The Teacher

The Teacher and Unconditional Love

The reason I teach you about the breath is to train you to hold your mind in a singular space while you are excavating some depth of contact within yourself. I talk about chakras and channels because while you are trying to make a deeper contact with yourself, what you will discover is that there are particular places in you where your experience is stronger. Then, in time, you might discover that there is a very complex and sophisticated set of energetic systems that have become you. Paying attention to that energetic system, what you will come to understand is that the only constant in life is change. That change is expressed as flow, and the flow in you is a part of a bigger flow around you. That flow is part of an even bigger flow that exists on a cosmic scale.

Swami Chetanananda at darshan

Swami Chetanananda at darshan

The universe is in us, we are in the universe, and the essence of it all is love. I don’t mean the kind of love that they’re singing about on the rock and roll radio--although that’s not excluded. The love I’m talking about is bigger than that, much bigger than that.

Here is where the teacher comes in. Where else are you going to find someone who has dedicated their life to excavatinmg themself from the mountain of tension that their parents imparted to them, to become a deeply loving person on a scale that is difficult for our mind to imagine? It’s not very common.

If you find such a person, you have the possibility of connecting in a dynamic system that will begin to bring out the best in you. I think about that wonderful song by Joni Mitchell that goes something like, “All I really, really want our love to do….is to bring out the best in me and in you too.”  It might sound ordinary, but in fact when you have genuinely loving people in your life who are trying to be the best that they can, that also creates the context, the environment, the understanding that allows you to bring out the best in yourself. In America, where everything that’s happening increasingly becomes all about money and not about caring, it’s a rare thing. So, what do you do with a teacher?

I think the simplest thing is to hold in your awareness that the teacher is really not a thing but a process. People aren’t things: people are processes. Your body will not be tomorrow what it was yesterday. It is a process. Hold the awareness of the process of the teacher in your heart and mind, and allow that connection to remind you and to energize you at times to bring out the best in you, too.

I’m not much for giving do’s and don’ts to people. There are a couple of reasons. The first is that nobody’s ever paid attention to me when I tried. So I thought it was a reasonable thing to give up, because the truth is I struggled with the do’s and don’ts myself, and I have come to understand that do’s and don’ts are really only suggestions. Most of us have a deep need to put ourselves in shit up to our eyebrows from time to time, and that’s okay. You either will survive it or you won’t, and in either case it’s fine.

The second reason I don’t pay attention to do’s and don’ts is that because in this experience of growing, we’re going to awaken places in ourselves that we’ve never experienced, we’re going to have experiences that there is no model for, and we’re going to go places we never even imagined existed. In that process, we will definitely make mistakes, and mistakes are fine. Mistakes are easily overcome if we can return to that best place in ourselves and open our hearts again, and if somebody was offended we say, “I’m sorry.” It’s that easy.

The extraordinary love that is available from within us is amazingly resilient. It is at times and at its boundaries delicate and fragile, and requires some care, but it is astonishingly resilient. It is completely alive. So, if you have a teacher, hold that teacher in your heart and mind and feel that presence and that process and flow in it.

That’s a complicated way of saying love me and I’ll love you back. But I said it in a complicated way because if I just say it simply people will think this is something that isn’t profound. It’s difficult to appreciate the profundity of the opportunity to hold a real connection in unconditional love. Having a teacher is about love, it’s not about anything else. If you can find that love in yourself and grow it, what you will discover is that it is an energy, it is a force, it is a power that is truly extraordinary and will bless you with numerous unimaginable possibilities. 

Removing the Wrapping

When we are born, it’s as if we come out and are immediately wrapped in a tight plastic coating. If you have ever stood at a meat counter and watched the guys in the back cut the meat and put it in a plastic wrap that’s really tight, you’ll have an idea of what it is like for us when we are born.  We are wrapped in a tight package of tensions that I call the disappointments of our ancestors.  This ligamentous sack has in its wrapping all of tensions of our parents, and their parents, and their parents, as well as of our culture and society.

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All of this wrapping becomes the limitation of our ability to see what is happening in the world around us or even to connect to it.  For the most part, we go through our lives, living in this sack and seeing the world through this set of tensions, which we both react to and are constrained by.  We never figure out what is going on among human beings, this planet or anything else.

