In the vast majority of cases, a “spiritual teacher – disciple” relationship will have to take place for the Self to reveal Himself. Very, very few disciples are able to realize Him on their own (with no teacher). They realize Him without a teacher because they are very advanced spiritually from their very birth. As this kind of spiritual aspirant is not the rule but a rare exception, he will be excluded from my explanation.
There are two kinds of spiritual teachers: false and true.
False teachers are the majority again… it is always the same story in this world, unfortunately. There are many subtypes of false teachers. By false I mean a teacher who makes the disciples waste their time. By true I mean a teacher that makes the disciples advance toward Self-realization.
Among the false teachers we have the most moronic category first:
Teachers teaching that no teacher is needed: This kind of teacher believes in individuality as the dominant force in attaining Self-realization. This is contradictory in itself, because if any spiritual aspirant “as such” (i.e. as a limited individual) is able to achieve spiritual enlightenment “on his own”, why is the teacher teaching him that? The spiritual aspirant already knows it and he can find the way toward Self-realization on his own in that case, no instruction is needed.
I hope this is clear: suppose you find a teacher who says that you are completely able to attain Self-realization on your own (without his help). So, why does he even need to tell you that? He should assume that you knew that already. In this sense, this type of teacher is super moronic, because by stating that you do not need a spiritual teacher, they tacitly imply that they and their teachings are useless. This being the case, what is the point of you listening to them? There is no end to human foolishness. I am not saying that they are always evil or malicious. NO. They may be good people, but with their discourse about the sacred relationship between spiritual teacher and disciple they just add more confusion to the mind of an already confused spiritual aspirant. They are useless then.
Teachers teaching that the only thing you need to do is “let it be”: This is another foolish kind of false spiritual teacher. They are not necessarily evil either, just absurd. They teach that all spiritual aspirants should flow with the force of nature, life, God, etc. In short, “just let it be”, “be yourself as you are essentially”, etc. While these teachings can be given to awesome disciples who are about to attain Final Liberation, they cannot be given to the rest of spiritual aspirants for a simple reason that they cannot flow or just let it be, etc. Therefore, this kind of teachers look “cool” and “impressive” but in the end they are useless because spiritual aspirants waste their time again with someone whose common sense is lost.
It’s common that spiritual aspirants tell their entire life story to their spiritual teacher. For example, a spiritual aspirant can say this to his teacher: “My wife cheated on me, and I feel so upset and frustrated!” So, the teacher will tell him: “Let it be… be yourself!” One of the worst consequences of this kind of teachings is that the guy may let the worst portion of his ego (not himself) flow and kill his wife. Instead of giving adequate teachings according to the level of the aspirants, this kind of teacher gives the most advanced teaching to all spiritual aspirants. No common sense here.
A spiritual aspirant living in this karmic place known as the world faces problems which he cannot solve by merely letting them be. Of course that in the end it is just about spiritual ignorance and his mind, but that spiritual aspirant has no real power to deal with that obstacle in the stage of spiritual evolution he is on. “So you have a mental cancer… let it flow”, this is absolutely stupid. The teacher should provide him with the right knowledge and some type of practice which is fit for him at that time. Telling him to “let it flow, just be” is not the adequate teaching except for the case of highly evolved spiritual aspirants who, obviously, have no use for this type of teachers because they already know that.
Teachers teaching some crazy thing: Not all spiritual aspirants are intelligent enough. Some of them will be erroneously guided by this type of teachers. This category of false teachers includes all those mad guys “tacitly or openly” saying that the Self will arrive to earth someday, or that the Self is far away on some spaceship, or that He is a cyborg living in a deep cave in Mars and so forth. This kind of teachers proliferates in the world nowadays, unfortunately. As a result, I have personally seen many spiritual aspirants being taken from one insane idea to the next. Those teachers just give free rein to their imagination until they and their pupils became mental cases. They have no scripture to prove their point, of course. They only have “revelations”. They are not necessarily evil, just insane people.
Sometimes, one of these teachers is crazy enough as to make their disciples commit suicide in the name of God, or out of fear of an imminent apocalypse, etc. When this happens, you can be sure that the teacher is quite a psycho.
They are not recommended at all, not only because the spiritual aspirants might end up in a madhouse or even dead, but especially because they will waste their time again with such useless teachers.
