9 – If You’ve Had An Awakening, Does That Mean You Are Awakened?
It seems like every day there’s another revelation of abusive conduct within spiritual communities. This abuse from previously trusted gurus seems to happen in every tradition: Advaita, Devotional Hindu, Yoga, Tibetan Buddhism. The question naturally arises: If these gurus have Awakened, how can they act with such dishonesty, without integrity or even a basic sense of kindness?
I’m going to expound my take on this subject, in order to do that I need to talk about the subject of trust. Trust is important in any relationship that has any depth, this is especially true of the relationship between a guru and their student. A Spiritual teacher is, ideally, the bridge between you and the freedom that you long for. If you have the Yearning and you meet a person who is Awake, something wonderful can happen. What can be more sacred than someone who has travelled this path before helping a brother or sister to find their own way? This can be a very beautiful thing; it’s a different kind of relationship from that which is usually found in the world. First, because it requires the student’s Readiness, and second, because it requires absolute trust to follow the teaching despitethe resistance of their Personality.
This enquiry is not always easy, as well as releasing enormous Joy it can release great fear and pain from the Personality’s Story. Not normal pain – like you feel after losing money on an investment or the break-up of a relationship – but existential pain which comes from your core. So allowing someone to guide you on this journey, through the pain, fear and resistance that can surface, involves an incredible amount of trust and surrender.
In this trust that’s placed in the teacher, the student becomes vulnerable. Why? Because that trust can be abused; the sanctity of the relationship can be violated. I think we can agree that abuse of a position of authority is not a Loving act; it is not ‘enlightened behaviour’. The need to dominate, to take advantage of someone’s openness comes from the Personality and its Shadow, not from Love.
So now we come back to the original question: How is it that these teachers and gurus, who claim to be Awake, still act like they aren’t? The simple answer is: They aren’t Awake. ‘But,’ I hear you say, ‘some of them have helped thousands of people, they speak so knowledgably, they appear so wise and serene. How could that be so if they weren’t Awake?’
The answer to this is simple: There’s a difference between having an Awakening and being Awake. An Awakening is a transcendent experience which takes one beyond the Relative perspective of the Personality into the Absolute perspective. Awakenings, however, are transitory experiences. When they pass, the Personality (with its motivations and agendas hidden in the Shadow) can return. What you have then is a Spiritual Personality. They may draw on their transcendent experience of the Absolute, and so share things that are powerful and true, but their teaching is compromised by the patterns, needs and Shadow of their Personality. This is where the abuse comes in. The Seeker who comes to these people for guidance can be seduced by the teaching (which draws on the teacher’s Awakening experience) and can easily make the mistake of thinking that the teacher is Awake.
Being Awake means having lost identification with Personality for good, not just in a passing, transcendent experience. Teaching which arises from being Awake is untouched by Personality; that means there’s no need to dominate, control or abuse others. (That’s not to say there can’t be Residue of the Personality, but without identification it’s not acted on. Because there is no identification, it eventually leaves the bodymind system.)
If you are interested to read further on these issues, I cover them in depth in THE INFINITE JOURNEY.