Stephen Wolinsky: about the teacher

Stephen Wolinsky talks about what to be attentive to when you look for a teacher. (7’08mn)

Transcript (ENG)

Two very frequently asked questions.
The first one is: “do I need a teacher?”
And that’s a question that always kind of befuddles me.
Because I don’t know why you wouldn’t want one.
I know that when Baba Muktananda passed away, I flew back to India for his mahasamadhi and Baba Prakashananda was there.
And I just had gotten off of the plane, and my Indian name was “Narayan”, and so he was walking along the pathway in the woods and he looked at me and said: “oh Narayan, Narayan, Narayan, I knew Narayan would come.”
And I said to him: “what should I do?”
He said: “OK, you stay thirty days here and you do this chant, and you do this mantra and then after that’s finished in thirty days, I want you to come out to where I live. ”
And I was kind of like: “OK!”
Because to me, I always see a teacher as somebody who is really on your side.
Simply stated: they have you best interest at heart not theirs.
So, for me I see a teacher as: imagine walking outside and fall down and you break your leg and you’re in incredible pain.
And a person comes by and they actually pick you up and they put you in a car and they drive you to the hospital where you will be out of pain.
That to me is a teacher.
It seems silly for me to say “oh no, no I may stand up and walk to the hospital on my own.”
My friend Mark in London said it this way:
let’s suppose, I’m looking for a restaurant, but I can’t find it, I’m totally lost.
I’m in London for the very first time.
And a passerby who has been to that restaurant a thousand times walks by and says:
“Oh I can see that you’re lost, what do you want?”
“Well, I want this restaurant.”
And the passerby says “OK, make a right and a left and go down two miles and make another right and it’s on the left hand side. “
And then I say: “Oh no, no, no! I’m going to find it on my own!”
So to me, that’s what a teacher is. He has or she has totally your interest in heart.
He or she is totally organized around “you.”
Which leads to the second question that comes up all the time that is: “how could you tell a “Real Teacher” from somebody who’s not? ”
That’s a difficult thing to talk about because in the West, we have a correlation between teaching and quality of teaching, or presentation, or do I like the person.
And are they a good teacher or are they “a Teacher? ” Do they know who they are?
So, the only thing I can really do, is a neti-neti on it, or neti-neti on it, which is to say: “what is there to avoid?”
The first thing I would avoid is, as a neti-neti, not this not this, is if someone has an organization in “hierarchies”.
If someone has an organization in “hierarchies” and they are more than likely operating out of some kind of business model where they want to bring people in, and then bring more people in, and then build centers and ashrams all over the place: I would avoid that.
Another thing I would avoid is if somebody charges too much money. I have no problem with people charging for service.
The question is “how much?”
For me the price should be within the standard of a particular country or situation where it is.
So for example if the standard in California for a one day workshop is a 125 dollars a day or a 150 dollars a day, that’s a reasonable price.
Given the context.
In India, it may be 150 roupies a day.
But when you find people charging all of a sudden 300, 400, 500 dollars a day that to me is something that is, that would be neti-neti, something to be discarded.
The third thing I would want to discard is when they have guarantees.
Guaranteed results!
If you do this practice you will definitely get this permanent state, if you do that you will definitely get this; it’s guaranteed.
You take this workshop, you take this training, you do this practice, guaranteed.
This all are part of the hierarchy, the business model, and what I call the awakening business.
Another thing to be avoided would be: on people’s website you can see something like: “our mission is to serve you in your awakening process.”
Well, the word “mission” has a funny connotation because even though it is just a word, it implies there is some kind of higher service that they’re doing.
Also, service, or saver or karma yoga is selfless service.
It is not: “I will serve you in your awakening process for a price”.
That’s an awakening business.
Another thing I would look at as discarding is, all of a sudden the spouse is brought in.
So not only do we have the enlightened master, man or woman, all of a sudden we have the enlightened couple.
So the master is teaching Advaita Vedanta and all of a sudden he is bringing his wife and she is teaching Advaita Vedanta.
Why would I avoid that, because as an archetype or a structure around: “not only do we have the perfect couple. “
If you’ve ever see those shows where people give a relationship workshop, it’s the perfect couple standing there like this.
Now we have the perfect enlightened couple.
And finally the last thing for me that would be important to discard is this concept of integration.
In other words there is a sub-text or a sub-context underneath it, that if you do this spiritual practice, you will be able to be more, do more, have more, create more, better relationship, make more money… HAVE more.
Now, spirituality is not about being more, doing more, having more, creating more.
According to Maharaj, spirituality is one thing and one thing only.
And that is: finding out who you are.
So there is a trap around integration or embodiment or all of a sudden you will be embodied or aware and fully enlightened.
Because the essence of yoga is you’re not the mind, you’re not the body, you’re not the doer.
And if you’re not the mind, the body, the doer, who or what is there to be integrated or embodied?