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All posts tagged teachers and students

Can a Woman be a Crazy Wisdom Teacher (and get away with it)?

Crazy wisdom is at play when a spiritual teacher embodies uncompromising compassion paired with over-the-top creativity. These powerfully and magically transfigure the scene of teaching in order to help students to wake up.

Crazy wisdom is a “by any means available” situation. Some of the moves associated with crazy wisdom are rapid pivots from tenderness to fierceness to hilarity, or just fierceness in general; acting in ways counter to the expectations that students have of spiritual teachers, or generally provoking, or scaring or shocking students; refusing to treat anything as nonspiritual, a.k.a. using every and any circumstance as a vehicle for practice; and energetically engaging students in the wild creativity that is fundamental to existence.

Trungpa July 4th

Trungpa celebrates July 4th.

Although Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche coined the phrase, stories about crazy wisdom teachers are a part of the spiritual inheritance of every direct realization tradition. Even in the absence of a specific crazy wisdom teacher, traditions offering a more direct approach to self-realization, such as Dzogchen, Trika Shaivism and Chan Buddhism, naturally embody crazy wisdom in their teaching methods to some degree.

For instance, both of my traditions, Trika Shaivism and Dzogchen, deploy specific sharp mantras to induce mild shock and clear conceptual mind. They also feature a more playful, unpredictable and fierce style of teaching. I heard this memorable aphorism during a teaching with the wonderful Kagyu meditation master, Lama Wangdor. “When the lion of Mahamudra roars, many are scared off. But the cubs come running for the milk.” Read On…

A Message about Pride

For everyone who has been given an opportunity, however small,
to help others wake up and discover their divine nature. 

Recently I had a conversation with a student who is creative, intelligent, devotional and has a natural desire to be of benefit to others. Despite all of this, nearly every moment of this student’s life is a struggle with competitiveness and the need to prove his worth, even at the expense of others.

In my life as a practitioner, I have traveled from near total ignorance of my own pride and competitiveness, to seeing it everywhere, to many years of doing the work of revealing its manifestations layer by layer and much praying for release. My deepest desire has always been to be used: to be in a position in which every gift I came here with could be used fully to support what I recognized early on as primordial goodness. Yet even with this unstoppable desire, I found that my engrained habit of seeking admiration was standing in my way.

Whatever we give, to whatever extent we are giving to support our own self-image, that is precisely the extent to which we are denying benefit to others. 

After a long time and a lot of sadhana, I reached some kind of tipping point. My desire to discover true open-heartededness became stronger than the karmas of pride and the need to defend self-image.

What I feel today is helpless wonder and gratitude, a desire to humble myself entirely and try my best to give without any reserve or impediment.  I feel that if I am able to do this, even if my gifts are small, my life has been well lived, and I have served my Guru by doing the job she has assigned to me.

Titan conflictI really do not have words to express my gratitude for this less conflicted desire. I feel as if I have been rescued from some endless, incomprehensible struggle.  And even having miles to go, I constantly am aware of the tender, guiding grace of my Guru, step-by-step lighting the way to more unmitigated open-heartedness and the natural devotion and deep relaxation we call surrender.

So many of us here in the U.S. season our giving with the poison of self-agrandizement and pride. We feel badly if we are not continually proving ourselves or striving for greatness and admiration, even in giving. We disguise self-advertisement as humility. We are so steeped in a culture of pride and self-image promotion, that it is difficult even for sincere people to gain clarity about all of the nuanced ways in which we are propagating it.

I mentioned my student and myself, but I can’t think of a single person born in the U.S. who I teach, or have met, who does not embody in some way this culture of pride.

What I have learned, often painfully, is that the only way to give fully, to be fully used, is to get our karmas of self-image protection and striving for recognition out of the way entirely. I think this is the most pressing concern for those of us who are in teaching positions, or positions in which we share wisdom traditions such as Ayurveda, Jyotish and divination.

Until we stop striving for recognition and massaging and defending self-image, we will never be fully fit to serve others on the path of waking up. 

As the accomplished and brilliant teacher Dudjom Rinpoche wrote:

The appearance of greatness like dog shit wrapped in brocade
If I have it, fine; if not, fine
Having smelled the stink of my own ignorance,
May I constantly practice the Supreme Teaching.

Lots of love,

The Monster’s Feet – a Dream Allegory

Last night I dreamt about a monster. In the dream, I recognized that I had seen the same monster before in other dreams. I understood who he was and what he would do.

People around me were treating the monster as a spiritual teacher. But I knew that at some point, the monster would drop its human guise and reveal its true nature. I knew that the monster would devour its worshippers. Read On…

3 Kinds of Spiritual Teachers

In the Tantrik tradition, and Asian spiritual traditions generally, there are a number of ways to categorize different kinds of student-teacher relationships.

I find it useful to contemplate these categories. Why? Because if you are in a fantasy relationship with your “teacher,” you are wasting energy. It is empowering to have clarity about the kind of relationship you are actually in, or want to be in. Read On…

How I met Anandamayi Ma

Try to make yourself a disciple. Only then will you find a Guru, the way to grace will open up and you will discover the stream of compassion. — Anandamayi Ma

I have not told this story in full publicly. But I find myself living in a time and place in which many people are skeptical of or are rejecting the possibility of Guru. Other people long for a spiritual guide, but are afraid of being hurt.

Me and Ma at Kalyanvan

Me and Ma at Kalyanvan

For myself, I learned about the principle of Guru in my late 20s. I never doubted its value and necessity. I felt wonder that some people are equipped by Nature to help us wake up from conventional, constrained ways of being. I understood that the embodied Guru is an envoy of the fullness of Reality that I longed to see and express. I’ve always been a natural devotee of the Guru principle, and of my teachers who have embodied it. This natural devotion is what I am hoping to share with you. Read On…