DALL•E prompt: " photorealistic image of a guru or sage of Western derivation as seen from the audience, wearing a white shirt and dark pants, and colorful tulips and roses."
DALL•E prompt: " photorealistic image of a guru or sage of Western derivation as seen from the audience, wearing a white shirt and dark pants, and colorful tulips and roses."

Will The Real Guru Please Stand Up

It is fascinating, and potentially educational and revealing, to look at the pattern of criticisms and complaints about spiritual teachers – for example, things people say to me, such as about a teacher we both visited or listened to, or posts on Facebook groups dedicated to criticising or exposing high-profile non-duality teachers. There are clear patterns to the complaints and opinions.

Those patterns, such as declaring they are fraudulent teachers, are all grounded in the same set of misperceptions and misunderstandings.

Of course, there can be fraudulent teachers. But those are usually quite clear, and not what we are talking about here. One example I heard about was  man that dressed up as Jesus and put himself forward as a spiritual teacher, and managed to hook a friend of a friend's friend wife into having sex with him. This is a case where the teaching are mere means to (material, worldy) ends, and not authentically motivated. The act and the teachings are used to use others - to manipulate and take something, rather than give or be of genuine, unmixed service (or perhaps to serve the ego: the sense and belief of being separate).

One interesting example of a fake guru is the case of the filmmaker who decided to act as an Indian guru, dressing and speaking and behaving the part, going out into the community in the United States, advertising himself as a visiting guru, and make a documentary film about the whole experience: Kumaré. His family had been of Indian origin, and so growing up he'd been exposed to the teachings from that culture. However, as a teen, he developed a scepticism, and questioned the need for something external to oneself for answers or as a guide in life. He wanted to expose and better know the phenomenon, from the inside out.

It was a fascinating experiment (to me anyway – I had a friend I met at a meditation retreat that absolutely did not want to watch it! He felt it was not the proper attitude to take to teachers in general, and one should not look in that direction, or was perhaps afraid to see what the movie revealed. He had what I see as a "religious" attitude towards teachers, teachings and practices).

People fell for it – fell hard in many cases – and he developed a following. He even made up fake spiritual practices, such as a "blue light meditation" that people believed in and found helpful. The placebo effect is powerful!

One of the more interesting parts of the experiment was how he himself started to feel that what he was doing – such as in the private sessions he had with followers, where they bore their hearts and revealed their problems to him – was not only meaningful, but one of the most meaningful experiences in his life. He started to feel a huge conflict within himself, and experienced a great difficulty in preparing to do the big "reveal" at the end, where he told all his followers his real identity, as the ordinary Western guy – merely a filmmaker from New York. He tried to use it to nail in his final point again: you are your own teacher.

Tellingly, there were three reactions, in general, to the big reveal of his real, true or ordinary daily identity:

  1. Gladness and gratitude for what he did, and the revelation. Supportive. They had faith in him regardless. They remained good friends. They felt they had grown, and continued on a path of greater development and happiness.
  2. Disapproval and anger. They felt betrayed, and in some cases, immediately walked out, never to speak to him again.
  3. Confusion or a mixed reaction. They needed time to process.

So was what he did a "bad" thing or a "good" thing? There is no set answer to such a question. It depends on one's perspective and where one is coming from: the point of view from which it is asked, and one's assumptions and reactions (or lack thereof). For the filmmaker, it was a deeply meaningful project, with unexpected experiences and results. Did he regret it? Not that I am aware (or remember). It's worth noting too, that he deeply apologized to all (if I remember correctly – I may have to watch it again), and especially to those who felt hurt or betrayed. In any case, it was indeed a fascinating experiment and a meaningful adventure – one that was very bold and brave, to the author's way of seeing it at least.

Genuine Criticisms and Non-Valid Critiques of Teachers

Some of the attacks I've heard (about the prominent nonduality teachers), are clothed in claims about ethical violations – I say "clothed in", because when you actually look closely at the claims and what's behind the words, beyond immediate mental reactions, and do the work to investigate the facts, a different view emerges. For one thing, if you consider whether anyone or anything was actually harmed, you find there was no substance to the criticism, judgement, claims and rejection of and about the teacher.

So what is really going on? Were those complaining beings simply too frightened by a message that challenged the existence of the personal self or "ego" they were so identified with? That may be part of it, as well as some other things explored in this article.

One thing that is ironic, is that for a teaching or pointing that points away from the person, there is so much focus on it for those hearing it! (Thank God I was never interested in teachers!)

