Spiritual apprenticeship


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In many contemplative traditions, learning from an enlightened teacher is considered an important means of advancement on the spiritual path.  Many illumined beings and mystics, especially those  from Hindu, Sufi and the Zen and Tibetan Buddhist lineages have maintained lifelong connections with their teachers and are in agreement that the student-teacher relationship is essential in the alchemy of transformation.  It is also customary in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions to learn from wise spiritual teachers and ecstatic mystics.  A perennial rite of passage, training under the guidance of a spiritual teacher can be a powerful initiatory experience.

krishna arjun gita


Spiritual Apprenticeship is the path of training under the guidance of spiritual teachers to achieve inner awakening, enlightenment or realisation of the Self ——– a state of pure consciousness or spacious awareness that is transpersonal, non-egoistic and beyond the boundaries of the individual self.
Spiritual apprenticeship denotes the relationship we have to choose who will guide us on the path of sacred knowledge and inner wisdom, as opposed to teachers of secular subjects.
 The 9 stages of the student-teacher relationship are :

(1) Stage one, CHOOSING A TEACHER : a look at what impels us to search for a genuine teacher, and how we know we have found one.

(2)  Stage two, INITIATION :  the prerequisites and transformative power of initiation ; the link to a lineage of awakened beings.

guru shishya(3) Stage three, DISCIPLESHIP :  developing a person-to-person relationship with a teacher, receiving skilful instruction and finding a spiritual practice that leads to inner freedom.

(4) Stage four, TEXTING :   examination of the student’s character, motives and purity of thought and action ; the exposure of one’s imperfections.

(5) Stage five, GRACE & GURU YOGA :  the mysterious infusion of blessings experienced in the company of some teachers ; balancing grace with self-effort, contemplation of the teacher’s qualities and state of consciousness.

(6) Stage six, AT THE THRESHOLD OF AWAKENING :  achieving the goal of spiritual apprenticeship, the experimental knowledge of the real, Self-realisation in moments of illumination.

(7) Stage seven, SEPARATING FROM A SPIRITUAL TEACHER :  re-establishing an independent life ; resolving emotional conflicts of discipleship ; unhealthy merging, facing a teacher’s shadow side ; individuation from the teacher.

(8) Stage eight, FINDING THE TEACHER WITHIN :  accessing inner source of guidance, such as dreams, symbols and disembodied teachers.

(9) Stage nine, TEACHING OTHERS : with appropriate intention and ethics, sharing what we know ; tests of character for teachers ; guidelines for spiritual teachers.

Stages one, two and three describe the process of entering into a relationship with a teacher.  Stages four, five and six describe the ways we begin to be transformed within the relationship.  And stages seven, eight and nine describe the process of integrating the relationship and internalising the teacher.  These aren’t linear stages.  These stages often intersect, blend together and unfold concurrently.  Nevertheless, taken as a whole, they describe the full style of the student-teacher relationship in all of its complexity. .

—————– Greg Bogart.  

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