We live in this sack, which profoundly limits us, until somebody comes along who can take the sack away—someone who can cut the cellophane off, who can open the package, and who can begin to energize the life that is constrained in that wrapping and bring it more completely to life.  That’s basically what I do, and what this experience of eyes-open meditation that I am sharing with you is.  It is cutting away at the wrapper. This meditation practice is an energy exchange that liberates life from the limitations imposed upon it by generations of brutality. Slowly, or as quickly as each of you can possibly take it in, you can have the wrapping of your family’s tensions removed from you and the life inside you brought to life.

With those tensions removed, the life inside you, which is extremely fine, can begin to extend itself in all the three worlds: the physical world, the mental and emotional world, the spiritual world, and the energetic world. It can, just like the dawning of the sun, begin to illuminate your purpose in this world. It can show you the connections that you have to the people around you. More importantly, it can show you the refinement and sophistication in your environment that is impacting you every day that you are not aware of and that you don’t understand. Slowly, you can become anchored in the life that is truly alive within you and begin to relate to the totality of your environment in a way that can continuously nourish and nurture and uplift you.

You can begin to appreciate that even the painful circumstances in your life are taking place as an expression of deep tensions and deep constraints within you that are beginning to breakdown and dissolve and release you from their hold. You have the opportunity and the power to completely transform your life into, not an easy experience, but a completely positive experience.

When you get to a hard place, reach deeper inside you to bring out more positive qualities. Every hard place that you bump into is a tension in you, a part of your life that has been compressed in you for a very long time that is rising up out of you and expressing itself on its way out the door. Every hard place that you meet represents an opportunity for you to reach deeper into yourself.  In doing so, that hard place will reveal a finer quality and a stronger power and a richer experience that is available to you.

So, take responsibility for the quality of your life and be committed to growing it, and come to eyes-open meditation and learn about the tools that are available to you to make this change within yourself.  Then sit here and understand what I am doing is taking away your tensions and bringing powerfully into the environment a dimension of energy which most human beings who have walked on the planet never have ever been in touch with. Connect to that and take it in to yourself and hold it in yourself. Let it nourish you and then move through your day with love and light and express as much as you can every positive quality that is alive within you.



The Power of Devotion

There’s a story about Nityananda that I heard from the man who was attending him at the time.  It was about an hour or so before Nityananda passed away, maybe a little more.  This man was a civil engineer and a long-time devotee of Nityananda’s, and was staying there looking after him at that time because Nityananda  had stopped eating. So, Nityananda said, “I’m going to go in an hour or so…I’m leaving.” This devotee said, “Please don’t go. Please.” Nityananda said, “If there’s one person who comes who has true devotion, pure devotion, I won’t go. I’ll stay.” He then asked, “Do you have true devotion? Is your devotion pure?” The devotee said, “No, Baba. You know I’m devoted to you, but I know my devotion isn’t pure.” Nityananda said, “A person, a real yogi with true devotion can compel, through the power of their devotion, even God to stay in the room. God wouldn’t leave the company of a person with true devotion unless he had permission. That true devotion is so powerful and so precious.”

I’m sharing that story with you because, though I don’t emphasize it very much and  Rudi didn’t either, devotion is very powerful. Devotion, that quality of connectedness, flow, and sweetness, transcends all of our desires. True devotion transcends all our desires. It transcends all of our agendas, and all of our attachments to any outcome. Devotion is the the field in which the purest, most perfect wisdom that is ever resident in the deepest part of you emerges and begins to express itself in the field of your life. Devotion is the medium in which true transmission takes place between teacher and student.

There are about a billion stories about the significance of devotion. Considering devotion is a really important and meaningful thing for us to do when we contemplate what it really means to grow. Devotion is the field in which growth is expressed.  In so many ways, working through our tensions is about cultivating devotion. Devotion is what makes spiritual work delicious.  While devotion isn’t much treasured here on earth, it is the most treasured thing in heaven. Devotion is the fabric from which heaven is created.

I’m sure the word devotion, for some of you, brings up tremendous resistance. Great! Wonderful! Devotion isn’t something that we’re here to fake.  I suggest that you take some time this week to think about devotion, to think about where to find it and how to express it, in your own way and from your own heart.

