that the human expressions, both yours and the Teacher’s,  are exactly as they should be, and your True Self is beyond both.

5 Responses to Tantric Spiritual Teachers and Human Imperfection

  • Thank you. I appreciate your humility and acceptance, and sharing about how powerful it is to receive teachings through that veil of humanness. I have been wrestling with some of these issues, as I have a spiritual teacher who has recently revealed some things about her life(illegal activity and lying) that do not feel in integrity to me. I have tolerated them and worked on softening my own judgments to more humbly receive. But I have reached a point now where to continue seems co-dependent, when I don’t honestly share the same values as this person. I can forgive her humanness, but I feel it is time to move on.

  • Hello Kathy,
    Thanks for sharing as well. It sounds like you have done all the right things. You have worked to accept her humanness, you have listened carefully and consciously to your own feelings and inner wisdom, and without anger, you have determined that your highest good is to move on. This is a very conscious way of handling the situation.

    Too often, people react strongly and just run away, or perhaps even deny and defend and stay in support without ever checking in to their own feelings.

    Life is an ebb and flow of beginnings and endings. Everything in this outer life comes to an end eventually. So, that a relationship with a teacher may come to an end is certainly logical. All of the past teachers that I no longer work with, I completely accept (now) that it was just time to move on. We should not tolerate abuse. We should not stick around when we are no longer being fed. And we should not keep recieving when what is offered does not feel good to our hearts and minds. We must be conscious of how the relationship is nurturing us and helping us grow. When it ceases to do so, or begins to hold us back or harm us, then it is time to move on.

    Please note in my original post, that I make a disctinction between a “Self-Realized Spiritual Teacher” and a “spiritual teacher”. The first, being one who lives within the Divine Concsiousness as Reality, who has succeeded in realizing his or her True Nature, and the second being one who is still more identified with the worldly experience of life. It is important to consider the spiritual state when evaluating a teacher, because in the case of a Realized teacher especially, our judgements and expectations may be challenged in ways that make us initially uncomfortable. This is a conscious process of purifying the ego. This, however, should not be confused with simply tolerating abuse or blindly following. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. The teachings should change your life for the better, make you more conscious, deepen your personal integrity and deepen your relationship to your True Self.

    For some, even when working with a Realized Teacher, there will come a time when it is right to move on. I have been fortunate to meet and learn from a few different Realized teachers. Most of them offered me some specific “pieces” of learning that I needed, and I am grateful for, but that was their teaching role for me, and then I moved on. But when I met my Guru, there was no need to leave. In fact, even when I am far away from Him, I feel his presence with me. He has helped me understand that it is the Divine Consciousness itself which is always with me, and is the True Teacher.

    Many blessings to you on your journey. When that peaceful knowing arises, revealing the Truth of each moment, we must follow our hearts into the action that it creates. For you, it appears, that action is to release that relationship, and move on. When the “chord” is cut, feel into the openness and freedom that arise. Be well, and Namaste.

  • Hello there and thank you for this blog. I live in the Atlanta area and found this post through google.
    I often feel that I could benefit from the guidance of a spiritual teacher but I’m not sure how to go about finding one. I have heard several times that some individuals do not need a spiritual teacher or guru because of paradigm shifts or the recent changes in the collective consciousness and its direct connection to the spiritual realm. Is this true?
    Are there particular scenarios in which you found your spiritual teachers of the past that might help lead me in the direction to finding mine?
    Thanks once again. peace and light.

  • Hello Yanek-Ilaja,
    About 10 years ago or so, I believed that the idea of “paradigm shifts”, etc were allowing us to awaken easily, without the help of a spiritual teacher. Fortunately, Spirit corrected my thinking. I came to a point where I was hitting a glass ceiling. I could not progress further on my own. For me, this was a moment of surrender where I had to admit to myself that I could not advance further spiritually with the same mind that caused me ignorance of the deeper Truth of my Self. Because I could not see my way out of my own entrapment, I needed help.

    Let’s look at this from another perspective also, though. Let’s suppose that the “paradigm shifts” are really happening. Even if that is the case, how much in life have you accomplished that was not taught to you, or at least nurtured out of you in some way? If you went to a doctor that said “Oh. Medical technology has advanced so much in our culture that we no longer need medical training, so I didn’t go to medical school”, would you want him to operate on you?

    Everywhere in our culture, we can recieve education and training that is VALUED for multiple careers, artistic expressions, self-improvement, mathmatics, music, etc. So, I have come to find it baffling that when it comes to Spiritual advancement, people would think “I don’t need a teacher for that”. For simple practicality, why would you not want to go and learn from people who have already found methods that work? Why re-invent the wheel?

    We all need teachers, experience and education to learn and grow. It is indeed possible to “self-educate”, and many inspired artists and entrepeneurs became great by thinking outside the box. The individual essence of the student should always be nurtured. And there really are “naturals” and “geniuses”, but in most cases, their “natural” talents also need to be nurtured and a foundation of education helps to bring out the natural genius.

    There are a few rare souls that may “not need a spiritual teacher”, but I assure you, they were taught by the Grace of God, even if there was not physical teacher. They had a teacher, or they would not have progressed.

    Over time, it IS discovered that the True Teacher or Guru IS within your own Self. But even knowing that, most need an external teacher to guide them until they are truly surrendered enough to find all the answers from the Inner Teacher. To simply say “The teacher is in me. I don’t need a teacher” is not a helpful solution. Everyone can benefit from a teacher, and the Tantras declare that no real progress can be made without one. From my own experience, I agree 100%.

    I cannot express in words the Gratitude I have for my Guru. He entered my life after I surrendered. After I realized I needed help. And without His assistance, I would not have been able to see past my own limitations. I needed him to shine the Light into the darkness of my own mind.

    The Spiritual Path is such a different way of thinking than our normal conditioning that few people would ever be able to shift perspectives on their own. And for most that DO have a teacher, it still takes time for the shift to happen. They need to be nurtured while they gain a new orientation to Reality and life and their own Nature.

    Finding a Guru has been described as being like “falling in love”. When you find the right one, you just know it, and a bond is created that is not describable.

    I encourage people to explore different teachings, have different experiences and continue to surrender and learn to Trust your inner guidance. When you finally recognize your Teacher, you will just know it. It may be instant recognition, or you may just keep going back because he or she continues to feed your soul, and then one day, years later, it dawns on your that this is your Guru.

    Do not be in a hurry. Trust and continue to learn and practice in the mean time. They say “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Do your best to be ready and then release expectations.

    Blessings to you,
    Jeff

  • I never thought I would find such an everyday topic so enrathlling!

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