The focus on teachers, and seeing things and people in life as large and hugely meaningful – magnified by the mind – as well as the MOE (Myth Of Enlightenment**) manifests two ways, and cuts both ways: overreacting to a teacher and becoming extremely critical, driven by fearful reaction of separation, driving angry reacting, and running away, forming a anti-groups, etc. – and conversely, the attachment to a teacher and the form of the teaching, repeating words without embodying the underlying formless Truth.

Being overly loyal to the tribe, at least for a time, one may find oneself swallowing whatever a teacher says, even when they are flat out wrong factually; or, giving them too much money, becoming subservient, taking on their teaching as a belief system, adopting their new language definitions, wanting their approval, defending the teaching system, defending the teacher, etc. Love is blind.

We will dismiss, explain, rationalize their acting badly – like assholes, to put it crudely. Or conversely, reject everything they say.

The proper, realistic attitude is to see that their behavior as just a personal manifestation, as is every person we perceive, and has nothing to do with the message that comes though that manifestation, other than the warp and woof of nature and nurture and their particular journey, and how that circuitous path, shapes the unique form of the message.

Why did you go visit or listen to a teacher in the first place? Was it about the Truth – the letter in the mailbox – or was it about the messenger – the mailman that delivered the mail?

Below or behind that expression of the message, there is the same underlying truth and reality – and that is what the author was always looking for – in fact he was obsessed with it, you could say, in the fact that all the paths and teachings he'd been exposed to over the decades were in the long run unsatisfying, had limitations and holes in them – they left questions unanswered – questions that were basic, fundamental, but were excused or pushed aside as being too "philosophical" or "analytical". One was urged not to think. Good luck with that!

It is a severe misdirection and misunderstanding to be told not to think, as a spiritual or meditative method or as advice for personal development. There is nothing wrong with thinking, nor is it something you can stop. The very effort to stop thinking is itself a movement, is mind, is "thinking". It is a grossly misguided attitude, not only in general, but due to the fact that some beings are by nature wired to be "philosophical". And, thnking can be not only enjopyable, but "spritual" if directed towards consciosuness (thus practical towrds happiness), and useful in a functional, embodied way.  Thinking can be a celebration.

Thinking is unhealthy and non-spiritual or unhappy* depending on one factor, and one factor only: not the topic or the fact of thinking, but where it is coming from.

Is the thought process, the mentation, an emergence form a sense and belief of being separate? Or is it from truth and blooming from Reality, one's real Self? That is all. Simple. If the thoughts are driven by a psychologcal process - that is, from fear or desire, which arise from the SOS  - Sense of Separation – then they reflect that.

Enjoyable, functional thoughts then are mere passing useful and celebratory thought. One could be thinking about philosophy, or how to add some vegetables to the compost pile, or the fun conversation one had or is going to have with a friend, or what to cook for lunch, or how to fix the car... the topic is not important.

(*"Unhappy" is a better way to say "not spiritual" – because, i the end, what the hell is "spiritual" or not "spiritual" – it's everything or nothing, and what is not is a mere personal judgement against something or someone)

The fact is, if someone, a student, has burning question, they need it to be answered or addressed (by a teacher or by themselves). These deep questions are significant and real, and important in one's "spiritual" growth – they should not be pushed aside, by saying "stop thinking" or that it's too "intellectual". That is (or can be) a type of fascism – a fascism often encountered, unfortunately, in the New Age and spiritual fields or social circles, and coming from the mouths of teachers and students. In other words it's not coming from Freedom. And freedom is the innate quality of Reality.

Part of the reason, besides the attitude of unexamined fascism in spiritual circles, is that the teachers simply don't have the necessary skills, background, understanding or knowledge and ability to answer them. They found their "answers", but it did not involved answering the same kinds of questions, or way of using the mind, either before or after a "glimpse" or an awakening or large insight (assuming they had one!).

The unifying, real basis – what anyone really wants – is common to all beings, and behind every seeling "path and teaching. An other way of stating this is to say the consciousness or universal awareness, and the non-dual nature of Reality, are the origin of all (genuine) spirituality. It's the end of the road of seeking. And, it cannot be put into words, ultimately, but can be "sensed" in a sense, such as in satsang, or between and behind the words and thoughts and actions. However, most people only look at or are fascinated by the surface.

Getting to the no-words, the silent "space", can involve much philosophical examination at  some points. But it does not have to, and does not need to universally speaking – it all depends on the warp and woof of one's makeup, the nature and nurture of one's unique embodied path though this life, this dream you could say.

