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  • Writer's pictureAruna Byers

Authentic Spiritual Teachers — Forthright and Honest

When a true spiritual teacher tells you something about their life, look for the teaching message contained in the story. They don’t intend to bore you with details about their personal story, brag about accomplishments, or appeal for your sympathy, and never attempt to impress you with how special they are or how different their life is from yours. Particularly in my case, it is quite the opposite: I am showing you how similar to you I am, that I have a life like yours, and that my ability to be peaceful and happy in challenging conditions means you are capable of this also.

Some teachers do want you to feel different from themselves. They want you to be in awe of their presence and feel beholden for the wisdom and grace they deliver. By talking about how special they are in contrast to how unconscious you are, they maintain a quality of separation. This is not “the Truth,” and though it may keep you as a follower, it is the exact opposite of the Advaita (nondual) teachings which includes every variation of form.

In Advaita the “you” and “me” are part of the same stock. Even though we may look, think and act differently, our essence is the same. The musician, the construction worker and the company man may excel in different ways, but in the heart of each there is more sameness than difference. They all want love, can communicate and share love, and in Truth, are actually pure love at one stage or another. The over-attached caregiver and the criminal are both distortions of love, as neither is a 100% unencumbered example of it. The religious jihadist kills in the name of love, and the one who commits suicide kills himself as a last ditch cry for love. We may say “I love you,” when really we want to possess and control. Yet all of these examples are missing the quality of “unconditional love” that is our True Self. This is the love we took on a body to experience and express.

My teacher Papaji was an example of unconditional love. He was not showy or gushy in any way. In fact, he was very direct, and sometimes embarrassed those he addressed in satsang. But he got the message across, and caused Awakenings to happen in a unique way. His students discovered the love that was within them as a result. He was straightforward and never wasted his or anyone else’s time.

Each teacher transmits grace in their own way. They are unconcerned about what students think of them. They are not competing for your attention or your adoration, they want you to discover who you really are, and that you are the same as them. By being honest about themselves and their life challenges, they give you clear, everyday examples of what you really are and what you can use being in a body, to be.

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