Beware of the Master
If you look at the teachings of genuine masters more closely, all relate to self-knowledge. In this approach, they point to the development of one’s own understanding rather than adherence to a set of rules. They encourage you to look into your aloneness, to look into your ideas about death, to look into your feelings of insufficiency and to understand these fears and their consequences. An investigation into attachment to a person, to an ideal, to a system, to a reward or to an idea of ‘what should be’ rather than ‘what is’ will show that such attachments are always rooted in fear. It is only because of our fears that we form attachments. See that your attachment gives you comfort, for without that comfort you are lost; you form attachment so that you do not feel lost. All activity of this kind is rooted in the fear of loneliness, of insufficiency and of death – which is all, at heart, the same kind of fear. To understand our selves, we must understand our fears. All derive from our sense of separation from existence.
In response to this fear, you take on a direction of thought in the form of a clinging, a craving or a motive because you feel isolated from existence and you wish to alleviate this inward fear. In response to your fear you seek permanence in a universe that is impermanent. It does not matter what you are attached to – God, enlightenment or the leaving of a legacy – it is all a search for permanence. You may be attached to your name, your wife, your family or your current consciousness; whatever it is, know that behind it will be this quest for continuity. You then put your trust in thought or in systems of thought to try to overcome the problem. Thought strives, thought prays, thought gets caught up in various systems and all the time it is moving in these directions it is forever building a wall around itself. Thus, thought becomes increasingly isolated. Thought is limited and divisive; its action is separating but it never realises this. Thought comes from memory, from language, from the past and what is past can only ever be limited. It is our failure to recognise the limitation of thought that drives all human fear, indeed all human behaviour, including attachment. Understand that if you are attached to Jesus, to Buddha, to your guru or to your belief system then there is only one area to start your investigation: fear.
Remember that masters are not gods, they are our equals. A genuine master will stimulate your own realisations; he walks you through the processes of your own mind to bring forward latent wisdom and goodness within. His wisdom will resonate deep within your heart, penetrating you so that you form your own understanding rather than take on his – or any other – understanding. If he is teaching you his idea of virtue or of truth, then these will be borrowed ideas. There is no need to teach virtue; you can only uncover the inherent virtue and goodness that is already within you. This is how you know if someone’s teachings are true. It is not something that you need to intellectually analyse; you will know intuitively. There will be no doubt.
The sign of a genuine master is one who warns you against becoming attached to his teachings. A genuine master would never invite followers or devotees to become attached to his system, knowing that as soon as we do we cling to his every word in a dangerously literal sense; we become attached to his methods and these methods start to take over. His method becomes law, his method soon possesses us, and all method is a movement in a particular pre-set direction. When you are moving in a pre-set direction you are moving towards a fixed goal and there is always the danger of becoming attached to that goal. If you are attached to a goal you are no longer free. Even your motivation to become free prevents you from being free. Your motive is the striving for a goal and any striving for a goal is attachment. We wish to escape attachment because we can see that attachment brings suffering, but if we are operating within just another field of attachment – that being the reward we seek, offered in exchange for obedience, offered in the name of enlightenment – then what, fundamentally, has changed? We want to be just like the master, we ache for the reward that the master speaks of but whilst we depend upon him there is fear. You are no longer investigating for yourself and until your thinking and your exploring is yours, you cannot come to Truth. You have to be a light unto yourself, as they say. Buddha says, use his methods if you want to get started but once up and running, drop them. It is like using a canoe to get across the river, once you are over you needn’t carry the canoe with you, it is heavy and it will drag you down, so abandon it! No matter how effective the methods were to get you across, they become a distraction and the distraction can soon turn into a burden. You are not free if you are burdened. You will never be free if you think you have to get across to the other shore; in reality there is no other shore, it is simply a creation of your own mind. Start here, start near and then you will go far.
In strict method arises authority and in authority there is no love. You may look up to the master, but by doing so you are creating a comparison between yourself and the master. Your admiration clouds your ability to grow. In comparing yourself to others there is a lack of love for the self, for love has no hierarchy. And comparison is a distraction. If the mind is occupied it is not still. Without stillness there is no direct perception.