**MOE: The Myth Of Enlightenment is the fact that people qua people do not become enlightened – it is not a becoming or process for a body, a person, separate object; a "glimpse" is not in time and space; it is more that, as some wise old sage proffered, "liberation is liberation from the need to be liberated".

Teachers and Meaning

Because they may, for example, act and sound authoritative and confident, live in a big house, and are relatively famous, we may give them more power than they warranty. While temporarily useful for some (the Bhakti devotee for example), they are ultimately, merely external objects of experience,  – and ones in a very large cosmos. Or because they have X opinion (politically or whatever) that we don’t agree with (for instance we think it’s not “compassionate”) we reject them as a “teacher” or as “enlightened” and they are called "false" or not authentic.

And all of it is missing the point(ing). Namely, the point of there being no point at all, that we as universal Consciousness give all the points it has. This is hard to swallow for most.

Either With Us or Not

Sometimes we want to see things in dualistic ways, almost like political party lines: all in or all out, all good or all bad. My team or their team. Saint or devil. People see things as either promoting or defending – a person, a school a party, whatever – and cannot look in a neutral, silent, curious way, like a cosmic scientist studying a fascinating phenomena. Perhaps it's a deep, mammalian programming to keep as aligned as pack animals, and we don't want to get kicked out of the pack, to die alone in the wilderness as it were.

Another pattern that struck me was that in one of these anti-teacherX groups, as well as talking with individuals that call me – is that there is really no coherent argument – they are all over the map – you can clearly show them the falsity or lack of support for one view, and they immediately switch to another view, complaint or perception, and it can go on forever... The basic fact is, they just don't like the teacher (or there was a psychological reaction, taking something personally). Then the quip by an Indian friend is apt:

If you go to a show store and don't like any of the shoes, then go to another store, but don't call the store owner a thief. 

The Ancient Arguments About Methods

At a higher level of examination, when looking at the lengthy and ongoing disagreements and arguments in Advaita and nonduality circles – not just between students but writers and teachers as well –  there is another pattern to be observed: the issue is not with the underlying truth, with non-duality or the intuition of oneness per se (whether it's acknowledged or deeply felt), it’s with methods. These debates can go on forever, and have gone on for centuries. One fundamental one is whether "enlightenment" is sudden and  instantaneous, or gradual in some sense, such a requiring much preparation, and has stringent prerequisites and conditions, so to speak.

Final Words on Teachers and Some Non-Random Random Notes

What’s being missed in the fog and friction is that:
Teachers are always un-authentic.
The Teaching is what’s authentic (or not).
What it’s coming through is always going to be a fraudulent situation, so to speak.

When the “enlightened” Tibetan Buddhist master becomes senile with dementia, some people were confused, because they thought it was the body that became enlightened. They then got worried that he’s a fraud.

There was no person ever enlightened and there’s no person ever demented.

It’s just something happening through the event.
The message is the key, and the messenger is subordinate.

Some people may try and put the messenger first, the the ethics can go a little crazy, either in the acts (by teacher) or in the interpretations of acts (by students).

Then you get this boiling action down in the swamp, and some people saying “only” x is y … all perspective has been lost.

If Nonduality were a club, I’d definitely get kicked out. :))

The teacher never had any authority you didn’t give him. The authority is all with you.

The teacher with a small ’t’ will always fail you. They must…
*if* you get the Teaching with a capital ’T’.

Failure is Success, in this Field of Dreams

You’ve failed if the teacher and teaching with a small 't' has not failed you, and you are still clinging to them, like a liferaft for the so-called ego. The real Teaching, the one with a capital 'T', is invisible and has no form. It is timeless.

Life is Not Serious

It can be funny, entertaining, seeing the various tempests in teapots. Some very serious know-it-alls, with agendas, and world-shaking views, uncovering travesties and crimes against humanity. Enjoy.



" ‘Enlightened beings’ are fine as far as they go, but they are still appearances that come and go in the only real light there is—your own awareness. People search for enlightened ones, not realizing that they could not even appear without one’s own being. So being is the source. It is like speaking of the radiance of the moon and not realizing that the moon has no actual light.

In this case, those speaking fail to realize that they themselves are the light that is illuminating all experiences. Imagine the sun, the only source of light, speaking of the radiant moon! You are that unwavering ‘I am’ at the root of all thoughts, feelings and experiences. All else is a passing experience, which cannot be there without your presence."

~ John Wheeler


Eric Platt

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