No More Students

The term ‘student’ for those I’m guiding has gradually become a less comfortable fit. There are a number of issues coming up with the use of this term:

  • It implies a hierarchy.
  • It reduces responsibility for the person classified as ‘student’.  What I share is ultimately about claiming absolute independence. It is a self-help program and there is a sharing of experience, skills and energy with others as they traverse the path. I cannot take it on for them but rather through presence simply be an exemplar of this way to freedom.
  • It does nothing to interrupt projection and transference.
  • It implies that the transmission and learnings are only going one way when I’m always learning too.
  • When the time comes to ‘kill the Buddha” (and often the ‘killing’ can be attempted too early) it often causes a schism. Yes the process of assuming FULL responsibility for one’s process needs to happen and there are less violent ways.

The guru-disciple relationship is an older structure, one that is less appropriate in our increasingly networked peer-peer realm. Like Satsang it is an older technology that is not quite as useful as it used to be (that’s another post!). There is also place where a conscious playing out of the guru-disciple dynamic can be very useful as various patterns arise on each side however with the regular concomitant fall-out and hangover it does feel like that particular construct has reached its sell-by date as we transition world ages.

When flattening hierarchies and dissolving structure we must be careful to avoid the baby/bathwater effect. There is often a very real difference in the awareness, capacity and general mana between the one doing the guiding and the person being guided – denying this fact and playing the game of all being in ‘it’ together is dharmically disingenuous and can cause serious problems for the energy matricies of all involved.

Adi Da has a line where he says “Don’t be frivolous with me, and don’t expect me to be frivolous with you”  (the grand orchestrator of Bhaktipat indeed) and I really get where he was coming from when he made that statement especially considering the wanton destruction of the sacred and lack of commitment found in this particular late phase of the Kali Yuga. Yet this is not my favored approach – as we go I’m finding that there is a way to stay in the friendliness and yet still be able to exercise authority when needed. When the mountain guide says ‘Ok for this bit rope yourselves together’ its not a matter of discussion – you do it. Why do you do it?  Because you have trusted this person with your safety on a difficult journey and you get that she knows the way. Getting to this point of friendly authority is really a matter of building trust and love in the beginning of the journey and then moving the pilgrims at the pace of that expanding trust and love rather than relying on a pseudo-devotion or a too soon devotion which in many cases can simply be an abdication of responsibility from the spiritually immature.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

Lao Tzu

In this time of the blending of the eastern harmonising force and western self-reliance force it is necessary to find new structures where people can get the benefits that used to come with having a master (truly the term meant a master of himself rather than a master of anyone else but words carry weight and have created problems especially for beginnners) while really blossoming as an individual with their own fragrance rather than as a part of their guide’s energy field.

So for now I’m going to be transitioning to using these terms and see if they are a better fit:

Guide – A person who shows the way to others.
Pilgrim – A person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.

“Teacher”, “Student”, “Disciple” and “Guru” probably still have a place but lets see how we go.



  1. Monica Cromhout - April 2, 2015 @ 9:00 am

    Yes. I see, and agree.
    The true teacher is merely a pilgrim with something to pass on and something to receive. And truly succesful “teaching” has happened when the “teacher” sits at the feet of his or her “student”, to learn still more.

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