Humble salutations to the Supreme Intelligence, The Advaitha Guru Parampara (lineage teaching non-Duality) and my own Acharya (Preceptor) for the content that I put forth in this blog !
It is a very common question, especially among those who are new to spirituality,”Where do I begin? Do I really need a guide/teacher to teach me?” I myself have been through this dilemma at the start of my journey and for months on end went about reading books and listening to material all over the internet in my quest to know. However, after several months of such unorganized searching, it wasn’t hard to conclude that this aimless search was going nowhere! I needed help.
Physics,chemistry, math,dance,music,tennis, swimming,cooking,add practically ANYTHING to this list, is it achievable without study, training, guidance? If the gross themselves need extended training and systematic teaching, how can something so subtle, which is beyond perception, conception, and even the mind’s grasp ,which even seems to non-exist to some of us, ever be understood merely out of our own efforts? Trying to figure out the Self/God by ourselves without any help whatsoever is, according to Vedantha, like the eyes trying to see themselves without the help of a mirror or any other reflecting surface. Is that even vaguely possible?!
Living life or “surviving” ,as a senior teacher puts it ,only keeps us engaged and distracted in the “outer world” of sense pleasures. Left to ourselves, very rarely and only under painful circumstances will one ever be slightly pushed in the direction inwards. Unfortunately, even that push is easy to miss if we are not discerning and mature enough at that point to catch the signs. Let’s say I was one who never received any education. I perceive the blue skies, the blue ocean, the rising and setting sun everyday. Without being appropriately educated on each of these matters, if I went only with my perception, will I ever come to know the truth that in fact, the sky is not blue at all, nor is the ocean blue and the sun is a stationary star? Experience in these cases totally contradicts reality but since I know no better, I take only my experiences to be true. That precisely is where Preceptor and Scriptures come into the picture for the seeker who is ready to enquire!
While looking into a mirror, the very act, though it looks like an act directed outwards, is actually revealing myself to me. The Scriptures are said to act like that mirror which reveals the real Self/God to us and the Preceptor is the one who guides us to this mirror. But his work doesn’t stop there. He elaborates and explains everything with patience and compassion so that we are able to doubtlessly assimilate the teachings.
Now, we need to understand the difference between preaching and teaching because enquiry into the Self/God is a matter of knowledge in the form of systematic teaching. My teacher insists that preaching is easy because it is just enumerating the Dos and Don’ts along with consequences (values for example: be kind, be loving, don’t steal, etc.) Teaching however, is expounding the “value of a value” because unless I have a value for the value itself (truth for example), I may or may not choose to emulate the value! (Hope that wasn’t too confusing!)
Qualities of a good Perceptor/Teacher
In today’s world, it is hard to decipher who really is trustworthy and wise! My teacher himself jokes often and says,”Be wary of us in ochre robes and whites, especially the longer our beards!” But in all truth, it takes only a little while of association in integration with our smart intellects to decide whether or not we have landed ourselves in the right hands!
Here are some extra points to be wary of for the newbie seeker(which my teacher himself taught us):
- A Perceptor is seen as non-different from the Scriptures themselves in the sense that what he teaches is not the product of his limited intellect but he teaches what he was taught by his Preceptor and thus continues the lineage which is attributed all the way back to The Creator Himself.
- Would you pay extra to buy the manual to your washing machine? The Scriptures are the Manual accompanying Creation, given out by “The Manufacturer” Himself! After all, who knows best what he created and how to handle/use it than the manufacturer Himself?! So affixing a fee to elucidate the words of Scriptures is not acceptable according to my teacher. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we take advantage of his kindness and compassion. He has dedicated his life to passing on these teachings and we as responsible students will do our fair share supporting him.
- Where the focus is on the person/teacher himself is a Cult whereas when the focuses is on the teaching itself, it is a lineage! (very important point to make note of)
- The focus at any point should be on the teachings of the Self/God alone. If the focus is on “others”, their practices, them going to heaven or hell, that’s red alert right there! Like my teacher says, “It is futile, trying to change others when I struggle to change certain aspects of myself even.” Besides, in todays volatile world filled with tension and terrorism, the biggest service that we can accord the rest of humanity is try to change ourselves (if possible) for the better of All or at the very least, mind our own business and keep doing what we do.
- This wise teacher breathes, lives and emulates what he teaches through every word and action of his. After all, if the doctor offered the smoker advise and prescription for anti-smoking drugs while himself puffing on his cigarette, how effective would that be?! If my teacher lived an ostentatious, lavish life while teaching me to my arrest binding desires and live a simple life of love,kindness,contemplation and enquiry, how will that sit with any rational intellect? In fact this is one of the first things that caught my attention and got me thinking seriously when I got to meet my Preceptor one-on-one the first time. He had no belongings other than books, more books, yet more books and a hard bed to sleep on. I wondered,”How can one even appear to be happy without much?” But I guess it certainly is possible, just that I’ve never tried!!
- Doubts are certainly imminent to any rational intellect. A good teacher is one who not only welcomes and appreciates them but also patiently puts them to rest with clear explanation. We are not expected to believe, we are expected to understand!
Religion has been given to us to help us grow and evolve. But today we humans foolishly use it as a reason to eliminate each other. My honest opinion is that this starts happening when religion stands separate from spirituality. Religion practiced out of blind faith and fear without true understanding of the nature of God can never be complete! It ultimately has to culminate in spirituality. What good would it be if I learned my ABCs but never progressed further that I may be able to combine them to make meaningful words and sentences!
One of the senior Teachers of the lineage made a beautiful comment :
Spirituality bring me to the deep understanding of the Self/God which is:
- what releases me from the grasps of a limited ego centric entity.
- what helps my mind expand from the finite to the infinite, I learn to expand from ‘me’,’mine’,’I’ to ‘us’,’ours’,’we’.
- what teaches me to love all, to be kind to all, to be understanding of all, to forgive all as I would expect to be forgiven.
- what teaches me to see past color, caste, race, creed, sex, religion and anything else that can differentiate you from me because I have learned and deeply understood that
EVERYTHING IS THE SELF !
Note: When I say Scripture it refers to any text in any language which deals with Spirit/Self/God and that alone!