Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
"Rely on the message of the teacher, not on his personality;
Rely on the meaning, not just on the words;
Rely on the real meaning, not on the provisional one;
Rely on your wisdom mind, not on your ordinary judgmental mind."
The Four Reliances of the Buddha
Establishing a relationship with a teacher, guru, or master is a key part of several spiritual traditions. A spiritual master is one who has mastered the way. We are not subserviant to the master in the way a slave is subservient. We offer our service to the master because we see in them a manifestation of the true and good. We find in them a validation of our inner knowing and a challenge to our delusions.
In this technological age, with telecommunication and rapid travel, we may be exposed to any number of individuals who appear to be appropriate spiritual guides. Yet it is difficult to know which is a true master and which is a charlatan.
We can make various assessments of the teacher based on their teaching and the apparent genuineness of their behavior, but ultimately we must rely on our wisdom mind and a resonance in the heart to make our choice.
The true spiritual master will direct us back to our true nature. They will put us in touch with our inherent wisdom and compassion. They will allow us to set aside the overly rational or overly emotional ego self and experience our essential being. The master cuts through our confusion and delusion and shows us our real selves.
To recognize our guru, we must already have some access to the guru in us. The guru reflects back to us a truth that already exists in us. The following visualization is intended to help you experience your inner source of wisdom and compassion. The better you know your inner light the easier it will be to recognize the validity of a true bearer of spiritual light.
Relax. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and allow calmness to flow into every cell, every fiber of your being. Allow your breathing to come naturally, free of constriction. As you relax and breathe, you may notice your breath growing deeper and slower. You may notice that the movement is in your abdomen, rather than in your chest. Focus your attention on your breathing without forcing it. Let the air out and in very peacefully, very calmly. As you continue this breathing, let go of any unnecessary muscle tension. Allow your muscles to give up their rigidity. Let your muscles lengthen and relax. Give up unneeded holding on.
When you have begun to feel calm and relaxed, think of yourself when a kindness has been done to you. What was that like? How did it feel?
Think of yourself when you have done a kindness. What was that like? How did it feel? Recall the feelings that go with the giving and receiving of kindness, and imagine you are feeling them now.
Think of yourself when you have grasped a truth or solved a problem. Recall the feelings that go with right understanding.
Think of yourself when you felt joy. Recall the feelings that go with joyfulness.
Blend these feelings together. Feel what it is like to be kind and wise and joyful. Take some time to enjoy these sensations that you remember as if they were happening now. What is this like? Do you experience warmth or lightness? Where do you notice feelings in your body? Does the world seem a little brighter?
Observe the emotions you are having. If they seem negative, if they seem to obscure the truth, let the light of goodness and kindness and wisdom dissipate them as sun dissipates fog.
Let the light of the sun shine in the area of your heart. Imagine a bright light there. This light shines from your heart through your whole body, through your whole spirit. In this light you continue to hold the feelings of kindness, understanding, and joy.
Imagine that in the midst of this light and these good feelings there emerges the image of a great spiritual being. This may be someone you have known about, or it may be someone completely new to you. This is a being of great love and compassion, great wisdom, great joy. Make a connection with this being. Greet them and welcome them to your heart. Open yourself to listening to anything they might wish to say to you.
Thank the spiritual being for revealing themselves to you. Invite them to stay with you as long as you can hold them in consciousness. Take as much time as you like to commune with this spirit of goodness. Invite them to stay with you after your conscious mind releases their image. Allow their wisdom and kindness to guide your life. Allow their peace and joy to overflow into your emotions moment by moment, day by day.
Notice that this image of an advanced spirit is in you. It did not come from somewhere else. It came from your mind and your heart. The peace and calm, the wisdom and love of a great spiritual master reside in you. You may find a spiritual master in the physical world, and you will know them because they reflect the truth and the good that are already in you. Until you encounter a teacher in the physical world, take comfort that you have your own wisdom mind, your own heart of compassion. Let these guide you. Let these comfort you.
© 2002 Tom Barrett