“The teacher truly doesn’t matter. The teaching, the truth does. Seek only the Truth with all your heart, and all things will reveal themselves as teachers.
Using “teachers” this way, no teacher can harm.
It’s not the teacher that matters, whether it’s a human, a frog, or a log.
It’s the arising of the true and genuine student that matters.
Because when the student arises [is ready], the moment’s teacher appears to appear—whatever form that takes.
I am NOT saying to not use a teacher, but don't think the teacher matters so much (then you won't make the teacher or community into a cult)... and to rise-up as a genuine student, having faith in the teachings, and doubt in what you think you know.” This is an OP from Batgap facebook group, the author has this site.
“when the student arises [is ready], the moment’s teacher appears to appear—whatever form that takes” from OP.
Because this spiritual law is true, in a sense all that is in this advice is a waste of time. But for me the question where does the seeker go? is huge, and is basically left unanswered because of this spiritual law. But isn't there a complacency in this that needs questioning especially as so many seekers are being attracted to cults? [Note: I have made this cult statement about “so many seekers”, but I don’t know how true it is.] For someone, especially a younger person, to reject the life conditioning has prepared them for, in some way they have got to be considered a seeker – they are trying in some way to go beyond conditioning. How many seekers joined a cult, became disillusioned and then did not follow a path – gave up and returned to conditioned society? Again I don’t know, but in some way as a spiritual teacher am I to blame for this? Why is it that spiritual teachers in general are less attractive than cults?
On the question of cults and inappropriate teachers, I support the work of ASI. What about the established religions and teachers, are they themselves trying to remove inappropriate teachers? Or are they helping the ASI - how?
I don’t have information about ASI and their interactions with religions. I contend that within the established religions there are the teachings and the potential for truth as Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of the raft states – as described in this podcast from Thay. But within these establishments where is the truth? Yet even that is not the problem. If the establishment institutions were attracting the seekers, then the genuine seekers would find the truth within the establishment or at least would know where to go next?
For some westerners “going east” was the answer for my generation, perhaps because rockstars did that trip? Did they learn? Did they stay? I never did that trip although I live in the east now - not associated with the establishment religious institutions. Sharon Salzberg is one such seeker who went, came back and found her path – at least she founded the Insight Meditation Society with Jack Kornfield who also went out East and Joseph Goldstein (who went east with the Peace Corps). How many westerners went east and stayed? How many returned? In Theravada Buddhism of which I know a little, it appears that some Buddhist seekers go east and return establishing something to do with their trip eg Jack Kornfield and the Insight Meditation Society. Others have gone east and returned as monks in the Forest Sangha or as a retreat. But what about all seekers – seekers who don’t want to be monks? Given the “foreign missions” of eastern religions there is no need to go east. And I question whether going east was just about the teachings and learnings, what about the learning gained in the camaraderie of the road? What about the different type of seekers on the road? I am in the East now, when a young seeker such a direction never came to me.
From the outside it appears that seekers have been attracted to communities – and therefore presumably some cults. I would have been attracted by such places if I had met similar seekers at the appropriate times. What about seekers with fire, where do they go? What is that fire? For me as a young seeker that fire was based on a partial awakening and a rejection of conditioning, in retrospect I felt I had nowhere to go. I dabbled around looking at this and that, but it all feels the same – institutions, small and large, with their own hierarchy requiring seekers to conform to their way of doing things. What do these institutions do but effectively put out the fire? Now I personally know, and expect it to be true in others, that fire contained ignorance and ego but there was also genuine seeking. Where do such people go? Places which fan the fire - I imagine cults do that.
Do the established institutions have a responsibility to attract and work with the fire? Do teachers have such a responsibility? It is not easy to answer this but the fact is that some genuine seekers are attracted to cults, become disillusioned (if not worse) because of the cults, and are lost to the path (at least for a while). Does there need to be a fire division within institutions and teachers prepared to work with "seekers on fire"? This is not happening now. And that fire is being attracted to cults – or addictions.
