How important is it to you that spiritual teachers who write books should walk their talk? Do you feel that spiritual authors who claim to be in touch with higher or deeper realities should be held to some sort of ethical/spiritual standard of behaviour? Is "spiritual wisdom" tied to the personal integrity of the author, or if the words are good and people like it but the author is a scoundrel, is the information he/she teaches a salutary force for good, a kind of "ex opere operato?" Or does a compromised teacher compromise his/her teachings?
My opinion (for what it is worth) is that this passage says it all:
"To know and not to do is still yet not to know."
— Buddhish Saying
In other words, if you do not walk the talk, you do not know what you are talking about.
And, of course, you have no credibility.
Beautifully expressed, Emily!
A compromised teacher compromises his/her teachings, in my opinion.
Maybe the best teacher is one that teaches people how to teach themselves and how to teach others to teach themselves. That way we would all be set free.
Sounds great, Jeff.
I would agree with you, Jeff, that the best teacher is the one who shows people how to find out things for themselves, a teacher that does not encourage dependency and does not expect to be seen as a guru or master. Unfortunately those types of teachers are the minority. One of the best, in my opinion, is the Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield.
Maybe they only seem to be in the minority because they are not the ones who seek to become rich and famous, not that there's anything wrong with that.
Within spirituality for many centuries, there has always been this grave concern about the motivation of the teacher getting influenced by wanting to be rich and famous. Buddhists call this the question of "right livelihood." (Remember that the Buddha was born as a wealthy prince, but chose to give it all up, including all his wealth, because of the spiritual enlightenment he received...thus he often spoke of right livelihood, meaning not grasping at excessive wealth, as one of the key tenets of his Noble Eightfold Path.) As you say, there is nothing wrong with getting rich per se, but the problem is that when a preoccupation with riches becomes the most powerful motivator for a spiritual teacher, the guru syndrome will develop. And these are the cases we hear about. You could be very right that the teachers who do NOT encourage dependency and who refuse to be seen as a guru could be more numerous than the wealth-seeking guru types,but they are not in the public eye....which is sad because it's the teachers who do not encourage dependency who are in my opinion practising right livelihood. I don't think that "fame" and wealth are the right yardsticks by which to measure a spiritual teacher. Credibility is. Unfortunately, it's easy to have confusion between "fame" and "credibility".
I think the story of Jesus is an example....historical research shows that Jesus' actual sphere of influence was quite small...it was just in the rural areas outside the centre of power which was Jerusalem, and that even his death was not anything out of the ordinary in the sense that the Romans crucified thousands of "dissenters". Yet a small group of people who had been close to him somehow had an experience that they thought meant that he rose from the dead, and they started a movement by taking this message outside Jewish thought to the Greeks and other gentiles, and then in 325, the emperor Constantine, for political purposes, made Christianity the "official" religion. From that point on, the Christian church sought "fame", "wealth", "control" and "dominance" in the spiritual world, with the result that many of the teachings and practices of the church became a huge distortion of what the man Jesus actually had taught in his much smaller sphere of influence. Jesus certainly did not pursue wealth or political power (and most often spoke against it). In other words, the development of Christianity has more to do with a good selling job and with misinterpretation than it does with the credibility of Jesus' original message. .
Good point. The Gospel does convey that Jesus was offered all the kingdoms of the world, and said no. Yet, that's exactly what some of his latter day followers violently pursued in his name.
And so the story of how Christianity developed, and how it ended up pursuing violence and power when it became unmoored from the teachings of its claimed founder, can be a cautionary tale embodying what can happen when wealth and power become the prime motivators of a so-called spiritual message.
Initial Christianity embraced tightly the virtues of emulating the sacred the feminine, reflecting its' jewish roots. Centuries later, there was an effort under the Emperor Constantine to strip this away, and reposition tenets and teachings to exude masculine power and dominance in accordance to Roman cultural ideals.
I would not say that early Christianity wholeheartedly embraced the sacred feminine. Jesus was solidly the product of a patriarchal culture but he did go farther than most at that time in acknowledging the worth of women. We do know that there is evidence that he had influential female followers. But there was also a power struggle that occurred in the early church, well before the time of Constantine, in which the dominant patriarchal model prevailed. So Constantine already had fertile territory to further masculinize Christianity and then to equate it with imperial power.