The Problem of Incomplete Spiritual Teachers

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Not all spiritual teachers are the same.

Conceptually, I'm sure most of you realize this. However, we live in a digital age with an explosion of access to spiritual teachers like never before. You can go to YouTube right now and spend the rest of the day listening to dozens of them.

However, some of them aren't very advanced. That means people can get a lot of mixed messages. While most spiritual teachers are well-meaning, incomplete spiritual teachers can cause students a great deal of confusion.

Incomplete Teaching

It truly is a gift to go to the Internet and have the ability to choose just about any conceivable spiritual path or teacher existing in the world today. Not that long ago, your options were basically whoever was local to you, and however, complete or incomplete the local spiritual teacher was...well, that was just what you had to work with.

An incomplete spiritual teacher doesn't fully understand the spiritual path, and they don't know how to fully follow it themselves. A teacher who only knows the spiritual path from a few experiences or from what s/he has read is typically very incomplete.

A complete teacher lives the spiritual path; their spirituality is not restricted to when they are teaching. You wouldn't find a totally different person when they are "off-duty." Their teaching is part of them--heart, body, mind, and spirit.

Signs of Completeness

While a lot of people would like to claim that they are complete teachers, let's talk about some specific things that indicate completeness. A couple signs of completeness of a teacher include:
  • Less is more
  • Walking their talk
  • Selflessness
The path to spiritual freedom is a subtractive process. We remove ego attachments to find the spaciousness within us. A complete teacher is similar. They subtract more and more of their ego identification, and the results are a deeply peaceful, powerful person. This can express itself in many ways, but this person is very unlikely to care about achievements, which includes making lots of money or being famous. Those things are only of interest if they serve the particular teacher's way of teaching people. In that way, notoriety and money are leveraged to expand the service to others, not to gain attention and buy mansions.

Walking their talk means the person lives the spiritual path. This is obviously hard to see if you are connecting with someone online, but it often comes up in how clear, compassionate, and grounded the teacher is when you can interact with them directly.

Selflessness is seen in how the teacher meets people where they are and helps them grow from that point. Selfish teachers want students to have similar experiences to them or achieve certain things that the teacher considers worthwhile. The complete teacher doesn't impose such beliefs on their students. Instead, the complete teacher supports people through their unique spiritual journeys while helping them naturally move towards spiritual freedom.

Knowing the Practical Nature of the Spiritual Path

Here's another way that a complete teacher reveals him/herself.

Let's talk about staying as awareness. Anyone can offer that instruction. But why does it matter? What arises when a student regularly practices this?

The incomplete teacher doesn't know. So at best you get answers like:

"Stay as awareness. You'll find spiritual freedom."

"Stay as awareness. There is no other teaching."

Both are legitimately true. The second part of the second sentence refers to how everything dissolves in oneness.

But since most people don't dissolve into oneness overnight. The practice to stay as awareness goes through a variety of evolutions for students. Incomplete teachers often don't appreciate it nor can they generally explain it. However, the process isn't that mysterious. Here's one example of development:

The student practices staying as awareness.

S/he notices their thoughts and how they are drawn into them.

They practice coming back to observing their thoughts rather than believing them.

A difficult situation comes up that draws them back into identifying with their thoughts.

They backslide for moments, minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc.

They eventually return to awareness and realize they've been lost.

This cycle of backsliding and returning to awareness goes on for awhile.

The student may notice certain patterns that repeat.

They can apply a variety of spiritual tools to come to terms with the issue/issues and release it/them.

In releasing it, staying as awareness becomes more natural.

The student become less triggerable.

When an issue or set of issues is deeply released, a situation that was triggering before is no longer triggered.

The student has become more free from their ego, and their emotions no longer control as much of their experiences nor skew their perspectives on experiences as much.

This is one of many avenues that students go through as they practice the delightfully simple practice of staying as awareness.

Completion Versus Perfection

Completion is NOT perfection. Perfection is one of those words that should be deleted from the English language. It's an absolutist statement that doesn't specifically mean anything in most situations.

Completion is an arrival at a certain stage of clarity that allows a teacher to teach from an integrated place, an understanding of human nature, selflessness, and love. The teacher may have more spiritual growth coming in their lifetime, but they know what they can do and what they can't.

Additional Resources

Here are some more resources to help you as you learn more about spiritual teachers and the spiritual path. Hopefully, this will help you figure out where the teachers you listen to/interact with are actually at.

Completing Cycles and Crossing Thresholds

Do You Need a Spiritual Teacher?

7 Signs of a False Spiritual Teacher

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