In I spoke of the , and by faith here I mean the magnetism that draws you to the path – and not some ditthupadana of creed or belief; I discussed faith here. Mixed within the fire of the last paragraph is faith – the magnetism that draws the seeker to the path. By , I am saying there is nowhere for many seekers to go.
Such seekers are genuine but they lack the discipline (and experience) that makes them engaged disciples of the path – true learners; such a mature attitude to truth comes over time and cannot be expected from young seekers with fire who have just left society’s miseducation institutions of conditioning and conformity. Where do they go?
How many established monks started with this egoic conditioning? How many true followers of the path started this way? As the OP says in the spiritual law “when the student arises [is ready], the moment’s teacher appears to appear—whatever form that takes”. So seekers stumble around finding insights in the wind or snippets from the great wisdom of teachers in and out of the institutions, and eventually find their path. Monks have done this. Batgap interviews attest to the fact that many teachers have done this stumbling. The Buddha speaks of suffering and going beyond suffering, but do we just accept that the life of the seeker needs to be suffering until awakening?
If we do accept this, what happens to those who are interested but do not have the discipline of the genuine seeker – have not accumulated sufficient faith to attract them to the path? They fizzle out. Maybe they touch base in some way with the path, perhaps attracted by the fire of others, but their fire or faith is not strong enough so they fizzle out. Perhaps they then turn what fire they did have to being a success in the world of conditioning and conformity? Or maybe they become lay followers of the institutions? And by lay followers I am thinking of people who are not trying to follow the path but who have found that following the teachings intellectually is sufficient – and by intellectual here I mean quoting the teachings and not trying to deeply understand them - let go of the raft.
In other words the spiritual community as a whole forces genuine seekers through hoops until eventually they become the seeker engaged with the teachings. But at the same time the spiritual community loses seekers’ fire, fire that comes from rejecting the conditionality. Maybe they lose seekers as well - or at best slow them down.
My path started with compassion that took me into teaching – right or wrong decision?, then I retired early becoming a writer and meditation elder. But the fire I had got extinguished until I was mature enough to becoming an engaged disciplined student before following my path. That fire was lost through stumbling about – eclectic dissipation. To be honest the only way I can see my fire having been used is in a community, but not a community of monks. The characteristics of this community would be that they engage and use that fire, and because of the , maybe that fire can only be attracted to a cult? But that fire was a natural part of being a genuine seeker because it was rejecting conditioning, and that fire needed to be used to engage with the teachings. Who does that? Teachers.
So where are the teachers willing to engage with the fire? In cults? In the institutions, that fire has to be extinguished before the institutional seeker can engage with the teachings. But why can’t that fire be used to engage with the teachings? Because there is nowhere for those fiery seekers to go, and worse if they are young and vulnerable maybe they join cults. It is the that causes this, and instead of possibly hiding behind the spiritual law institutions and teachers could look and see if their approach could work with this fire.
It is the nature of fire to be destructive but wisdom can use fire wisely. But where are such wise teaching approaches? Where does the seeker go?
There is a particular group of seekers that I will call firstgrace seekers.
What happens to seekers who are given the freebie of the first grace? Where do they go? Looking back at my first grace I was completely lost. All kinds of stuff were happening to me, none of which related to any of my conditioning. I was fortunate because I fell in with an arts collective, and these people validated my experiences and encouraged them. Through their help the first year in which I was wandering aimlessly at least had some sense outside of the mainstream conditioned society that I was a part of when I had the firstgrace. Because I chose compassion rather than writing (my writing has never provided me with a living although I have never sought such), I moved away from the arts and into the world of education. The spiritual law says this arts collective as my firstgrace teachers were provided for me, but why wasn’t there a place to go that was spiritual? The disciplined world of the monastery was never even contemplated, never had any attraction then. I was not seeking the engaged life of a disciplined student – I wasn’t ready for that, but I was ready to be pulled into the spiritual life in some way. Because of the grounding in the muse the arts people gave me, the path could never have been left behind, but I still stumbled for 30 years until finding my path in early retirement. Was it necessary for me to have gone through second childhood (see Treatise) without any guidance?
