On Harsh but Loving Teachers

Why do some nondual teachers and teachings sound so distant, cold, and harsh; and then that same teacher will turn around and say something that is so amazingly loving and beautiful that it moves me to tears?

Thank you for your question.  There can indeed be quite a bit of confusion present in how we experience non-dual teachers and interpret their teachings.  This is not at all uncommon and deserves a thorough response.

First, let us consider the audience that the teacher is speaking to.  Within the presence of being, there is a natural unfolding of discourse that flows of its own accord – and the teacher is trusting in that, being that, as they speak.  It is an unconcerned and unfiltered allowing that lets the words arise as needed.  In fact, the ‘teacher’ is very likely absent from the conversation.  There is only the activity of speaking, effortlessly fulfilling itself.

Next, let us consider that there are three primary pivot points that a teacher must work around.  The first is to pierce and deflate the conceptual mind.  It is to strip away the unquestioned assumptions of the listener; to undo the tangled web of conditioned views and beliefs that entrap him or her.  This can be very painful to the listener, as everything their mind tells them is true is being dismissed, diffused, and destroyed.  Only those who want the Truth, and nothing else, will be able to withstand such direct honesty and scrutiny.  When you say that some teachers and teachings sound ‘distant, cold, and harsh’, this is very likely the kind of teaching that you are referring to.  If so, then you must ask yourself whether or not you really want the Truth, or would prefer a more pleasant dream.  There is no right answer.

The second pivot point is to affirm the discovery that is made when one experiences unconditioned awareness for the first time.  It is of the utmost importance that this not be taken conceptually – but experientially.  The mind loves to hear all about this affirmation, and will swallow it up – which is why one must first understand the nature of the mind before arriving at this point in the teaching.  Here, we focus on stabilizing the residual mind by teaching it to relax into what it has seen and to function as a servant of the heart.  When you speak of ‘teachings that move me to tears’, this is likely what you are referring to.  If so, I would caution you that a focus on such teachings, without understanding your own inherent emptiness, may not offer the fulfillment that you seek.  It may sound good – but until the conditioned mind has seen past itself, the dreamer is still dreaming.   Do you want the Truth, or would you prefer a more pleasant dream?  Again, there is no right answer here.

The third pivot point is actually a counterpoint of sorts – and is one that is reserved for those who’s sense of self is so warped, broken, and damaged, that they are not at all ready,  or even able, to begin the process of deep inner inquiry.  Spiritual teachings, for these people, are like a life preserver that keeps them from drowning.  Or they will take in every word as if it’s the escape hatch that they’ve been so desperately searching for.  A mind that is so, is better off in therapy than in following spiritual teachings, but they may not understand this or want to hear it.  I have encountered quite a number of people that fit this description – usually in new age spiritual settings, which are quite appealing to a mind that is so deeply troubled.  When they come to non-dual dialogues they are often hurt or offended when their views and beliefs are not being validated.  If this feels like it might apply to you, then I would ask you to focus on loving yourself, seek help from a qualified psychotherapist, and work to build a healthy sense of self before continuing to follow non-dual teachers and teachings.

Now back to your original question.  Many non-dual teachers are moving in and out of the first two pivot points, because, for the teacher, there is no difference.  It’s all part of the same ebb and flow.  This can be a little confusing and paradoxical for the listener if they have not yet had their own direct experience of unconditioned awareness.  This may be what prompted your question in the first place.  If so, it is best to work directly with the teacher privately to address your questions and concerns.  They are there to work with you, and to point you back into yourself until you see what they see, know what they know, and become free of confusion.  But most importantly – just know that whatever you see, hear, and experience, regarding the teacher, has nothing at all to do with the ‘teacher’.  For so long as you see a ‘teacher’, all that you are seeing is your own mental projection.  There is no teacher…  there are no teachings.  There is only Being.  May you discover the Truth of it for yourself.

Be well and enjoy,


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