The Tradition of Initiation

In the Vedas, a person who performs Vedic ritual sacrifice was called a Brahmin. Brahmin means “twice born.” The Brahmin is twice born because he receives an initiation that qualifies him to perform the sacrifice. It’s the beginning of his education and the beginning of a commitment that he makes to peel away the layers of the tensions that bind us together as a person. Those are tensions that we have accumulated through so many lifetimes, and that have manifested in this lifetime as the disappointments of our ancestors we’ve inherited. The desires that we manifest, the aspirations that we have, the areas that we go into in our lives, both constructive and destructive, are really an expression of the deficiencies in the nourishment of our upbringing. Those deficiencies are not there through anybody’s fault; they’re just what is.

In the Vedic times, for Brahmins, this initiation lifted them out of the family circumstances they were born into and immediately liberated them from the disappointments of their ancestors. They were born again into a different circumstance called a guru kul. The guru kul is the family of the guru, the family of the teacher. The tradition recognizes that the guru kul makes available the nourishment that wasn’t provided in the birth parents’ home. That nourishment dissolves the tensions that limit a person in every dimension of their life. It makes it possible for them to become completely spiritually developed and mature, totally fulfilled, and liberated in life.

The central part of the initiation experience is when the guru takes his own conscious energy, his own awareness power, and plants it in the student, so that the energetic mechanism of the student acquires the nourishment needed to start to break down all of the accumulated tensions. As those tensions are broken down, the vital force within the person is awakened and expanded.

This was the critical moment in Vedic initiation, and the practice continued through all the various traditions in India. The Vedas were followed by the Upanishads, and then the six classical philosophical systems, including yoga, which ultimately matured in the Tantric tradition.

The Tantric tradition was unusual in its complete maturity because it asserts that there was only one consciousness in the universe. Even though there are many minds, there is only one consciousness. It is that one consciousness that the teacher is established in and through which their life force is transmitted to the student. That is called “shaktipat” in the Tantric tradition. The term means “descent of grace.” In the Tibetan side of the Tantric tradition, in Dzogchen, it’s called direct transmission.

This experience that I share when I teach eyes open class is not different from the Vedic initiation. It is the transmission of the understanding that there is a singular dynamic awareness from which all phenomena arise, and that all phenomena are interconnected. So this interconnectedness, the understanding, the experience, the awareness of this interconnectedness, is what is being transmitted as shaktipat, or initiation. It is the continuing awareness of that connectedness that represents a leverage on all the tensions that we’re walking around with.

So, no matter what our condition is, no matter what our experience is, no matter what kind of confusion we’re experiencing, we have a reference point we can always go to. This experience is also an energetic resource we can draw on to lift ourselves out of whatever limited state that we have fallen into.

The Teacher as Energy Source

A guru or teacher represents an energy source, an energy source that we pull into ourselves to expand ourselves and dissolve the shell of karma we’re born into.  It’s very much like the way things work on an atomic level: the more energy an atom captures, the greater the distance between the nucleus and the electrons becomes. Eventually the state of the entire system changes, and the atom changes into a different state.

The energy source of the teacher is experienced within the traditional process of initiation. In an initiation, we experience our connection to that energy source and have a strong enough experience that we have confidence and conviction that it will benefit us. Having the experience of a change of state, we enter into a new process, the expansion of our own energetic mechanism. Instead of living in the shell of the disappointments of our ancestors, we live in the energy field of our teacher and the teachers before him (or her).

It’s not necessary to understand a teacher. It is necessary only to experience the energetic connection and keep it clear. For the most part, my experience with my guru, Rudi, was that he was operating on too many levels for me to really understand him. Swami Muktananda was far too complex for anyone to really understand him. Anyone I’ve ever studied with who had anything profound was operating on a number of levels at the same time and was often impossible to comprehend.

Historically, in spiritual literature, the thing that has always gotten students in trouble is trying to understand. There’s a wonderful story we grew up with in Catholic school about St. Paul walking on the beach lost in thoughts of the Trinity. On his walk St. Paul encounters a boy with a bucket who is running back and forth filling his bucket with water from the ocean and emptying it into a hole that he has dug in the sand. In this encounter St. Paul comes to realize that just as the boy could never empty the entire ocean into a hole, so too can a human never understand the infinite mystery that is the Holy Trinity.

In fact, in working with a teacher, the more you try to understand, the less you’re getting it.