Saturday, November 15, 2008

Intimate and Impersonal

The following comes from a piece of Sufi literature but the idea is probably universal in any student/teacher relationship:

An "important element of the Sufi path is
the relationship with the teacher. Sadly the relationship
of teacher and disciple is often misunderstood in the
West, causing much pain and confusion. In our Western
tradition we do not have a model for the relationship
with a spiritual teacher; it is not a part of our cultural
context, as for example it is in India. Also in the West we
have a tendency to personalize every relationship, illustrated
by the way, in America, we tend to address
everyone by his first name. Furthermore, the closer we
feel, the more love we feel for someone, the more personal
we want to make this relationship. The relationship
with the teacher is both intimate and impersonal.
These two qualities can appear irreconcilable opposites,
until we realize that this relationship belongs to the
level of the soul, not the personality.

The Sufi says that you need a teacher, you need a
guide. In the words of Rûmî, “Whoever travels without
a guide needs two hundred years for a two-day journey.”
The teacher is like a ferryman to take you from
the world of the ego to the dimension of the Self, and
as the Sufi Abû Sa‘id simply stated, “It is easier to drag
along a mountain by a hair than to emerge from the
ego by oneself.” The teacher knows the inner potential
of the student and helps her to grow into it, to make the
journey to the farther shores of love. The teacher also
knows the pitfalls and dangers of the journey, and if it is
difficult to cross an unknown land or desert by oneself,
it is far more dangerous to journey into the depths
within oneself without a guide.

In the Sufi tradition, the teacher is traditionally
“without a face and without a name,” because it is the
teaching that matters, the guidance and not the guide.
However, for many wayfarers the difficulty arises due
to the importance and intimacy of this relationship.
For the sincere seeker the teacher is the most important
person in her life: without her teacher she would remain
stranded within her ego. At the beginning the
wayfarer cannot recognize how this relationship belongs
to the soul— that it is the soul that is guided, the soul
that makes the journey Home. The wayfarer sees the
teacher through the eyes of the ego, and through a conditioning
that understands close relationships only as
belonging to the personal sphere, as parents, siblings,
friends, lovers. Moreover, because the relationship with
the teacher happens within the heart, it carries a quality
of intimacy and unconditional love that can be almost
overwhelming. Thus the wayfarer only too easily projects
onto the teacher all of the personal patterns that have
been attached to parent-figures or lovers. Only much
later, usually after a painful process of detachment (often
accompanied by dreams of the teacher dying), does
she come to recognize the real nature of this relationship."

~Love is a Fire: The Sufi’s Mystical Journey Home, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

If anyone is interested in reading any of the wonderful texts of the Golden Sufi Center, please let me know and I can direct you to some free copies online.


Anonymous said...

But not good enough.
Too analytical.
-- Rumi of the Andes

Anonymous said...

That is

Sophia said...


What do you think would be good enough?

Anonymous said...

It is. Good enough.

Sophia said...

Have you read _The Tao of Pooh_?