The Teacher Question


Dear Vishnudeva,

Here’s a three-parter:  1) Do I need a teacher?  2) If so, why?  3) And if so, will you teach me? 


1) Yes. 2) Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be asking this question.  3) See below. 


Since this is such a common question I’m going to answer it using more detail than you are probably asking for, in order to benefit other people.  Sorry if some of this answer doesn’t apply to you directly. 

In general, I feel like the “Teacher Question” comes from two kinds of people.  The first kind is someone who’s heard that having a teacher is important and they’re concerned because they don’t have a teacher themselves.  The second kind is someone who’s heard it’s not important to have a teacher, they don’t want a teacher anyway, and they’re looking for someone to justify their position (ironically, a teacher).  Sorry for the sarcasm, it’s just one of those days 🙂

If you’re the second type of person that doesn’t want a teacher, then I doubt anything I say will change your mind.  So the solution is simple:  don’t have a teacher.  I mean that wholeheartedly with no hint of my previous sarcasm and this is why:  because everyone is free to choose their own path and whatever path you choose, I’m confident it will take you exactly where you need to go.  I’ve expressed my opinion that you need a teacher but I fully believe that you should do what feels right to you. Go with god, young Jedi, and may the Force be with you.      

If you’re the first type of person I’ll say don’t worry if you don’t have a teacher.  I’ve been in that situation and trust me, you’ll be fine.  Everything will work out.  “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” While this saying is hackneyed, it is nonetheless completely true.  But in order for it to come to fruition, it’s important to know what constitutes being ready.  To prepare for finding a teacher, you need to sincerely dedicate yourself to spiritual practice so you can get your mind focused and uncluttered.  If it isn’t, having a teacher won’t help a bit.  Additionally, you need to be absolutely clear about your goal, meaning you should want moksha–peace of mind and inner freedom—more than anything.  If your mind and goal are clear, everything will fall in to place.  Does that mean you should passively wait around for a teacher to appear?  Not at all.  Get out there and read books, go to classes and scour the internet.  Leave no stone unturned.  Just don’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately find a teacher.  If you are properly prepared, you won’t be.

You might say, “Well, I am prepared and I have been looking for a teacher.  I scoured the dark corners of the internet, turned over a rock and found YOU.  Now I’m asking you to teach me.  Are you avoiding my question?”  The answer is yes, but only until I discuss the next topic, which is what a teacher actually is and what they are supposed to do (or not do). 

First, a teacher is supposed to help guide your inquiry.  This is why a teacher is needed, because if you were able to guide your own inquiry then you’d be free and you wouldn’t be looking for a teacher in the first place.  But does that mean you have to become dependent on the teacher?  NO!  Because the teacher is supposed to help you become independent.  If you had to remain dependent on the teacher forever, you wouldn’t be free.  So the teacher may guide you through the methodology of the teaching and how it works but only with the aim of empowering you to do it yourself.  At that point, the teacher stands on the sidelines while you do your own inquiry, only stepping in when you get stuck or have a question you can’t resolve yourself.  They are not there to hold your hand because a teaching situation is not a support group.

And while a teacher may be friendly, they are not there to be your friend. This doesn’t mean a teacher never becomes your friend.  Several of my former students are now my good friends but only because they took the teaching, put in the work to understand its meaning for themselves, and didn’t need to be taught anymore.  At that point, they were no longer students and I was no longer a teacher.  We were on equal footing.  They were free to go their own way and never speak to me again if they wanted.  But a few stuck around and we became buddies.  And that illustrates my last point on this topic.  If a teacher is doing their job properly, they should always negate their own role.  At first there is a student and a teacher.  In the end there should just be two people, equals, both knowing they are one and the same reality. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  The question was, “Will you teach me?”  Assuming you are ready (meaning mentally prepared, dedicated and serious), yes.  I’ll do what I can to help you understand the teaching methodology so you can use it for yourself.  And then I’ll answer your questions as needed.  If at any time you want to end this arrangement, feel free to do so.  There is no obligation.  Full disclosure:  If I see that you aren’t serious, then I am also free to end this arrangement.  I’m not a hard taskmaster, I simply do not have time to teach people if they are not willing to put in the work. 

All my best,