My answer to that is a clear no. In the same way that there is no place for a seeker to go, there is no place for a firstgrace seeker to go. And with firstgrace seekers, how many seekers are lost? The path gives them firstgrace, discussion of which would be mocked in conditioned conformity. If that firstgrace is not strong, do such seekers bury the experience – perhaps occasionally discussing it if their life crosses someone on the path? One could perhaps say tough, they were not ready; but that does not sound compassionate to me.
The defiled conditioned world could give us an indicator, they have outreach workers. What about spiritual path outreach workers? Not institutional outreach workers ie monks giving public talks to attract lay followers, but outreach workers who want to work with the "seekers-on-fire". Monks are intentionally not fiery, whilst the teachings could provide the raft how can youthful fire be attracted to a monk – in many cases? Society reaches out through outreach because they are protecting their interests – crime etc., whilst using compassion for their own interests and the compassionate outreach workers are happy to help in what little can be done. But how does the path reach out? More importantly, for Gaia and humanity the path needs to reach out because the path is what can change society for the better. But first the path has to want to reach out. On a person-to-person level if a path-follower meets a seeker that is a moment of great joy, and the follower will always encourage the seeker. But the follower (and seeker) will always have the same question “where does the seeker go?” But what about the institutions which have the money, what do they do for the path? In a sense that is a ridiculous question, because even though within the institutions there are the teachings how many within the institutions have thrown away the institutional raft and are living the path? If they don’t live the path, why would they want to invest in more than attracting people to the teachings – lay followers?
Then we have individual teachers who pop up. These teachers can be genuine with websites that try to reach out. Yet at the same time false “teachers” can be there to exploit the vulnerable as with cults and the “can’t-keep-it-in-their-pants” variety of falseness. Maybe institutions might be able to discern genuine teachers although some institutions have been found short recently. The ASI make efforts but don’t have the scope. How can young seekers know who to trust? And they quite reasonably go with fire to cults! Where else do they go given they are inside a ?
Spirituality needs to do more about its PR. I know this is a flip way of putting it but how can young seekers actually become attracted to the path? There are abusing teachers, institutional teachers that require a strictness that in itself appears to be designed so that young seekers especially western will not be attracted, widespread criticism of spiritual bypassing, and cults that offer what young seekers want except for the path. The spiritual path needs to reach out so that new seekers have a place to go, but I have no idea how. The safe option is to take on disciples when they are ready, but what about going out there and trying to make them ready? Maybe there will be too much ego with fiery young seekers, maybe they will still be too conditioned and not had a lifetime experience to work on. But defiled conditioned world works with such people, surely the path can be better than that world. Whatever happens, there needs to be a better answer to “where do seekers go?” than the spiritual law of there will be insights in the wind if only you could see or hear.
There is an educational methodology point I would like to make. In terms of the seekers the objective might well be wise engagement with the teaching but because of various levels of conditioning the level of this engagement will be very different. Given the different seeker levels, if this were mainstream education the teacher and teachings levels would also be different – more appropriate to the individual. Bring this differentiation into the teaching of the path; work with where seekers are at. In the OP’s thread one comment was that westerners were looking for an easy fix and, paraphrasing, overnight enlightenment; I do not mean that such people should be pandered to. But what about the genuine western seeker full of all the miseducated western conditioned egos? Should the first demands be a disciplined approach akin to eastern classroom discipline? Or should such a seeker be engaged where they are at, and through this engagement encourage the discipline eventually required for the path – required for genuine engagement with the teachings? Such seekers might well be more likely to learn from the teachings and dispense with the raft, as compared with certain disciplined seekers who might have difficulty going beyond the words of the teachings – have difficulty leaving the raft behind?
Finally if there are any fiery young seekers or firstgrace seekers who happen to see this advice, I would love to work with you. If you will make the commitment of first-thing daily meditation and an email diary of each meditation, then contact me. No promises of enlightenment but I will work with you to keep the fire – not to put it out, and hopefully guide you towards your path.