The Spiritual Teacher
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.
Spiritual Teachers Are Also Humans
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.
The “Perfect” Spiritual Teacher
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.
Advice For Spiritual Seekers
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 Spiritual 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.