Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sex, Lies & Spiritual Teachers

One of the most upsetting moments of young adulthood was my first foray into the world of gurus and the culture of "spiritual seekers." Most people engaged in a student-teacher relationship have expectations of their priests, rabbis, lamas, roshis, imams and gurus, who are all acknowledged as "holy men" by their flock (and in the worst cases proclaimed as such by themselves).

The quotation marks around both the student and the teacher have a logic. A person in search of enlightenment may also be in search of a father or mother, a family, a crutch, or a bevy of other motives other than pure evolution of consciousness, although that too is part of the cake batter.

The teacher, while usually trained for many years in a monastery, seminary or such, may also have landed up in his esteemed role based on more than a desire to serve God or fill-in-the-blanks. He may have been forced into that life because of poverty, family pressure, a need for isolation, fear of the work-a-day world, illusions of grandeur and so forth.

If the seeker and the teacher are not calibrated properly for their respective roles, the situation becomes ripe for abuses of all kinds. The pedaphilia of Catholic priests represents the most extreme end of the spectrum, but the abuse of power by the person who holds the power cards (and that be the "holy man") comes in many forms. Sometimes it is greed and misappropriation of funds, but often times sex is the biggest perk.

I use the pronoun "he" because the vast majority of cases are males who perpetrate abuses. Whether the blame lies with testosterone and/or patriarchal structures, the fact remains: a bevy of spiritual beggars with outstretched hands are ripe for the picking. And the hungry teacher, starved by the isolation of his specialness, can be eager to eat the fruit.

This topic requires volumes to be explored properly, but suffice it to say that my first widely revered teacher invited me into his bed with a gruff, "Come here," as if I were a dog or a slave. My 60's hippy, unrestrained self froze into an ice statue instantaneously and made it no further than the edge of the bed, telling Mr. All-Important that this wasn't the way.

I don't know where my smarts came from and years later I joked that if he had bought me flowers and taken me out to dinner his chances would have grown exponentially (although in fact my body can't be bought by red roses, champagne and filet mignon). But that act of self-gratifying arrogance on his part had me running out the door and down the road.

Years later one of this fellow's compadres, a teacher of great dignity and integrity, explained it to me. He said, "Don't follow the teacher, follow the dharma. The teacher may go to hell for his actions and so will you if you imitate him. So just follow the dharma."

With these wise words, my heart's unresolved, jumbled Rubic's cube came tumbling into alignment.

It is entirely up to us to use our critical factors when choosing a teacher, never elevating him or her to a god-like stature and relinquishing common sense. If we take our power back, and put it where it belongs -- in our own psyche -- than the calibration will be perfect. And if the teacher doesn't want to play ball, well, there are a million other games in town.



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