Teachers who look to make money, fame and such: Spiritual teachers who have disciples only for making money, gaining fame and similar trifles are nothing but beggars. They can be harmful too. Spiritual aspirants can learn some real things from them, but since money, fame, etc. are always in the middle, this type of teachers is absolutely useless in the end. Their being greedy for money can reach the point where only the millionaires could be spiritual aspirants who are fit for Self-realization. All in all, do not waste your time with them. They normally teach in big organizations which are all about money. While I understand that a teacher could charge their disciples a little because he needs to keep living in this world, if he charges them too much or leaves out the ones who do not have enough money, he is not a real spiritual teacher. So, I am not saying that all spiritual teachers should follow the “for free” way, but the price of their teachings should be reasonable.
These teachers usually give expensive course after course, remarking how good their courses are, etc. You can recognize them immediately, because according to them, after every course you should have the state of the greatest Vedic sage. This is cheating people. As a matter of fact, it’s not possible. You will not gain Final Liberation in a trice. It will cost you an arm and a leg, figuratively speaking, as far as the quantity of effort is concerned. If Final Liberation were to be as easy as these teachers announce, why isn’t this world full of liberated people? Another delusion then and more time being wasted in the process.
Teachers who look to explain the Self through materialistic processes: This is not a modern invention, but these teachers proliferate now. They try to establish that you can attain the Self by altering your brain processes, DNA and the like. They always attempt to make you reach the divine Self through medical, scientific, etc. explanations. This type of teachers might even be so obsessed with brain processes as to scan your brain while you are meditating and arrive at some stupid conclusion about how to attain spiritual enlightenment. Their main characteristic is that they constantly attempt to reduce all that is spiritual to the material sphere somehow.
There might be even more categories, of course, but with the ones I quoted you have more than enough. All those false teachers may be well-intentioned or malicious. Anyway, they share a common characteristic: they make spiritual aspirants waste their time uselessly.
Next you have the true spiritual teachers. Their common characteristic is that all of them consider the Self as divine and residing “right here and now in you”. So, you can start your spiritual path solidly with them, because you know through their teachings that the Self is here, inside you (as it were), and that He is possible to be realized by you. Spiritual enlightenment (also known as Final Liberation) is real and possible then.
Obviously, genuine spiritual teachers teach you everything related to the Self according to the philosophical systems they had studied and practiced. They will explain the Self, the Power of the Self and the limited individuals in different manners. They will prescribe different methods, too. But all these true spiritual preceptors always points in the direction of the Self. Some of them could initiate you into the spiritual path. Others could teach you the truth according to a philosophical system. Even other genuine teachers will take you directly to Final Liberation through their special instructions, etc. In spite of their differences, they share this common characteristic: they will not make the spiritual aspirants waste their time uselessly. On the contrary, their help will become absolutely indispensable.
The notion that the limited individual can be free “on his own” (without any extra help from someone) is true in 0.01% of the cases, so to speak. The vast majority of spiritual aspirants will need always true spiritual teachers at least for a certain period of time. They cannot be free without their help. Yes, it is true: the limited individual is the very Self gone crazy. But it is also true that the limited individual, in general, cannot realize that he is the Self without the help of one or several spiritual teachers. This is taught in the scriptures of practically all philosophical systems of India. No other way then, except for if you are a very advanced spiritual aspirant who was born almost enlightened. This is an oddity.
But you do not need the statement of the scriptures if you have a little common sense at least. Listen to me: if you have a problem with the hardware of your PC, you go to a technician and have your problem resolved; if you injure some part of your body, you get a doctor and recover your health; if you want to build a bridge, you call engineers; etc. However, if you want to accomplish the most crucial and difficult mission in your entire existence… you can do it “on your own”. Is this way of thinking a reasonable one or only another fruit of mother ignorance?
When you cannot solve so many ordinary problems on your own, how are you supposed to solve the Colossal Problem known as spiritual ignorance by yourself? This is absolutely nonsensical except for if you are almost enlightened from your very birth. Even in this case, you had to resort to spiritual teachers in your previous life. Therefore, there is no doubt that the limited individual will realize the Self “in himself”, but if you try to carry the “individuality” thing to the extreme by avoiding the presence of genuine spiritual teachers on your spiritual path, you are not thinking rightly. This is the right way of thinking: you get Final Liberation with the help of those who already have It and not otherwise, except for the case where your spiritual state was very high from the moment you were born in this world.
In the next post I will keep talking about spiritual teacher and disciple.