In society, one of the ways we evaluate a person is by observing the type of friends with whom he or she socializes. There is a common saying: "Birds of a feather flock together." This is not very different in the spiritual setting. Souls of the same state of consciousness equally tend to flock together. A good way of evaluating an aspirant’s state of consciousness is to find out who his teacher is. So, if you are wondering about your own level of spiritual understanding, take a good look at your spiritual teacher. He or she is a direct reflection of where you stand spiritually; after all, you think highly of your teachers or you would not be listening to them.
The spiritual consciousness of the leader is what dominates the group. So make sure he or she is the highest, most respected and experienced teacher you can find. I recommend finding a teacher or master because, without a guide who has already taken the journey, your own journey can be very difficult. Some neophytes, perhaps because of their spiritual orientation or culture, may want to go at it alone. They may feel they don’t need an intermediary between themselves and God. However, just as professional athletes require coaches, serious spiritual seekers also need guidance.
It is important to find the right teacher for you. You cannot blame any teacher for not giving you the higher teachings or for giving you a teaching that is not suitable for you. A teacher can only teach you what he or she knows. Like going to the doctor, each specialty is limited by their method and scope of practice. You need to find the right doctor for your particular type of ailment.
If you are suffering from chronic low back pain and you go to a doctor of chiropractic for help, the doctor will likely treat your ailment by manually adjusting your spine. But if you go to a medical doctor for the same problem, you will likely receive muscle-relaxing drugs and painkillers. It would be unreasonable on your part to turn around and blame the medical doctor for giving you drugs instead of a spinal adjustment. The medical doctor was only trying to help you by doing what he knows. This is the same with spiritual masters.
Your spiritual progress is in part dependent on the capacity and awareness of your teacher. Even with hard work, it would be difficult for you to go beyond the level to which your master has attained. It is important therefore, to find an advanced teacher. A spiritual teacher is a guide or coach, similar to a basketball coach. The coach does not play in the game on behalf of any of the players; rather, he monitors the players and provides feedback and tactics to help improve future performances. Similarly, a spiritual guide does not live your life for you. He or she simply provides guidance to his or her best capability. Therefore, it is important to remember this: Whether you have a teacher to whom you are completely devoted to, or whether you are going at it on your own, the outcome of your life is still your responsibility.
What are some of the qualities of an advanced teacher?
– He or she is a living example of his or her teachings.
– He or she respects all teachings.
– He or she is more interested in your spiritual progress than in your money. Study materials and seminars are within the economic reach of most people. In other words, spirituality is not made unduly exorbitant for aspirants.
– He or she is able to function consciously in the higher spiritual worlds. Watch his or her behavior. It will give clues to his or her spiritual stature.
– He or she is able to train his or her students both physically and in the inner spiritual worlds. Monitor your dreams. You may become aware of the inner training.
– He or she offers experiential teaching, and effective spiritual exercises.
– He or she does not try to hold unto anyone. Seekers are free to leave the path without being threatened or made to feel guilty.
– He or she radiates peace and love instead of fear. If you are sensitive, you can feel the presence of a true teacher.
– He or she has gone through the rigors of mastership training.
– His or her teaching is not complicated. They are presented very simply so that all can understand and follow. Spirituality does not need to be complicated.
– He or she does not desire to have you follow or depend on him or her forever. Rather, he or she aims to help strengthen you. This way you can attain spiritual emancipation, and be able to handle situations that arise in your life. You are then in a position to help others, as well.
– He or she has enormous love for his or her students and humanity as a whole.
– Finally, he or she remains humble and is not consumed by his or her power. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you really want to test a man’s character, give him power."
By no means are the qualities listed above all-inclusive. However, when you meet a genuine teacher, you will know. It’s like meeting a person who is genuinely honest or who really cares for you. Usually you can feel it. You can also feel it when a person does not like you. The deeper self (Soul) or what we sometimes call instinct or intuition is responsible for some of the things we just know without concrete evidence.
Needless to say, no single master or teacher will appeal to everyone, no matter how sincere or enlightened he or she is. Our own level of consciousness will prevent us from recognizing or listening to a teacher who does not mirror our expectations. Fortunately, there are a variety of teachers from many different spiritual traditions, to cater to every level of spiritual consciousness.
Copyright © 2005 Zeal Okogeri. All rights reserved.