This love for the master, this love for the guru encouraged by so many cults and religions, is not love at all; it is nothing more than a relationship built upon ideas of gain. It is like a business arrangement and the profit from this arrangement is your idea of reward. You are dependent because you want the reward and fear that you might not achieve it. How can you be free if you do not see that your dependency arises because of fear? Can you not see that your feelings of insufficiency are strengthened when you worship and adore another? If you are looking up to one, are you not looking down upon another? Ask yourself this question and be truly honest with your answer. Take time to examine the motivations behind your attachment to spiritual groups or to a certain set of teachings. Perhaps you would like to belong, be part of the group, perhaps you are looking to create meaning, perhaps you believe that a certain teacher is a divine being and you are not. No one person (or thing) is any less or more a part of the whole than anyone else (or anything else). Every human that has ever lived – slave, maid, farmer, machinist, servant or king – is as much a divine being as our so-called prophets, messiahs and saints. Fundamentally all humans are the incarnation of every other human that has ever lived. You, like everyone else, have the memory of Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed somewhere deep inside your mind. Any person who claims to be some sort of unique avatar, chosen one, messenger, prophet or the current incarnation of Buddha clearly does not understand the critical characteristic which binds the entire universe, that the whole exists in every part. The centre is everywhere. No one person is divine where you are not. Equally, you cannot be divine unless each single thing can also be. As we will come to realise, your dustbin is just as divine as you are! Like you, at its deepest level, it contains the whole universe within its information structure.
If you love only your partner, your guru or your messiah but not a stranger then it is not love, it is self-interest. It is love that is designed by thought, but love designed by thought is not love, it is a form of gratification. Love is not thought. Love for a selected few rather than for all is not love. Love is equal; it is never separate or selective. It is neither deserved nor conditional. Love is not of the mind, it is of Being. This Being is love, and at root our fear is the fear of not Being. You want the reward of freedom that the guru offers, but then you become attached to the reward. You become attached to the idea of freedom and you desire the idea of freedom, but together this can never be freedom. Your motive to be free of attachment turns into a form of attachment. You are striving for a goal, you are attached to the goal and all this time you are suppressing one form of attachment by replacing it with another. The goal is to be free of the self and free of all attachment but the ego cannot ever release the ego, which is why there is no such thing as freedom from something. And the only reason you seek this freedom is because you exist in fear. So it is these fears that must be addressed and the only way to address them fully is on your own. A genuine master is wary of his own methods and his own assertions, recognising their potential to reinforce dependency and fear.
Buddha said it. Zarathustra said it. All the great Chinese Sages have said it: ‘Beware of the master!’
As we ascertained in the book Question Mark, you have to stand on your own two feet. If you want to discover the ‘why’s of the universe, the ‘Big Questions’, by all means look to the masters but then look to yourself. You have to self-parent, you have to not rely on others, you have to master your growth on your own. A master is not serving you if he allows himself to be a pillar to lean on; at the beginning this may be appropriate as guidance for your journey, but after a while you have to venture out alone if you are to really grow. What is freedom if you are relying on a master or the system of a master, or are comparing what is being said with what another has said? Your pursuit of their ideal, their goal, is a transfigured and subtle form of ambition and therefore self-perpetuating in nature. Their ideal is now your goal. You may dress that up in humble pursuit, with the appearance of sincerity and earnestness, but you are still giving significance to the identifications of the ‘me’. You are still striving for your idea of a reward. How can there be humility when the mind is diligently or even subtlety striving, choosing, comparing, calculating, acquiring? Ambition disguises itself in many forms and one must be constantly aware of this process, for it distorts and conditions the mind. There must be humility otherwise what you seek is mere gratification, a form of pleasure, which does nothing but tether one’s own investigation. Truth is beyond choice, beyond self-orientated discernment. There is no humility without the ending of comparison, nor is there humility when we follow another.
The setting up and following of authority is the denial of one’s own discovery, one’s insight, openness and therefore understanding. Vicarious understanding is no understanding at all. If you seek in order to find, you may indeed find what you are looking for. How do you know that what you discover is Truth? What you create as the ideal can only be self-projected; a glorified version of the ‘self’. Can the mind, the known, understand the unknown? Can the mind really discover Truth or is Truth beyond mind, beyond all measure? It is important to ask these questions otherwise the mind will inevitably engage in its own illusions.
If the mind is diligently comparing what each philosopher is saying, busy with everybody else’s arguments, calculating who is making the strongest assertions, then it is distracted from self-discovery? If the mind is occupied in this way it is not still and without stillness there can be no clear and direct perception. Without direct perception, how do we know what is true and what is not? Humility is necessary for Truth to be. The mind must be free of all comparison, evaluation, choice, judgement and censorship. The mind must be innocent.