Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Associating with a Group and a Teacher – Cult Or Occult?

By Luphil

I recently had a phone call with a friend in the course of which she told me she would never again join a spiritual group. The experiences she had with a group and its teacher 2-3 decades ago had marked her for her whole life. And another one lately told me: “I no longer recognize myself in the group where I was (of an Indian teacher) and so I left it.” She added, “For my spiritual quest, I have always been fascinated and attracted by the Masters, and the WTT is a beautiful synthesis.”

From my own experiences in various spiritual groups and contexts I know how delicate it can be to associate with a group and a teacher. In public here in the West, it is mostly disparaged as Guru cult. And when you come in closer contact with a group you unavoidably also meet shadow aspects – be it of the teacher or the group. You can call the shadow the personality. And what makes the thing even more tricky is that we mostly have blind spots towards our own shadows and like to project them on others.

Spiritual groups and teachers are no exception to this. I very well understand people who want to keep aloof from getting into such situations.

However, when you are fairly well grounded in yourself, you can take it as an excellent field of training – how to evolve if you don’t work on yourself and on developing friendly relations with others? For me, the obstacles were a challenge to get more committed.

In my life, I came to know a number of spiritual teachers directly and a few more by way of books. It was an odyssey and a great way of meeting people with many different attitudes – the devotional type, the skeptic type, the indecisive one, the impractical intellectual, the fervent apologist, and even the spurned love…

For a while, I myself was a mixture of several of these. I learnt much by observing and putting to practice what I learnt. And so I approached my present teacher, Sri Kumar, who more and more became the role model for me. A lot of transformation happened – I would call it an occult process because it mostly went on within, very slowly. Or was it more the outcome of my work with meditation and persevering activities, with others, with groups in various contexts? In a way, I ended up to come to myself, not to the teacher. The teacher, the teachings and the group were instrumental in this. On the other hand, it’s an interrelated thing.

A close friend said to me, “I don’t need a teacher for this. I want to rely on the inner guidance and autonomy – no dependence or pressure of rules.”

I understand and respect and I also feel the same – inner guidance of the soul and putting to practice what I have realised as right – not because of any dependence of pressure of rules.

At the same time, I receive great support by following my teacher and the teachings (and leaving other things behind). They are giving strength and orientation and help me not to get side-tracked and stuck. Joy is the compass in this.

Associating with a Group and a Teacher – Cult or Occult?
The Entrance. 17 March 2013

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